So after a couple of years of use or around 2000 miles, the handlebar tape is looking a bit worse for wear.

Should I change it before it gets worse and is this a simple job or best to get a bike shop to do.

I don’t really fancy taking the brifters off but I can’t see an effective way of doing the job without removing them.


To finalise :

I ended up doing the job myself, after cleaning up the bars from the old bar tape residue I decided to start from the drops and work up using a figure 8 method around the brifter.

Thats A Wrap

Regarding the colour choice, online it looked much brighter and I didn’t fancy plain black.

I wouldn’t say it’s a professional job but for a 1st attempt it will do.

  • There are many YouTube videos explaining how to rewrap your bars. None of them involve taking off the brifters. Here's one such video: youtube.com/watch?v=rDmGi-bGCco
    – Paul H
    Jun 13, 2022 at 18:30
  • That seems to have worn out really fast; I'd normally expect several times that lifespan. Basically I've never replaced my tape but for when the shop is replacing the cables and housings anyway, and they don't charge labour for that since they'd be doing it anyway. (And the shop I like gives a discount on materials purchased when you pay for an overhaul, so I come out ahead that way.)
    – DavidW
    Jun 13, 2022 at 19:10
  • Get some "hockey tape". Jun 13, 2022 at 19:59
  • @DavidW in harsh conditions, or with some flimsy bar tape, that seems reasonable. This appears to be delaminating, so perhaps heat, sweat, and friction have combined.
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2022 at 9:00
  • 3
    That's an awesome effort! This pattern will never match up between turns, you've done great. There's some extra padding on the hooks because each turn overlaps the previous one a little more than up top, which helps if you spend more time on the drops than the hoods. I like it!
    – Criggie
    Jun 15, 2022 at 6:42

4 Answers 4


You don't need to take the brifters off to do this.

Simply "lift the skirts" of the rubber hoods and you'll see how the current tape was wrapped. Take some photos before unwrapping.

Personally I like a bit more padding from the corners to thge hoods so I will over-wrap that area, or perhaps wrap some old tape there before covering it with new bartape for two layers. Extra important on thin 80's style bars.

If you're using new tape it will probably be longer than you need so expect to trim it when you feel happy with the wrap job.

My technique is to start at the bottom and always bring the new tape "up the outside and down the inside" which means going around the brifter to reverse the flow ready for the tops.

From https://roadbikeaction.com/how-to-properly-level-road-bike-shifters/
Ftom https://roadbikeaction.com/how-to-properly-level-road-bike-shifters/

That bartape looks kinda cheap which contributes to its early failure. Try and use something better, definitely not $2 foam tape. Avoid light colours, they show the dirt easier. Basic black suits most things, but depending on the rest of your bike and its colour scheme you might choose a matching or a contrasting colour.

I prefer red for the lower part and black bartape on the tops and hoods.

You could also practice by removing the old bartape and re-fitting it before you stick-down any new tape. Expect to unwind it and have a couple of attempts, its all a learning experience.

Try re-fitting tape as it was, and then swap sides so the "set" is unhelpful. You might find that the scungy tape ends up elsewhere and you get another window of service out of the same tape. Maybe.

  • 3
    My carbon bike came fitted with white (!) bar tape. After 2 rides it already looked a tad dingy, and I could never get it looking properly clean. I changed to red at the first opportunity and would never go near a light colour again. Looks flash in the showroom, though.
    – DavidW
    Jun 13, 2022 at 22:01
  • @DavidW my 80's bike that I ride in the rain has white bartape, because I had it, and its nylon so not going to absorb water. Being nylon dirt simply wipes off, unlike foam tape where it sinks in.
    – Criggie
    Jun 13, 2022 at 22:11
  • 1
    If you like bright colours in your bar tape, there are some that are bright+black+grey in camo style patterns. They don't show the dirt so much as pure bright colours.
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2022 at 9:02
  • 1
    @ChrisH yep - also known as "splash tape"
    – Criggie
    Jun 14, 2022 at 11:14
  • 1
    Yes to up the outside and down the inside! Finally someone gets it right. (no shade on Calvin Jones though, he's wonderful)
    – Swifty
    Jun 14, 2022 at 21:25

We'll start with the easy bit - yes, you should definitely change it!

It's a relatively simple job that doesn't require removing the brifters (you just fold back the covers).

It'll probably take you a little time for your first try, and the overlapping probably won't be quite as neat and tidy as an experienced bike mechanic would manage, but will end up fine and you'll know how to do it for next time. There's plenty of tutorials on the internet to read/watch as you go.

The only time i'd say it makes sense to have the bike shop do it is when the bike is already in the shop getting some other work done.


That's a reasonably easy job but you really do need to make your phone silent during the job and wish nobody rings your doorbell. The only important things that can go wrong are:

  • You use a suspiciously cheap tape sold as a bicycle bar tape but it isn't. I once bought the cheapest available tape from an online bike parts shop. It wasn't a real bicycle bar tape although it was sold as such. When you attempted to stretch it, it didn't stretch. I wrapped it on my bars, carefully maintaining the tension. However, after about 1500km it was already unraveling. The reason was that the difference between no tension at all and full tension was probably less than 1% stretch whereas real tape would have more than 10% stretch
  • You don't properly secure the ends of the bar tape. I have found that even some good bar tapes come with a too weak adhesive in the end tape. If you use that end tape, it will start to unravel. One possibility is to slightly melt the end tape together with a soldering iron but if you do this, don't use a good soldering iron you might use for electronics as you contaminate its tip. Instead, buy the cheapest soldering iron you can find and use it. Another option is to use self-amalgamating tape to secure the ends. It's also possible to use heatshrink if you find a tube of the correct diameter and are willing to remove the brake levers. Heatshrink doesn't require touching with a soldering iron to melt, a hairdryer or heat gun or proximity of a soldering iron tip is enough to melt it.
  • You don't maintain tension when taping. This will ruin any bar tape, no matter how good. The idea of bar tape is that you tension it, and this tensioning causes it to stretch a lot (so it's very stretchy). Because losing that tension means the bar tape would have to shrink a lot, it can't lose that tension if you maintained the tension during the whole taping job. It will stay tensioned on your bars even if it moves a little on the bars, because it can't move enough to release its tension.

It's of course possible to mess up cutting the end. On one of my taping jobs, I failed to visualize how to diagonally cut the tape end. I realized it must be done diagonally, but I did it diagonally in the incorrect direction. As a result, the end looks funny. It works, though, it won't unravel so I didn't replace it.

If you ride on the drops often and want a bit of extra challenge, you could do the taping job starting from the brake levers, and moving in two directions. The benefit of doing the braking that way is that the shingles are correctly oriented both on the corners and on the drops. The usual way of taping, starting from the ends, working towards the stem, means the shingles are correctly oriented on the corners, but incorrectly oriented on the drops, so riding on the drops often could damage the bar tape. The problem of starting from the middle is that you have to estimate which point of the tape is your starting point. If you estimate it incorrectly, you may have too little tape in one direction of your bars, and too much in the other direction, but no way to move that tape from one end to another.

  • Good advice on keeping the distractions at bay. Cats can be especially distracting when they try to help with the unwrapped tape dangling from the bars as it is wound on (yes, they think they are trying to help, I know). There are steps in the process where one can take a break if necessary, but it is nice to be able to maintain focus to do a good job, and to NOT rush things.
    – Ted Hohl
    Jun 13, 2022 at 19:36
  • 1
    @TedHohl I keep a little clamp like this close by in case I need a break or have to stop: images.thdstatic.com/productImages/…
    – Paul H
    Jun 14, 2022 at 23:24
  • Not all handlebar tape stretches. Old school Velox Tressostar cloth tape sure didn't.
    – shoover
    Jun 14, 2022 at 23:30
  • @PaulH that clamp looks like it works (I have a few like that). Often I will just put some tape on it since I have a roll handy when wrapping. I can even re-use the tape once I am back to wrapping.
    – Ted Hohl
    Jun 15, 2022 at 0:30

Change it, yes.

In addition to what Andy P mentioned, you now have an opportunity to make a change to the tape color(s), the brand/manufacturer, and finally the specific features of the tape. Features include thin vs. thicker tape, as well as the degree of tackiness and variance of feel to the tape. Plenty of choices that are based on personal preferences and, of course, availability.

Here is a VIDEO from Park Tools that I used recently that explained quite well how to do it yourself. This video includes the technique used to ensure that the tape is correctly wrapped on the drops as well as on top of the bar. It is all in how you manage the transition at the brifter.

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