My handlebar tape keeps looking messy because of an incorrect direction, and I can't find an obvious solution to it. Maybe someone can advise?

The direction of the wrap for handlbar tape should be oriented so that the tension of the hands of the bar is tightening the tape, instead of loosening. On drop bars, to achieve such a direction both at the top/center and the sides, the tape direction is reversed at the brake levers.

When wrapping a bullhorn handlebar, however, there is no obvious way of reversing the tape direction in the corner. If the tape wrap direction is aligned to hand tension on the sides, the top/center part has the wrong direction (see image, gray is tape direction, red is hand tension). As a result, if the rider switches hand position frequently, as I do, one of the areas is constantly being loosened there.

Of course, if the whole direciton is reversed, this problem will appear on the sides instead.

Is there a way to avoid this?

Direction illustration

  • I dont see why the hand tension would ever be in that direction on the tops. The only time there's likely to be significant tension on the tops is pulling on the bars when climbing hard, which results in the tension being in the other direction.
    – Andy P
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 14:04
  • True, in most cases it wouldn't be present. I should clarify, the bars are "pursuit" bars, with the center section being flat and then sloping down, do the center area that has the red arrow in the illustration is actually angled down. Because of that, my arms rest on them with a top-down force, making this tension appear.
    – goose_lake
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 11:30

3 Answers 3


Options that could solve this:

  • Make two neatly divided grip areas per side of the bar, and change orientation on them.
  • Use track grips (maybe glue them since it sounds like they'll have a tough life).
  • Experiment with tape that might be able to keep more friction against the bar. (Some conjecture here, but your grip force does have to overcome that friction to cause loosening).
  • 4
    I've used two different colours of bar tape, which disguises the join/change by making it obvious.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:54
  • Thank you! I was considering this, but thought it might be a bit unorthodox. It's good to hear others have done this and it works.
    – goose_lake
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 11:31
  • I use rubber mountain bike grips on the end of my Profile bullhorn bars. The center part is flat/oval enough to be comfortable and textured enough to avoid slipping without tape. The fun part about switching to bull horns is deciding what to do with your brake levers and shifters. I switched to bar-end brake levers with internal cable routing, and thumb shifters that sit next to them.
    – Rich Moss
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 22:25

I've wrapped handlebar tape around drop bars in road bikes countless times, but never have I reversed the wrapping direction when passing the brake hoods.

The thing with wrapping around bends is that you must increase the overlap of two consecutive wraps on the inner side while maintaining the overlap on the outer side constant, which gives you a clean and appealing look.

As for the unwrapping problem - keep in mind that you need to tension the tape while wrapping so that the tape is held securely in place afterward. Of course, proper handlebar surface plays a role as well, so clean and degrease it thoroughly before installing new tape.

  • Thank you for the comment. Yeah, the very basics of preparation and wrapping I have done, tension, cleaning, etc. On my drop bars I have never had issues with unwinding and slipping like this, but on the bullhorns they appeared, and only in one place, so I assume it is a shape related issue.
    – goose_lake
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 11:43

I wouldn't bother - just wrap the bartape so it winds on in the same direction as your fingers for the single most common position.

Make sure to use all the double-sided tape underneath and to use a good firm tension all the way around. Also make sure the start and ends of the bartape are well-secured.

I've used sometimes used light mounts to hold down the more-central final end of bartape. Avoid using your brake levers though - they need to be mounted firmly with no flex.

  • 1
    Some kind of mount might be a good idea, thank you for the suggestion. The brake levers are insert-type which attach to the ends of the bar, but of course wouldn't ever attach those loosely. I am considering a bell and a light as an option, since I need those anyway.
    – goose_lake
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 11:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.