Thursday, October 18, 2012

Free Handlebar Tape! A Low Cost or No Cost Solution

For Joe

A friend recently gave me a 1979 chrome Schwinn Voyageur (I think) that was in need of a little love.  It had been rotting away in the garage for some time.  I hadn't actually seen the bike before agreeing to take it, nor did I have any Idea what it would be.  Needless to say I was giddy as a school girl when I saw it.

This project is going to take some time and careful consideration (and some cash!), but I can't wait to ride it!  I know I want to put a Brooks saddle and matching bar tape, but I don't exactly have the cash, nor do I know what color/style I want.  Still, that crusty, crumbly, old foam couldn't wait.

A friend of mine, let's just call him Joe Harris, found himself in the same situation, and I had told him about using old bike tubes in place of bar wrap.  Since he tends to be a little squeamish in the DIY department, I thought I'd make this post for him.

What You'll Need

1. Scissors
2. Electrical Tape
3. Old Tube
4. Corks (if you don't have this, don't let that stop you, you can do this part later)

Let's Get Started

First, remove that old crusty foam!  Just pull it off, it ought to tear pretty easy, the bottom half may even slide off.

Second, cut your tube near the valve stem, both sides.  This may seem obvious, but just in case...

This step is optional.  I like to cut my tube along one of the seams.  I do this because the edges of the tube where the rubber folds over tend to be raised, which is the opposite thing you want with grip tape. another reason, it makes sure one of the tube seams is not under your hand.  You could always use the inside part of the tube as your grip surface for a smoother feel, but it might be more likely to curl up on the edges, and it's pretty slippery due to the talcum powder that's inside. Even after cleaning if off, the inside still feels a little slippery.  I also like to see the print that's on the tube.

Next you'll want to very carefully wipe the talcum powder all over your pants. :)

wipe it on your pants!

There are so many good tutorials about how to wrap your bars.  You'll find slight variations, because people have different preferences.  I was taught to wrap starting on the bottom going in (towards the center of the bike) and over the top.  Remember to leave at least a half inch of overhang at the bottom so you can stuff it inside the bars when your done.  Keep it nice and tight, and watch for wrinkles.  One of the great things about doing this is if you mess it up, you can start over, it will also give you confidence to wrap your bars with something nicer in the future.

I should have mentioned that you need to fold  your brake lever hoods up so the wrap will go under them.  You can also cut a little piece to go over the clamp that holds them on, tuck it up under the hoods and wrap over it.  Then fold the hood back down when your finished.

I like to cut the end of tube tape at an angle, starting from the inside (center of bike) to the outside.  Your cut should be pretty long, maybe 8 inches or so.  This allows for a nice gradual fade to the end of your tape.
cut the end at an angle to provide a nice transition

your transition can be anywhere from 6-10 inches long

Get your electrical tape and cut a piece about 8 inches long.  Wrap it around the end so that it looks and feels nice.  Someone recommended to me that you let the end of the tape rest before pushing it down.  That's because it tends to contract a little, and this prevents it from pulling up later.
Let the tape rest a few minutes before you fold the last little bit down

Finish the job by folding the overhang of the tube into the bar and stuff it with a cork.  One blogger suggests using olive oil stoppers.  You can also get little corks from home depot that fit a little easier than wine bottle corks.  Get creative, look in your junk drawers,  I'm sure you can find something!


  1. Awesome idea and great photography. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. I totally agree with Alex. My first pick from Google and I'm about to soooo do this πŸ™Œ

  3. I totally agree with Alex. My first pick from Google and I'm about to soooo do this πŸ™Œ

  4. One of the best articles that I’ve read in a very long time! I Took notes and surely gonna implement and test bunch of stuff you talked about.
    You’re a beast! Cheers, Ash
    And don't forget to visit the motorbiker

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