Practical Matters

As far as bike maintenance goes, there isn’t much I feel comfortable doing myself. I change my tires and tubes, lube my chain, but otherwise I am just the the engine and leave the hard and messy stuff to the mechanics at the bike shop. I pay them, they fix my bike way better than I ever could and make me espresso while I wait. Plus the chances of my seat falling off or deraillieur derailing mid-ride goes down exponentially. It’s a win-win.

One thing I figured I could do without risking permanent damage to body or bike was change the bar tape. I also decided to do it myself because I had left it so long the white tape was so grey and disgusting I knew the guys at the shop would make fun of me. Or just secretly think I’m dirty.It’s not that this was my first time or anything – but it was my first time with the new bike. With the exception of a couple of pink heart stickers and some manky bar tape, my new baby is still resplendent in its perfection.

I lay out my tools: new bartape, a knife, some electrical tape, and bar plugs. The new tape comes with the bar plugs, as well as pre-cut pieces to wrap around the brake straps. I can totally DO this!As with any good demonstration photos, a nice manicure is essential.Peeling back the brake hoods feels wrong somehow. But it must be done. It’s here I get the first horrific glimpse of how dirty the bars have really become and am instantly aware that one day I am going to be one of those old ladies with really long toenails and a house that smells like litterbox.

Unravelling the old tape is part memorizing how things went together, part striptease.

Sexy!! There are no photos of the next bit because I needed both hands and the cat was of little help. As usual. Cats are so stupid.

All the cables are already taped and I see no need to retape them. The cables are secure and the tape shows no signs of wear or damage. Thankfully I have had no crashes on this bike, but if I had, this would be the time to check the bars for cracks or stress damage.

Rewrapping the bars begins with sticking the short pieces under the brakes, the spot in the curve or elbow of the bar where there would be a big gap in the tape. Then, starting at the bottom of the right bar I start the tape with about a half inch of overlap, which will be stuffed inside the bar when I’m done. I wrap the tape counter clockwise, just like Mister Zinn told me, always overlapping the tape by about half its width.Going around the brake is tricky, but I’ve watched enough YouTube videos that I know what to do. If YouTube did brain surgery tutorials, I’d be a millionaire.

Finishing up properly means cutting the tape at a weird angle so it lies flatter. Then the shiny new electrical tape goes on top to hold everything together. This part is tricky because if you let go the whole thing unravels to a big stupid bartape slinky. You may or may not throw things.Once you have secured the tape and cleaned up the broken glass from your hissy fit, the final step is to put the end plugs in. You have to use all of your fingers to stuff the excess tape into the hollow bar, secure the plug so all the bits of tape stay inside, then hammer the plug in to keep it all in place. This is easier said than done and would be way easier if people had three hands instead of two. If you have aluminum bars like me, you can really hammer the shit out of it with the palm of your hand or even a rubber mallet. When I bought my bike from James he said I crash too often to have carbon handlebars.

And just when you are feeling like the biggest viking rockstar goddess on the planet for taping your own bars, you remember you have to do it all over again on the other side (remembering to wrap the tape clockwise toward the centre this time). Good thing you are a viking rockstar goddess and this shit is so damn easy.And voila! As sexy and Euro as a brand new pair of white leather pants.