How to tape bike handlebars

Anyone who has been riding road bikes for a long time knows that handlebar tape gets worn out, dirty, and loses its cushion after a year or two of heavy riding. Fortunately, replacing worn handlebar tape is easy and only takes a short amount of time and few basic tools. Whether you need a new layer of padding for your training rides or you just want to re-style your cycle with some flashy colors, here is how to make it happen.


Time required: 15 minutes

Tools required:

  • Scissors
  • Electrical tape
  • Rubber bands
  • New handlebar tape
  • Two bar ends/plugs (usually included with new handlebar tape)

Step 1: Remove the old handlebar tape. It is usually attached near the stem clamp with electrical tape, and with bar ends wedged into the end of the drop bars. Pull out your scissors if you have any trouble. In order to remove the tape from around the brake lever mounts, you will have to roll back the rubber hood around each mount. You may need a rubber band here to secure the hood in place - it can remain rolled back until the end of the process.

Step 2: If necessary, remove and replace the electrical tape holding the brake cables flat against the top portion of the handlebar. This helps keep everything nice and snug when you wrap this section.

Step 3: When you buy handlebar tape, most often it comes with two small 3-inch sections separate from the main strips. If it doesn’t, take a moment to cut this length right now. Take this piece, and, holding it by the midsection, place it on the inside of the drop bar opposite the brake lever mount, so that either end of it extends upwards and forwards, under the area covered by the rubber hood when it is folded down as normal. You should be able to tuck the ends into place, or secure it with a small piece of electrical tape.

Step 4: Now let’s begin the wrapping the main section of the tape. For the right side of the handlebar, you will be wrapping clockwise, and for the left side, counterclockwise. Start at the drop portion of the handlebar, on the top side, with the end of the tape pointing diagonally toward the mid-section of the bike frame. Make sure a significant amount (1/2- to 3/4-inch or so) is extending past the end of the bar, and that the edges of the bar are fully covered.

Step 5: Continue wrapping along the handlebar, angling the tape evenly and overlapping 1/3 to 1/2 the width of the tape. Stretch the tape as you go, making sure to maintain an even amount of tension. Too much pressure, and the tape will rip. Too little, and it will be loose. Aim for a nice happy medium, and keep it snug.

Step 6: As you approach the curved sections of the handlebar, make sure to increase the overlap on the inside of the curve. This will ensure you have good coverage of these areas.

Step 7: Once you reach the brake lever area, continue wrapping, slightly overlapping the bottom of the brake lever mount on the front side of the bar. Swing vertically around the interior side of the brake lever mount, then back down around the bar in a horseshoe shape. Then continue wrapping along the upper part of the bar, again making sure there is more overlap on the inside of the curve. Remember to overlap evenly and maintain pressure.

Step 8: When you approach the stem, cut your handlebar tape neatly, pull it tightly into place, and secure with electrical tape (wrapping in the same direction as you were wrapping your handlebar tape).

Step 9: Now, finish off the end of the drop bar. Push the overlapping sections of tape into the opening in the end of the handlebar, then push in the bar end (looks like a cork or plug) to secure the tape.

Step 10: Fold the rubber brake-mount hood back into place, and repeat these steps on the other side of your handlebars. Enjoy your flashy new look!