Cotton and Twine (or, how to not be a roadie)

Not too long ago I started reading a wonderful blog called Let’s Go Ride a Bike. It’s delightfully written, immensely informative and well worth the time. If that’s not reason enough to add it to your feed reader, Dottie has really nice legs. Ahem. Anyway, they’re having Summer Games! With prizes! I missed the first round, but round 2 has just started and this little post about cotton bar tape is my entry for “Perform a maintenance task — big or small!”

Today I’m going to illustrate, with Christie’s trusty Pentax K100D (which won the dirtiest sensor award at GFM, BTW), how to wrap drop bars with cotton tape and then finish them with twine.  Shellacking will be documented later.”Why,” you may ask, “would I want to replace my spongy, springy, comfy fake cork handlebar tape with unpadded cotton twill?”  Because it looks better.  Besides, if you need padding on your handlebars you quite possibly have some bike fit issues.  Raising your bars or moving your saddle back might help with this.  Riding a too-small frame with a long seat post and really low bars for that super-aero tuck is the domain of just-like-Lance roadies.  They probably need padded bar tape.  Here’s a hint:  don’t be a roadie.  Before we begin, we need to round up a few odds and ends.

  • Cotton tape
  • Twine
  • A bicycle (this job is nearly impossible if you don’t have one)
  • Coffee, and lots of it
  • Some place to work

Let’s get started, shall we?  Yes, let’s.

First, remove that gawd awful eyesore that’s pretending to be bar tape.  Use a knife, scissors, propane torch, whatever.  Just get it off there.

Next, you’ll want to gather your new bits. The cotton tape here is a lovely brown color and comes from the fine folks at Velo Orange.

You’ll need some twine, too. Mine is cotton and comes from the hardware store around the corner. Hippies can order hemp twine from Rivendell.

Try not to gouge your thumb with a tire lever the day before. It hurts and makes the thumb pretty much useless.

Coffee break!

Start the wrap on the bottom of the bar, pull the tape away from the bike, then up and over the top back toward the bike.

If you have bar end shifters like mine, you’ll have to deal with the cable housing in one way or another. The cleanest way to do this is to get new cables and housing and run them along the handlebars up to the stem. I didn’t feel like replacing them just yet, so I made about 6 wraps with the tape going around the bar and the housing. After that, just wrap the bar and let the housing fly loose. You might have to do a little acrobatic tape tucking.

Continue up the bar toward the brake lever and pull back the hood.

Do a figure-8 around the brake lever. This isn’t as tricky as it sounds and you should probably be able to get it looking pretty good after just one or two tries.

Finish wrapping your bar.

It should look like this.

Coffee break!

Now we’ll move on to the twine. I’d like to apologize in advance for the blurry photos. There’s a really good instructable about this, and it’s the method I use. Start by making a loop.

Except do it on the bottom of the bar.

Hold the loop with your finger and start wrapping the twine from the center and work toward the tape. Wrap in the same direction as your tape. The first couple wraps are tricky. Try to get someone to hold the loop for you. But once you’ve gone around a couple times it’s much easier. Keep the twine snug and pull it tight with every revolution.

Overlap enough of the tape so that you can’t see the end and cut the twine, leaving a few inches hanging loose.

Push it through the loop.

Grab the other loose end and give it a tug. It should pull the loop tight and eventually suck the end you just cut underneath the wrapped twine.

Cut off the dangly bits.

Ignore the beer gut.

And you’re done! It should look like this.

Have some coffee and feel free to write if you have any questions. I’ll shellac the bars in a couple days and write about it here.

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8 Responses to Cotton and Twine (or, how to not be a roadie)

  1. Bone says:

    Nice! I guess you changed you mind about putting albatross bars on the trucker?

  2. the Sloth says:

    For now. I put the old, longer stem back on and raised the bars a bit, so I think I’ll be OK. Besides, cloth tape is cheap enough that if I do go with A-bars I won’t have invested too much.

  3. Mom says:

    Good job, Scott! Nicely illustrated and explained. I might even be able to do that with your instructions!

  4. Apertome says:

    Nice job. I like the way twine/shellac look, and I’ve done it to my bikes a couple of times, but I have stopped doing it. I like cork tape, so I have some padding, and the shellac rubs off over time. I think I’d do it again if I used cotton tape.

    Plus, it’s a pretty time-consuming procedure, and I’m lazy. I much prefer riding bikes to working on them.

  5. the Sloth says:

    Yeah, I bet you’re just peeved about the roadie crack. 😉

  6. Apertome says:

    Haha. Don’t talk about my crack that way!

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  8. GeosanKhan says:

    Great tutorial, albeit opinionated. If you want beef, just bring the ruckus…or….maybe just hipsters gonna hate…