How to replace road bike handlebar tape

Unlike the grips fitted to flat bars, because of their shape, drop handlebars are wrapped with a special tape that provides a layer of cushioning for your hands. This makes learning how to replace road bike handlebar tape a useful skill when it comes to maintaining your bicycle. 

how to replace road bike handlebar tape

Reasons for replacing  bar tape

  • Because it is worn or damaged. 
  • To change the appearance of your bike. Modern bar tapes come in different materials, patterns and colours that help you stand out in the cycling crowd.
  • To replace the  brake/gear lever or the whole handlebar. Some tapes come with an adhesive. Be aware that they might be hard to remove without damaging them and you may need to fit a new one.

How to replace road bike handlebar tape– Tools and accessories required

  • Scissors- They are used to cut the edge of the tape and the insulating tape.
how to replace road bike handlebar tape
  • Insulating tape- Used to secure the handlebar tape.
  • Mallet- cross head screwdriver or allen key. You will need one of these to fit bar end plugs.

The new bar tape box consists of: 

  • Two reels of tape for the right and left side. 
  • Two pieces of finishing tape- This is not good enough to secure the bar tape but can be used as a decorative strip.
  • Two bar end plugs- There are two types, push in and  screw-type locking.
  • Two short pieces of handlebar tape to cover the brake lever clamps- if there aren’t any then cut  9cm off the end of each reel of tape.
how to replace road bike handlebar tape

Removing the bar tape

  • Take out the bar end plugs.
  • Lift up the bottom of the brake lever hoods.
  • Remove the sticky tape from the top of the bars.
how to replace road bike handlebar tape
  • Now remove the tape starting from the top.
  • There might be bits of tape and adhesive still on the bars. Scrape them off.

How to replace road bike handlebar tape

Before you start, make sure that you have all the tools and parts to hand.

If you are using a light coloured tape wash your hands first. Decide which side you are going to wrap first. Starting at the bottom, the right side should be fitted in a clockwise direction and the left hand side should be wrapped anticlockwise.

How to replace road bike handlebar tape- right hand side

  • Grasp the end of the tape in both hands and pull it to test its tensile strength. The tape needs to be stretched to fit snugly on the bars, but pulling too hard could rip it.
  • If the new tape has an adhesive strip then remove the plastic cover.
  • Place the middle of the bar tape on the bottom edge of the bar end. Start wrapping clockwise.  During the first wrap the half of the tape will need to stick beyond the handlebar. This is so that the bar end plug can grip the tape when being pressed inside the handlebar end. 
  • Now stretch and start wrapping the tape at an angle so that the middle of the tape sits on top of the edge of the wrapped part. You will need to hold the tape under tension throughout the task. If you let go then it will probably unravel and you will need to re-tape. 
  • When you get to the bend, wrap the tape so that the middle of it sits on top of the edge of the wrapped bit on the outer side of the bend. The tape on the inner side of the bend might look uneven, this is normal. Carry on until you are close to the brake lever. 
  • Now is a good time to check and correct (if necessary) your first bit of wrapping.
  • With your free hand, cover the clamp with one of the spare pieces of tape.
  • Wrap the tape until you reach the brake lever.

  • Pass the main reel of tape under the lever and come out on the other side so that the edge of the tape is just touching the lever.
  • Carry on wrapping. When you get to the next bend, wrap the tape so that the middle of it sits on top of the edge of the wrapped bit on the outer side of the bend.
  • Now you’re on the home stretch! Keep wrapping until you reach the point where you want your tape to stop.
  • Do the final check.
  • If you’re happy, using your free hand, while still holding the tape, cut a diagonal tail from the brake lever towards the stem so that the final wrap finishes evenly.
  • Hold the tape in place and stick the insulating tape to the end of the bar tape and wrap it clockwise. Secure the insulating tape.
  • Now fit the bar end plug. If it’s got any writing or logo fit it upright for that professional finish. The plug should push the excess tape inside the bar so that it doesn’t unravel.
  • Refit the brake lever hood.

How to replace road bike handlebar tape– Left hand side

  • If the new tape has an adhesive strip then remove the plastic cover from it.
  • Place the middle of the bar tape on the bottom edge of the bar end. Start wrapping anti-clockwise.  During the first wrap the half of the tape will need to stick beyond the handlebar. This is so that the bar end plug can grip the tape when being pressed inside the handlebar end.
  • Now stretch and start wrapping the tape at an angle so that the middle of the tape sits on top of the edge of the wrapped part. Hold the tape under tension throughout the task. 
  • When you get to the bend, wrap the tape so that the middle of it sits on top of the edge of the wrapped bit on the outer side of the bend. The tape on the inner side of the bend might look uneven, this is normal. Carry on until you are close to the brake lever. 
  • Now is a good time to check and correct (if necessary) your first bit of wrapping.
  • With your free hand, cover the clamp with one of the spare pieces of tape. Wrap the tape until you reach the brake lever. 
  • Pass the main reel of tape under the lever and come out on the other side so that the edge of the tape is just touching the lever. Carry on wrapping. When you get to the next bend, wrap the tape so that the middle of it sits on top of the edge of the wrapped bit on the outer side of the bend.
  • Keep wrapping until you reach the point where you want your tape to stop. Do the final check. If you’re happy, using your free hand, while still holding the tape, cut a diagonal tail from the brake lever towards the stem so that the final wrap finishes evenly.
  • Hold the tape in place and stick the insulating tape to the end of the bar tape and wrap it anti-clockwise. Secure the insulating tape.
  • Now fit the bar end plug. 
  • Refit the brake lever hood.

Leave a Comment