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Bicycle Grips & Handlebar Tape

Touching metal is not as comfortable as touching some other, softer materials.  Therefore, grips and handlebar tape were invented.  

Bicycle Handgrips

 

Placed on the ends of most bicycle's handlebars, handgrips provide a comfortable and safe place to put one's hands. Handgrip installation can involve some technique. To remove old grips, if they will no longer be used, you can cut them off with a large knife. If you want to save them you can use one of these techniques:

1. Blow compressed air under the inside edge of the grips, and they will easily slide off. Do not fill the handlebar with compressed air. It is slightly dangerous and unnecessary. 

2. Lay a pair of tongue and grove pliers over the handlebar (with a cloth layer between to avoid marring the handlebar) and against the edge of the grip. Bash on the side of the pliers with a soft hammer to drive the grip off.

To install grips, put a little plain water on the grip and handlebar, and slip the grip on all in one smooth movement. Do not ride the bicycle until the water has dried and the grip is tight. If the grip is stubborn, and gets stuck part-way on, you can blow compressed air at the edge of the grip, and the air will flow between the grip and the handlebar, acting as a lubricant. If compressed air is not available, you can bang on the end of the grip with a soft hammer. 

Foam Bicycle Grips

Plain water is not usually a sufficient lubricant for long foam grips, sold in sets of four, designed to cover downturned handlebars (Maes or Randonneur). Use soapy water with foam grips, and use a lot of it.  Make sure the soap is a kind that will dry up. You'll want to lube the grips with the soapy water really well, because getting a foam grip stuck when it's half-way on is not fun. It is best not to ride the bicycle for a day after installing foam grips, because they may rotate or slide, which would make the ride quite interesting.

With these foam grips, you'll need to remove and reinstall the brake levers. Most brake levers attached to downturned bars are removed by loosening the cable, and then using a flat blade screwdriver to loosen, but not remove, the screw that's seen from the front of the bicycle when the lever is squeezed. Then the lever can be slid off the handlebar.  If you remove the screw entirely, it often takes a few minutes to get it to line up with the nut inside the band that holds the lever on the handlebar. 

Handlebar Tape

Handlebar tape comes in two flavors: adhesive and non-adhesive.  With adhesive tape, generally made from cloth, you can install it pretty much any which-way, and it will work out.  Non-adhesive is a bit trickier.  Non-adhesive tape needs to be stretched as it is being installed.  It's tendency to shrink after being stretched is what keeps it in place.  But adhesive tape should be stretched as it is being installed also, to avoid wrinkles. Most brands of handlebar tape give you barely enough length, so be careful to avoid overlapping too much.  Always watch the outside of curves on the handlebar, because this is where gaps in your taping pattern will show up.  Tape is usually applied from the center of the handlebar, toward the ends. Stand in front of the bicycle, wrap over the top, from the seat toward yourself.  This way, as your grip naturally twists the tape, it will help to keep it tight, rather than working to unravel the tape.

Here is the official, step-by-step process for applying handlebar tape:

1. Remove old tape and clean handlebar.

2. Make sure brake levers are tight, and set at the same height as each other.

3. Cut off approx 4 cm (1.5 inches) sections.  In the case of handlebar tape that comes in two roll sets, cut off two of these sections from each roll. If you have adhesive tape, apply the pieces to the bottom of the sides of the brake levers, to cover the gap that would otherwise appear as the tape is wrapped around the sides of the brake levers.  In the case of non-adhesive tape, set the four pieces aside for now.

4. Stand in front of the bicycle, and wrap a turn around the handlebar near the stem (traditionally about 5 cm or a couple of inches from the handlebar stem). Wrap over the top of the handlebar from the seat, toward yourself.  This direction is self-securing.  As the rider's hands naturally twist the tape, it helps it stay tight in this direction.  If it is non-adhesive tape, you need to pull it tight right away, so that as the tail of the tape is covered by this first turn, it won't slip off the handlebar.  Or, you can put a bit of electrical tape on the end of the handlebar tape to hold it in position.  The electrical tape will be covered by the first layer of handlebar tape.

5. Start wrapping the tape, working your way slowly and carefully toward the brake lever. Be very careful to stretch the tape all the while, and to avoid too much overlap.  The manufacturers generally give you JUST enough tape.  As you are wrapping the tape, you should make a point of looking at the outside of curves of the handlebar.  This is where gaps will occur, if you are not careful. Around the outside of curves, the tape should overlap by about 3 mm, or 1/8 inch.

6. If you have non-adhesive tape, when you get to the brake levers, place two pieces that you cut off at the beginning along the sides of the brake lever to cover the bands, where a gap would otherwise appear.  Continue wrapping the tape around the handlebar, to secure the sections in place.  

6a. You have an option.  You can loop the tape once around the brake lever.  Some people consider this a prettier way to do it, others don't. One slight advantage is that if a brake lever mounting should ever break off while you are riding, and that has been known to happen, then the extra loop of tape will probably hold it in place.  The lever will become loose, but won't fall off.  This can make a big difference when pulling hard up a hill. 

7. Continue past the brake levers, making sure that you are still stretching, and watching overlap around the outside of curves.  

8. As you come to the end of the handlebar, pull the tape hard and it will almost curve into the end of the handlebar.  Cut the tape off, leaving about 5 cm (2 inches). Tuck this tail into the handlebar, and install the handlebar plug.

9. Repeat on the other side.

 

3 Things You Need To KnowBefore You Buy

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