What Is Bartape? Your Guide to Stylish and Comfortable Handlebars

Upgrade your ride with stylish bartape. Enhance comfort, grip, and aesthetics. Get your bike handlebars feeling fresh and fabulous.

Looking to upgrade your cycling experience? Want to add a touch of style to your trusty ride? Ever wondered what bartape is and how it can transform your bike? Let’s dive in and discover the secret behind this often overlooked cycling essential.

What is bartape? Bartape is a protective covering that wraps around the handlebars of a bicycle, providing grip, comfort, and style. It’s the bridge between you and your two-wheeled companion, offering a world of possibilities for personalization and enhanced riding pleasure.

What are the types of handlebar tape?

When it comes to handlebar tape, the options are aplenty. Let’s explore the different types available, each with its own unique characteristics and benefits.

Closeup of black bicycle handlebars. Source: pexels
Closeup of black bicycle handlebars. Source: Pexels

1. Cotton bar tape

Cotton bar tape is a classic choice that harks back to the early days of cycling. It offers a traditional look and is often preferred by cycling purists. Here are some key points about cotton bar tape:

  • Affordability: Cotton tape is usually more affordable compared to other types, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious riders.
  • Adhesive backing: Cotton tape typically comes with an adhesive backing, allowing for easy application to clean handlebars.
  • Customization: Cotton tape can be further protected by applying several coats of shellac, giving it a shiny appearance and added durability.

2. Cork/synthetic bar tape

Cork/synthetic bar tape emerged as a popular alternative to cotton tape, offering enhanced performance and comfort. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Synthetic blend: Cork/synthetic tape is a mixture of cork and ethylene vinyl acetate, providing a comfortable and shock-absorbing grip.
  • Careful installation: Proper stretching and wrapping technique is crucial when using cork/synthetic tape to prevent unraveling and ensure a neat and secure finish.
  • Excellent shock absorption: Cork tape excels at dampening vibrations, providing a smoother and more comfortable ride.

3. High-tech bar tape

With advancements in materials and technology, high-tech bar tape has taken the cycling world by storm. Here are the highlights:

  • Lightweight and durable: High-tech tapes are usually made from lightweight and durable synthetics such as polyurethane, synthetic nylon, or silicone.
  • Enhanced grip and texture: Many high-tech tapes feature a tacky or textured surface, offering superior grip and a positive feel for your hands.
  • Variety of options: From perforated surfaces to smooth or textured finishes, high-tech bar tapes come in a range of styles, allowing you to find the perfect match for your preferences.

4. Leather bar tape

For those seeking the epitome of luxury and timeless elegance, leather bar tape is a top-tier choice. Here’s what sets it apart:

  • Premium feel and durability: Leather bar tape exudes a premium quality, providing a supple and comfortable feel in your hands.
  • Longevity: While it comes with a higher price tag, leather tape is known for its exceptional durability and ability to age beautifully over time.
  • Lack of vibration dampening: Unlike cork or gel tapes, leather bar tape may not offer the same level of vibration absorption, so it’s important to consider your comfort preferences before making a selection.

Still confused? Check out the table below that highlights different materials used in bartape for fixed gear, single-speed, and track bike cycling, along with their key characteristics and benefits.

MaterialDescriptionKey Features
CorkMade from cork and ethylene vinyl acetate blendExcellent shock absorption, sweat absorption
SyntheticLightweight synthetic materials (e.g., polyurethane)Durable, good grip, various textures
LeatherGenuine leatherLuxurious feel, long-lasting, classic appearance
CottonTraditional cotton fabricAffordable, easy to apply, retro look
High-TechAdvanced synthetic materials (e.g., silicone)Lightweight, durable, enhanced grip, vibration dampening
Overview of different bartape materials for fixed gear, single-speed, and track bike cycling.
My favorite fixed-gear bike (right now):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

Best overall fixed gear bike state bicycle co 6061 black label v2
My favorite fixed-gear bike (right now):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label. It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. Looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

How often should you replace handlebar tape?

When it comes to the lifespan of your trusty bartape, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Let’s unravel the mystery and find out how often you should be giving your handlebars a fresh new wrap.

Factors influencing replacement frequency

Several factors come into play when determining how frequently you should replace your handlebar tape. One of the key considerations is the amount of time you spend riding your bike. If you’re a dedicated cyclist who hits the road frequently, it’s advisable to replace the bartape more often. The more you ride, the more sweat, dirt, and general wear and tear your handlebars will accumulate.

Regular replacement helps prevent the buildup of grime, which can lead to a less-than-desirable appearance and potentially affect the grip and comfort of your handlebars.

Recommended minimum replacement frequency

As a general guideline, it’s recommended to replace your handlebar tape at least once a year. This ensures that your bartape stays in good condition, maintains its functionality, and keeps your bike looking fresh. Regular replacement helps prevent the buildup of grime, which can lead to a less-than-desirable appearance and potentially affect the grip and comfort of your handlebars.

Reasons for regular replacement

Think about those hot rides when your palms get sweaty or the dusty roads that leave your handlebars looking less than pristine. Over time, these factors can make your bartape look worn and unappealing. Regularly changing the tape not only improves the aesthetics of your bike but also maintains the functionality of this critical contact point between you and your two-wheeled companion.

What to look for in handlebar tape

Your handlebar tape goes beyond aesthetics; it plays a vital role in your cycling experience. Let’s explore the key qualities you should consider when selecting the perfect bartape.

1. Grip matters

When it comes to handlebar tape, the grip is king. You want a tape that provides excellent traction, ensuring your hands stay securely in place even in wet conditions. Look for bartape with a tacky finish or textured surface that offers enhanced grip, giving you confidence and control during your rides.

2. Comfort is key

Long rides can be tough on your hands and arms, especially if you encounter rough road surfaces. Choosing handlebar tape with sufficient padding can make a significant difference in reducing vibrations and providing a more comfortable riding experience. Consider the type of riding you do and select bartape that offers the right amount of cushioning for your needs.

3. A touch of style

While functionality and comfort are paramount, there’s no harm in expressing your personal style through your bartape selection. With a wide range of colors, patterns, and materials available, you have the freedom to choose a tape that not only feels great but also complements your bike’s aesthetics. So go ahead, and embrace your inner cycling fashionista!

Make a habit of inspecting your bartape regularly, and if you notice signs of wear, don’t hesitate to give it a fresh wrap. By doing so, you’ll not only maintain optimal performance but also keep your bike looking sleek and ready for the road.

As a fixed-gear cyclist, I can’t stress enough the importance of a well-maintained bike, and that includes the handlebar tape. Whether you’re tearing up the city streets or hitting the velodrome, having a firm grip and comfortable contact point with your bike is essential for a smooth and enjoyable ride.

Closeup of a yellow handlebar. Source: unsplash
Closeup of a yellow handlebar. Source: Unsplash

How to change your handlebar tape

Changing your handlebar tape may seem like a daunting task, but fear not! With a little know-how and some simple steps, you can give your bike a fresh wrap. Let’s dive into the process and guide you through it.

Before we get started, let’s gather all the necessary materials to ensure a smooth handlebar tape replacement:

  • Electrical tape: Used to secure the new tape and provide a clean finish.
  • Scissors: Essential for cutting the tape and trimming any excess.
  • Clean hands or gloves: Make sure your hands are clean before handling the new tape, or wear gloves for a mess-free installation.
  • New handlebar tape: Choose the type and color that suits your style and preferences.

1. Remove old handlebar tape

The first step in the process is to remove the old handlebar tape. Follow these simple steps:

  • Unwrap the tape: Starting from the end of the handlebars, carefully peel off the old tape. You may need to use tweezers or pliers to grip and unravel it delicately.
  • Clean the handlebars: Use a bike-specific cleaner or a mild detergent to clean the handlebars thoroughly. Ensure that they are dry and free from any residue before proceeding.

2. Make adjustments and secure cables

Before applying the new tape, it’s essential to make any necessary adjustments to the handlebar position and secure the brake cables:

  • Adjust hoods position: If you’re replacing existing tape, ensure the hoods are in the desired position. Tighten the hoods to the handlebars using a 5mm hex wrench. Take the opportunity to test ride the bike and ensure the hoods are positioned to your liking.
  • Secure brake cables: Use black electrical tape to secure the brake cables to the handlebars, if applicable. If your handlebars have holes for this purpose, you can skip the electrical tape. Ensure the cables are neatly secured to prevent interference with the new tape.

3. Wrapping the new handlebar tape

Now comes the exciting part—wrapping the new handlebar tape. Follow these steps for a professional-looking finish:

  • Start at the end: Begin wrapping the tape at the end of the handlebars, leaving a small amount of overhang to tuck in later.
  • Angle and overlap: Angle the tape slightly downward as you wrap it around the handlebars. Ensure that each wrap overlaps the previous one by about half its width.
  • Maintain tension: Keep a consistent tension on the tape, ensuring a snug and even wrap. Avoid pulling too tightly, as this can lead to tape breakage.
  • Smooth out wrinkles: As you progress, check for any wrinkles or bulges in the tape. Smooth them out with your fingers to maintain a clean appearance.
  • Finishing touches: Once you reach the end of the handlebars, trim any excess tape and tuck it neatly into the handlebar end. Secure it with a few wraps of electrical tape to keep it in place.

Additional tips and tricks

Here are some additional tips and tricks to ensure a successful handlebar tape installation:

  • Practice makes perfect: If you’re new to wrapping handlebar tape, don’t be discouraged if it takes a couple of tries to get it just right. With practice, you’ll become a pro.
  • Experiment with different wrapping techniques: There are various wrapping techniques to explore, such as the traditional “figure-eight” pattern or the popular “Spiral” method. Find one that suits your style and comfort.
  • Check for tightness: After wrapping the tape, give it a gentle squeeze to ensure it’s secure and doesn’t shift when you ride.
  • Maintenance and cleanliness: To keep your bartape looking fresh, wipe it down periodically with a damp cloth or a bike-specific cleaner.

Advantages and disadvantages of bartape

Choosing the right bartape for your bicycle is important as it can greatly impact your comfort and grip while riding. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of bartape options to help you make an informed decision.

Advantages of bartape

Having the right bartape can offer several benefits for your cycling experience:

  • Comfort: High-quality bartape can provide a cushioned and comfortable grip, reducing hand fatigue during long rides.
  • Shock absorption: Some bartapes are designed to absorb vibrations from the road, providing a smoother and less jarring ride.
  • Improved grip: Certain bartapes have enhanced grip properties, ensuring a secure hold on the handlebars even in wet or sweaty conditions.
  • Customization: Bartape comes in a wide range of colors, patterns, and textures, allowing you to personalize your bike and make it stand out.
  • Easy to clean: Many bartapes are easy to clean, making it convenient to maintain a fresh and neat appearance for your bike.
  • Durability: High-quality bartapes are designed to withstand wear and tear, ensuring long-lasting performance.

Disadvantages of bartape

While bartapes offer numerous advantages, it’s important to consider some potential drawbacks:

  • Cost: Depending on the material and brand, bartapes can vary significantly in price, with some higher-end options being more expensive.
  • Installation complexity: Installing bartape can be challenging for beginners, as it requires proper wrapping technique and attention to detail.
  • Maintenance: Some bartapes may require more frequent cleaning or replacement to maintain their appearance and functionality.
  • Specific preferences: The choice of bartape can be subjective, and what works well for one person may not suit another’s preferences in terms of thickness, texture, or cushioning.

Consider your specific needs, budget, and personal preferences when selecting bartape for your bicycle. It’s also a good idea to seek advice from experienced cyclists or consult with local bike shops to ensure you find the bartape that best suits your riding style and requirements.

If you want even more great tips and information, check out the video.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about what a bartape is? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions

Can I reuse the old bartape?

No, it is not recommended to reuse old bartape. Over time, bartape can accumulate dirt, sweat, and wear, diminishing its performance and aesthetics. For the best riding experience and a fresh look, it’s advisable to replace the bartape with new, clean tape.

Can I wrap my handlebars without professional help?

Absolutely! Wrapping handlebars with new bartape can be done as a DIY project. With some patience and attention to detail, you can achieve professional-looking results. Follow the step-by-step guide provided in this blog post, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful handlebar wrap.

How often should I clean my bartape?

Cleaning your bartape regularly helps maintain its condition and prolong its lifespan. It is recommended to wipe down the bartape with a damp cloth or use a mild bike-specific cleaner after every few rides, especially if it’s exposed to sweat, dirt, or other contaminants. Keeping your bartape clean not only improves its appearance but also ensures a hygienic grip.


Handlebar tape may seem like a small component of your bike, but it plays a significant role in both aesthetics and comfort. By choosing the right bartape material, wrapping it properly, and maintaining it well, you can enhance your cycling experience and make your bike truly stand out. So, remember, when it comes to bartape, don’t wrap it up—wrap it right!

Did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on bartape. Thanks for reading, and keep pedaling with style and comfort!

Key takeaways

This article covered the topic of bartape and its importance in fixed-gear cycling. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Handlebar tape is not just for looks—it affects both the appearance and feel of your bike.
  • Choosing the right bartape material is crucial for grip, comfort, and durability.
  • Regularly replacing and maintaining your bartape keeps your bike fresh and enhances your riding experience.
  • Wrapping bartape on the handlebars takes some practice, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t get it right in one try.

Helpful resources

Bradley Knight Image
Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

Edited by Jordan May, Staff Editor

Jordan is a seasoned editor with over seven years of experience. His passion for writing and storytelling started when he was a teenager, spending countless hours reading books and creating his own stories.

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