Having gone to a school where many of the students commute to class on bikes, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen it all. As college students, you have to cut us some slack when it comes to anything that isn’t considered a necessity. We come up with all sorts of cost saving “life hacks” because we barely have enough money to spend on the essentials. The cheap bike you buy off craigslist with rusty handlebars? Not a problem, there’s many different ways to come up with bar tape alternatives. You have some people who will wrap their bars with plastic bags and tape it tight. Others will use a roll of duct tape and keep layering it until it becomes thick enough to provide padding (to some extent). I’ve even seen someone stretch socks around their bars and tape it closed.
As clever and creative as some of these ideas may seem, college students can get away with doing things like this because they really aren’t riding very far or very hard. And they’re broke. Since you’re riding hundreds of miles, if not thousands, its important to remember to change out your bar tape when it becomes worn, especially so if you don’t ride with padded gloves. Your bar tape is one of the main contact points you have with your bike. Therefore, you have to make sure that what you do does not sacrifice comfort in any way, or you will pay for it in the long run with discomfort.
Also, if your old bar tape is so old that it is falling off in places or ripped, you could be damaging your shifter and cables. Sweat and the elements could be ruining your shifter cable clamp, which is not something that usually crosses peoples’ minds as a consequence.
Now that I’ve established the importance of having non-worn out bar tape for your comfort as well preventing damage around the shifters, it’s worth mentioning that bar tape comes in a variety of colors and patterns! It’s certainly a great way to personalize your bike. Certain patterned bar tapes look cool in the box, but I have yet to see one on a bike that I think matches well. I’m more of a minimalist type myself, but don’t let that stop you from choosing the crazy colors!
But, keep in mind that according to Velomati’s The Rules #8,
“Saddles, bars, and tires shall be carefully matched. ”
Valid options are:
- Match the saddle to the bars and the tires to black; or
- Match the bars to the color of the frame at the top of the head tube and the saddle to the color of the frame at the top of the seat tube and the tires to the color where they come closest to the frame; or
- Match the saddle and the bars to the frame decals; or
- Black, black, black
Personally, you can’t really go wrong with black. But that can get boring over time. Thankfully, Selle Italia’s Smootape comes in a huge range of solid colors. Excatly what I’d be looking for to bring a little color out on my bikes. Not only that, but the Smootape comes in four different finishes. You have your classic corks, gel, and leather wraps. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the soft-touch leather tape if I ride without gloves, and with my titanium bike, I think the leather wrap would look super classy.
A cool difference between Smootape and other brands of tape is that Smootape is designed to reduce overlap “ridges” that you get when you wrap your bars with traditional tape. The diagram will help you visualize how it works. Essentially, the thickness of the tape is tapered off towards the edges so that when you wrap the bars, the thickness won’t stack to create those ridges.
If you’re heading over to the shop for a tune-up, (which you should do as the weather is getting nicer and nicer!), why not change things up a bit! Get that old bar tape off your bike and choose from one of the many exciting colors and textures that Smootape offers!