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  1. #1
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    replacing bar tape on aluminum bars

    I have an old bike and it seems to have cloth tape on the bars. I want to see what the bars look like under the tape but the tape still looks ok. So I have some new tape which will be softer. The question is how often should I replace the tape and inspect the aluminum bars?

  2. #2
    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Whenever you want. The bars should be fine. They're aluminum so they're not rusting or anything.
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    You should replace your bar tape whenever it looks really worn or ratty or torn. There are also different types of tape - foam, lightly padded plastic and cork,, and cloth. Use whatever type you like best.

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    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    +1 Replace the tape whenever you become unsatisfied with what's on there. On most old road bikes I pickup for cheap, this usually happens immediately.

    Don't expect your bars to look nice and shiny. Usually aluminum bars will be dull under there, because no one is ever meant to see them without tape. Also, be ready for the glue and other crap from your current tape to be a sticky mess all over the bars. Don't bother removing this junk, just cover it with the new tape of your choice. I prefer Bontrager Gel Tape - but NOT the cork tape. They come in very similar packaging but are not at all the same.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

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    http://sheldonbrown.com/handlebar-tape.html
    This is a good article, including step-by-step instructions on wrapping the bars so they look nice and don't come unraveled.

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    Would this be a mistake? The fabric tape looks pretty good but it is very thin. So I am thinking about just putting the new foam tape over the fabric. After reading Sheldon's article and him mentioning that friction tape on the bars helps the foam tape to stay in place, I am thinking that the fabric tape should help keep the foam tape in place very well.

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    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Jim, that's totally fine. I actually often use cotton tape under leather tape.
    1964 JRJ (Bob Jackson) San Remo Plus (http://goo.gl/TQinp)
    2000ish Colian (Colin Laing) (http://goo.gl/OgrcU)
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    Senior Member Drakonchik's Avatar
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    I've torn down hundreds of 1970s bicycles with cotton bar tape. IMHO, cotton tape acts like a conduit for all manner of environment and atmospheric crud that permeates to the aluminum surface and forms corrosion. When I see an old, typically neglected 70s bike with original cotton tape, odds are 80% it has significant to severe corrosion under the cotton tape. When I see an equivalent 70s bike that has plastic or vinyl tape, the odds are 80% that it does NOT have significant corrosion.

    I'm sure any minute now a bike hobbyist will jump in here and say they've been using cotton cloth tape for decades and never had a problem. However, I'm sure that the vast majority of them have not been tearing down hundreds of cotton-cloth-handlebars from decades-old neglected bikes in recent years.

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    OK the tape comes off. I am concerned about the corrosion under the tape.

    I have heard that the life of a handle bar is about 2 years. All of my bars are 20 years or older. What are your thoughts on handle bar life?

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    Senior Member Drakonchik's Avatar
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    Aluminum does not get old or fatigued just sitting around, it requires stress. Surface cracks and/or corrosion PLUS stress will accelerate the decline. When I see drop handlebars that are crapped out purely by mileage, I usually see extensive fine stress lines inside the first bend. Not that it can't manifest at the clamp(s), internal cable routing holes etc etc.

    I'd recommend pulling all your cotton tape off of any old bar you care about. This is sometimes very fussy because of goop and cotton deterioration. Usually works best by cutting (not into the aluminum!) an incision all along the length of the bar, and then peeling it open like a clamshell. Or like a doctor might take a cast off your leg.
    Last edited by Drakonchik; 08-21-11 at 08:31 PM.

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    Thanks for all the help. I took my knife and removed a small amount of tape in the areas where you would suspect to see the most corrosion. Like right in front of the hoods and the top curve and the drops. There was zero corrosion. The old tape seems to be impregnated with something that makes it sweat proof and no salt made it to the bars. So I then just put the vinyl tape over the old tape and used some electrical tape the secure the ends since I didn't want to try to get the plugs out and then to try to get the new tape along with the old tape pushed back into the bar ends.

    It is not a professional job but maybe it will be good enough for now.

    Thanks again for all the help.

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    I had cored tape on my handle bars for a few years and usually re-wrapped twice a year. Switched to a more expensive Fizik gel tape and have the same tape for 2 years, hasn't worn out yet. The more expensive gel tapes usually last longer and are more comfortable.

    I have aluminum bars and they don't show a spec of wear after 5 years.

    Aluminum is very hard to wear out and gel tape is better for sure, unless you prefer the feel of cork or leather.

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    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    I have heard that the life of a handle bar is about 2 years. All of my bars are 20 years or older. What are your thoughts on handle bar life?
    They'll last forever if not damaged. I have plenty of bikes/bars that are 30+ years old and perfectly fine. Metal doesn't just "go bad" on it's own.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

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    Senior Member catonec's Avatar
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    I like the fizik dual tape
    2010 Kestrel RT900SL, 800k carbon, chorus/record, speedplay, zonda
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    Thanks for the comment about bar life. The bars on this bike look perfect. So maybe I can quit worrying about them breaking. When I was a kid I had an old J.C. Higgins bike and after about 4 years of popping wheelies with it the steel handle bar on the right side slowly pulled apart as I was doing one of my great wheelies. Since it went slowly, I didn't wreck but I still remember what happened and where it happened. It is strange that this would leave such a lasting memory.

    The other bad thing with the old bike was that the internal 3 speed began to slip in low gear and if it slipped in one of my wheelies the horizontal bar usually got in the way. If you know what I mean.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    I have seen bars that got damaged very badly because of corrosion under the bar tape. but that seems to be unusual. Unless you regularly ride in wet conditions with corrosive/salty environments (near the ocean), or reglarly drench the bars with sweat like on an indoor trainer, you should not really have a problem and do not have to inspect your bars regularly. I would think it is good enough to wait between every bar tape change to inspect/clean them. Many riders wait till their bar tape is really worn out and and even ratty before they change them without any problems.

    Chombi

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    OK the tape comes off. I am concerned about the corrosion under the tape.

    I have heard that the life of a handle bar is about 2 years. All of my bars are 20 years or older. What are your thoughts on handle bar life?
    There was an article in Mountain Bike Action a few months ago that gave estimated life spans for major bike components, and me and some riding buddies laughed and laughed and laughed... I think they might have said handlebars should be replaced every ONE year, not two... Saddles, forks and hubs, I think, could safely be used for two years, if you are lucky . Anyhoo, the reason we were laughing was because there is no 'shelf life' on bicycle components - a part wears out when you wear it out, not at the end of some arbitrary length of time that can be pinpointed. FWIW, for years we have been referring to the magazine as 'Mountain Bike Advertising' due to their obvious bias towards grossly praising all products like it is their job to pry our wallets open for the manufacturers. That seemed to be the point of that article - convince everyone to go out and buy a new handlebar and saddle and new wheels for no other reason then the fact that you hadn't done it for a while.

    The moral of the story is: use your own best judgement. If the bike shows signs of heavy use or abuse, or you are planning to put it through heavy use or abuse of your own, then you should question the strength of a handlebar or other critical components. If the bike and handlebar look fine... they probably are.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarDasse74 View Post
    There was an article in Mountain Bike Action a few months ago that gave estimated life spans for major bike components, and me and some riding buddies laughed and laughed and laughed... I think they might have said handlebars should be replaced every ONE year, not two... Saddles, forks and hubs, I think, could safely be used for two years, if you are lucky . Anyhoo, the reason we were laughing was because there is no 'shelf life' on bicycle components - a part wears out when you wear it out, not at the end of some arbitrary length of time that can be pinpointed. FWIW, for years we have been referring to the magazine as 'Mountain Bike Advertising' due to their obvious bias towards grossly praising all products like it is their job to pry our wallets open for the manufacturers. That seemed to be the point of that article - convince everyone to go out and buy a new handlebar and saddle and new wheels for no other reason then the fact that you hadn't done it for a while.

    The moral of the story is: use your own best judgement. If the bike shows signs of heavy use or abuse, or you are planning to put it through heavy use or abuse of your own, then you should question the strength of a handlebar or other critical components. If the bike and handlebar look fine... they probably are.
    Kinda reminds me of the car dealer recommended 3500 mile interval oil changes. Many of them and the oil companies made a lot of money by scaring customers that their cars could break down if you do not halve the manufacturer's recommended service intervals. That kept their service departments really happy!

    Chombi

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I've had softer alloy bars droop after some years, of riding ,
    holding the lever hoods, most of the time

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