Following my bike fit with Speedhub at TFN, I followed Tim’s advice and got myself some new handlebars. Shiny carbon ones. Oh, the excitement when they finally arrived! My colleagues are used to some pretty strange behaviour on my part (I frequently lie on my desk to stretch or do squats and lunges at the printer), but the squeak and sprint across the office was definitely a new peak on the wonkiness scale. The bars were excellently wrapped, unmistakably, and someone somewhere had a real blast wrapping them.
Finally at home, I set out to swap the bars over and give it some new handlebar tape. Many said that would be the trickier part.
So what does a girl do first when it comes to DIY and new kit? Correct, we read the instructions, at least I do. YouTube to the rescue: How to change handlebars? Except, the dude literally only explained that. No word about brake levers, never mind handlebar wrapping. Disappointing. What do girls do next? Yes, think and improvise (at least I do).
Here’s what I started with. My old cockpit. The old bar tape needed to come off and then the brake leavers. Somewhere I dimly remembered that the rubber housing of the hoods folds up. Off I went.
Once that was done, the next step was to losen off the levers and take them off the old bars. For some reason I thought, it would be smart to remember how the cables were routed along the bars.
Now the complicated bit. Which of all the screws was the right one to losen the brake levers? Aaarrgghh! There was really only one option, but Twitter is a wonderful thing (thanks, girls and guys!). Naturally, it was the most difficult to reach screw, because you have to hold back the hood with one hand and operate the allenkey with the other.
I quickly learned that ball end allenkeys were invented for a reason and being slightly ambidextrous is a good thing. That done the levers came off easily (don’t forget the tape holding the cables in place). The next steps are totally easy.
Unscrew the handlebar clamp and pronto! The old handlebar literally falls out and you’ve got a naked bike. From there on in, it’s retracing your steps. Unwrap new handlebars. The packer really, really did a good job. It was like taking off a cast.
Put new bars in the bracket. Make sure they are centred. Most bars will have some marking to indicate where their middle is. Mine got a big white area marked out on them. Tighten the screws in a cross shape and check that the gap of the two halves of the bracket is equal on the top and bottom. Make sure you use a torque wrench if that’s indicated on your handlebars. And make sure they don’t tilt up or down. Some have a centre line on them to help you out.
Now for the brake leavers… Gaarrr! I knew why I took the picture of how the cables are routed. After a bit of twisting and turning, I had them running on the correct sides of the handlebars. For the position of the levers you need to see what’s comfortable for you, but generally they should be level so your wrists don’t bend backwards or downwards. Some bars will have some lines in the bend so that you can easily put both levers in the same position.
Now for the interesting part, the bar tape. After announcing on Twitter I was getting new handlebars, I got all sorts of good advice on bar tape. There were a few considerations here:
a) budget, I was willing to pay up to £20
b) shock absorption when riding the cobbles of Flanders.
In the end I settled on Specialized Phat tape with gel cushions, which should offer some extra comfort. Here are the bits that were in the box: bar tape, bar end plugs, gel pads for the top and the drops, pieces for behind the lever clamp, iso tape to fix the ends.
On the wrapping side, the unanimous voice was that you always, always wrap to the outside of your bars. Why? I have no idea, and no one was able to tell me. Quick check of YouTube brought up a handy video from Evans to refresh what I needed to pay attention to.
Gel pads first, cut them to right length. Spare pieces, cut to right length. Make sure your bars are clean and fat free and off you go. Leaving a bit at the bar end, wrap to the outside of the bar keeping the tape tight so no bubbles and bulges form. As you go on, make sure you keep an overlap. I kept the glue strip running along the outside of the wrapped tape, that works quite nicely for consistency.
When you get to the levers, put the spare bit round the lever’s back, wrap the tape tight to the bottom of the levers and then one big loop over the top. No need for crazy eights or multiple loops. The spare bit covers all blank space once the hood is folded back. Continue wrapping as before. When you’ve come far enough along the top bar (you decide how far that is), cut the rest off at an angle and secure with the iso tape. Put in the bar end plug after folding in all excess tape (don’t cut it off). Fold hood back down. Repeat all on the other side.