Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes your hand is played for you...

I like to tape bars.  I'm pretty good at it.  Consistent, even wraps.  I don't like to tape my own bars until they really, really need it.  Because I tape bars with just the right amount of tension on the tape, just he right amount of overlap, and because I don't "worry" the tape (more on that in a bit), the tape job on my bars lasts a long time.  

However, sometimes something happens that forces your hand.  Something besides the bike falling over and tearing the tape.  Something besides the tape getting filthy and you just can't stand looking at it any more.  Last week, a week ago today, I went riding with a friend at China Camp.  I rode my cross bike.  He rode his single-speed Steelman.  It was a fun tough ride.  Not the traditional China Camp loop.  What I didn't realize is that somewhere on the ride (probably when we were breaking apart a fallen tree on the trail so we could pass) we both managed to get a mighty dose of urushiol oil on ourselves.  Urushiol oil is the stuff that is on poison oak that gets on your skin and causes unnatural blisters, rashes, and causes your skin to itch like a mutha ..., itches real bad.  

Two days after riding, I notice the initial skin reaction to the dreaded poison oak on my arms and legs.  Then later, it starts affecting my neck and face.  Then it's around my eyes and nostrils.  I realize that after breaking apart that fallen tree, I had gotten it on my hands and everything I touched was become affected.  And because I wasn't wearing gloves, I had it on my hands when I got in my car for the drive back, it was on the steering wheel and shift knob, door handles and clean clothes when I changed after the ride.  It was on my groceries when I stopped at the store on the way home.  And it was on my handlebar tape. 

Because my handlebar tape is cloth, I probably wasn't going to clean the urushiol oil off by wiping with Tecnu like I did to my steering wheel and shift knob.  Nope, I was going to have to retape my bars.  

The previous bar tape on my 46cm wide Salsa Bell Laps was likely a cotton tape from Cateye.  With proper overlap, the Cateye tape was about two wraps short of completely covering the bar up to the bulge.  I've also got half a Grab-On grip on the top of the drop section.  

Old Tape

I retaped the bars with Newbaum's cloth tape.  Newbaum's is made in the U.S.A.  But that's only one reason why it's the best.  Newbaum's is longer than other cloth tapes so it's a cinch to properly tape a nice wide, man-sized handlebar.  Go ahead and do it right.  The sticky back side of the Newbaum's is also much more sticky than other cloth tapes.  So sticky in fact, that it is not easy to work with.  You do not want to fold the tape over on itself and get it stuck together.  When someone buys two rolls of Newbaum's in the shop (you need two rolls - one for each side of the bars), I sometimes suggest buying a third roll just in case the first attempt is foiled by the backsides sticking together.  There is a backing paper much like the backing on Cinelli cork tape and you only want to remove a little bit at a time.  I typically back the paper away about a wrap and a half at a time. 

So, fearing urushiol oil had inhabited the cloth tape on my bars, I did what I had been wanting to do for a while, but was too lazy to do it because it was still working - retaped my bars.  And this tape job went all the way to the bulge.  


I find that with Newbaum's (and other cloth tape in general) I don't add a final finish tape using electrical tape (only Scotch® brand 33+ tape).  Nor do I use twine or shellac.  Check out the photo of the old tape.  That's been there for quite a while and has not unwrapped itself.  I'm finicky, but not that finicky.



Oh yeah, "worried" bars.  Worried bars is what happens when the rider holds on too the bars too tight and causes gaps in the tape.  This usually occurs at the bend, but can also happen in the drops.  It's important to get the wrap just right at the bend, but sometimes, no matter what you do, there's that one guy who just cranks on his bars (or hers) and causes gaps in the tape.  Riding with gaps in your tape is completely unsightly. 

And thanks to Stevil, I found Demartini's Spring Hill Pharmacy in Grass Valley, CA.  They make and sell their own killer poison oak gel that seriously soothes the skin and ceases the incessant feeling of never ending scratching the itch.  It's a total bargain at under $10 for a good sized tube.  Compared to the $40 I spent at the local pharmacy for a tiny tube of Zanfel (which did nothing for me), this stuff is gel gold.

(What's playing:  R.E.M. I Wanted To Be Wrong)

1 comment:

JT Burke said...

Mike, I, like you, pride myself on quality tape jobs and really enjoy finding other thoughtful mechanics that have honed this craft, too. I see the "worried" bars gaps on bikes I have taped from time to time, and recently realized it's more likely due to my wrapping direction (and yours, too, based on the photos you posted) then gripping too tightly. When gripping the bar tightly, we naturally twist the tape and cause it to unravel, but by reversing the wrap direction, the natural twisting motion that occurs while riding will cause the tape to tighten instead of unraveling. Be warned though, after decades of wrapping one direction, changing to the opposite direction is extemely difficult! It's really hard to retrain yourself to get those consistent, even wraps with just the right tension when you're used to doing it one way for so many years. I suggest you give it a shot, though - even if just for fun!