Extra comfort: How to double-wrap handlebar tape

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of Fizik’s 3 mm bar tape. I get a lot of use out of the stuff; it’s not unusual to see a roll last eight months up to a year on Hyro’s handlebars.

When the time came to replace it, I didn’t realize until after wrapping the bars that I may have replaced it with the 2 mm variety.

Oops.

I don’t remember if this was a misprint on the box, or if the bike shop handed me the wrong thickness. Regardless, the bars felt pretty thin and harsh while riding, particularly while riding in the drops.

This felt like a good time to experiment with something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: double-wrapping my handlebars. This is a very common tactic used by pro cyclists when they race the Spring Classics events such as the Ronde van Vlandeeren and Paris-Roubaix. All of these races are infamous for the many sectors of Belgian cobblestones, called “pavé,” that the cyclists have to ride through…and you can imagine how uncomfortable that can be on a road bike.

Brothers Peter and Juraj Sagan on a reconnaissance ride over pavé for the 2017 Paris-Roubaix race. Photo courtesy VeloNews.

What works for Belgian cobbles could probably work for Manila’s streets, which aren’t much smoother anyway.

So how would you go about double-wrapping your bars?

First, remove the bar plug. Take a blade and score along the bar tape, and eventually it will have to be cut off the bar. About 5 cm of bare handlebar will need to be exposed.

This has to be done so that the second layer of bar tape can be anchored here with the bar plug; if not, it will be way too thick.

Do the same with the other end of the bar tape, at the stem area. I find that undoing the final turn of the wrap, cutting it short, and then retaping with electrical tape is enough.

Proceed to wrap the second layer of bar tape as normal. I used cork bar tape here, as this was an experiment on the cheap.

As the wrap job continues, it’s obvious that the second layer will go through more distance with each turn. To make sure I have enough tape to cover the entire handlebar, I decrease the overlap and keep the tape in tension. An advantage of using cork tape as the second layer is that it’s much stretchier than Fizik’s leather-like microtex material.

Great results, even with the figure-eight loop around the clamp band of the control levers.

Single wrap of Fizik 2 mm bar tape on the left; double-wrap on the right

Side by side, it’s easy to see just how chunky the handlebar gets when double-wrapped. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t get in the way of braking or riding; it’s just really comfy. The added bulk does make itself felt if you ride in the drops, though. You may find that your fingers need to stretch a little more to get sufficient purchase on the brake levers, and the added reach may fatigue your hands.

It takes some more effort, but this might be a good way of getting a nice fat handlebar to grip on the cheap. You wouldn’t really need to remove or replace the underlying bar wrap unless you replaced the cable housings, so with smart choice in bar tape, and for riders with big enough hands, this might even be cost-effective too. Ultimately though, I’m going back to 3 mm tape.

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Shimano Hollowtech II crankset removal and reassembly

There are a few reasons why you’d want to remove the cranks from your bike.

Traditionally, this is the area that receives the least amount of attention when washing the bike down, since the chainrings and crank spider are in the way of the bottom bracket shell junction of the down tube, seat tube, and chainstays. Removing the entire crankset will allow unimpeded access to these areas for cleaning.

Obviously, if you’re changing out chainrings or the entire crankset, you will want to learn how it comes apart, too.

More importantly, crankset removal is required to either maintain or replace your bottom bracket – the bearings its spindle spins on. Sometimes, this manifests as an unwanted creaking or clicking noise while you turn your pedals, and the bottom bracket is the likely cause after you’ve eliminated everything else.

As of 2017, with the release of Claris R2000, all of Shimano’s current road groupsets use the Hollowtech II form factor for their cranks. (The lone exception is Tourney A070, which soldiers on with the square-taper design.) With Hollowtech II, the crankset is made of a drive-side arm with a hollow 24 mm steel spindle bonded to it, and this has splines to accept the non-drive-side arm. The non-drive-side arm has a proprietary plastic cap, which threads in to preload the bottom bracket bearings, and is then held in place with two pinch bolts.

TOOLS

For this job, you can ignore the hammer.

To carry out this procedure, you’re going to need a few tools.

  • A flat-blade screwdriver
  • A rubber mallet
  • A 5 mm hex key
  • A torque wrench
  • Grease
  • Degreaser
  • A Shimano TL-FC16 tool for the preload cap; I’m using the Park Tool BBT-9 bottom bracket wrench as a substitute

The first thing you want to do is to move the chain off the chainrings, and have it rest on the drive-side bottom bracket shell.

Next, take your 5 mm hex wrench and loosen the two pinch bolts, a little at a time.

Once loose, take your preload cap tool and use it to loosen and remove the preload cap. Park Tool’s BBT-9 comes with a driver on the other end for this purpose.

The final thing to do is to use the screwdriver and lift the plastic stop plate that lives in the slot of the non-drive-side crank arm.

After this, you can slide the crank arm off. You can now see the exposed crank spindle and the splines on its end.

Take the rubber mallet and give the spindle a little tap. This will help the crank slide out the other side.

I took out my crank to clean it of its dirty old grease and reapply fresh grease. I was also interested in inspecting my SM-BB71-41B bottom bracket bearings, as I was getting a mild, but infrequent, clicking. Turning the bearings’ inner races with my fingers, they still spun smoothly and didn’t feel gritty, so I decided not to replace them for now.

CLEANING AND REASSEMBLY

24 mm steel spindle side-on. This is the reason why it’s called “Hollowtech II”

After a quick once-over with degreaser and wiping off the old dirty grease, I smeared on some new grease onto the spindle, splines, and threads for the preload cap.

Push the spindle of the drive-side crank arm through the bottom bracket bearings. As the spindle passes the bearings, it will feel a little tight. Use the mallet to tap the crank and ensure it goes all the way through.

Hook the chain over the small chainring.

Now slide the non-drive-side crank arm onto the splined end of the spindle, making sure it is 180 degrees from the drive-side arm. The splines will only allow you to slide it in at two positions – 180 degrees or at 0 degrees.

Now take the crank cap, put it onto your preload cap tool, and thread it into the spindle. This is basically tightened the same way you would a threadless headset. That means this is usually done up finger-tight; no crazy amounts of force required. Test-spin the cranks and rock them from side to side to check your work. You want it tightened as loose as you can, so the crank can still spin freely, while eliminating wobble or play from the non-drive-side arm.

Once the bearing preload is correctly set, push in the stop plate.

Finally, the last thing to do is to tighten the pinch bolts. Snug them up by hand with your 5 mm hex wrench, then break out your torque wrench and tighten each side a little at a time. Shimano’s torque spec is 12-14 Nm. What I like to do alternately tighten the bolts from 6 Nm, then 8 Nm, slowly working my way up to spec.

And with that, you’re done!

Getting my maximum worth out of a cassette

When I got Hyro back in 2014, he came equipped with a Shimano Tiagra CS-4600 cassette with a 12-30T gear range. Since then, I’ve put him through his paces, replacing chains as they wear out, but never really changing out the cassette.

Now, 14,700 kilometers later, that changed.

The telltale sign was my Shimano CN-HG54 chain exhibiting 0.5% wear, as indicated by my Park Tool CC-3.2 chain checker. With chains, I err on the conservative side and replace them at the 0.5% mark with fresh ones. It’s vastly cheaper to replace chains, which are the first point of wear, than it is to replace worn drivetrain components.

It just so happened that this is already the cassette’s fourth chain.

It’s not that the CS-4600 cassette is particularly expensive, either, at around PhP900 apiece. Such is the benefit of using steel cogs simply riveted to a center carrier, and avoiding the bragging-rights vanity of lightweight cassettes. At a rated 320 g, this Tiagra unit isn’t going to win any weight weenie awards.

So first, I had to break the old chain…

Not Hyro’s back wheel, but the same thing applies for removing almost any cassette.

…then remove the rear wheel and undo the cassette lock ring…

…and finally pull the old cassette from the freehub body.

Fourteen thousand kilometers, eh? I certainly got my money’s worth out of this little mound of sprockets.

Now to slide the new cassette on. It’s also a Tiagra CS-4600 12-30T unit.

On the 12-30T Tiagra cassette, the seven largest cogs (15T, 17T, 19T, 21T, 24T, 27T, and 30T) are all pinned together on a carrier, so they slide onto the freehub body as one unit.

Next goes the only spacer in the entire cassette.

After the spacer comes the 14T cog.

Then the 13T cog goes on. This sprocket has a spacer built in.

Finally the 12T top cog goes on. It also has an integrated spacer, and its face has the teeth that the cassette lockring will bite into.

Grease up the threads on the lockring, spin it on to the freehub body, and tighten to 40 Nm.

Finally it’s time to break out that new chain, resize if necessary, and install it on the bike.

Shimano coats its new chains in a light, sticky grease as corrosion preventive while in storage, and it’s generally okay to use the chain in this condition for the first 100 kilometers or so. With that in mind, I logged a 70-km ride after installing the new cassette and chain, and stripped it of its grease when I got home. That’s a story for another time.