Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pity The Poor Copywriter

I had a parking incident last week that tore a nice gash in the otherwise-pristine cork tape on my daily driver bike (don't worry about the digression -- I'll get to that poor copywriter eventually).

Being (ahem) "frugal", I first attempted to patch it up with a chunk of high-test black duct tape. The result was effective, but being (ahem) "particular" in addition to (ahem) "frugal", I couldn't stand to look at it. (I'll also justify my (ahem) "particular" tendencies by saying it was a bit slippery).

Don't get me wrong: I love taping drop bars. Many people dread it, but I take perverse pride in getting just the right overlap, the perfect figure-8 around the brake hoods, and a nicely angled end-cut at the tops to leave a square edge. What I don't like is undoing a nice tape job just because I happened to put a hole in it. So, I decided it was time to do an overwrap with something a bit more durable, preserving the cush of the underlying cork while adding a skin of something tougher. Enter Avenir Classic Cloth bar tape:

Avenir is somebody's house parts-and-accessories brand (maybe Raleigh?), pretty much just a label slapped on a wide range of basic aftermarket stuff so your bike shop's shelves have a branded consistency of matching orange packages. Their cloth tape, however, is pretty nice if you're into such things. It's a bit thicker and wider than the traditional Velox/Tressostar, and (as the package promises), the rolls are a bit longer to make their way around wider bars without coming up short. In fact, I had enough left over during the wrap of my 45cm bars that I cut a small piece, undid the wrap on the gashed side, and used the extra to fill in the hole. Remember, too, that I was wrapping a 45cm bar over a fairly thick layer of cork.

A couple downsides did show themselves during the installation. First, the adhesive strip isn't very well attached to the tape, making it a real challenge to get the backing paper off without peeling off the adhesive too. I suppose this could be an upside if you're looking for non-adhesive tape, though, since it would be very easy to just peel off the whole shebang. Also, there's a light "stitching" pattern along one edge of the tape -- doesn't appear to be functional, just something decorative. I didn't notice it and wrapped in such a way that it's visible on one side, hidden by the overlap on the other. So much for being (ahem) "particular".

In use, though, I'm happy with this tape. The cloth has already proven to be a more durable outer layer, putting up with a couple unceremonious dumpings of the bike without complaint. It also provides nice grip whether I'm bare-handed or wearing gloves. I prefer more cushiness than it would provide by itself, but over a layer of cork, it feels great. And getting back to that (ahem) "frugal" stuff, I got it for only $11. Not half bad.

So why do I pity the poor copywriter? Check out those "features" on the package again: "Inspired by the great 20th century road races." That's the mark of an ink-stained wretch who's been told, "Come up with five bullet points about cloth handlebar tape, fast!" I can hear the internal monologue: "Okay, I got the contents of the box, I got the length, I got the sticky stuff, and it looks good on old bikes. Crap. Well, maybe they won't notice if I throw in another one that basically means it looks good on old bikes."

(I'm not even going to touch the fact that said copywriter is probably young enough to think that the 20th century is "retro", or my pity will turn to loathing. Dang kids, get off my yard!)

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