It might be clear at this point that I find a particular inspiration and glee in the objects cycling takes from other walks of life (who would walk?!?!) and makes them ours, like a milk crate for example or a blood transfusion.
Another example is electrical tape (ET).
Now, as a not-very-handy person, I have done my share of no-budget electrical work: screw ground wire to mounting point, use wire nut to connect the white to the white and the black to the black, cram it all back into the wall/ceiling, flip switch, et voila! Light!! And on those few occasions where I have remembered to shut the breaker off and not given myself the no-budget electro-convulsive-therapy to remind myself why electricians get paid good money, I’ve even applied ET in the manner you might find outlined in the instructions, if such a thing existed.
Much more often than not though, I use ET for one thing, and that’s wrapping handlebars. My supply even lives in the section of my tool chest reserved for bike tools, nestled there next to the lockring thing-a-ma-jigger and the mysterious fourth-hand tool, also known as the cable-stretch-doinker.
Electrical tape is so good at securing bar tape to handlebars that everyone I know throws out the short sections of tape that come with a fresh roll, the bits that are made to do what ET does better. I suppose it’s possible we’ve all been employing this janky-ass solution so long that we’ve come to expect to see electrical tape finishing off a wrap job. Maybe we’ve brainwashed ourselves into thinking it’s better, when really it’s just what we’ve always done.
The thinness of ET makes it a better solution than most of the purpose-made tapes, and it has the perfect degree of adhesion too, I can pull it off over and over without shredding the precious bar tape’s cork/foam/gel, and I’m going to be doing wrapping and rewrapping, because as bad as I am at it, I’m even worse at riding around with badly wrapped bars.
Here too, the staggering cheapness of ET boosts its consumer value, because if it cost a lot, I wouldn’t feel comfortable throwing so much away, just to get 2.5 inches of perfectly-aligned and unwrinkled ET applied to my bi-annual rewrap.
Unlike when we were new to this whole ritual, now if you go to the hardware store you’ll find ET in a wide array of colors, so you can even match yours to the paint job on your bike, the anodization of your components, or to your birthstone. I’m not judging (JK, I’m totally judging. The only acceptable color is black).
ET has other, cycling-specific, off-label uses as well. It secures cable housing to bars in just the right way. I’ve seen it used to mitigate cable rub with liberal application at both headtube and downtube. ET will tell you exactly how far to insert your seatpost, and in a pinch, it’ll secure that rag you jammed between the two bikes on your hitchrack to keep them from cannibalizing each other on the way to the ride.
I’ve even seen water bottle cages ET’d onto a frame after the frame’s rivnuts gave up the ghost. This I can’t approve of, even if it is effective, because it tells me you don’t love your bike, and every bike deserves to be loved. Don’t be a monster. Put the tape away.
Here’s how you know that ET is a perfect product. Park Tool doesn’t make any. As part of the deep research I performed for this column, I went to the Park website and searched for “tape.” They’d sell me a tape measure, a frame tap, and even a pair of scissors for cutting my ET, but the great blue dictator of bike maintenance can’t improve on electrical tape and that should tell you all you need to know.