While the bike industry continues to create solutions for problems like storage, bike noise, and more, few products solve as many problems at once as simple tape.
I know I’m biased because I tend toward janky solutions for situations that could probably be solved with more finesse, but as it turns out, I’m not alone. While plenty of elegantly manufactured solutions exist, sometimes simple fixes are just nice. Plus, tape is cheap enough that the humble product might deserve some recognition as the everyman's fix that it is.
Here are a few uses for different tapes that have earned approval from (at least some of the) Pinkbike editors and pro riders alike.
1. On-Bike Storage
Tape is the obvious solution for storing tubes, tire plugs, and enduro bananas. While this article shows off the countless nice storage options, I have more tape than I have Velcro straps or SWAT anything. Mike Kazimer says electrical tape storage is for heathens, but at least Martin Maes and Greg Callaghan are with me on this one.
Martin Maes' EWS bike in Madeira, 2019
Greg Callaghan's liberal use of Gorilla Tape for tool storage
And then there's this photo of my own bike from a 2019 bike check
2. Grip tape
While it doesn’t matter too much if an average out-for-a-lunch-ride rider slips off their brake lever or doesn’t shift at exactly the right time, the stakes are higher for pro downhill racers, and any tiny hiccup can take the hundredths of seconds that mean winning or losing, podiuming or not podiuming, and big changes to a make-it-or-break-it career. Grip tape on shifter and brake levers is something we see on pro bikes that might trickle down as a useful tip for the rest of us.
Remi Thirion's Leogang 2019 race bike
Reece Wilson's Andorra 2018 race bike
3. Rim tape
Tubeless is ubiquitous among pros nowadays and it simply wouldn't be possible without rim tape.
Most pros will use a branded variety but Gorilla Tape is the unofficial official rim tape among mountain bikers, according to my unscientific understanding. While plenty of companies make perfectly good rim tape, there’s something to be said about the widespread availability, ability to cut down to width, and ease of use that Gorilla Tape provides at half the price of dedicated rim tapes. RC gave an explainer 2012, in case anyone is still wondering today.
For the ultimate rim taping job, you need look no further than Ruaridh Cunningham's mid-race wheel re-build at the Ainsa EWS in 2018. Among the tools used to bodge that wheel to the finish were three layers of tape, 3/4 of a liter of sealant, epoxy and a pair of snips for horse hooves. The story behind this impressive, 8 pound construction can be found here.
Taken from Ruaridh Cunningham's ultimate rim rescue job.
4. The sound of silence
Velcro tape is a well-known solution for chainslap and any other annoying on-bike impact noises (cables tapping the frame, anyone?). While there are countless chainstay protectors on the market, some of them excellent, I still somehow find myself making one out of an old tube and some electrical tape for any bike that doesn’t come with a built-in protector.
Along those same lines, electrical tape can be worth its weight in gold to stop cables from rattling where they enter a frame (wrap the housing in electrical tape so it doesn't bounce around in the port) and to tie unruly cockpit cables together.
Velcro tape is the finishing touch for some World Cup race bikes.
5. Frame protection
At some point, electrical and Gorilla tapes are outgunned by other tapes, and frame protection is an example (with the exception of the homemade chainstay protectors mentioned above). Still, 3M tape (or any variation of 'racer tape,' helicopter tape, etc.) is a cost-effective alternative to pricier options like InvisiFRAME and RideWrap, and will definitely do the trick if the $7k+ you just spent on your new bike cleaned out your frame protection fund. Read the frame protection rundown to learn about the options for frame protection... all of which involve tape of some kind or another.
3M tape might not come pre-shaped for your bike like some of the options, but it's easy to cut to whatever sizes and shapes you need.
6. Body tape
And then there's athletic tape in all its various forms. This is another instance when electrical and Gorilla tapes just don't quite cut it. I'd recommend keeping both medical tape (the non-stretchy kind) and kinesiology tape (the stretchy kind) around for body taping purposes.
Having said that, every "I'm hardcore" downhill racer has a story about the time they taped their hand to the handlebar so they could still hold on while injured. The rest of us at least have taped injuries to keep the blood in and the dirt out and/or to support the pieces while we're still pretending we don't need to see a doctor. (Or is that just me?)
You'd better believe I taped that sucker. (Then added a wrap later to try to keep the swelling down.)
But that's not to say Gorilla tape is out of the question. Ask Adrien Dailly. It might even help a person win EWS races.
Adrien Dailly at the EWS Pietra Ligure 2020... which he won.
What else do you use tape for on your bike? Why or why not should we all keep some tape in our riding packs and in our garages? Let us know what you think in the comments.