If you’re careful, traction tape not only improves your finger grip (and how easily you can locate a specific lever) but looks like it’s factory-applied, too (James Huang/BikeRadar)
Generally speaking, ergonomics
of modern-day brake and shift levers are pretty good, offering reliable and
consistent fingertip control of all the major functions. But if you step back
and think about it a bit, it oftentimes doesn’t make sense to leave those
surfaces with a smooth, glossy – and nearly grip-free – finish. Here’s an easy
way to fix it.
Anti-slip, adhesive-backed tape is available in quality hardware stores
in cut-to-fit lengths and both clear and black colors to suit the application.
If you can find it, we recommend going with high-quality stuff like 3M
Safety-Walk as it’s still remarkably cheap in the small quantities you’ll
require and much more durable than something like skateboard deck tape.
Simply cut the traction tape in small swatches with scissors to fit
contact points like your shift lever paddles and brake lever blades, using as
much or as little as you deem fit to lend the feel you desire. If you exercise
a little care in trimming before peeling off the backing, you can shape the
swatch just right for a well-finished appearance that won’t look like you did
Granted, we rarely hear complaints of slippery controls from readers
but the difference after applying the tape is noticeable – especially so if
you’re running a set of older, non-adjustable shift and/or brake levers you can
just barely reach as it is. Whereas your fingers could slide off the end of the
controls, they’re now stuck like glue.
We’ve especially noticed improvements on Shimano Di2 levers and even
Campagnolo Ergopower. Di2′s buttons are currently textured but it’s still tough
to distinguish between the two in the heat of the moment or when wearing
gloves. With the traction tape applied to just the smaller lever, there’s no
question which paddle you’re activating.
Ergopower doesn’t have that issue but the cable pull lever is a bit
slippery and angled such that your finger occasionally wants to slide right
off. Add the traction tape, though, and it’s a non-issue.
In fairness, shift and brake lever grip isn’t exactly a calamitous
malady and during an especially long ride, the traction tape can be tough on
bare fingers or flimsy gloves. Not surprisingly then, we don’t often see this
technique applied to the countless pro bikes we’ve profiled over the years.
That being said, we have seen the stuff on pro riders’ time trial
bikes, ‘cross bikes (Katie Compton’s husband and mechanic, Mark Legg, is
particularly fond of Krazy Glue and sand) and the occasional downhill rig. In
fact, SRAM have even produced custom textured trigger shifter thumb
paddles for some of their BlackBox riders.
As always with our BBT tips, some of you will benefit and some of you
won’t. But either way, there’s almost no money lost in trying it and while the
adhesive is durable, it’s not all that difficult to remove. Try it out – you
might be surprised.
Budget Bike Tech is a new column here on BikeRadar, focused not on
the latest high-end gear and accessories but on cheap and clever tips, tricks
and upgrades that cost virtually no money at all. Improve your riding and
improve your ride – just don’t go broke in the process.