Get a Grip - RV Enthusiast Magazine

Get a Grip

by | Sep 15, 2022 | Pro Tip, RVEXPERT

When the foam on the entryway grab handle deteriorates, wrapping the surface with bicycle handlebar tape provides a firm grip when negotiating the steps — and it looks good
Grab handles can be indispensable when it comes to entering and exiting an RV — especially with travel trailers and fifth wheels, which usually require a longer “hike” to get to the door threshold or ground. Unfortunately, constant use means the foam tube mounted around the center portion of the arm to facilitate a secure grip will eventually deteriorate — and without it, the grab handle can become slippery and dangerous.

Replacement foam grips are available from RV supply stores and online, but I discovered that bicycle handlebar tape — the stuff bicycle riders use on their drop handlebars — works even better, allowing your hand to stay planted without losing a grip or your balance. While traveling last summer, the foam grip on the grab handle of our fifth wheel ripped off. Not wanting to wait for a replacement to be shipped (there were no RV supply stores in the area), I procured handlebar tape while visiting a local, small-town bicycle shop, for $20. There are dozens of handlebar tape styles on the market in different patterns and colors — some thicker than others. I was happy to find handlebar tape in black that was impregnated with real cork. It was fairly thick and offered plenty of shock absorption. Higher-end tape, used by hardcore bicycle enthusiasts, is even thicker and prettier — albeit much more expensive.

a person stands at the doorway of an RV holding a gripless handle
When the foam grip deteriorates and takes flight, the grab handle mounted next the entryway becomes unsafe — especially when wet.
close view of a package of handlebar tape
Handlebar tape was bought for $20 at a local bicycle shop in a small town. This tape is made with cork and provides a decent amount of shock absorption. There are dozens of handlebar products on the market featuring patterns, colors and thicker material, but the price goes up accordingly. You get two rolls, so save the second one for when the first one wears out, which should be a long while.

The installation should only take 30 minutes after the remnants of the foam are removed. The metal handle was cleaned thoroughly with a microfiber towel and alcohol. Wrapping the handlebar tape starts on the lower end; if you start at the upper end, the edges of the tape will curl, catch your hand and bend out of shape permanently — and look ugly.

Handlebar tape uses a narrow strip of adhesive tape in the center, which helps adhere to the metal and makes it easier to wrap without creating creases. Remove only a small section of protective backing at a time and start wrapping from the bottom of the grab handle. The typical handlebar tape will provide about 23 running inches of coverage. After wrapping a couple inches of the grab handle, stop the process and secure the bottom end with good quality black electrical tape. Don’t go cheap here; you need electrical tape that will stay put for a long time. I recommend 3M Super 33+ tape available online or at hardware stores.

a microfiber towel and rubbing alcohol are used to clean the metal handlebar surface

Before starting the process of wrapping the grab handle with bicycle handlebar tape, the metal surface was cleaned thoroughly using a microfiber towel and rubbing alcohol.

close view of a handle peeling back an adhesive strip from the handlebar tape
the handlebar tape is applied to the handlebar, the end sealed with multiple wraps of black electrical tape

Remove a short section of backing at a time from the adhesive strip and start the process of wrapping the handlebar tape from the bottom of the grab handle. Once a few inches of handlebar tape is applied, seal the end with numerous wraps of black electrical tape. Don’t even think about using cheap tape here; I recommend 35 Super 33+, available online and in hardware stores.

Before starting the process of wrapping the grab handle with bicycle handlebar tape, the metal surface was cleaned thoroughly using a microfiber towel and rubbing alcohol.
Remove a short section of backing at a time from the adhesive strip and start the process of wrapping the handlebar tape from the bottom of the grab handle. Once a few inches of handlebar tape is applied, seal the end with numerous wraps of black electrical tape. Don’t even think about using cheap tape here; I recommend 35 Super 33+, available online and in hardware stores.
the end of the handlebar tape is reached toward the top of the RV handlebar
Keep on wrapping toward the top until you run out of tape. If you prefer to shorten the grip area, simply cut the tape as desired. The handlebar tape will provide about 23 running inches of coverage.
black electrical tape wraps the end of the handlebar tape
Use the electrical tape to wrap the end of the handlebar tape. You don’t need to go overboard here but use enough to prevent the end from peeling away.

Continue wrapping while stretching the handlebar tape slightly and overlapping the edges close to the outline made by the adhesive strip. Taking your time will prevent having to pull the tape off multiple times and compromising the adhesive. When you reach the top of the grab bar, wrap the end with the aforementioned electrical tape and you’re done.

Not only does the handlebar tape improve aesthetics of the grab bar, but it also feels good to the touch.

a hand holds the RV handlebar now covered with handlebar tape
The handlebar tape, wrapped around the grab bar, looks nice and provides a secure grip while negotiating the entryway steps.
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