Adventures with Twine

The most typical use of twine on a bicycle, is to secure the inner edges of handlebar tape. Normally, bar tape is secured with black electrical tape and left as is, but I find that this looks unfinished. With twine, the handlebars will look more appealing and the tape will be more securely attached.

I use cooking twine, which is softer to the touch than industrial twine. It is white in its untreated state and turns caramel-brown when amber shellac is applied.

After wrapping your bar tape and securing the inner edges with electrical tape, the twining can begin.

First apply a layer of clear double-sided tape over the electrical tape.

Cut a half-armlength of twine.

Apply the twine over the double-sided tape by simply wrapping it around the handlebar and placing it down neatly onto the sticky surface of the tape. There should be no gaps and no overlap.

When the surface of the double-sided tape is covered with twine, cut the remainder off. There is no need to secure the twine, since it is stuck to the double-sided tape. This will provide a good temporary hold until shellac is applied.

Using a paintbrush or a sponge brush, cover the twined area with amber shellac following the same principles described here.

After three layers of shellac, the twine should feel completely solid and have a deep amber colour to it, at which point the project is finished. Your bar tape will be more secure than ever and will look great.

If you've finished twining your bars and still crave more, do not despair: There are lots of other places on a bicycle where twine can be used. I twined the chrome connector piece between the rack and the rear stays on my Pashley, because I was not satisfied with how the expanse of chrome stood out in an otherwise green and black colour-scheme. The dark amber twine softened that area up, and integrated it nicely with the wicker basket, brown leather saddle, and handlebar grips.

Here is a close-up of the twined rack connector. I thought that this was a failry subtle detail, but to my surprise, several people commented on it while examining my bicycle.

My most daring use of twine thus far, has been the twining of my Shimano Nexus shifter. My reasons for doing this were two-fold: I thought that the big rubber shifter was too modern for the aesthetic of the Pashley's handlebars, and I also found it unpleasant to the touch, especially in the sumemr heat. Covered with shellacked twine, the shifter blends in better and is more comfortable for me to use, as the twine provides a better grip than the rubber. There was some concern regarding whether the twine would adhere well to the rubber, but this was not an issue; just wrap it tightly prior to shellacking.

Of course, once you do this to your shifter, there is no going back: the shellac will disfigure the rubber if you ever decide to remove the twine and you will need to buy a new one. Twine at your own risk!

For more twining ideas, Rivendell has some nice pictures and instructions, as well as hemp twine for sale. Also have a look at this marvelous twined water-bottle pictured on The Epicurean Cyclist.


  1. Very nice! I'm going to have to try this out.

  2. Now, I noticed you have the 7-speed Nexus; same as my Frankenbike. It's the "Bee's Knees!" MUCH better for less hilly terrain than the 8 speed equivalent.

  3. 7-speed coaster brake hub at that! This was custom installed by my local bike shop instead of the standard 5-speed Sturmey Archer hub. See here for a more detailed description. The gears were set intentionally low, and I've been able to climb most hills in the Boston area so far without using 1st gear. My standard gear on flat terrain is 4th. I am very, very happy with this gearing.

  4. I didn't know I was being stylish, just trying to find something that didn't look inappropriate for period, but I "twined" (actually black shoelaces) the wires for the generator light on my Raleigh DL-1 to hold them in place.

  5. Very nice setup. I've only used 1st when I was testing the setup. Mostly I use 3rd or 4th. I stuck with hand brakes instead of the coaster brake.

  6. That looks great.

    Hey, quick question: is that a Crane bell? - and does it ding when you go over bumps / potholes?

  7. You know, these bells are all sold together, but some are labeled "Crane" and others "Universal Spring Bell". I think it may depend on size: mine is the smallest and labeled "Universal". It has the spring / "watch-winder" ring mechanism, and does not ding on its own when going over pot-holes.

  8. I have a couple of Crane bells and it depends on several things, including how (and where) you mount it, whether it is a watch-winder style or spring-loaded thumb style, and also on orientation of the striker vs the direction in which gravity acts.

    Having said that, some of mine ring sometimes. I know it can be annoying.

  9. I thought I invented this! I did twine handlebar grips on my Nishiki this weekend and was feeling very, very proud of my ingenuity. Then, I caught up on some of your older posts, including this one... I guess I didn't invent the idea after all. Your bike looks lovely and i really love your blog. I've just started my own and it is my aspiration is that it one day remind readers of yours... I think you do a lovely job and you've fueled my newfound love of vintage bikes.

  10. Glad the twining worked out for you! To be fair, I did not "invent" this either; I got the idea from Rivendell.

  11. I belive the term for this is (or can be) "whipping". Rod builders do it alot. Google flyrod and whipping!

  12. Incredibly late to the party here, I have a Felt Cafe3 with the Nexus 3 speed twist shifter, and interestingly enough, felt has a sewn leather cover over the same part you have twined. This blends in with leather hand grips.


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