Looking to replace the worn off handlebar tapes on your road bike?
If you look around, you probably have noticed that there are hundreds of handlebar tapes available today.
With hundreds of choices, comes the hard part.
Which one is for you?
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For starters, there are various thickness and made from different materials. Each will feel differently and have a different wear and tear rate.
So, let’s take a look at 7 of the best handlebar tapes available today.
Best for the Budget Minded
Cinelli Cork Handlebar Tape
If you’re looking for a classic and simple look that won’t cost you a lot of money, then Cinelli’s cork tape is the way to go. Cinelli, an Italy-based company that produces bikes and bike components, is well known for this popular bar tape.
This bartape will give you a cushioned base for your hands while absorbing sweat on hot rides. It also comes in a wide variety of colors. Just keep in mind that cork tape isn’t as durable as some other tape materials on the market. It will fray and come apart over time.
SRAM’s cork handlebar tape is a step up from your standard cork tape SRAM, one of the big three manufacturers of bike components, imbeds polyurethane into its Supercork bar tape.
What does this mean?
Polyurethane makes the tape more durable and the grip considerably better than standard cork bar tape. And best of all, it’s only slightly more expensive. SRAM Supercork comes in a variety of colors including yellow, blue, white, black and red.
Best Value for Money
Zipp Service Course CX Bar Tape
For rougher cyclocross riding, cork tape just won’t do. You need more padding to absorb shocks, and enough grip to prevent your hands from slipping off of the bars.
Zipp’s Service Course CX bar tape features beefier padding with a gel center strip that absorbs shocks from off-road terrain. It’s cross-hatched pattern is designed to provide plenty of grip whether barehanded or wearing gloves.
You can also expect this tape to last a while before having to replace it, making it one of the better values you can find in grip tape.
Fizik Vento Microtex
If you’re after a classic look, improved durability and a tacky grip then check out Fizik’s performance bar tape.
The first thing you’ll notice with Fizik’s bar tape is the 3mm padding, which provides better shock-absorbing capability than thinner tapes. Fizik also provides excellent grip without gloves and even more grip with gloves.
And although wrapping your bar in this tape is more difficult as it lacks the stretch factor of other tapes, it does offer more durability. The perforated microtex material will hold up far longer than other types of bar tape.
Best for Quality and Performance
Supacaz Super Sticky Kush Classic
Willing to pay for performance?
Then check out all that Supacaz’ Super Sticky Kush has to offer. This tape’s top layer is made of Super Sticky PU foam, a polyurethane material that provides maximum grip even when wet.
A layer of Kush foam, a patented material from Supacaz, provides a level of cushioning that you just won’t find with other bar tapes.
Still skeptical of the high price tag? Don’t be.
Three-time world champion and Tour De France green jersey winner Peter Sagan uses Supacaz Super Sticky Kush on his bike.
Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape
Lizard Skins has made a name for itself as the top of the line in handlebar tape. Why?
Lizard Skins are made of a soft polymer that increases shock absorption while at the same time providing excellent grip in wet and dry conditions. And while you’ll pay more for Lizardskins, keep in mind that they’ll last longer.
The tape comes in 2.5mm and 3.2mm thickness, with the thicker tape offering the best comfort. Lizard Skins come in eight different colors.
Best Handlebar Gel
Fizik 4 Piece Handlebar Gel
Fizik’s gel pads add comfort to your handlebars while at the same time allowing you to position them for maximum effectiveness.
Because these pads are not filled with liquid gel, these pads can be cut, allowing you to tailor them to the shape of your handlebars and the hand positions you use while on the bike.
And because they’re solid, you also don’t have to worry about them bursting and making a mess of your handlebar tape.
3 Things to Know When Buying Handlebar Tapes
You’ve probably noticed that handlebar tapes come in a variety of thickness, materials and specific usage in some models.
How does all this differ from each other?
Let’s take a look at the 3 important things to know about handlebar tapes before you decide.
1. Handlebar Tapes Color
When considering what color bar tape to go with, you’ll find that black is the most commonly used color.
Black doesn’t show dirt.
So, while white may look stylish, it won’t take much time for that beautiful handlebar tape to show wear.
Consider wear and tear when choosing a color for your handlebar tape.
2. Materials Used in Handlebar Tapes
Today, handlebar tapes are made from either 5 of materials below. Let’s take a closer look at each of them below.
- Cork. Cork adds comfort and a classic look to your handlebars. And while it may not offer the performance of other bar tape materials, it is also the least expensive (eg : Cinelli and SRAM Supercork) and one of the easier bar tapes to install.
- EVA Foam. Comfort is the biggest advantage of EVA Foam tape. It’s thickness and gel layer make it the bar tape of choice for cyclists riding on uneven surfaces like pave or cobbles. Its ridged texture also adds grip. For these reasons, EVA Foam is an excellent option. Just keep in mind it will cost you more money and is more difficult to install than other tape materials due to its lack of stretch.
- Polyurethane. This biggest advantage of polyurethane bar tape is the grip. This material is designed to be tacky in both dry and wet weather, and it can also be textured to further enhance grip. Polyurethane tape such as the Supacaz Sticky Kush is available in a variety of thicknesses for comfort. Just be prepared to pay more for this performance-oriented material.
- Microfibre. Microfibre’s such as Microtex offer a very durable and comfortable material for bar tape. Microfibre also allows for design features that go beyond just color. Logos, stitches, perforations and other design features can be added to microfiber without compromising performance. One such example is the Fizik Performance Handlebar Tape.
- Leather. It’s generally more difficult to wrap due to its stiffness, and, although leather can be quite soft once broken in, it doesn’t offer the cushioning of other materials. That said, leather offers a classic look that is unparalleled.
|Type of Material||Pros||Cons|
|Cork||Cheapest||Not the best grip|
|EVA Foam||Comfort||Harder to Wrap|
|Microfibre||Comfort||Need to be cleaned regularly|
|Leather||Classic looks||Hard to wrap|
3. Handlebar Tape Thickness
Different brands of bar tape come in a variety of thicknesses, ranging from 1.5mm to 3.5mm. Bar tapes such as those from Lizard Skins have a thickness ranging from 2.5mm to 3.2mm to choose from.
Thicker bar tape offers more cushioning and comfort whereas thinner bar tape allows for more road feel.
Thinner tapes generally appeal to competitive riders who are after a better road feel whereas thicker 2.5mm tapes appeal to leisure riders.
Thick 3.5mm tapes suit riders taking on cobblestones, pave or other rough road surfaces. Size may also play a role when it comes to thickness. Thinner tapes may be preferred by cyclists with smaller hands while thicker tapes may better suit riders with larger mitts.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What color bar tape should I get?
Black is the preferred bar tape color among the majority of cyclists as it doesn’t get dirty easily.