HOW TO CHOOSE HANDLEBAR TAPE – BUYERS GUIDE

Shaun George BOTS Guides, Mechanics, Tips & Tricks

Comfort is key, and as cyclists, we know that all too well. On your bike, you have three primary touchpoints, the saddle, handlebar, and the pedals. Handlebar tape serves as the interface for a critical contact point on the bike, yet it is often overlooked. Too often riders can be seen with dirty, half-torn, improperly taped bartape on their bikes.

GET A GRIP

Why bother right? As long as there’s some tape left on the bar, all is good. What most riders fail to understand is that the handlebar is one of the most important touchpoints on a bike. The level of cushioning and shock absorption offered by your bar tape can have a big role to play in the overall comfort of your ride. 

Additionally, the type of material used in a bartape’s construction will also determine other characteristics including, wet-weather grip, moisture absorption, and durability – so when the time comes to replace your old bartape, it’s worth investing a little more to get some quality comfort and ride.

WHICH ONE DO I NEED?

Your handlebar tape has a limited lifespan. If you ride regularly then that lifespan is further reduced to around 3-4 years. Beyond this point, your tape will degrade to an unusable condition. So it is inevitable that the tape will need to be replaced on a semi-regular basis. Exactly how often, will depend on a variety of factors, including how frequently the bike is used and the kind of conditions that it is exposed to.

There’s a variety of different handlebar tapes in the market and knowing which one you need can be a bit confusing. There are materials, colours, and thicknesses to choose from.

MATERIALS

Currently, there are so many different material choices for a rider to choose from. Earlier there were just cork or leather handlebar tapes available. These days however, there are more material choices that look more appealing and are also quite durable.

Most modern bar tapes are made from a lightweight and durable synthetic outer material in combination with a foam or gel core for cushioning. Man-made materials such as polyurethane, synthetic nylon or silicone are strong, lightweight, durable, and can be made with a tacky texture that aids grip in wet or dry conditions and contributes to a positive feel under the hand. Even finishes vary from model to model – the more retro perforated leather feel along with a fabric type finish is common amongst riders these days.

THICKNESS

The tape’s thickness will to a large extent will determine how much of road buzz or vibrations will be let through to the rider. The professionals and competitive riders prefer thinner bartape as it provides for a more raw and direct feel. (1.5mm – 1.8mm) bartape is categorized into the low-profile thickness.

Usually riders who like a little more suppleness and expect to be cycling in varying conditions will prefer 2 – 2.5mm thick bartapes.

Extra-thick (3mm +) bar tapes are also available for gravel riders. This kind of thickness is also suitable for a rider with large hands. Likewise, riders with smaller hands will want the feel offered by a thinner bartape. Some riders also play around with different types of tapes and apply two layers of them. A slimmer, harder one at the base and then a softer more absorbent tape on top of that.

COLOURS

Handlebar tapes are also a major style statement these days with riders often colour coordinating their bikes and bar tapes. It is worth noting that lighter shades are prone to picking up dirt a lot easier. The sweat, grime, dirt and dust from your hands and the roads will take a toll on its finish making you wish you’d gone for something more plain Jane.

Brands like Supacaz are especially big in this segment offering many different textures, styles and a multitude of colours.


Leave the handlebar installation to a good bike shop with experienced bike mechanics. Bar taping is a skill and requires a level of skill and experience, Take your bike to your local bike shop and get it bar taped there. You wouldn’t want to spoil your expensive bar tape by stretching it out. Many synthetic bar tapes these days cannot be reapplied twice as the material stretches out after one application.

Keep in mind your kind of riding and according choose a thickness, colour and material choice.

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