Cyclists know that there are multiple things to consider when it comes to perfect handling. But, did you know that handlebar tape is essential for shock absorption, a good grip, and comfort?
These are my picks for the best road bike handlebar tapes:
- SRAM Supercork Bicycle Bar Tape – Best Overall
- Fizik Performance Bicycle Bar Tape
- Supacaz Super Sticky Kush Star Fade Bar Tape
- Domain Cycling Extra Long Gel Handlebar Tape
- BV EVA Road Bike Handlebar Tapes – Best Value
How To Pick The Best Road Bike Handlebar Tape
Before we get to the best products, I’ll give you some guidance on how to choose the best road bike handlebar tape. Essentially, you want your handlebar tape to do the following things:
- Provide you with a good grip on the handles
- Absorb shocks and bumps from the road
- Improve your level of comfort
- Make your bike look nice and unique
With this in mind, consider the following:
These are the most popular materials for handlebar tape and their features:
- Synthetic: These materials are lightweight, durable, and very versatile. They include polyurethane, silicone, and nylon. They typically have a gel or foam core, but they don’t look as high-end as other options.
- Cork: Soft, cushioned, and shock-absorbing. Cork is not as durable as other options and tends to absorb dirt and sweat.
- Leather: Soft once broken in and has excellent durability, but leather is not as cushioned.
In order to properly handle your bike, you want a good grip on your handlebars. Synthetic materials can be made to provide excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions due to their versatile nature.
Also, tapes with cross-hatch or knurled design on the surface provide a better grip for the biker than a flat surface.
You also want the tape to be breathable to let moisture and sweat be drawn away from your hands to keep a good grip.
Putting it simply, thicker tape gives more cushioning, which in turn makes it more comfortable. You’ll prevent blisters and sore hands with thick enough tape that’s between 2.5 – 3.2 mm.
Cork, as well as synthetics with foam cores, provide a lot of cushioning and shock absorption due to their thickness. Leather doesn’t offer as much cushioning. But if you want a less bulky look, go for it.
Also, keep in mind that thinner materials wrap around your handlebars better. The thicker ones might be more difficult to install as well as hang loosely from the handle.
A wrap thinner than 2.5 mm will offer a closer road feel and might be a good option for racers. But for casual bikers, go for a thicker tape.
When it comes to the part of the tape that attaches to the handlebar, make sure that it doesn’t shift while you ride your bike since this will significantly lessen your grip and even be potentially dangerous.
Tapes usually have either gel or an adhesive strip that attaches to your handlebar. While the adhesive is durable and sticks throughout the seasons, the gel is more dampening.
Color and Design
This aspect depends entirely on your personal preference. Synthetic materials can be made in all the colors of the rainbow as well as have patterns and more versatile designs than other materials.
Leather is for those who prefer a classic design with more natural, earth-like colors, while cork looks relatively high-end.
Also, note that lighter colors might wash out after some time, and you might want to change them more frequently than dark-colored tapes.
How To Wrap Your Road Bike Handlebar Tape
To install your handlebar tape the “traditional” way, follow these steps:
- Gather your bar tape, a pair of scissors, two end plugs, and some electrical/finishing tape.
- Start at the bottom of your bar and leave a few inches overlapping since you’ll stuff these into the end of the bar and fasten with end plugs later. This protects you if you should fall on your bar.
- Now, wrap the tape from the inside out clockwise for the right-hand drop and anti-clockwise for the left-hand drop. Leave about a quarter to a third of the width of the tape overlapping.
- Use a figure of 8 when wrapping around your brake hoods. First, roll up the rubber hood. Move the tape under the lever and up the inside.
- Then wrap it over the top and then under again as you come back around the lever body and take it back inside the drop.
- Finally, bring the tape to the top of the bar.
- Roll your rubber hood back, and then continue wrapping the top of your bar in the same fashion as you did the bottom of your bar.
- When you come to the bulge of your handlebar, cut off the excess tape and secure it with finishing/electrical tape. Then push in the end plug.
- Repeat on the other side!
It’s also possible to reverse-wrap your handlebars without using any finishing/electrical tape. Check out the video below for some additional help:
Reviews Of The Best Road Bike Handlebar Tape
Now, let’s apply what we’ve learned and review some handlebar tape!
This is an affordable polyurethane tape that’s embedded with cork, making it both grippable and cushioned. Users rave about its anti-slip qualities and how much isolation it gives from road vibrations. It also has an adhesive strip that’s very durable.
The tape is about 3mm (⅛ inch) thick, which provides plenty of protection from blisters and soreness. With a length of 3 meters (118 inches) and two rolls in the pack, it should be enough for both of your handlebars.
The tape is easy to re-wrap if the first time isn’t perfect, which is great for beginner users.
It’s available in four different colorful designs, as well as in the more classic black and white. All colors have spots of cork that users think looks great. However, please note that the lighter colors can easily get dirty!
With a thickness of 2mm, this tape is great for those who prefer feeling the road better to having more shock absorption. This is needed if you want to venture into bike racing or keep beating your personal best when it comes to biking times. This tape will not feel bulky at all.
The tape consists of microtex, which is a thin material that offers great handling and control. Fizik Performance Tape has a pierced leather-like texture but doesn’t actually contain leather. It’s durable and provides sufficient grip.
On the downside, it’s not very cushioned and doesn’t give much isolation from shock. It isn’t very stretchy either, which makes it quite hard to install.
This bar tape has a star-patterned design that’s available in five neon colors as well as red and white. Buyers love the way it looks on their bikes and that it stretches well when installed. You get two 2.16-meter (85-inch) long rolls, which is enough to wrap each handlebar.
With a 3 mm thickness, it also provides a lot of comfort and shock absorption. It’s made with a Kush foam middle layer that helps smoothen out your ride and a polyurethane outer layer that gives a tacky grip in all environments. They’re especially good to grip with gloves.
Users note that the tape gets dirty quickly, and it’s also rather pricey. The color also tends to fade relatively quickly if you’re out in the sun a lot.
The Domain tape comes with two rolls, each giving you 2.4 meters (94 inches) of tape, which gives you a total of 4.8 meters (188 inches). This will be plenty for you to wrap your handlebars several times around with this amount.
The surface is an anti-slip polyurethane leather-look alike, so this should provide a stable grip. It’s reportedly also dampening and has great cushioning with a 3 mm thickness. The gel strip that secures the tape to the bar adds to this as well. Users also feel like it’s stretchy and sticks very well to the bar.
There are some reported issues with longevity and that the tape starts coming off within six months, especially after riding in rainy climates. Also, the colors may look different from the ones advertised, as several users feel like the red color is actually orange.
For a very affordable price, you get two rolls that are 3 meters (79 inches) each, giving you a total of 6 meters (158 inches) of tape. The BV tape is also lightweight and won’t add much weight to your bike. It’s all about the marginal gains!
The tape is made from EVA foam material which provides a lot of shock absorption and prevents hands from getting sore. It’s anti-slip and comfortable, and should be relatively long-lasting considering it’s water and UV-resistant.
The tape is relatively thin, but users say if it’s wrapped correctly, it’ll provide you with plenty of cushioning for comfort to prevent fatigue in your hands.
While all these handlebar tapes will work great with your road bike, my absolute favorite is the SRAM Supercork Bicycle Bar Tape. Not only does it isolate road vibrations and provide a stable grip, but it’s also more affordable than many competitors and gives good comfort with its soft cork core.
The runner-up is the Fizik Performance Bicycle Bar Tape, which is thinner than the SRAM tape and gives more of a road feel that enables the cyclist to move faster. It’s also made from high-quality materials, is durable, and provides a good grip. If you prefer less bulky-looking tapes, go for the Fizik.
Which handlebar tape do you like on your road bike?
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