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Best gravel bar tape 2022: Comfort and style for the roughest rides

best gravel bar tape header
(Image credit: Josh Ross)

We've put together a list of the best gravel bar tape because specialised riding takes specialised equipment. Road bikes, gravel bikes, and all-road bikes all need bar tape but there are options that cater specifically to off-road riding. Why not get the perfect product to match your riding?

Not only does it make sense to change your bar tape and match your riding but it can be quite an upgrade. The right gravel specific bar tape will last a long time, provide tons of cushion, and feel good on your hands. It doesn't hurt that there's tons of options for style to match the best gravel handlebars and the best gravel bikes. Also, this is an upgrade that won't break the bank. 

Not only can the performance upgrade be substantial, but the cash outlay is relatively low, especially if you need to replace your current tape anyway. Keep reading to see our favourite choices for gravel bar tape upgrade options for your gravel bike, focussing on comfort, padding, durability, aesthetics and ease of installation.

The best gravel bar tape options available today

Rapha Brevet bar tape

Best gravel bar tape for style

Specifications

Materials: Synthetic rubber
Thickness: 3mm
Length: 250cm
Finishing tape included: Silver and highly reflective
Behind hood finishing: Yes
Bar end style: Screw in
Available colours: Black upper with pink and silver show through and pink backing

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality bar ends
+
Very sticky
+
High quality finishing tape adds style
+
Subtle text and style details

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one colour option

Rapha, as always, absolutely nails style. One of the most iconic colours in modern cycling is the high-viz pink in the brevet lineup and using it only as a secondary colour makes for a great look. You get to stick with black where your hands rest but the pink, and to a lesser extent the metallic silver are there in the background adding style. Along with the colour your all also find the text "What matters is not how far you go, but how you get there." Of course, when wrapped it's a little tough to read but wrap carefully and it will be visible near the end of the drops. 

Along with all the style features, the performance of the Brevet bar tape is top-of-the-line. The top feels like natural rubber and it's very sticky even when wet. There's not a lot of texture, plenty of padding, and all the extra finishing pieces are high quality. The only downside is that for all the style on tap, there’s only one colour option. 

Fizik Terra Microtex Bondcush bar tape

Best gravel bar tape when you want colour options

Specifications

Materials: Microtex and bondcush (foam with a soft touch outer)
Thickness: 3mm
Length: 225cm
Finishing tape included: Simple black
Behind hood finishing: Yes
Bar end style: Plastic push in
Available colours: White, red, black, dark blue, green/blue, brown, light grey

Reasons to buy

+
Colour options
+
Smooth and tacky
+
Arrangement of logos make it easy to wrap

Reasons to avoid

-
Low quality finishing pieces

Rapha might be a high-style option but they only have a single colour available in the Brevet line of bar tape. Fizik goes the opposite direction, the Terra Microtex Bondcush bar tape is actually very plain, but comes in an array of colours. The texture is smooth and tacky with a foam construction that uses two different types of synthetic foam. 

There's plenty grip when it's dry but it does diminish a bit when wet. The advantage of the finish is that it's easier on your hands if you ride without gloves and the 3mm foam adds to the comfort with plenty of buzz killing performance. Fizik also mentions gel in the materials mix but the gel is only a very thin strip coated with adhesive. If you are looking for a gel backed bar tape, this is not the best choice for you. 

Given the excellent foam, that's not an issue as long as expectations are set. You should know that it might be worth holding on to a nice set of aluminium bar plugs if you have some as the included ones, along with the finishing tape, are a little basic.

ESI Grips NEW RCT bar tape

Best gravel bar tape for summer racing

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Thickness: 3.5mm
Length: 188cm
Finishing tape included: Black silicone sticks only to itself
Behind hood finishing: Yes
Bar end style: Plastic push in
Available colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Super comfortable against skin
+
Thicker than standard
+
Shrugs off dust

Reasons to avoid

-
Slick when wet
-
No colour options

When gravel racer Alexey Vermeulen ran through his setup for the premier US race Unbound gravel, he had something unique included. Covering his sponsor provided bars was a roll of ESI silicone wrap. It's a completely unique product and after spending time with it, there's no doubt why he chose it and you might want too also. 

The company refers to it as wrap because there's no adhesive on the back but what's really unique is the 3.5mm silicone construction. There's no gel, there's no foam, just an extra thick layer of silicone and a series of slits. The silicone already offers more cushion than other bar tape options but the slits allow for extra compression and even more comfort. The silicone also laughs off dust and is easy to wash as well as being exceptionally soft against your hands. It does get a bit slick in the wet but if you are looking for a summer gravel option this is a joy to ride with.  

Spank Wing Gravel Drop Bar Tape, Gel Pad, and Plug Kit

Best gravel bar tape if you are looking for gel pads also

Specifications

Materials: Short tooth microfiber
Thickness: 3mm
Length: 220cm
Finishing tape included: Textured black
Behind hood finishing: No
Bar end style: Screw in
Available colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Includes silicone padding
+
High quality expander plug
+
Excellent value

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks behind the hood finishing piece

There are a number of options for silicone pads that adhere to the bars then get wrapped with bar tape over the top. Although they last longer than a single round of bar tape, they tend to cost about as much as inexpensive bar tape on its own. Spank Industries sells their Wing bar tape as a kit including the padding for only a slight increase over the price of the bar tape alone. 

If you think you'd like to add the padding then buying the kit is a great way to get started. The bar tape itself is a fabric feeling foam construction that feels exactly the same when it's wet and comes with high quality aluminium bar ends. The backing is non-adhesive but uses silicone to make it tacky enough to wrap without slipping. The whole package is a great value when looking to add comfort to a gravel bike although we always prefer to see an extra piece for covering up less than perfect wrapping behind the controls.

PNW Coast bar tape

Best gravel bar tape for style on a budget

Specifications

Materials: Short tooth microfiber
Thickness: 3mm
Length: 202cm
Finishing tape included: Textured black
Behind hood finishing: No
Bar end style: Screw in
Available colours: Safety orange, black out black, seafoam teal, cement grey, really red, pacific blue, carwash pink

Reasons to buy

+
Bar end is gorgeous
+
Colours are vibrant and fun
+
Logo texture adds style without being overdone
+
Very sticky top

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks behind the hood finishing piece

There are certainly less expensive options for bar tape, but if you are looking for something better than basic foam the PNW Coast is a bargain. The construction is 2.4mm foam with a top that feels very similar to something like the Rapha Brevet. PNW also offers style choices with seven bright and fun colours as well as a texture that's based on the logo but stays abstract. 

The bar ends are a high point as well. They have an anodized triangle pattern that matches the texture of the tape and looks great paired with any tape. In terms of longevity, I've personally covered over 2000 miles with this bar tape and it's only just starting to show a bit of wear. The only thing I'd like to see added is either extra length or an already cut piece for behind the controls.

Best gravel bar tape for fans of rubber bar tape

Specifications

Materials: Synthetic rubber with foam backing
Thickness: 3mm
Length: 215cm
Finishing tape included: Black fabric
Behind hood finishing: Yes
Bar end style: Rubber push in
Available colours: Black, orange, octane, natural, mud, brown, white

Reasons to buy

+
The best finishing tape around
+
Non-stretch rubber upper
+
Works in the wet

Reasons to avoid

-
Chunky bar end won’t always fit

The Brooks Cambium saddle wasn't something the brand expected to take over in the early days of gravel cycling the way it did. Brooks discusses it as taking it by surprise, but it recognized it and ran with the idea. Over the years its followed up with bikepacking bags and bar tape aimed at the same markets. 

The feel of the top is very similar to the Rapha Brevet, since they are both synthetic rubber, but there are a few differences though. The Brooks option does a bit better in the wet and Brooks also offers a bunch of colour choices. The bar end plugs are also different and are a push-in style made from rubber instead of the metal screw in of the Rapha option. I have run into some bars that they won't fit in though, so make sure you verify before tossing whatever you are using now. Aside from that, the rubber characteristics are similar. Primarily that means it doesn't stretch. 

Most bar tapes, and especially the ESI option, will stretch as you wrap the bars. Pull it tighter for a thinner wrap or looser for more bulk. Rubber is always the same thickness because it doesn't stretch. If you like the bulk and cush of rubber but you want more options and better wet weather performance than the Rapha Brevet, then this is a great option.

Ergon BT Gravel bar tape

Best gravel bar tape if you want a perfect wrap

Specifications

Materials: EVA foam
Thickness: 3.5mm
Length: 228cm
Finishing tape included: Simple black
Behind hood finishing: No
Bar end style: Rubber push in
Available colours: Black, orange, octane, natural, mud, brown, white

Reasons to buy

+
Pattern is also a guide for neat and even wrapping
+
Extra thick but with a foam feel
+
Works in the wet

Reasons to avoid

-
No finishing for behind the controls and a plastic push in bar end

Ergon offers three bar tapes that range from 2mm for a road specific solution up to 3.5mm for their gravel option. You can pick or choose what works for you but we wanted to include the 3.5mm gravel option. The only other option on our list that thick is the ESI and that's a drastically different feeling bar tape. The Ergon uses a standard foam construction but the top is stickier than a cork style. 

There's a texture that provides tackiness but it also helps you line up the tape as you wrap and even has options for how thick you want the final product. The back has a subtle angle difference and depending on how you layer it you'll get a ticker, or thinner, final product. However you end up doing it, if you like a foam construction with an adhesive back but you like the idea of a thicker bar tape then the Ergon BT Gravel is your best choice. 

Deda Logo bar tape

Best gravel bar tape on a budget

Specifications

Materials: EVA foam
Thickness: 2.8mm
Length: 180cm
Finishing tape included: Black with wordmark
Behind hood finishing: Yes
Bar end style: Plastic push in
Available colours: Black, blue, green, orange, red, white, celeste green, light blue, mid blue, camel, green neon, dark grey, fuschia

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive
+
Plenty of colour options
+
Washable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best feeling option

The negative for this option from Deda is that it's not the best feeling. That's how I feel about this style of bar tape but there are a lot of people that love it and if you are one of them, it's a great choice. Deda has a range of gravel specific parts but their basic logo bar tape isn't actually part of that collection. I included it despite that because it fits the bill as a classic inexpensive foam bar tape. 

It doesn't cost a lot and it's not fancy but the price is right and it's well made. At 2.8mm thick, it also happens to be on the thicker side when it comes to these types of tapes. If you don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on bar tape and just want something that works and looks good, this is it.  

How to choose the best gravel bar tape for you

Is there anything special about gravel bar tape?

No. If you have a bar tape you love it doesn't matter what it's called or what the manufacturer says it's for. The primary differentiator when companies add gravel specific bar tapes into their lineups is thickness. Gravel riding means rougher riding over rougher surfaces. Gravel riding has also tended to mean longer, more endurance focused, riding. The combination of riding for a long time over rough surfaces is a recipe for hand, arm, and shoulder fatigue. For the most part, the answer to that need is to add more material. 

How thick should gravel bar tape be?

The obvious follow up question is if thicker is better, how thick should you go? Personally, I prefer as thick as possible. One of the reasons I prefer thicker bar tape is that I ride without gloves unless it's for warmth. Given that preference, I'll take as much cushion as possible. If you ride with gloves then you might not need as much cushion and the drawback of a thicker bar tape is that your finished handlebars will be larger. 

What finish is best for gravel bar tape?

Another point of preference is the feeling of the top of the bars. How sticky do you need it to be vs how soft? There's no right answer but it will, again, have a lot to do with your preference of gloves or no gloves. If you ride without gloves then you'll really need to think through the right balance. Too sticky can lead to sore hands on long rides and you might want to back off just a bit. 

You also have to think about performance in the wet even if it's for a summer bike because your hands will be wet and sweaty on every ride. For those that ride with gloves you probably want to look for the stickiest bar tape you can find.  

Do I need adhesive on the back of gravel bar tape?

You could ask the same question of road bar tape but either way, those who are new to tape are going to wonder which is a better choice. Adhesive makes it easier to wrap bar tape because it helps hold it as you wrap. It does help but it's more minimal than you might think. You need to hold the bar tape as you wrap anyway and once it's on, the adhesive doesn't do anything. The bottom line is that if you are new to wrapping bars, it's helpful to have but don't worry about it if you like something that doesn't have it.  

Should I get a coloured gravel bar tape?

One of the best things about bar tape is that it's relatively inexpensive and it's temporary. You have to change bar tape often anyway so grab a colour and have fun. There are a couple of things to keep in mind though. Gravel riding is dirty and coloured bar tape will show it more than black bar tape. You'll really want to think about washability of the tape and no matter how washable it is, black bar tape will last longer. Colour is fun but it's going to need more frequent replacement. 

How do we test gravel bar tape?

We mentioned multiple times that bar tape is something that needs changed regularly. That's even more true for those of us here at Cyclingnews who have to change bar tape constantly in the course of testing. We've ridden for hours in all kinds of weather with all kinds of bar tape. It's from that experience we've drawn our selections. Everything here is a choice we'd happily make on our own gravel bikes. 

Josh Ross
Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutia of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Orbea Orca Aero, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek Checkpoint, Priority Continuum Onyx