Upgrading the contact points on a bike can make the biggest difference to how a bike feels, enhancing comfort and control while riding.
Considering that for the duration of all rides your hands will be in contact with your bar tape, this often overlooked detail can make a big difference to your riding experience for a relatively cheap outlay. Bar tape comes in a range of thicknesses and materials which will define handlebar characteristics and offer a custom feel to your bike.
Whether you are looking to improve road feel, add comfort or give your bike a refresh, scroll down for a pick of the best bar tape available in 2020.
What to look for in bar tape?
Originally bar tape was made from cork or leather which are still popular now for their levels of grip, comfort and for a classic look. While these options work well they do have limitations and new synthetic materials which can be combined with foam or gel have since been introduced. These modern bar tapes offer improved comfort, all-weather grip and are available in a wider range of colours or designs. Due to the wide range of finishes now available and, as bar tape is very much personal preference, it is worth shopping around to find the material or texture you prefer.
Grip is based on the materials used and textured finish applied. Synthetic materials such as polyurethane can be made to have a tacky finish to provide grip in both wet or dry conditions for gloved or bare hands. Textured surfaces or perforations can also be used to give some extra purchase to the handlebar. An element of breathability is also important to allow sweat and moisture to be drawn away from the hand and help maintain a good grip.
Bar tape comes in a variety of thickness to suit feel and comfort. Traditionally racers prefer a thin wrap which offers a close road feel and a direct response on the bike. Thicker tape between 2.5mm and 3.2mm will lessen road buzz for more comfort and reduce potential numbness in the hands over a long distance. For rides such as the Paris-Roubaix or gravel riding an even thicker bar tape can be used to reduce fatigue and help with control on rough surfaces. To add additional comfort to a favourite bar tape gel inserts can be added under the tape or bars can be double wrapped although this will add an element of bulk to the handlebar.
Most bar tape is available in a wide range of colours and styles to suit all tastes and fashions. Whether you want to play it safe with a simple black, colour match with details on your bike, or stand out with an eye-catching fluro gradient, there will be a bar tape that suits.
Remember lighter colours will quickly show dirt and grime and require a little extra care to keep looking at its best. If you're looking to simply fit and forget then a classic black will stay looking good for a long time.
The best bar tape you can buy today
Fizik Vento MicroTex Tacky
Fizik Vento MicroTex Tacky’s offers a premium experience that will be popular amongst riders looking for ultimate control
Material: Microtex | Colour: 18 | Thickness: 2mm | Length: 235cm
Fizik Vento is a thin 2mm lightweight bar tape that is aimed at riders who want uncompromised bar feel for ultimate control and was designed in collaboration with Fizik’s sponsored pro riders.
The Vento MicroTex has a tacky feel and textured finish to offer a non-slip performance in all conditions. Thanks to its 2mm thickness the Vento MicroTex will suit riders with small hands as well as being very light at a feathery 38.7g (claimed). Simple push-in Fizik branded bar ends are supplied with the bar tape as well as finishing tape.
Fizik offers their Vento Microtex tape in a range of plain and fluro colours as well some contemporary bi-colour designs.
Supacaz Super Sticky Kush
Head-turning style to suit any personality and the bar tape of choice for the worlds best riders
Material: Polyurethane | Colour: 30+ | Thickness: 3mm | Length: 216cm
Supacaz has featured on many World Tour bikes and ridden to great success by the likes of Sagan, Nibali and Cavendish. The Super Sticky Kush tape is offered in an outrageous selection of colours and designs from classic black to shiny oil slick. There is something to suit all styles and personalities, so if your criteria when choosing bar tape is proven race performance and standing out from the crowd then Supacaz bar tape is going to tick your boxes.
The Supacaz uses a layer of foam to dampen vibrations with a top layer of Polyurethane material to offer a tacky texture in wet conditions, ideal for riders who don’t wear gloves. Included with the bar tape is a pair of aluminium expander bar plugs which are anodised or powder coated to match your tape, offering a premium upgrade over the standard push-in plastic bar ends.
Deda Presa offers a race-inspired bar tape at a very competitive price
Material: EVA, Polyurethane | Colour: 9 | Thickness: 3mm | Length: 210cm
The Deda Presa is a double density bar tape combining a bottom layer of EVA to reduce vibrations with Polyurethane for grip. This dual-density construction gives a balance in performance to offer a firm but forgiving feel.
Grip and breathability are enhanced using perforated details along the centre of the wrap. These perforations also provide a subtle addition of colour along with understated black on black Deda logos. Deda includes two black branded push-in bar ends and finishing tape.
Classic and stylish bar tape that will compliment your leather Brooks saddle perfectly in looks and longevity
Material: Leather | Colour: 5 | Thickness: Unstated | Length: 208cm
Brooks Leather bar tape caters perfectly for those seeking a classic L'Eroica feel or a bar tape that matches their faithful Brooks saddle.
The tape is perforated to provide some texture and ventilation and offers a firm bar feel. If you prefer more padding it would be worth pairing with some gel pads or a softer bar tape underneath. As with all leather products, this bar tape is very hard-wearing and should last a lot longer than synthetic counterparts, plus as it ages the bar tape will develop a patina giving your bike a pleasant weathered look. Two colour matched rubber bar ends plugs and adhesive cloth strips are included with the tape.
Of course, this tape will not appeal to all, however, Brooks do offer microfibre and rubber tape alternatives that match their animal-free saddles.
Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm
Superb grip for gloveless riding with different thickness options to suit those with small hands or seeking more padding for long-distance riding
Material: DuraSoft Polymer | Colour: 22 | Thickness: 2.5mm | Length: 208cm
Lizard Skins offers a range of thicknesses from 1.8mm to 3.2mm, their DSP 2.5mm sits in the middle of this range. Comfort is achieved using a Durasoft Polymer to strike a balance between feel and control. A rubbery textured surface is used to aid grip whether you ride with or without gloves. This 2.5mm tape comes in at a claimed 56g for the tape and plastic bar ends.
The DSP 2.5mm tape is available in a wide selection of colours, some bold swirly camo effects and bright dual colour versions. The dual colour transitions at 84cm which should be just below the hoods.
Selle Italia Smootape Gran Fondo
Selle Italia Smootape Gran Fondo uses its unique smooth finish to enhance comfort for long-distance riders
Material: EVA | Colour: 10 | Thickness: 2.5mm | Length: 180cm
Selle Italia Smootape Gran Fondo is unsurprisingly aimed at riders who cover longer distances and demand high comfort levels.
The Smootape features an asymmetric tapered edge which is designed to give a smooth overlapping finish to your bars and improve comfort. A zig-zag design adds extra purchase to the bars when grip is needed the most. A silicone strip holds the tape in place and allows easier corrections or re-wrapping.
The Selle Italia Smootape Gran Fondo is available in a range of 10 bright colours and supplied with plastic bar ends.
Cinelli Cork Gel
Cinelli’s Cork Gel bar tape takes a classic design and adds a gel insert for more comfort, ideal for endurance road riders and gravel grinders
Material: EVA, Cork | Colour: 6 | Thickness: 1.5mm | Length: 175cm
Cinelli revolutionised bar tape in 1985 and for the last 30 years have stuck with their winning EVA/cork formula which is a favourite amongst many riders.
By combining EVA and cork Cinelli was able to create a wrap that is soft, tear-resistant and comfortable when riding with or without gloves. The addition of a thin layer of Vibrasorb gel adds further vibration absorption and improved comfort to Cinelli’s classic.
Available in 6 colours which have a pleasant speckled look. Two Cinelli branded plastic push-in bar ends are supplied.