Out of the three main contact points with the bicycle, the handlebar tape has crucial importance when it comes to finding comfort and safety. This isn’t always realized by riders, as it is a component far cheaper than the pedals or the saddle, and it tends to be seen as just a finishing touch of the bike.

A fresh new bar tape is, indeed, one of the quickest and most inexpensive ways to improve your bike’s aesthetic, but it is so much more. The right tape can give you extra confidence with a firm grip and a bit more cushion if you ride on rough roads.

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Typically, bar tape thickness varies between 2 mm for the most lightweight and 5 mm (not including extra gel pads) for the most hardcore road conditions, including cobbles.

Apart from significantly reducing the weight of the bar setup, thin handlebar tapes generally offer better handling and feel of the bars. On the other hand, these tend to be less resistant to abrasion and general use, resulting in a shorter lifespan.

At the opposite side of the handlebar tape spectrum, we can find thicker and cushioning tapes of up to 5 mm intended to give the rider extra comfort on longer rides or rougher terrain. These weigh more but also will tend to last longer.

Let’s delve into the best cycling handlebar tapes currently in the market to spruce up your bike’s front end.

Top 9 Cycling Handlebar Tapes

1. Fizik Tempo M’TX Soft Bar Tape

Source: chainreactioncycles.com

Material: Microtex

Thickness: 3mm

Feel: Soft Touch

Plug type: Press in

This all-round handlebar tape gives you comfort and breathability in any condition with a classy matt look. The Microtex material looks like premium suede and offers the softest touch and reliable grip. It’s one of those bar tapes that feels so good without gloves, although I don’t recommend riding often without them.

Still on the thin side of bar tapes with its 3 mm thickness, the Fizik Tempo M’TX it’s microperforated with a dot pattern for optimal ventilation and enhanced soft feeling. Not as hard-wearing as other models, this tape lasts about 6 months of intense use, in my opinion, the optimal time to replace it before the sweat could start damaging the bars.

It is available in 5 distinctive colors and comes with a couple of Fizik branded black plug ends. A premium option at a premium price for those looking for the finest touch and precise grip.

Pros

  • Matt look
  • Soft feel

Cons

  • Pricey

2. Fizik Tempo Microtex Classic Bar Tape

Source: competitivecyclist.com

Material: Microtex

Thickness: 2 mm

Feel: Leather-like

Plug type: Press in

For those nostalgic of the bygone era of leather handlebar tape, this Fizik model will resurrect that look and feel on their steeds’ bars.

A super-thin tape (2 mm) with shiny leather-like finishing might not be the grippiest ever but will certainly give you a nice feel of the bars and enhanced control. It also stays fresh for a long time and it’s so robust that it can be pulled extra-tight when wrapping.

It comes in twenty different colors (including metallic silver!) to suit a wide variety of bike models and paint schemes. Includes Fizik branded black plug ends and adhesive strips.

Avoid this one if you are looking for excellent grip or supple padding, but it’s one of the best value options for long-lasting and fresh-looking bar tape that will suit any sort of riding condition.

Pros

  • Classic look
  • Variety of colors
  • Robust

Cons

  • Not very supple

3. Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape – 3.2 mm

Source: rei.com

Material: DuraSoft polymer

Thickness: 3.2 mm

Feel: Tacky and grippy

Plug type: Screw wedge

Despite what its name might suggest, Lizard Skins DSP bar tape touch is nothing like the coarse and rugged reptile dermis. It is by far the tackiest and grippiest handlebar tape out there.

This partly has to do with the properties of the DuraSoft polymer the tape is made of. That added to the microperforated pattern makes this tape not only super-sticky but extra-fluffy and shock-absorbing.

The downside of this new material is that installation becomes a bit tricky compared to traditional handlebar tapes. It lacks adhesive backing and it shouldn’t be stretched upon wrapping or it’ll lose part of its cushioning properties.

In my opinion, this is a high-performing tape when it comes to grip and comfort but due to the nature of its materials, it doesn’t offer a long lifespan. Considering the high price tag it’s not a great value for money, but the fact that several professional teams use it can back up its quality.

Pros

  • Incredibly tacky
  • Grippy feeling

Cons

  • High price tag
  • Difficult to install

4. Supacaz Super Sticky Kush Bar Tape

Source: performancebike.com

Material: HydroActiv PU

Thickness: 2.5 mm

Feel: Sticky Touch

Plug type: Screw wedge

Supacaz is one of the few brands that tried to challenge stereotypes in such a heavily tradition-dominated world as cycling. Their signature handlebar tapes revolutionized a classic product with new materials and radical designs.

I’m not going to get into the design aspect as this can be subject to personal preference but materials-wise, Supacaz tapes offer unrivaled sticky grip without compromising durability and aesthetics.

Unlike other sticky-tape tapes, the HydroActiv PU material can be stretched upon installation without undermining its shock-absorbing and grip properties.

The premium feeling of this high-performance handlebar tape is enhanced by the inclusion of laser-etched aluminum plug ends that can be fastened with a 3 mm Allen key. Another premium touch is the rubberized finishing tape.

All in all, a premium performing handlebar tape with daring designs that might not suit every taste. Worth a try even for its decent value for money.

Pros

  • Sticky feel

Cons

  • Controversial design

5. Silca Nastro Cuscino Bar Tape

Source: rei.com

Material: Tri-laminate/SILCAlon foam/TPU finishing tape

Thickness: 3.75 mm

Feel: Soft and sticky Touch

Plug type: Screw wedge

All Silca’s products share this aim to stray from the ordinary and attempt excellence. While that might seem a difficult task to achieve when it comes to something as simple as bar tape, they have done a pretty good job with the Nastro Cuscino handlebar tape.

It’s not common to find a sticky bar tape that stays grippy in wet conditions but also offers a great deal of padding and comfort. Silca has achieved this thanks to a tri-laminate design with SILCAlon foam, and a debossed grippy stripe pattern.

It comes with premium laser-engraved aluminum screw-in end plugs, TPU finishing tape, and just 2 classy colors: full black and black with pink accents.

If you are ever to spend $50 on a bar tape, I would say this is the one capable to live up to the most luxurious of bike builds, not only looking smart but offering top-class padding and grip in every condition.

Pros

  • Grippy
  • Comfortable
  • Classy look

Cons

  • Expensive

6. Cinelli Cork Tape

Source: competitivecyclist.com

Material: Cork

Thickness: 3 mm

Feel: Soft touch

Plug type: Press in

Not massively worried about high performance but looking to give your bike a retro-cool look? The Cinelli cork tape is a classic that has been used in track bikes, urban commuters, and custom bicycles since the ’80s.

The properties of a natural material such as cork make this tape lightweight and easy to wrap around the handlebars. It offers nice vibration damping and a soft feeling on the hands, although it is not the grippiest of the bar tapes, especially under rainy conditions or sweat.

This great value handlebar tape at an affordable price will certainly add a cool retro touch to your bike. It comes in a wide selection of colors to match any bike color scheme, all of them with the legendary Cinelli C logo embossed.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Classic look
  • Variety of colors

Cons

  • Not good in wet conditions

7. Tortec Super Comfort Handlebar Tape

Material: EVA

Thickness: 2.5 mm

Feel: Grippy touch

Plug type: Press in

The Tortec Super Comfort is not a flashy handlebar tape but it does what it promises on the title, and for a very modest budget. Made of lightweight EVA foam it comes with a silicone strip at the back that adds a little extra damping while serving to keep the tape in place.

The material is not only soft and cushy but very resistant to stretching, resulting in a bar tape that it’s as easy to fit as it is comfortable to ride.

The downsides to this great performing bar tape are the limited colors available as well as the simple and dull aesthetics, with a minimal pattern and simple plastic plug ends.

If you don’t mind the looks, this is a lightweight, grippy, and easy-to-fit handlebar tape that will beat performance-wise other tapes that cost double the price!

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Grippy

Cons

  • Poor aesthetics

8. Arundel Gecko Grip Bartape

Source: competitivecyclist.com

Material: EVA

Thickness: 2 mm

Feel: Grippy touch

Plug type: Press in

The Arundel Gecko Grip handlebar tape is a thin tape option that offers a great “rubbery” grip and easy installation.

It features a lightweight layered construction of EVA foam and ventilated polyurethane that lays flat on the bars without protruding. These materials don’t absorb water or sweat easily and can be wiped clean in seconds.

It’s finished with a dimpled surface that adds an even more grippy feeling and doesn’t compromise durability. The price is not over the top but the color options are a bit limited.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Excellent grip

Cons

  • Limited color options

9. Fabric Knurl Bartape
Material: Kraton rubber, silicone

Thickness: 2 mm

Feel: Grippy touch

Plug type: Screw wedge

Despite being one of the thinnest and lightest tapes on this list, the Fabric Knurl gives you plenty of cushioning. It achieves this feat by substituting the traditional adhesive backing for a silicone strip that adds extra damping to the foam core.

The surface is finished with textured Kraton rubber that offers unbelievable grip in all sorts of conditions. It also comes with premium screw-in plug ends.

Sitting at a mid-price range, the Fabric Knurl is a great value performance-oriented bar tape which only lacks a few more color options.

Pros

  • Superb grip
  • Surprisingly comfortable

Cons

  • Limited color options

Buying Tips

What are we looking for in a handlebar tape? Comfort, grip, looks, or everything together? Can this be even achieved? Let’s take a look at the main characteristics and factors that will help us when it comes to deciding which new handlebar tape should we install on our beloved bike.

Comfort is one of the most disregarded characteristics of handlebar tapes. A tape with the right materials and construction can be almost as shock-absorbing as a front suspension. If you are going to prioritize comfort then you should be looking for thick tapes (over 3 mm) made of materials such as EVA foam and silicone.

The disadvantages of thicker tapes and softer materials are normally a poorer handling feel and reduced grip. Grip and comfort come usually in an inverse ratio, and only a few tape options manage to strike a perfect balance.

If comfort is not an issue (for shorter rides or when wearing padded gloves) then the priority should shift towards getting a nice grip in all sorts of conditions. As mentioned, thinner tapes will generally give you a better handlebar feel and grip, but the latter depends massively on the outer material of the tape.

Nowadays, the grippiest tapes in the market are finished in various types of polymers that offer a tacky and sticky feeling even in wet conditions. It’s also important to look for heavily textured/perforated patterns as those will add even more grip to the tape.

Thinner, perforated tapes have also two extra advantages – they offer extra ventilation while reducing a few grams. In exchange, these tend to have less resistance to abrasion and a lower lifespan.

Beyond comfort and grip, handlebar tapes give you one of the cheapest ways to quickly transform the appearance of your bike. Normally ranging from $10 to $60, whichever is the bar tape you choose for your bike, it will be a great investment to give it a fresh new look in a matter of minutes!

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