When I was a wee lad, there were two kinds of handlebar tape–plastic or cloth. Now, 40 years later, there’s cork, foam, leather, pleather, and course, cloth and plastic tape. For the past few years, I’ve pretty much stuck with gel cork tape, but recently I’ve been experimenting with other types of bar wrap, including eleven81′s padded grip tape.
As its name implies, the eleven81 padded grip tape combines both cushion and grip into one neat package. Cushion-wise, the eleven81 tape feels comparable to other (non-gel) padded cork or foam wrap. After a few hundred miles of on- and off-road use, I’d give it the Goldilocks rating–not too hard, and not too soft.
Where eleven81′s tape really stands out, though, is with its embossed, textured surface. The subtle, waffle-like pattern offers far more grip than conventional cork or foam wrap, but the tape doesn’t feel rough or uncomfortable when used sans-gloves. Sweaty hands or wet weather didn’t negatively impact grip, and the tape didn’t develop a clammy feel when damp.
Wrapping the tape was a breeze. There was more than enough length to completely wrap a 44cm ‘bar with plenty of overlap. I normally avoid adhesive-backed tapes, but the eleven81 tape wasn’t so sticky that you couldn’t undo a section if you made a mistake. And although the tape is a little stiffer than plain cork or foam tapes, it could easily be stretched when necessary.
Would I buy it again? Yes. It’s a great, affordable (street price is around $15) alternative when you want a little more traction than conventional cork or foam tape.