First Impressions: Lizard Skins DSP Handlebar Tape

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New bar tape is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to freshen up a tired looking bike. Unlike back in the day, modern bar tape comes in a rainbow of color choices, multiple levels of padding, and different textures for different applications. With three different thickness and a myriad of colors, Lizard Skins‘ DSP bar wrap offers something for practically any rider.

Despite the company’s reptilian name, Lizard Skins DSP tape isn’t made from actual lizard skin. DSP stands for DuraSoft Polymer, which the company claims offers unmatched levels of comfort, control and responsiveness. Knowing that one thickness doesn’t necessarily work for all riders, Lizard Skins offers DSP tape in 1.8 mm, 2.5 mm, and 3.2 mm thicknesses ($41.99-$49.99 MSRP). Each thickness also features its own unique texture, further enhancing grip and comfort.

One of the first things you notice when unboxing the DSP tape is the outer skin’s tackiness. While the three textures differ slightly, there’s a consistent feel that transcends the individual patterns. If you’re not a fan of overly-tacky bar tape, fret not, because the Lizard Skins wrap doesn’t have the gross, sticky feel that’s sometimes found on other brands’ tape.

Due to its unique construction, installing DSP tape requires a different approach compared to traditional foam or synthetic bar wrap. Despite the tape’s flexibility, Lizard Skins recommends that you not stretch the tape when wrapping. Even though it does take considerable effort to actually tear DSP tape, stretching compromises the outer layer, which leads to premature wear. I initially had concerns that less tension would result in slippage, but that hasn’t proved to be an issue even after several months of use.

I tested all three of the DSP’s thicknesses, but most of my time was spent using the 1.8 mm and 3.2 mm versions. The former on a Jones 710 mm SG Loop bar, and the latter installed on Zipp 440 mm Service Course SL-70 Ergo compact drop bars. For both applications, the 82 inch length (89 inches for the 3.2 mm version) tape proved more than adequate (which is especially important when you factor in Lizards Skins’ No Stretching rule). As a bonus, the DSP’s matching finishing tape not only looks good, it works noticeably better than traditional fixing tape (and doesn’t leave behind any messy goo).

Although I normally wear cycling gloves, I made a conscious effort to ride bare-handed (weather permitting) in order to test the Lizard Skins’ grip and durability. All three thickness provided plenty of traction, but none of the three textures felt overly rough on long rides (whether on- or off-road). I’m usually not a fan of excessively thick bar wrap, but I found the 3.2 mm DSP tap offered a more direct–but still comfortable–bar feel than many so-called plush tapes. While the lighter-colored tape did show dirt more easily, cleanup was simple with the aid of soapy water and a shop rag. This test period also happened to overlap with handlebar bag testing, and the DSP tape didn’t exhibit any extra wear from the bags’ mounting straps.

Is Lizard Skin’s DSP bar wrap worth the premium price? The answer is, it depends. If you frequently change tape color to match your mood (or latest piece of kit), Lizard Skins’ tape may not be cost effective. Same thing if you happen to crash a lot (although the DSP tape is extremely durable under normal conditions). But if you’re looking for outstanding grip, colors that don’t fade after a couple of weeks, and the ability to choose just the right level of padding, then DSP is definitely worth considering.

Disclosure: Lizard Skins provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

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