I never thought of bar tape in terms other than thicker, plusher, fatter or maybe more or less likely to tear when I dump a bike and the handlebars–along with various body parts–get dragged through crushed rock. Since I never plan to crash, I honestly thought the point was to get tape as cushy as possible, and I certainly never encountered tape that performed differently based on the direction it’s wrapped.
It goes without saying that I have very little experience tricking out my own bikes. I used many excuses in the past, including the–valid!–reason that I want to support my local bike shops. It’s been a long time since dressing a bike meant clipping playing cards to spokes and streamers to the back of the banana seat.
But the truth is that I was afraid to do things myself because I didn’t know how, didn’t want to ask, and didn’t want to do something wrong (set a tire improperly and it blows on a 40 mph gravel descent? Uff da!) or do something wrong and catch shade. This is–after all–an industry that shames for sock height! I’ve been on the receiving end of social media shaming because I posted a shot of my bike chain-side in, FFS.
Pre-social distancing I haven’t been shy offering 6-packs or pizza in exchange for a lesson. But in the current environment, I’ve resorted to Park Tool videos on YouTube. (10/10, when humans aren’t available, highly recommend.) There are benefits to the videos, assuming you’re watching a good one. You can pause and replay, for one thing, without worrying you’re offending your teacher or screwing up the process. I found the Park Tool how to wrap bar tape video quite good and beginner-friendly. I especially liked how expert Calvin Jones provides three different ways for handling the wrap around the hoods.
I’m grateful to Silca for providing two styles of bar tape for review, the Piloti ($42 MSRP) and the Fiore ($46 MSRP). The Piloti is the thinner of the two. From the back of the box: Ultra Performance 1.85 mm … delivers equivalent cushioning to 2.5 mm tapes. I applied it to my Surly Crosscheck, which is my all-around, get-around, and commuter bike. Before applying, I had to decide which direction to apply the tape, for high grip or max grip. Well, max grip, duh. This bike has bar-end shifters, so, no empty tube in which to tuck the head end of the tape. No matter, I had no trouble starting the tape and wrapping it smoothly from shifter to hood. At the hoods, I used the figure-8 option so that the direction of the wrap flipped, as recommended, and the tape was easy to manage from stem to stern. Another bonus: the butterfly-shaped brake clamp cover easily prevents any gap showing beneath. I finished with finishing tape and honestly, for my first time, it looks damn good.
I’ve been out on several rides since applying this tape, both with and without padded riding gloves, and I have to say I’m very impressed. The tape is grippy without being sticky and maintained high grip–I mean max grip–in the rain. It still looks brand new. Though it is a thinner tape, I found I preferred to go sans gloves for JRA (Just Riding Around). I’ve never used bar tape with such a nice grip, and the comfort level was just fine. Next I’ll wrap the gravel bike handle bars with the (Silca Nastro) Fiore tape, which is 2.5 mm to the Piloti’s 1.85mm, and I’ll get a century or two and check back in. Wrap n ride!
Ann Gentle is a hike chick, bike chick, step-up-to-the-mic chick who wrote about kicking cancer’s ass in the Ann Gentle’s Cancer Show blog on CaringBridge and currently writes about returning to biking in a changed body and reclaiming her life. She’s here to affirm that anyone of any size can ride a bike and have a damn good time. Follow her on Twitter @huckle3erry or read Anne’s blog here (where this review originally appeared).
Disclosure: Silca provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.