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Best handlebar tape 2021 | 12 bar tapes tried and tested

Spruce up your bar and give your hands a treat

Best handlebar tape

As one of the main contact points between you and your bike, handlebar tape can play a significant role in keeping you comfortable and in control when out riding.

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Shock absorption and cushioning are often the main priority when considering what bar tape to buy because these will have the biggest impact on keeping your hands comfortable. Material choice can also affect grip when riding in the wet, and durability too.

Beyond comfort and control, swapping out old bar tape for new is an affordable way to customise a bike or give it a new lease of life. In fact, as far as cheap road bike upgrades go, a roll of new tape is one of the easiest ways to freshen up your ride.

Here is our selection of the best handlebar tapes and a few pointers on what to look out for. Once you’ve chosen your new look, read our guide on how to wrap handlebar tape.

Buyer’s guide to handlebar tape | What to look for

Bar tape was traditionally made from cork or leather. Cork offers good absorption and remains grippy in wet weather while leather bar tape provides great comfort and has a classic appearance.

These materials are still used, but today bar tape is more frequently made from synthetic materials such as polyurethane, silicone and rubberised polymers.

Man-made materials provide several benefits as they are lightweight and durable and can be particularly grippy with ‘sticky’ surfaces and imprinted grips.

Often, synthetic materials are used as an outer and paired with a gel or foam inner. This can drastically alter the feel of a bike with non-backed tapes being as thin as 1.5mm and backed tapes being as thick as 5mm.

Retaping your handlebar
New handlebar tape is a sure-fire way to give your bike a new lease of life.
Dave Caudery/Immediate Media

Thickness and backing of bar tape often come down to personal preference. Maybe you are riding on gravel and want as much vibration to be absorbed as possible, or you ride with cycling gloves so prefer a thinner bar tape.

In some cases, bar tape comes backed with adhesive strips. This can make wrapping or removing bar tape a tricky affair, but it does hold the tape in place.

When it comes to wrapping, some synthetic bar tapes are high-stretch, making it easier to wrap the tape around brake levers and hoods.

The length of bar tape can also impact wrapping. If you are wrapping particularly wide bars, say on a gravel bike, then you will have less material to play with.

The final point to consider is looks. Cork or leather tape will give any build a retro flavour, while thicker tape might look out of place on a classy steel bike.

Bar tape also comes in a range of colours and patterns and can give any build a personal touch, but one thing many cyclists will insist on is bar tape matching the colour of the bike’s saddle.

Of course, colour choice is personal preference, but deviation may provoke angry comments from those who adhere to The Rules.

PRO Sport Comfort

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Best handlebar tape
PRO’s Sport Comfort comes highly recommended by us.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 3.5mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £18 / $24 / AU$33

PRO’s Sport Comfort is the thickest tape here at 3.5mm, thanks to its extra layer of gel padding.

The wide, non-sticky silicone adhesive strip actually sticks to the bar effectively and is very easy to remove without residue. The non-patterned design delivered excellent grip.

A veritable bargain if you like a little more road-buzz-smoothing plushness from your handlebar tape.

Deda Loop

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Deda Loop bar tape for road bikes
Wrapping this bar tape was easy with its slight stretch.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2.5mm
  • Plug type: Expanding wedge
  • Price: £35 / $44 / AU$65 / €42

Deda’s Loop tape impresses straight out of the box. Featuring a slight tackiness and a textured logo pattern, this tape offers grip before it gets anywhere near a handlebar.

Wrapping around the bar is easy, thanks to a slight stretch and the adhesive is strong enough to hold position without pulling the tape apart if you need to reset it.

Once the tape has been installed, it’s padded enough to increase comfort over most stock tape but not so thick as to cause smaller hands problems. Is ‘too much grip’ ever a problem? Available in nine colour combinations.

Fabric Knurl

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Fabric Knurl bar tape for road bikes
It might not be the thickest tape but is comfortable no matter the conditions.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2mm
  • Plug type: Expanding wedge
  • Price: £22 / $30 / AU$35 / €25

While not the thickest on test, the Knurl tape uses a silicone strip rather than adhesive to hold position, which has the added benefit of providing extra damping.

Combined with some quality foam backing and a Kraton rubber outer, the thickness belies a very comfortable tape.

There doesn’t seem to be any variance in grip, no matter what the conditions are or whether you’re wearing gloves. Fitting is straightforward because the tape is reasonably stretchy and the silicone allows easy repositioning.

Brooks Cambium

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Brooks Cambium bar tape for road bikes
Get classic Brooks looks to match your saddle.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 3mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £30 / $40 / €35

Better known for its high-quality saddles, Brooks dips its toe into the world of bar tape with this product made from organic rubber.

The Cambium is a thick tape, which makes it a little less compliant than some of the others when wrapping, but it has an agreeable amount of stretch to compensate.

Part of the thickness is a second-density foam on the inside offering huge amounts of comfort. We found good amounts of hold in almost all conditions, but gloves without grip on the palms did slip a little in the wet.

MicroTex Tacky Bar Tape

4.0 out of 5 star rating
MicroTex Tacky Bar Tape for road bikes
The tape might have a shiny appearance but that doesn’t affect grip.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £30

At first glance shiny tape doesn’t scream grip, however, a gloved (or even slightly sweaty) hand reveals a surprising amount of traction. It offers a sticky sensation, but doesn’t leave a residue.

Although it doesn’t stretch, the edges are slightly elastic so wrapping around shifters is straightforward. The adhesive is quite aggressive and requires a healthy dose of care to reposition.

Selle San Marco Presa Corsa Dynamic

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Black bar tape from Selle San Marco
Good looking, straightforward tape.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £18

Well-priced, high-quality padded gel tape that weighs just 70g overall, including plugs.

The San Marco’s wide adhesive strip and overall profile are very similar to the PRO’s, with just a little less central gel padding. But this is comfortable, good looking and easy to fit neatly, and remove without fuss or mess.

Specialized S-Wrap HD

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Red bar tape from Specialized
Good quality tape for a neat look.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £32 / $35 / AU$45

Excellent quality, grippy and comfortable gel-padded tape with a matching finishing strip, all well-secured by expanding plug bar ends for a super-neat look.

The wide-ish adhesive strip doesn’t feel sticky to the touch, but is effective, and was easy to clean and remove.

The two-colour design takes a little care to get neat on the bend but that’s the only downside.


Also consider…

The following products scored fewer than four out of five but are still worth considering.

Bontrager Grippytack

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Lime green bar tape from Bontrager
Get extra visibility with this reflective tape.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £30 / $30 / AU$50

This is thin but the diamond pattern is very grippy and, er, tacky. If you like a more direct feel while taking away the worst buzz, this does a good job.

The brightly coloured tape gets grubby quite quickly but is easy to clean and our ‘Visibility Yellow’ tape includes thousands of small reflective dots for night-time riding.

Fizik Vento

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Red bar tape from fizik
Well-cushioned, tacky tape, but a little pricey.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2.7mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £34 / $45 / AU$62

Fizik’s Vento ‘Solocush Tacky’ tape lives up to its full name, with its 2.7mm padding offering very good cushioning, and the textured surface a ‘tacky’ grip whether you’re riding with or without gloves.

The adhesive strip is very sticky but it was still easy to remove the tape without mess or tearing. Price is on the high side, though.

Joystick Analog

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Lime green bar tape from joystick
Easy to clean tape with mid-range padding thickness.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2.8mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £32 / $40

This bar tape offers a mid-range 2.8mm of padding and a textured, patterned and slightly tacky surface that proved impressively grippy.

The Joystick Analog tape stayed cleaner longer than Bontrager’s, proved easy to clean and is secured by an expanding wedge, creating very tidy bar ends.

Lizard Skins DSP V2

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Lizard Skins DSP V2 bar tape for road bikes
Grippy with or without gloves.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 2.5mm
  • Plug type: Expanding wedge
  • Price: £38 / $45 / AU$62 / €38

DSP stands for DuraSoft Polymer, the proprietary foam backing on this tape.

Available in 1.8mm, 2.5mm (as tested) or plush 3.5mm thicknesses and 15 colours, there’s something to suit every taste.

The rubberised outer layer doesn’t take kindly to being stretched, so extra care needs to be taken when negotiating the shifters.

Without gloves, the DSP is grippy and with gloves it’s positively sticky. This remains the same when the tape gets wet, whether from sweat or precipitation.

Cinelli Mike Giant Logo

3.0 out of 5 star rating
Cinelli Mike Giant Logo bar tape road bikes
If you prefer plenty of feedback from the road this could be the tape for you.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Thickness: 1.5mm
  • Plug type: Press in
  • Price: £20 / $24 / AU$33 / €24

This thin tape was always going to have trouble keeping up in the comfort stakes. It’s not as harsh as we initially suspected, but it does make for increased road feel.

In the dry and with gloves on this tape is incredibly grippy. Any kind of moisture reduces grip dramatically, but it never became slippery as such.

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The biggest complaint was the lack of stretch, which made this tape rather sensitive to anything less than perfectly smooth wrapping around the shifters. Other designs and colours are available.