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But there is one more thing that can increase comfort at the front of the bike. Bar tape! During my testing, I used five different bar tapes and now it’s time to tell you which is the most comfortable.
Vibration Testing Bar Tape
When I was trying to measure the vibration levels of bar tape, I found my equipment was not precise enough to show any real difference in comfort. I couldn’t even measure the difference between using gel pads and not.
When I was taking measurements at the bar tops, I think my test simply does not reflect the true comfort of the bar tape. This is likely because your hands have the tendency to move quite freely on the bar tops while you ride, generating similar levels of vibrations – no matter the bar tape.
Unfortunately, you will not find any vibration test results in this article. Instead, I will solely focus on my subjective experience both in terms of bar tape comfort and the general hand feel too.
Gel Pads For Comfort
My Jamis Renegade benchmark bike (Jamis Renegade Exploit) came with Fizik Superlight Microsoft Touch bar tape, which I thought was very comfortable. But I had no idea that underneath this tape was hidden gel pads that were responsible for the high level of comfort.
When I later changed the bar tape, I was not able to reuse these gel pads and I immediately found that not having the pads reduced the bar tape’s comfort significantly.
The most important lesson here is to start with good gel pads. It doesn’t matter how thick the bar tape is that you use, nothing has the same comfort benefits as gel pads.
Supacaz Super Sticky Kush
Let’s start with the Supacaz Super Sticky Kush. This is a bar tape that many consider the most comfortable. It’s a thick tape (2.5mm) that incorporates a layer of foam to improve overall comfort.
Some love the super sticky outer layer but I am not a fan. It’s way too sticky for my liking and attracts a lot of dirt too.
Sure, you can easily use this tape without gloves, and even when wet or with sweaty hands. You also have a great sense of control. But the overall feeling is not that pleasant, at least not for me.
The other thing is the way it wraps – this tape is stiff and won’t stretch much, so you will have to be especially cautious when wrapping it. The edges of this tape simply don’t look neat either for a US $45 bar tape.
With that out of the way, it is a very comfortable bar tape in terms of reducing vibrations. I used it with gel pads and it was certainly one of the most comfortable setups.
You can find the Supercaz Super Sticky Kush bar tape on Amazon HERE.
Cinelli Gel Cork Tape
The Cinelli Gel Cork tape was a revelation!
It’s very thick (3mm), and thanks to the heavy usage of Vibra Absorb foam, the comfort level is easily on par with the Supacaz tape, albeit with a better feel.
The wrapping is also much easier, the edges are cleaner, and you get ample grip from the outer layer.
Some added benefits are that it has the best tear resistance of any of the tapes I tested, you can wrap it multiple times, and it’s one of the least expensive tapes too (US $18).
You can find the Cinelli Gel Cork bar tape on Amazon HERE.
Lizard Skins DSP 3.2
The Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 tape is some of the most expensive tape on the test (US $45) but it has a great look and feel – the surface is very nice to touch, no matter the conditions.
It’s much less sticky than the Supacaz, and I like the very clean finish. It’s probably the only bar tape that you could keep clean in any color, even white.
The 3.2mm thickness makes this tape very comfortable to ride, although I feel it’s slightly less comfortable than the Supacaz or Cinelli options. It’s worth noting the 4.6mm thick model likely bridges this gap.
The wrapping process is not difficult but also not as easy as the Cinelli tape, and similarly, you can rewrap it a couple of times if you need.
But is the Lizard Skin tape really worth the premium you are paying for? In my opinion, it’s not. But I can totally understand those who fall in love with the look and feel. It’s a great product!
You can find the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 bar tape on Amazon HERE.
Specialized S-Wrap Roubaix
The S-Wrap Roubaix bar tape is currently on my benchmark bike and it feels great. It’s affordable (US $25), easy to wrap, and has a nice finish.
The finish is a ‘suede’ that’s quite grippy and works well without gloves. When it gets wet, it’s not quite as good as other tapes but it will stay clean for much longer than the Supacaz.
And how about the comfort? The thick vibration-absorbing EVA foam works really well and this tape is easily on the Lizard Skins 3.2mm level, and very close to the Cinelli tape.
The S-Wrap in many ways is very similar to the Cinelli Gel Cork tape, both in terms of grip, wrapping, and overall comfort. The only difference is the sensation when touching them – I find the S-Wrap to be slightly more pleasant in this regard.
Coefficient Wave Bar Tape
The Coefficient tape is unique for two reasons. The first is the length – it’s extra long to allow for the easy wrapping of the Coefficient Wave handlebar, which demands the longest tape possible. And the second is its thickness – this is by far the thinnest tape in this comparison.
So, how does it perform compared to the much thicker tapes?
Well, thin tape, even with gel pads is definitely less comfortable. But as the Wave bar tape is very long so you can wrap it with a lot of overlap. While this achieves something similar to a double layer of handlebar tape, the comfort is improved but it’s still not on part with the other bar tapes here.
That said, the Wave bar tape is the easiest and most enjoyable to wrap and is quite tear resistant. It’s the best in terms of the overall feel too; grippy but soft, a real joy to hold. And it’s not expensive either.
What’s the Most Comfortable Bar Tape?
The pick of the bunch for me is the Cinelli Gel Cork tape. It offers a great level of comfort, a nice touch, ample grip, and it’s inexpensive to boot. It’s also easy to wrap and has great tear resistance.
This may be a surprising result for some, but it shows that sometimes you really don’t need to buy the most expensive product to get the most comfort.
If you would like a bit more grip and are happy to spend twice as much money, the Lizard Skins DSP tape is a particularly nice option. It’s less sticky than the Supacaz, is super easy to clean, and probably looks the nicest of these tapes too.
You can support the CyclingAbout Comfort Lab by purchasing your bar tape on Amazon. Simply click HERE for the Cinelli Gel Cork tape, HERE for the Lizard Skins tape, and HERE for the Supercaz tape – and a small commission will come our way.