Get a grip
Bar tape is one of those things we at Road Rider Review believe can make or break the look of a bike, old dirty tape has no place on a bike and neither has snagged tape. The rules to a good-looking bike should read like this, “collars and cuffs should match, meaning saddle and bar tape should be the same colour, and should work in harmony with the overall build to compliment the frame. If your tape is not black it should be cleaned to ensure you stay looking classy”.
Now we've gotten that out of the way one of the big things is your tape must be comfortable, if it’s not it has no place on your bike. I don’t care if you’re a weight weenie and think that the lightest tape matters, nothing beats comfort, in a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock, comfort would still win and it’s not even in the game. The other big thing with tape is if you must clean it then it should be easy to clean, unless you are a bar tape nutter then it should last at least 6 months before its replaced. I love the whole process of fitting tape and some tape goes on easy with good stretch and some, well just doesn’t.
There are three main tape types people are going to find to fit to their spotlessly clean bike (as your bike should be before you start putting brand new tape on), cork tape is cheap, comfortable, easy to wrap - especially if its gel backed but it can snag easily if the bike goes down. Next is the leatherette type, again this isn’t that costly but with a bit less stretch it can be harder to fit but is a bit longer lasting. I find it has a bit less grip in the wet, doesn't offer much in the way of padding and can look a bit nasty (my own opinion). The last is the rubbery type from the likes of Arundel, Lizard Skins, Specialized and Rapha, this type offers great grip and comfort but some are hard to fit with little stretch and they can also be costly at around £30.00. I have used the first three and I still have the Specialized HD tape on the Baum, but when I was giving the Colnago a spruce up for the new race season I thought lets give the Rapha Pro Team a go.
Like most Rapha product it comes in a nice black box with some black and white photos on, these arousing images make you want to get that tape fitted as soon as so you can get out and find a hard, wet windy hill to climb whilst always looking at the middle distance. Now Like other tapes of this type it’s a bit harder to fit, you can’t just spin it on like you can the cork tape or Specialized's super easy to fit Roubaix tape (the tape that I’m replacing). It takes time and a bit more grunt, go too fast and you'll find yourself unwinding it to cover over the edge that just didn’t flatten as well as you would have liked. This tape is not that stretchy, the HD tape from Specialized was like this but the newer HD tape seems to have a bit more give. Rapha’s tape is not the type you’re going to want to try and do a figure of eight around the lever hoods you’re going to want to use those small sections that normally go in the bin to cover over the bar clamps.
So you've just spent 30 mins doing the tape now you can stand back and admire your handy work, looks good doesn’t it! Well looks are only one part of it the feel and grip are the others, and Rapha has got a lot of grip into this tape and its comfy too, as good as Lizard Skins and Arundel but I would say HD tape has just got the edge on this front. I’m going to be honest I’m not hard on tape so it’s going to take me a while to wear this out, an update later may be required. As far as fine details go this tape has a little quote about hiding your power that’s embossed on it that’s to be hidden when you wrap the bars, I chose to do my tape the other way around so that this lettering shows. You also get some nice bar end plugs with a block font saying Rapha on, but the thing you get but don’t want is the finishing tape, it’s cheap and looks poor quality on the bars, not in keeping with Rapha’s premium brand appeal. I took the supplied finishing tape off and fitted some cloth tape that was more fitting with the brand and look. Nevertheless, it’s a great tape with a feel of a more expensive product, the finer details are just not up to par with the Specialized HD tape but that retails for £30.00.
Colours, Black or Pink