Best Handlebar Tape for Road Bikes in 2021: Reviews and Guide

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Upgrading the feeling between you and your bike can make a huge difference to your cycling experience!

One of the best ways to do this is adding bar tape to improve vibration absorption, comfort and grip while reducing stress on the hands.

Here are my top picks for the best bar tape for road bikes:

 

 

Handlebar Tape for Road Bikes

Things To Consider When Looking for the Best Bar Tape for Road Bikes

Before making your decision, focus on these factors to make sure you don’t buy any old handlebar tape:

Material

Material is one of the most important factors when choosing the best handlebar tape, with three main options available.

EVA Foam

I highly suggest you grab your new bar tape in EVA foam.

Why?

Look at some of its exceptional benefits:

  • High resistance to constant strain without breaking apart.
  • UV-resistant.
  • Keeps its durability and stiffness at extreme temperatures.
  • Excellent water-resistance.
  • Extreme tolerance to compression, which is really good for bike handlebar tape.
  • Colors don’t tend to fade as much.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane has great durability and flexibility, making it a viable option for most cyclists looking for easy wrapping and long-lasting products.

Being a formable material, the installation is easy, letting you turn and wrap in any direction you need.

It’s also an easily accessible and processed substance, so you can expect a lower price point.

Leather/Faux Leather

Leather, or its fake variant, is a classic choice that usually comes as the thinnest option for your handlebar tape. 

It gives a perfect smoothness but little cushioning, so you can enjoy better performance and easy fitment. However, it might get slippery in wet conditions.

Weather Resistance

The bar tape should have resistance to UV and wet weather, although some of the most-popular tapes don’t have this.

Usually, you’re cycling when there’s a good shiny day outside, so your bike will likely absorb a lot of direct sun.

Direct UV exposure weakens and damages most materials. This means your bar tape might start peeling off and losing color sooner.

When it gets wet, you’re likely to grip the bar tighter to maintain your grip. EVA foam will help you because it has better water resistance and so the handlebar tape won’t go tacky.

Fitting Ease

Almost every bar tape comes with an adhesive backing that helps to easily wrap around the bar.

But, that’s not enough.

In my experience, it takes much more time to correctly wrap a leather-like handlebar tape than polyurethane. 

In contrast, EVA foam or polyurethane bar tapes are more flexible, wrap easier all the time.

Comfort

Handlebar tapes are designed to improve comfort while riding through different terrains. However, these tapes differentiate between thickness and finish.

For instance, racers prefer thinner wraps around the bar because it gives them a better feel of the road and bike control.

Long-distance or rough-terrain riders choose thicker handlebar tapes between 2.5mm and 3.5mm to reduce road vibration and lessen fatigue in the hands and neck.

With bar tape comfort comes grip level.

Having a better and more padded grip when cycling at higher speeds or flying down the mountains will give a better feeling of safety and control.

Generally, polyurethane-based handlebar tapes give a tacky feeling in both dry and wet conditions, whether you’re wearing gloves or not. This comes in handy if you’re a frequent wet-weather cyclist.

Breathability and sweat absorption also play a factor in comfort, especially when climbing in hot weather. Usually, handlebar tapes with perforated surfaces let the sweat drain away and keep your palms dry.

Cleaning

Road bike handlebar tape comes with a level of maintenance—sorry!

But, cleaning it regularly is good practice to avoid dirt build-up.

While I know many go for black or dark-colored bar tape so the grime doesn’t show, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

All materials are prone to the accumulation of dirt, but try to avoid tacky handlebar tape. This will make the cleaning much easier.

Quick Tip: Use lukewarm water with soap and a heavy-duty scrub pad to clean your handlebar tapes after each ride.

How Often Should You Replace Handlebar Tape?

Look to replace your handlebar tape when it starts to peel off, smells bad or gets sticky. Even so, road bike handlebar tape lifespan is anywhere between a month to a couple of years. 

But, how long it will last depends on many various factors.

For example, how often you cycle is the primary factor, while the bar tape quality and how well-wrapped it was are also important.

To give you a quick understanding of handlebar tape longevity, avoid gel-based bar tape if you’re looking for durability. 

This is mainly since gel doesn’t stay in place and will get pushed away from your hands staying in the same place. The result is wear and tear in a focused spot as the gel isn’t there to add cushioning.

Top 5 Best Handlebar Tapes for Road Bikes

Now, you should have a clear understanding of what to look for when picking the right handlebar tape for your road bike.

With this information to hand, make your way through these five best handlebar tapes.

Our Overview

First on my list is the overall winner in a low-budget range but with many premium features you could wish for.

In particular, this handlebar tape is considerably thin at only 0.10”, but it’s wide and long enough to wrap the whole bar. Customers mention that it provides excellent padding if wrapped around according to instructions. Even so, customers also find it hard to unwind, especially for the first wrapping.

Thanks to its flexibility and how much it stretches, though, you can wrap it tightly and efficiently without breaking it, due to the high-quality 3M backing.

In addition, the super-light, soft, and reliable EVA foam reduces the road vibration and shock to relieve the fatigue and hand strain in long rides.

More importantly, it’s so resistant to UV and fading that you can expect to have the same colors and touch after using it for a long time.

Finally, the anti-slip feature gives you an excellent grip while riding on curved roads and in wet weather.

Pros:

  • EVA foam and anti-slip grip material.
  • 3M adhesive backing.
  • Excellent comfort.
  • UV, water and fade-resistance improve longevity.
  • Great vibration and shock absorption.

Cons:

  • Hard to unwind.

Specs:

  • Material: EVA foam.
  • Size (L, W, T): 82.67, 1.18, 0.10 inches.
  • UV resistance: UV radiation.
  • Weight: 1.6oz.

Our Overview

If you’re looking for a classic and great-looking bar tape designed for racers, then this Fizik performance bike handlebar tape is a good option.

Also, this 3.9oz lightweight bar tape and Microtex thin design provide ideal handling and control at high speeds. 

Although it’s a thin handlebar tape at 0.07 inches, it provides comfort and cushioning, but it’s not the best for riding long-distances. The KINGOU PU leather handlebar tape I’ve reviewed further down gives a better experience in long rides.

Despite this, customers particularly mention how this bar tape is sturdy and provides enough grip when riding through the rain or on a hot summer day when you’re sweating.

Even so, some users have had difficulties wrapping the tape around the bar. It feels stiff and lacks a bit of flexibility. Moreover, it doesn’t provide UV resistance, which reduces lifespan.

Pros:

  • Perforated leather with a smooth texture.
  • Very thin at only 0.07” for a better feeling and a classic look.
  • Performance-oriented handlebar tape.
  • Tempo design provides versatility and ease of use.
  • Great grip when sweating.

Cons:

  • Don’t have much padding and lacks comfort in long-distances.
  • It feels stiff and lacks a bit of flexibility when wrapping around the bar.

Specs:

  • Material: Leather blend
  • Size (thickness): 0.07 inches
  • UV resistance: No
  • Weight: 3.9oz

Our Overview

This Topcabin camo tape is one of the best handlebar tapes for an awesome camouflage look while improving comfort.

Not only is it good-looking, but it will serve you a long time because of the polyurethane’s resistance to tearing, water and abrasion.

In addition, the cork finish provides a good amount of cushion and grip, even in wet weather. Be aware that some customers mentioned that they struggled with their grip when their hands got sweaty, though.

It also comes with a set of two different color end caps, giving a bit more personality to your handlebars.

Customers particularly like its adhesive backing—it’s strong and flexible enough to stretch around the bar and doesn’t tear at all.

Note that although it’s a thin bar tape, some users find it doesn’t stretch enough to easily wrap around the bar, leading to frustration.

Pros:

  • Cork and polyurethane combined for better grip and cushion.
  • Exceptional camo look.
  • Water and fade-resistant.
  • Sticks to the handlebar well for longevity.
  • High-density EVA special synthetic material.

Cons:

  • The bar tape is considerably tough and makes it challenging to wrap.
  • Not very grippy with sweaty hands.

Specs:

  • Material: Cork with polyurethane
  • Size (L, W, T): 82.6, 1.1, 0.7 inches
  • UV resistance: Moderate
  • Weight: 1.69oz

Our Overview

This is my top suggestion if you need a cheap but comfortable and lightweight bike handlebar tape.

It doesn’t have a sticky line on the back, which some customers don’t like. For me, this makes the tape more versatile. You don’t have to worry when wrapping since it can easily be unwrapped and corrected according to your needs. 

Also, when you’re bored of this handlebar tape, replacing it is hassle-free because you won't have to spend ages scrubbing old glue off.

Although it feels solid and flexible, it doesn't 

Overall, it’s sturdy and provides good cushioning for the price point, and it’s hard to expect anything more for the price. Take note that it doesn’t have UV protection, though, reducing lifespan.

Pros:

  • Anti-slip feature provides a good grip.
  • Superb water-absorption properties.
  • Easy to wrap and position.
  • Very sturdy and flexible.

Cons:

  • Not a very beginner-friendly bar tape. It’s hard to wrap if you don’t have much experience since there’s no sticky backing.

Specs:

  • Material: EVA foam
  • Size (L, W, T): 78.7, 1.18, 0.11 inches
  • UV resistance: None
  • Weight: 3.2oz

Our Overview

This additional Kingou tape is another great, budget-friendly bar tape better-suited for those who love longer rides. 

It’s also a best handlebar tape contender due to the excellent cushioning, reduced stress on hands and improved comfort.

Such comfort is due to the excellent combination of EVA foam and PU leather, making it breathable and anti-slip on the long rides.

Please note that it comes without adhesive backing, making the wrapping process tricky for some and needing some strength and stretch. Also, it lacks UV protection, which makes it more prone to faster wear and tear.

Although, some pro bikers like it because you can easily unwind and wrap another for the diverse look. 

Pros:

  • Super soft material absorbs all vibrations.
  • Great cushioning for long-distance trips.
  • Versatile handlebar tape.
  • Excellent sweat absorption and anti-slip performance.

Cons:

  • Difficult to wrap due to no sticky backing.

Specs:

  • Material: EVA foam with a PU leather surface
  • Size (L, W, T): 79, 1.2, 0.11 inches
  • UV resistance: No
  • Weight: 3.2oz

 

modern road bicycle on parking

Conclusion

All the reviewed bar tapes either provide more cushioning and grip or improve the bike's appearance.

For me, the BV EVA Road Bike Handlebar Tape is the best pick of the bar tapes, with an excellent look and feel while remaining affordable.

It has ideal properties for long rides and reduced road vibration because of the EVA foam material.

Did you spot your favorite best handlebar tape? Let me know in the comments which one it is!

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