Brooks makes 3 types of bar tape. Actually, they don’t make any bar tape at all. Fizik makes it for them. That’s ok, cause Fizik makes really nice bar tape. If this Brooks branded tape didn’t exist, we’d stock the Fizik tape, and our cotton tape, and that’s it. Although the name Fizik implies that they specialize in making 90’s women’s aerobic gear, the company knows how to put together a durable, nice looking, and comfortable tape.
Most bar tape is bad. Of course to a degree, ‘bad’ is subjective, we know you are secretly here reading this write up because you want our subjective take on whatever it is you are reading about.
Bad bar tape 101:
Bar bar tape has bad glue. This can be anything from totally lacking an adhesive back, to having too strong of an adhesive, or too much of it, ie too wide a strip. All of these make starting the tape, correcting a wrap line, or finishing a tape harder. Good adhesives should be narrow, less than a ⅓ of the bar tape if it’s double stick tape. Gel adhesives can be wider, but they need to be tacky enough to actually stick.
Bad stretching: Wrap jobs are further complicated by materials that don’t stretch properly: when you wrap bends, they bunch, rather than stretch. Too much stretch and the tape can tear: see cheap foam tapes.
Bad bar plugs. This seems like a minor detail. Of course you can replace your bar plugs with something other than the stock plugs, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask to get a set of functional, nice looking plugs in the bar tape box. Bad plugs fall out of the end of the handlebar, especially if you wrap your bars the right way. Bad plugs look cheap: chromed plastic is classy as a Pontiac Aztec. Good bar plugs don’t fall out, they don’t look terrible, they don’t gouge your frame if they thump it, they’re easy to install, and not impossible to remove if you wanna switch to bar-ends.
Bad material. This is a can of worms, but a number of things make a tape material bad. One is foam. 99% of bar tape foam is garbage. ‘Cork’, ‘Gel Cork’, ‘Gel’ and other names like that are just fancy ways to say foam tape. Sometimes the tape has a gel backing which has no padding value, but is rather used for a releasable adhesive backing. This is akin to advertising a B17 special as a copper saddle, because it has copper rivets. Foam tapes often have a cork element. This element is about as bogus as ‘wool’ socks that have 5% wool in them. The cork exists as tiny flakes in a foam base. Even the tapes that look like legit cork are just foam thrown in a blender with a bit of cork, and colored to look like cork. Don’t buy it thinking you are getting tape that’s nice and organic feeling. Most foam packs down quickly. Foam tapes from almost all the leading brands feel great when you wrap them, but feel like an old pair of Payless running shoes in a few miles. The foam is also easily torn. Lean the bike against a brick wall a bit too brusquely, or crash it on some single track, and boom, there goes your tape. Foam tape is a scam. It exists because it’s incredibly cheap to make, but it can be sold for a decent amount of money. Typical foam tapes are 16-18 bucks. You need to replace it every year or maybe even more depending on how ya ride.
The Brooks Microfiber tape is the antithesis of those foam tapes. It has stretch, but also strength. You can really pull on it when you're wrapping it to get a clean and even line. We like it better than the Brooks Leather tape because it ages better, it pretty much doesn't change at all even in sun or riding it lots of wet conditions. The brown and black are our favorites. We probably sell 80% black and 20% brown/honey. Comes with bar plugs and finishing tape.
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