Bar phat is not so much a tape as a damping system designed to reduce pressure on the hands; Specialized claim by as much as fifty percent. This makes it an obvious choice for Audax but also useful for cross and similar disciplines. Far from simply being another gel tape, the system uses four elastomer pads that fit on the top and drop sections of the bars. Tailoring the cushioning to the crucial areas provides good levels of comfort without ruining your bike’s aesthetics.
Clean and dry older bars thoroughly using a citrus-based degreaser before positioning the gel pads. Mercifully, these are re-useable and tolerant of manipulation so it’s not crucial to get their positioning right first time and they can be trimmed to accommodate pretty much any bar; they could even be shared between two if required. Once you're satisfied with their positioning, bind the suede texture Roubaix wrap as normal.
Performance is excellent, the gel providing welcome insulation from road and trail buzz. There’s ample coverage for 46+cm drops and while you arguably get the best aesthetics with Specialized’s own tape, pairing the pads to the latest generation of polymer tape gives unparalleled comfort, albeit with a chunkier look. The Bar Phat is the best commercially available shock absorbent handlebar covering I have used and it should, coupled with a decent set of mitts, solve most vibration induced hand numbness.
An effective and inexpensive comfort upgrade for your bars
road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Bar Phat bar tape
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bar Phat is a damping system consisting of self adhesive gel pads and Roubaix tape. the primary market is mile munching roadies but it will suit anyone needing additional relief from numbness.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Elastomer gel pieces fit to the tops and drops of the bar and there's a choive of thinner (2.5mm) Roubaix wrap or the super thick 4.5mm version. Specialized claim 40-50% stress reduction dependant upon thickness used.
Despite some tweaking and adjustment,all components seem durable and the Roubaix wrap is no exception.
60g is a small price to pay for comfort.
Superb, in my experience, only a polymer based tape has been better.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very, very efficient, especially on prolonged rides over variable surfaces. Tape can show marks more obviously than some but is reasonably easy to clean.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Unique, tunable system which can be used with other tapes and other bikes as required.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)