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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best handlebar tape for cycling 2024 — get some cost-effective comfort and grip by choosing quality bar tape

The best bar tapes combine cushioning, grip and durability to protect your hands and enhance your cycling comfort

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There’s nothing quite like replacing your bar tape to make your bike feel like new. Upgrading it is a small change that can make a significant difference to the way your bike feels in terms of comfort and control. The best bar tapes are comfortable, hard-wearing and grippy, and it doesn't hurt if it looks good and/or matches your bike too.


Your handlebar tape is the essential interface between your bike and part of your body that's full of nerve endings, sensitive tendons and small bones: your hands. It must deliver effective cushioning to minimise road vibrations and offer a secure, grippy surface for your hands to hang on to in all weather conditions. 

Handlebar tape is subject to continuous pressure and friction from your hands, as well as potential damage from falls and leaning against surfaces. Striking the right balance between cushioning, durability, and grip is challenging, leading to the wide variety of tapes available on the market.

After meticulously wrapping countless handlebars and logging many miles on both tarmac and gravel over the years, our top picks from the road.cc reviews team are below. If you're looking for a whole bar upgrade for your road bike, be sure to check out our guide to the best road bike handlebars too.

The best handlebar tapes for cycling: our top picks

ENVE Handlebar Tape

ENVE Handlebar Tape

9
Best overall handlebar tape
Buy now for £28.99 from Sigma Sports
Super comfy and excellent at reducing trail buzz from your hands
Really grippy in any weather
Is easy to fit (multiple times)
The cost is high (if you only use it once) but then so is the comfort

If you want increased comfort, excellent grip and smart looks then Enve's handlebar tape might be one of the best upgrades for your drop-bar bike. 

It might seem pricey on paper but it is designed to be re-used, and even if you only use it on one bike, the grip, control and comfort are all class-leading making it worth the outlay.

Tester Pat says, "It goes on easily, stays put, comes off and can be reused, and the accessories are actually worth it". Adding that, "it's grippy regardless of whether you have gloves or not, or whether it’s raining or not. That embossed Enve logo on the tape really does provide superb grip and a very secure connection between you and the bars".

KranX Stretta Eco-Grip Handlebar Tape

KranX Stretta Eco-Grip Handlebar Tape

8
Best budget handlebar tape
Buy now for £12.99 from Certini
Very cheap
Great grip
Wraps very well
Comfortable
Not one for you if you prefer thicker tape
It's on the shorter side
Only comes in black

KranX Stretta Eco-Grip Handlebar Tape is a top-quality bar tape at a very appealing price.

KranX says that this tape uses a 'blend of materials to give an enhanced feel and grip' and tester Josh says, "KranX seems to have really nailed the high-grip factor when it comes to its tapes, and I found this extremely grippy on everything from flat-out sprints to descending like my life depended on it. No matter what I've been doing, I haven't felt as though I was running out of grip, and I was never concerned that my hands would slip off the bar."

It also wraps easily, is comfortable, and is not too thick. 

Prime Comfort Bar Tape

Prime Comfort Bar Tape

9
Best value handlebar tape
Buy now for £17.99 from Wiggle
Good at damping vibes
Easy to wrap and re-wrap
Well priced
Logos wear off end plugs easily

Prime Comfort Handlebar Tape is an excellent way to add a little more comfort to your road bike, while also getting a boost in grip — and the price is a bargain. The tape wraps easily, is perfectly grippy in dry and wet conditions, comes with good finishing bits and seems to be lasting well. The gel back makes re-wrapping easy too.

Tester Liam writes: “Out on the road the comfort is instantly noticeable. The thickness is very much appreciated over less than perfect surfaces, and this tape does an impressive job of smoothing out the road buzz my SL7 can send my way. After having the bars smacked from my hands by a hidden pothole, I'm back to being a fan of grippy tape. That grip is there whether or not you're wearing mitts, and it's even pretty good in wet or sweaty conditions too."

“If you're looking for an upgrade but the price of the fancy tapes puts you off, the Prime Comfort Handlebar Tape is, erm, a prime candidate. It's thick, grippy, easy to wrap and holds up well.”

PNW Components Coast Bar Tape

PNW Components Coast Bar Tape

8
Best handlebar tape to reuse
Buy now for £17.4 from PNW Components
Good cushioning
Grippy
Sharp looks
Lifetime warranty
Not stretchy
Thick edges sit proud

PNW's Coast Bar Tape offers a thick, durable design with a lifetime warranty. The tape absorbs vibrations well, provides excellent grip in wet or dry conditions, and is available in eight different colours. You can also rewrap it if you change your bars or cables. 

Tester Mike writes, "At 2.4mm thick in the middle there's plenty of cushioning, and your hands will indeed thank you over buzzy surfaces. The grip is good dry or wet, with no tacky feeling. This light green colour does get grubby over time, but will wipe clean with isopropyl alcohol and so far shows no signs of degrading."

While its chunky appearance may not appeal to everyone, it's well-cushioned, strong enough to last a fair while, and includes alloy end plugs. 

Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Bar Tape

Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Bar Tape

9
Best bar tape for maximum cushioning
Buy now for £29.7 from Leisure Lakes
Easy to wrap
Very wide and potentially thick
End plugs too small for neatness

Wolf Tooth's Supple Lite Bar Tape has understated looks but is easy to wrap with a great feel and comfort. The 'Lite' bit refers to the fact that Wolf Tooth already does standard Supple tape which, believe it or not, is twice the 2.5mm thickness of this version. While that's aimed mainly at the rough-road rider, the Supple Lite is more at home on a tarmac bike.

There aren't any graphics, perforations or colour, just plain black, but what the tape does have is width. Measuring 40mm, Wolf Tooth's idea is that you can basically double-wrap your bars in a single sitting, thanks to the huge amount of overlap available. There's masses of length, too, so if you do choose a closer overlap there's no danger of running out of tape.

Tester Neil says, "I like riding with this tape. The foam has plenty of give; you can feel it shaping under your weight, but it's not squidgy or porous. Changing positions feels natural; there's just the right amount of tackiness to stop you slipping, but not to stop you moving at all. It's particularly good in wet weather since it shrugs off water".

Kinesis Anti-Slip Handlebar Tape Jo Burt Signature Series Reflective

Kinesis Anti-Slip Handlebar Tape Jo Burt Signature Series Reflective

8
Best handlebar tape to stand out
Buy now for £27 from Merlin Cycles
Comfortable
Grippy wet or dry
Good amount of stretch
Reflective
Is just a bit different!
Limited colours
Quite thick with no thickness options

Kinesis Signature bar tape is really comfortable and easy to fit, and this special edition, featuring text and a bit of humour from Jo Burt, adds a little style and fun to an otherwise pretty standard bit of kit.

Tester Matt writes: “The material feels very grippy and the 'anti-slip' in the name seems appropriate. Even when wet it stays grippy, which suits our typical British weather – perhaps even more so if putting this on a gravel bike, as I did. Water runs off the tape, so it won't absorb much rain or sweat as some tapes can."

“It works brilliantly, being comfortable, good in all weather, and easy to wrap, with Jo's illustrations adding a humorous helping of style and fun.”

Cannondale HexTack

Cannondale HexTack Silicone Bar Tape

9
Best handlebar tape for easy wrapping
Buy now for £22.99 from Cycle Store
Grippy
Cushioned
Reusable
Easy to wrap
Expensive
Only available in black or white

Cannondale's HexTack Silicone Bar Tape is an exceptional bar tape that's grippy, easy to wrap, reusable, and though the tape has a relatively slim profile, it's nicely cushioned. The tape is made from a foamy silicone, and though it doesn't directly stick to the bar, it stays in place.

Tester George said, "It hasn't shifted in the 300km+ of riding I've done since fitting it, which has included some horrendous weather. It's particularly impressive given that I tend to ride on the bar tops a lot, where I would have expected to see some shifting."

It only comes in either black or white, so if you're after something a little jazzier you'll need to look elsewhere.

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape V2 4.6mm

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape V2 4.6mm

8
Best money-no-object handlebar tape
Buy now for £29.99 from Tweeks Cycles
Super Fat and comfortable
Good grippy textured pattern
Shock absorption
Might not suit smaller hands
The price is high

If you are after the fattest, most comfortable shock-absorbing handlebar tape, then the Lizard Skins DSP V2 4.6mm should be right at the top of your list - if your hands are large enough. If not and you are of slighter build you might find enough comfort in the slimmer DSP V2 options.

Lizard Skins has updated its line of DSP handlebar tapes with all versions of tape (1.8, 2.5, 3.2 and the 4.6mm that we have here) getting the V2 polymer upgrade to offer better durability and increased comfort. It's a smart long-lasting grippy handlebar tape that provides an added boost of comfort to your ride and tester Patrick said, "The overall impression is one of luxury comfort for those who like a fat bar tape". 

It does come at a price though, with an RRP of £47, but it's currently on offer for just under £30. 

Souma Leather Handlebar Tape

Souma Leather Handlebar Tape

8
Best leather handlebar tape
Buy now for £62 from Souma Leather
Top quality hide and finishing kit
Generous Length
Relatively low maintenance
Qualities improve with use
Durable
Time-consuming to fit

Leather bar tapes are a luxury but still very practical and durable, given basic care. The Souma Leather Handlebar Tape is made in Italy and it's expensive but the quality is impressive. 

Souma produces this from full grain cowhide which is widely regarded as premium quality leather - it's the strongest and most durable layer of hide. The bar tape is offered in three colours and every bit as refined as the price would suggest. In common with traditional leather saddles, performance improves with use – great looks, grip and durability are the rewards.

Tester Shaun says, "Grip is impressive in gloves or bare hands, and continues to improve over time. Even on our first outing, the glossy hide offered reliable tenure, allowing me to concentrate on a steady cadence and obviously, my surroundings. This only improved as time went on and a superficial patina developed. After a couple of hours in the rain the hide will hold onto moisture, but that has no negative implications grip-wise."

Brooks Cambium Ergonomic Grips

Brooks Cambium Ergonomic Grips

8
Best handlebar grips
Buy now for £54.99 from Balfe's Bikes
Very comfortable shape
Unusually nice end plugs
Very firm
Expensive
Very firm

Brooks' Cambium Ergonomic Grips are well-shaped and do a great job of supporting your hands if you ride a flat-bar bike. They are asymmetrical in shape, slightly convex on the top to fill your palm, and slightly concave underneath to give your fingertips a place to be. The top surface has a covering of fabric, rather like the top of one of Brooks' Cambium saddles. On the underside, ridges in the rubber help with grip.

Fitting the grips is also an easy process and while they are expensive, they come with some rather nice Brooks-logo end plugs that feature an aluminium body and rubber flanges to grip the inside of the bar. 

How to choose from the best handlebar tapes for cycling

faq-icon
How should I wrap bar tape?

There are various methods, but first, you're going to want to make sure that your handlebars are clean and free of old tape and any residue.

One of the most common approaches is to start from the bottom of the drops, overlapping each wrap by about half the width of the tape to create a uniform grip, ensuring you keep a consistent tension on the tape as you wrap. When you approach the brake levers, make a diagonal cut in the tape to help wrap it around neatly. The finishing touches involve securing the end of the tape near the stem, either with the provided finishing tape or electrical tape, ensuring the tape is tightly wrapped all the way around with no gaps exposing the handlebar underneath. 

For a full explainer, check out our video from the archives on how to wrap handlebar tape in 10 easy steps. 

faq-icon
What is handlebar tape made of?

Bar tapes are made from a fairly wide range of materials, with lots of variation in the details; it's the materials and how they're used that determines how the tape will feel under your hands. Bar tape can be made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), poly(ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam (EVA), polyurethane (PU), polyester microfibre, silicone, or leather, often blended and bonded to get the feel the designers are aiming for. Brooks Cambium Rubber Tape, for example, has a polyurethane coating over a polyester and EVA mixture, while cork tape combines tiny bits of cork with an EVA matrix (an idea claimed by Antonio Colombo of Cinelli). You might also run across the abbreviation TNT which stands for the Italian Tessuto Non Tessuto. That indicates there's a nonwoven fabric somewhere in the mix and not that your handlebar tape is in any danger of exploding.

Silicone tape is the newest addition to your bar-covering choices and it's rapidly become extremely popular. Silicone is a synthetic polymer with a molecular backbone of silicon and oxygen atoms whereas more conventional polymers like polythene have a backbone of carbon atoms. Formed into bar tape it's grippy, easy to clean and can be made in various thicknesses depending on how much cushioning you want. It's also reusable because its slight tackiness means it stays in place on handlebars without the glue backing usually used on other tapes. Silicone tapes are generally more expensive, but if you reuse it just once you'll usually break even.

faq-icon
How often should you change handlebar tape?

How often you need to change your bar tape will depend on how often you ride and the riding conditions, but as a general guideline, you should consider replacing your handlebar tape annually or biannually, or sooner if you notice signs of wear or reduced comfort. 

It's also recommended that you check the condition of your bars regularly as sweat from the turbo and salt from the roads can cause corrosion.

faq-icon
Can you reuse handlebar tape?

Rewrapping handlebar tape is possible, and some types are more conducive to being rewrapped than others. While the adhesive backing on certain tapes may lose effectiveness after removal, it doesn't necessarily hinder its ability to be rewrapped, provided you secure it tightly with electrical tape. If the tape is in good condition - not overly stretched - and was removed without causing damage, attempting to reuse it is worthwhile. 

faq-icon
How do you finish bar tape?

In the package with your bar tape, you'll find a couple of strips of adhesive-backed plastic to hold down the tape where it terminates by the stem. Many of these strips are frankly useless and you're better off using good-quality electrical tape (I like Nitto's). Props to Enve and Wolf Tooth for their reusable silicone finishing tape. Brooks uses a nice cotton finishing tape which also works well.

faq-icon
What are bar end plugs?

Most handlebar tape comes with end plugs to hold the tape in place at the ends of your handlebar. This also acts as a protective finish for your bars. When selecting bar end plugs, it's essential to ensure they are compatible with the type of handlebars on your bike, and that they securely fit into the open ends.

Many road.cc staffers prefer plugs that use an expander mechanism; they tend to stay in place rather better than plugs that just push in. They do tend to be heavier and more expensive though.

faq-icon
What is the best thickness of handlebar tape?

New handlebar tape can greatly improve your comfort at the front of your bike, but there's no one-size-fits-all answer. The best thickness will vary from rider to rider depending on your personal preferences and riding style. 

Thick tape provides more cushioning and can absorb vibrations better, which enhances comfort. Thinner tape is lighter and may offer a more direct feel on the handlebars. If you ride on rough or uneven surfaces thicker tape can offer better shock absorption, while thinner tape may be sufficient on smooth roads. 

It will also depend on your hand size. Riders with smaller hands might prefer the feel of thinner tape. 

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…

Add new comment

9 comments

Avatar
kinderje | 3 months ago
0 likes

BBB Flex Ribbon as recommended by Francis Cade. Superb tape that's around £15, easy to fit and looks good.

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David9694 | 3 months ago
0 likes

Ritchey Classic (the only decent finishing tape I've ever met), Condor Cork or Fizik Superlight.

Criteria: Easy to apply (I.e. have got some stretch), not too pricey, durable and cleanable

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marmotte27 | 3 months ago
0 likes

Cotton tape plus shellac. Didn't have to change my tape in the last seven years...

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Lozcan | 3 months ago
0 likes

So Cinelli then.

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Brauchsel | 3 months ago
1 like

Is reusability a big selling point for bar tape? I tend only to remove tape once it's worn out, and the idea of swapping it between bars/bikes seems like a colossal ballache. 

Avatar
Woldsman replied to Brauchsel | 3 months ago
0 likes

Brauchsel wrote:

Is reusability a big selling point for bar tape? I tend only to remove tape once it's worn out, and the idea of swapping it between bars/bikes seems like a colossal ballache.

When I pinched a decent groupset from an old bike, fitted it to a new (to me) frameset and put some hand-me-down gear back on the old bike I reused the existing tape to keep the costs down. A careful rewrap and some new electrical adhesive tape and job's a good un.

Not always available online, but if buying from an LBS my recommendations would be Giant Connect gel bar tape(£12?) or Specialized Phat tape - around £23. 

Avatar
mark1a replied to Woldsman | 3 months ago
0 likes

Specialized Phat tape (along with Roubaix tape) were favourites of mine too, with the gel pads. Unfortunately they've been unavailable since around 2020. Specialized now sell Supacaz, which is in itself decent tape, but doesn't have the feel and padding of Phat or Roubaix. Supacaz founder is Anthony Sinyard - son of Specialized founder Mike Sinyard, so I can't imagine it was a difficult pitch to get Supacaz products into Specialized. 

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andystow | 3 months ago
0 likes

I'm quite happy with the Wolf Tooth, and it's lasted quite a long time compared to some others I've tried.

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hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes

I'm a fan of the Cycology bar tape and am on my second lot. They've got some great designs https://www.cycologygear.co.uk/collections/bartape

(I'm also a fan of their clothing)