Zefal Skin Armor large is a 14-piece set of protective patches, designed to defend expensive frames/finishes against the scourge of unsightly cable rub and similar abrasive damage. Pre-cut shapes certainly save time, though a bit of trimming/customisation is still required when fitting the chain/seat stay strips to thinner diameter tubing.
Made from polyurethane, they cover the usual areas: head, top and down tubes, chain and seat stays. I was pleased to discover this kit also caters for crank arms. Sure, these lead easier lives given step-in pedals are pretty much default these days but depending on float and pedalling style, gritty over/shoes can still put swirls in pretty anodising, let alone composites.
At 250 microns, the strips are thicker than most of this genre, yet more malleable than helicopter tapes, which are also made from polyurethane. Therefore, I'm confident of Zefal's claims that these won't peel, crack or discolour.
Basically clean bikes just need a quick, precautionary cat-lick using alcohol wipes, though more extensive/ingrained grot calls for a good sudsy bucket wash and towel dry first. Applying at room temperature is recommended, although I've had no difficulty persuading ours to stick fast in the garage, albeit assisted with a hairdryer on gentle heat.
On the subject of adhesion, what Zefal calls 'glue shield technology' isn't a fancy way of saying its kind to all surfaces but describes a tenacious adhesive that's tolerant of minor readjustment on contact.
Simply choose your piece, peel it away and smooth in place using clean rag, avoiding lugwork, or TIG welds. Fourteen pieces is adequate for two contemporary geared bikes and even allowing for some judicious trimming, we're talking 30 minutes start to finish.
Aside from some very minor clouding, you'd need to have your nose pressed against the paintwork to spot them. There's been no tell-tale grimy patina developing around their edges either. Previous similar products have suffered from the solvents in maintenance sprays attacking the glue so the edges lift. Grit and grime got beneath and finished the job. Not a problem here.
Square and circular patches offer comprehensive coverage, protecting head tubes against brake and gear outers.
All remain firmly in place despite being subjected to greasy roads, post ride washes, polishes and PTFE overspray. Chainstay sections have fended off chain slap better than I'd expected, though they are the one piece that would benefit from being a few microns thicker.
Arguably, three, possibly six months is needed before arriving at concrete conclusions. Playing devil's advocate, pieces of good quality electrical tape could achieve much the same results, albeit without the same aesthetic allure. Nonetheless, initial impressions are favourable and £14 saves unsightly damage and potentially expensive repair.
Decent quality, largely invisible protective stickers; easy to apply but pricey compared with DIY tapes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Zefal Skin Armor L
Size tested: transparent
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?
'Made in polyurethane, the Skin Armor L is a high-resistance frame-protection against impacts and scratches. Easy to install with a powerful adhesive, it resists to ripping, UV light and temperature fluctuations". Seems a fair and accurate description
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
HIGH RESISTANCE > No rips, non-crack and secure attachment.
LONG LIFE > Durable.
WATERPROOF > Excellent water-resistance.
TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATIONS RESIST > From -30°C to +100°C / From -22°F to +212°F.
GLUE SHIELD TECHNOLOGY > Easy to install. High-resistance adhesive.
INVISIBLE > Transparent and adapted to all frames.
* Capacity : 14 patches
* Material : Polyurethane
* Size : L
* Thickness : 250 microns
Vastly superior to traditional protective patches to date and broadly on par with "helicopter" tapes.
Surprisingly hardy thus far but several months service may paint a different picture.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Proof in their durability lies three to six months down the line. £14 isn't cheap and a roll of 'helicopter' tape might prove better value for riders with several bikes. Nonetheless, these are very easy to apply and ours have resisted cable rub, solvents and grotty weather pretty convincingly to date.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Sturdy, yet malleable materials with decent adhesive and sensible shapes.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Though good quality, I can't help feeling reels of more generic PU ("helicopter") tapes represent better value, especially if you have several bikes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Quite possibly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were set on peel and stick convenience.
About the tester
Age: 41 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)