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Selle Italia's Smootape is a solution to a problem I never really knew existed: it's a bar tape that sits flat and smooth when wrapped around the bar, as opposed to having ridges on the overlaps. This extra padded Gran Fondo version is very comfortable, though, so maybe keeping it smooth is a good thing.
If you tend to ride without gloves then comfortable bar tape is going to be quite high on your list of priorities, and this Smootape is a good choice. It's reasonably padded (the Gran Fondo version here is a little thicker than others in the range) without being bulky and offers plenty of grip.
What makes the Smootape 'special' is that both edges on the underside are tapered, so when you wrap the tape around the handlebar the overlaps remain totally flat as long as you line it up right.
It's not foolproof, though, as it only works out when you don't have to tighten the tape wraps for the tight bends around the hoods and shifters, for instance. It does work where you are likely to have your hands for most of the ride, though, in the bottom of the drops and on the tops for instance.
As I've said, the Smootape is comfortable but I think that is more to do with the tape itself rather than the way it is wrapped. Just to check, I rewrapped one side of the handlebar without being too worried about lining up the tapers, so left the tape with the usual overlaps. Comparing the two, there was very little difference between them.
The tape itself has a decent thickness and a certain amount of give to take the sting out of road buzz. It has plenty of stretch, too, when you are wrapping it around the bar, so tight bends and the like won't see you struggle to keep things taut. The back is tacky enough to grip the bar but you can unwind it and reapply if needs be.
The Gran Fondo version has an rrp of £17.99 which isn't excessive for a tape of this quality. Decent performers are similar, like Fizik's Performance range at £16.99 or Fabric's Hex tape at £19.99, so the Smootape is in good company.
On the whole, I'd buy the Smootape because it is a decent performing bar tape in terms of comfort and ease of fit, even without the tapered edges.
If you don't like bumps in your bar tape then this is the stuff for you, with excellent comfort levels
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Selle Italia Smootape Gran Fondo Bar Tape
Size tested: Dimensions: 35x1800 mm
Tell us what the product is for
Selle Italia says, "LONG DISTANCE IS GRANFONDO
The smooth tape texture reinforced with EVA provides an easy firm grip and high comfort levels even for long-distance tracks. Asymmetrical hollowing makes for a smooth overlap and keeps vibrations to an absolute minimum. Durable and easy to wipe clean or replace, GRANFONDO Smootape comes in 5 different colours."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Dimensions: 35x1800 mm
Colours: Black, Blue, Green, Pink, Red, White and Yellow
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The benefits of the smooth finish are minor but on the whole the Smootape is a very comfortable bar tape.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Ease of fitment.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not as revolutionary as it makes out.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
While the whole 'smooth finish' thing might not be a major performance gain, the tape itself is good quality, easy to fit and very comfortable for a decent price.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!