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The Selle Italia Shock Absorber kit is a nice all-in-one option if you're looking to add a bit of comfort to the front of your bike. The kit has everything you need, and the performance is good; it's a fairly expensive way of adding more padding, though.
In the box you get two rolls of tape and four pads, along with the bits and pieces necessary to finish the installation: extra tape sections to cover the lever brackets, bar end plugs and tape. Two of the pads are shaped to follow the contour of the bar curve from the tops to the hoods, and the others are straight to attach to the drops. The pads themselves are gel, with a Lycra cover and an adhesive strip along the back to hold them in place when you're taping.
The pads look very bulky when you first place them on the bar, and the adhesive isn't very strong so they tend to fall off and move about a bit. Once you start taping the bar they compress quite a bit, and the resulting bar profile isn't hugely increased in size.
The bar tape itself is high quality, with a microfibre base and a textured rubber outer. It's not very flexible so it's not the easiest to work into the nooks and crannies, but it's very strong so you can wrap it nice and tight without fear of it snapping. You may or may not want Selle Italia logos all over your bars; you can wrap it in the other direction to hide them. Make sure you don't reverse the tape direction around the levers, though, or you could end up with logos on one bit and not the other.
In use the tape itself is very good. It's hardwearing and it offers excellent grip whether it's wet or dry. The pads do have an effect, although it's fairly subtle. Over a long ride (8 hours) I found that I was less troubled by tingly hands than I would be with just a normal wrap of tape, but the Shock Absorber Kit didn't really make the bar feel that different.
The tape itself is quite solid, so it doesn't feel like there's too much give in it, but the combination of the pads and the tape is better overall than just a really soft tape, and more hardwearing. This isn't like fitting a suspension fork or anything, it's just an incremental comfort gain, and it doesn't cost you much in terms of a weight penalty.
It does cost you in terms of actual cash, though: 40 quid is a fair wedge for some bar tape, although some (Supacaz Sticky Kush and Fizik Terra Microtex Tacky, to name two) retail for north of 30 on their own. Both of those offer good levels of comfort, too. Buying pads and tape separately can work out cheaper, and Fizik's equivalent boxed set costs £14 less at retail.
Of course, if you're re-taping your bars then you have ample shock absorbing material to stick under your new bar tape, in the shape of your old bar tape. My preferred route is still to cut some pads from the old stuff to stick under the new where I need it, as it's cheaper, and also means you can tailor the padding to be specifically what you want.
If you're looking for an easy-to-fit solution out of the box, though, this is a decent buy even if it is a bit expensive.
Good quality bar tape with a useful extra level of padding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Selle Italia Shock Absorber Kit
Size tested: One
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?
From Selle Italia:
Uneven surfaces, rough asphalt, cobblestones... The stresses coming from the road are transmitted directly to the handlebar in the form of unpleasant vibrations, which in short time can turn into annoying tingling to the hands, compromising comfort and grip on the handlebar, with inevitable negative repercussions also on performance and safety.
To be able to absorb and reduce them to the minimum, you need a handlebar with 'muscles': a simple but brilliant idea introduced by the Shock-Absorber Kit by Selle Italia.
Shock-Absorber Kit consists of two elements: Bar Pads and SG-Tape.
SG-Tape is a special tape with grip that allows you to ensure even greater comfort and better grip on the handlebar, bringing advantages in both performance and safety on the saddle.
The Bar Pads are made up of three layers of different materials: the first, in gel, helps to simulate the behavior of a muscle, compressing at the support and recovering in a few seconds the original shape, as soon as the pressure of the hand is removed. Besides the gel layer, the addition of PU Foam and a third Lycra layer help to increase the softness of the Bar Pads.
The Shock-Absorber Kit by Selle Italia, thanks to the combination of the bar pads with the special tape with grip, ensures a high level of comfort at all times, while also offering a better grip on the handlebar, all to the benefit of performance and safety.
Thanks to the particular assembly of these two components, the Shock-Absorber Kit, in addition to being one of the lightest on the market, also performs a combined action that produces a very effective absorption of vibrations from the ground, the ultimate solution to the discomfort caused to hands and wrists by driving in difficult conditions, so far difficult to solve.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's good: the tape itself has good grip and is hardwearing. The effect of the pads is subtle, but it is there.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good grip and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive, adhesive on pads is too weak.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's cheaper to cut your own pads from bar tape (obviously), and you can also save a bit by buying pads and tape separately. Fizik's equivalent boxed set is £26.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's good tape, and the pad effect is there even if it is quite subtle. So good performance, but given the cheaper options it's decent rather than good overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.