Brooks' leather bar tape has appeal beyond retro builds and classic bikes, thanks to its longevity and good looks, but it's not the comfiest bar tape around, or the cheapest.
At £40 (a bit less if you shop around), you expect some quality tape and that's what you get, crafted from leather and perforated with an adhesive tape backing. There's also some nice cloth strips to replace the more usual insulating tape and some cork bar-end plugs too.
It's not the most flexible tape so it's a bit of a pain to fit but once it's there it stays put and looks lovely, acquiring that nice leathery patina over time. It does absorb a lot of water when wet, but it doesn't affect the level of grip, which is okay but not up to modern synthetic levels. Nor is the comfort level; it's quite a hard tape and if you like a lot of cushioning it's not the one for you.
The most appealing aspect of the tape is its longevity. I've had this tape on three bikes, over the course of six months now - not something you can do with most synthetic tapes which would rip. It's as good as new; better than new, in fact, because it looks nicer now than it did straight out of the box. Keep it on one steed and it should last for ever, basically. If you want reliability and a classic look, and you're prepared to spend the cash, it's an obvious choice - I really like it. Gilles Berthoud and Cinelli both make leather tape too, but you'll be paying even more for those, especially the (admittedly very classy) Cinelli Imperial which is much thicker and which has comfort very much to the fore. But if you just want good bar tape then synthetic alternatives are cheaper and comfier.
High quality bar tape that looks good and lasts for ever, but not the comfiest
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Brooks Leather handlebar tape
Size tested: Tan
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?
Brooks has reintroduced a classic product that may force many cyclists, more familiar with modern alternatives, to reassess the material they rely on for grip and comfort. Leather, a naturally durable and breathable material, has been overtaken by a plethora of man-made fibers and materials in recent years but could be on the verge of a comeback among cycling aficionados.
Andrea Meneghelli explains: 'Some good things just never change. One of these is certainly leather, a material used since thousands of years for clothing, shoes, etc because of its unique properties. Sometimes innovation for innovation's sake sees traditional materials - which are still capable of outperforming newer ones - left behind as fashions change. Today most handlebar tapes are made of plastic, synthetic cork or micro-fibres but Brooks believes that by reintroducing leather it could become the next big thing among discerning cyclists.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2 strips of adhesive perforated leather bar tape.
2 adhesive cloth strips.
2 bar end plugs made of cork and wood, featuring the Brooks logo.
one of the ends came off one of the cork bar-end plugs, but it glued back on. other than that, perfect
Judged solely on performance it's good without being exceptional
Should last pretty much for ever
Again, not the best ever in comfort terms
£40 is a lot of money for some bar tape, but it will last
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The look and the durability
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes and no, but mostly less
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes for the right application
About the tester
Age: 38 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, 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.