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Ergon BT Orthocell Pad Set



Effective and unobtrusive padding but pricey compared with the alternatives
Sensible lengths and thickness
Good defence against intrusive, low-level vibration
You can't swap the pads between bars

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Ergon BT OrthoCell Pad Set is a high-density foam kit designed to be run under your bar tape with the promise of significantly improving comfort across the board – regardless of your riding position, the handlebar or the bar tape you're using. And after 500 miles, I'm inclined to say it does exactly what it says in the blurb. However, it is a good bit dearer than some gel/hybrid models, which may prove better value, especially if you're not fussed about a chunkier look.


These are pre-cut strips proudly made in Germany from OrthoCell, which is essentially an orthopaedic foam 2.5mm (or about 0.1in) thick, which promises to offer decent damping without too much excess bulk.

Ergon markets these at road, all-road, gravel and cyclocross riders but I'd say that tourists and audax riders should also consider them. Both the strips and the self-adhesive backing are conveniently cut, and while this can tolerate some readjustment, to correct a misalignment for example – once you've smoothed it down, you're committed.

It's also easy to prune. Just remember to measure carefully and to leave the backing intact.

Test bar

My fixed-gear winter trainer features a refined suspension stem, which made my rough stuff tourer the obvious choice, since it serves year-round both on and off road. The Souma Leather Handlebar Tape offers good grip and damping but is less effective than silicone tape, such as the Acros Silicone Wrap Handlebar Tape.

I also wanted to test Ergon's claim about providing 'noticeable comfort for all drop bars and bar tape'.

2023 Ergon BT Orthocell Pad Set - 4.jpg

My test bar was a Soma Condor 2, a big, swoopy riser-drop hybrid. I've used this for several years and find the anodised finish also helps adhesion of bar coverings. The tops are comparatively narrow, which meant I had to do a dry run to decide the best position, before finally committing myself.

After some deft pruning of the top sections with sharp scissors, I used a hairdryer on a gentle heat and smoothed it down using a clean microfibre cloth.

In milder weather, I suspect the hairdryer would've been unnecessary, but the foam proved trickier to mould nicely at minus two. The leather bar wrap had also contracted a little in the cold, requiring a couple of re-runs to achieve a smooth, even overlap and coverage.

The added padding gave a bit more body to the bar but without the result looking overly tubby.


The bar is designed so that you can spend most of the time riding on the drops, even off road. I rode the first 200 miles with the pad only fitted to one side, and I found the Ergon's benefits most noticeable on longer, mixed-terrain rides of 50-100 miles. Wearing my default gloves, my palms felt noticeably fresher, and pock-marked road surfaces, railway crossings, and other lumpy stuff that I couldn't swerve around were also less intrusive.

> Watch: learn how to wrap handlebar tape in 10 easy steps

Even factoring in the bike's 4130 triple-butted frame and carbon fork, the bar was more comfortable over washboard tarmac and unsurfaced lanes, which has the added advantage of improving front-end feel and control.

2023 Ergon BT Orthocell Pad Set - 3.jpg

I find some foams that are claimed to have a military heritage can be overly bulky, which in my experience makes them uncomfortable.

I've also used gel pads with varying degrees of success. Some have felt a little squidgy, reducing your direct connection with the riding surface on road and TT bikes. That said, I have found them effective on expedition tourers and tandems.

In keeping with my expectations of a memory foam, the Ergon pads have kept their shape and once fitted, they seem unaffected by changes in temperature.

And I do actually think that Ergon has created a product that works successfully across different cycling disciplines, delivering comfort without numbing the connection between your hands and the bar.


I've only clocked up 500 miles so far, which is a bit early for a definitive conclusion, but there's been no compression or sponginess. I did wonder whether the pads would stick to the bar tape's adhesive, potentially breaking down like some tape backings can, but winding back the tape suggested that wasn't an issue either, at least so far.


The £25 cost is at the upper end of what you might expect to pay. The Fizik Microtex Tacky Tape with Gel is a complete package of bar tape and gel for £29.99, which is a competitive price, or you can buy the Gel 2 Set strips on their own for £21.99.

You can also trim the gel to size and they won't harden or migrate. Bike Ribbon Gel Pads are available in soft, super soft and firm options for £17.99, and Rob appreciated their plushness when he tested them.

He found them highly effective at reducing fatigue on long rides, although commented that some riders may find them a bit bulky. Selle San Marco Presa Super Comfort Gel Inserts are £13.99 and are made from a hybrid blend of dual-density bio-foam and gel.


Price aside, I've been pleasantly surprised by the Ergon BT Orthacell's unobtrusive, shock-absorbing properties. Assuming you could justify the price, they are sleeker than gels without trading much comfort. It could be an absolute winner if you have a classic 1980s bike and love the period authenticity of that era's Benotto bar tapes but find the super-thin tape unforgiving.


Effective and unobtrusive padding but pricey compared with the alternatives test report

Make and model: Ergon BT Orthocell Pad Set

Size tested: n/a

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?

Ergon says: "More damping, better pressure distribution. The pads are made of orthopedic high-performance foam which significantly increase comfort on road bike handlebars. The high-end German-made OrthoCell® material relieves the hands and wrists in every grip position and reduces discomfort.

The OrthoCell® pads flawlessly absorb shocks and vibrations during the ride. On rougher terrain, optimal damping is a decisive factor in preventing fatigue and discomfort in the hands and wrists, allowing you to put in the best possible performance for hours on end "

My feelings are that these offer effective damping without giving your bar and bike a bulky aesthetic, but at the higher end of the market.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

"The OrthoCell® high-end foam used outperforms all gel alternatives with its superior material properties, making it the first choice for road cyclists who want more comfort without sacrificing performance. Compared to gel, OrthoCell® is more durable, does not break down, is more lightweight, and offers significantly better damping and pressure distribution."

Rate the product for quality of construction:

It's well made, relatively easy to fit and it responds very well to trimming. However, unlike some gels, the adhesive backing means you can't swap it between bars.

Rate the product for performance:

Factors such as bar tape and glove choice play their part, but I found the foam very effective at reducing low-level vibration and reducing fatigue, which was particularly noticeable on longer rides.

Rate the product for durability:

It hasn't compressed or deteriorated in any noticeable way after 500 miles of riding. I have unwound the bar wrap a couple of times and the adhesive hasn't made any impact on the foam.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)

The 20g weight really shouldn't faze many of us.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

Does a good job of reducing vibration on and off road. No tingling or similar discomfort to date.

Rate the product for value:

Worth the money, given the standards of performance, but relatively pricey compared with others on the market.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Overall, I have found the performance favourable. The low profile is very unobtrusive while offering decent defence against intrusive low-level vibration. Though never harsh, my rough-stuff tourer's leather bar wrap was less forgiving than silicones and polymers. The Ergon, though subtle, improved riding comfort over unmade roads and battle-scarred lanes without numbing the connection between your hands and the bar.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Light, discreet and effective.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing, given the design brief, but I feel it's pricey compared with gel-type pads.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

Fizik Microtex Tacky Tape with Gel is a complete package of bar tape and gel for £29.99, which is competitive by bar tape standards – or you can buy the gel part individually for £21.99.

You can also trim the gel strips to size, and they won't harden or migrate. Bike Ribbon Gel Pads are available in soft, super soft and firm options. Rob found them highly effective at reducing fatigue on some long rides, although commented that some may find them a bit bulky.

Selle San Marco Presa Super Comfort Gel Inserts are £13.99 and are made from a hybrid blend of dual-density bio-foam and gel.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Possibly

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Certainly worth a look

Use this box to explain your overall score

Effective and subtle upgrade if you're seeking additional comfort and refinement. Would be particularly suitable for older bikes with period authentic finishing kit, but it's relatively pricey compared with some of its competitors.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 49  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

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)

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