Ever hit a trail where every bump felt like a direct message from the gravel gods? I have. And it led me to a revelation about one of the most underrated heroes of our rides: bar tape. Stick around as I share a tale that might just change your ride forever, plus all the insider info on choosing the best bar tape for your gravel grinding and all-road adventures.
Why Bar Tape Matters for Gravel and All-Road Riding
Riding gravel and all-road isn’t just about challenging terrains; it’s about the sheer joy of exploration. But joy can quickly turn to dread if every vibration feels like it’s rattling your bones (and my low back 😣, but this is a story for another day). That's where bar tape comes in – it’s not just for looks. The right tape absorbs those jarring vibrations, gives you a killer grip even when Mother Nature throws in a surprise rain shower, and yes, it can even add a splash of style to your steed.
Key Features to Look For in Gravel Bar Tape
When you’re miles from anywhere, the last thing you want is tape that gives up. Here’s what to look for:
- Cushioning: Thicker isn’t always better, but it does mean more shock absorption. Look for a balance that feels good under your gloves. Gel-backed tapes offer that great compromise.
- Durability: Gravel riding is tough. Your bar tape needs to be tougher. Synthetic materials like polyurethane and silicone can take a beating while keeping your bars in good hands.
- Grip&Feel: Wet or dry, your hands need to stay put. A good gravel bar tape offers a confident grip in all conditions. Especially if you ride without gloves, that first touch feeling is a must.
- Ease of Cleaning: Mud happens. A lot. Easy-clean tape means your bike can be photo-ready faster.
- Installation (and removal): Nobody wants to wrestle with their bar tape. Look for something that goes on easy and stays put. And when you want to replace it, the last thing you want is sticky glue residues, so I recommend you to opt for gel backed bar tape without glue backing.
Top Picks for Gravel and All-Road Bar TapeI've wrapped my bars in everything from budget tape to the high-end stuff, and with lots and lots of prototypes of our own product. While I’m itching to share about the upcoming AMS bar tape (hang tight, it's coming, and it's not nice I say it, but beats all of them 🤘), here are three standouts:
All three are Mid to High Cushioning Options: Perfect for those bone-rattling routes. I’ve found that tapes like Enve Bar Tape (3mm thick), Ergon Bar Tape All Road (2.5mm thick) and Silca Nastro Cuscino (2.5mm thick) strike a great balance between cushion and control.
Expert Tips for Choosing and Installing Bar Tape
Matching bar tape to your riding style and conditions can make a huge difference. Even if you're not keen on getting your hands dirty, wrapping your own bar tape can add a personal touch to your bike. Here’s a quick guide:
- Start Clean: Remove old tape and residue (this won’t happen with a gel backed tape) for a smooth wrap.
- Overlap Wisely: About a third of the tape width gives you a plush, even wrap without bulk.
- Finish Strong: Electrical tape is your friend for securing the ends, but most high quality tape will come with finishing tape. Tuck, wrap, and seal.
Anticipating the Launch of AMS Bar Tape
Why am I hyped about this? Because AMS has been listening to us riders. We’re talking about a bar tape that’s designed with gravel grit and all-road resilience in mind. Stay tuned!
Choosing the right bar tape isn’t just about comfort; it’s about making your bike an extension of your adventurous spirit. With the right tape, you’ll feel the difference on long climbs, technical descents, and everything in between. Don't save on bar tape. In the end even premium tape isn't expensive and can last quite long, so it's always a great investment.
Having spent years testing various bar tapes, honing in on what distinguishes the good from the great, I've gained a deep appreciation for the nuances that elevate a ride. Recently, I've had the privilege of installing the latest and validated prototype of AMS's new bar tape on my bike. It's thrilling to think that soon, you too will have the chance to experience this game-changer. Remember, the most memorable rides are those where your gear seamlessly supports your adventure, allowing you to immerse in the joy of the journey.
This is precisely what AMS aims to achieve with their cutting-edge bar tape. Now that I have it on my bars and have hit the road and gravel paths, I can't wait for you to feel the difference it makes – I'm sure you'll be just as enthused.
Q: How often should I replace my bar tape?
A: Depends on your riding frequency and conditions. It’s very personal: how you grip it, the conditions and the hours on it, but you’ll notice when it's worn out. Generally, once a season keeps it fresh
Q: Can I reuse bar tape?
A: Most tapes are a one-and-done deal, especially if adhesive-backed. But there are exceptions.
Q: What’s the best way to clean bar tape?
A: Mild soap and water usually do the trick. Avoid harsh cleaners that can degrade the material.
Choosing the best bar tape for gravel isn't just a minor detail; it's a critical component of your ride comfort and control. Whether you're a seasoned gravel grinder or just starting to explore all-road terrains, remember that every choice you make, from your gear to your route, shapes your adventure. And with the right bar tape under your palms, you're ready to take on whatever the path ahead throws your way.