Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review - Fi'zi:k Bar Gel / Microtex Handlebar Tape

Another recycled bit of my content from Cyclechat, I'm afraid.

Bought From Ribble Cycles
Price: £16.95

This tape/gel kit was bought to replace the tape supplied on my Giant SCR2.0 when I bought it. The tape originally on the Giant is a plastic foam type tape - cushy, and quite squashy, but not terribly nice under the hand (plasticky in feel).

Having been impressed with Fi'zi:k's products already (the Arione saddle being one of my favourite things ever) I decided to buy their bar tape to replace my OEM tape.

First Impressions:
The tape arrived quickly from Ribble, and this set consists of 4 pads of "technogel", which sit under the tape (2x curved pieces for the bar tops, 2x straight pieces for the drops), two rolls of microtex tape, a couple of short pieces to cover the brake lever clamps, two end plugs and two finishing tapes.

The microtex material looks and feels a bit like suede, and the rolls of tape have short sections at the beginning and end that are plain, thereafter the tape has rows of perforations. The tape is described as "thin" by Fi'zi:k, and bad memories of the electrical tape like bar tapes of the eighties led me to choose the gel + tape set. I have to say that on examining the tape, the thickness of it seems to me to be more akin to a cork type tape, with a thicker (if not exactly fat) section in the middle. Were I choosing again, I'd feel a bit more confident about going for the tape alone.

The end plugs are plain black with an embossed ":K" logo (the bar tape is black in this set) and the finishing tape is black with a repeated fi'zi:k logo in silver printed on it).

The technogel pads can be cut to size as required, and are, apparently, reusable (they can be washed in soap and water to restore the tackiness of the underside, and stuck to the bars again).

The technogel pads go on first - on my bike (a large frame, presumably meaning wide bars too) the straight technogel pads were large enough to cover from the lever clamp down to the end of the bars quite easily. On the tops, fitting of the gel was a bit more problematic, with the curve of the gel pieces not quite the right fit for the bars. fortunately the gel is quite malleable, and can be pulled into shape as required. The adhesive on the back of the technogel is tacky rather than sticky, so I used electrical tape to hold the pieces in place prior to wrapping.

The bar tape pieces for the brake lever clamps were generously sized, and had to be cut down slightly so as not to interfere with the pegs on the inside of the hoods that help keep the hoods in place (Tiagra shifters). These pieces needed to be taped as well, as the adhesive on them isn't quite strong enough to keep them in place while wrapping. With hindsight, I wonder if a better option here might be to cut a hole in these pieces to allow the peg to go through the tape, as the shorter tape pieces don't grip the lever bodies very well.

The main rolls of tape are generously sized, and I'd estimate that they could easily have wrapped my bars right up to the stem clamp, even over the gel. The tape stretches well, and seemed to hold up to repeated unwrapping and rewrapping excellently. (Having only wrapped one set of bars in the past, I inevitably went the wrong way on one side, didn't notice a gappy bit by the curve of the drops etc etc).

One of the tape rolls seemed to have a defect in the application of adhesive on it's reverse side, in that whilst peeling the backing off, the adhesive strip was removed as well. (for about 8-10 inches of the tape). This didn't affect the wrap (it was possible to continue) but was slightly disappointing. Again, the strength of the adhesive seemed nicely judged, strong enough to hold the tape in place during the wrap, but not so strong as to damage the tape if removed to rewrap.

The method used was the "self tightening" method from Park Tool's web site. To finish the tape, I used black electrical tape at the stem end, with the tape edge melted slightly using a heated screwdriver blade. (Be careful doing this!) Fi'zi:k's finishing tape went over the top of that, again with the edges melted slightly. Melting the edges seems to stop the tape edge from peeling back, which can happen after use.

On the Bike:
The feel of the tape itself is very nice - the suede like finish of the microtex feels secure and nicely grippy. The gels seem to absorb vibration without being squishy in feel, and overall, this is an improvement on the OEM tape on the bike. With hindsight, I think I'd not fit the bar top gels if I was to do this again, but then I don't ride on the tops/hoods much at all.

The gels and tape can be bought separately for around £12 and £9 respectively - the set I bought including both has black tape only, although more colour options are available if you buy the tape separately.

Ribble Cycles - Bar:Gel Handlebar Tape Kit
Park Tool Drop Bar Wrapping Guide
Bicycletutor Drop Bar Wrapping Guide

No comments: