BBB BHT-14 FLEXRIBBON GEL BAR TAPE

12g (excluding plugs) £14.99

The BBB BHT-14 Flexribbon Gel Bar Tape is reckoned to absorb shock and offer excellent grip in all conditions. Almost three very changeable months of testing confirm it does the business, in every respect. A match for some super sticky polymer types, costing a good bit more and it’s easier to care for too.

Materials/Construction

 

It’s made from polyurethane, impregnated with a “shock proof micro-fibre” and available in a choice of five satin colours (red, blue, black; white and, of course, green).

Length/Ease of Fitting

Each kit comprises of two rolls, end plugs and finishing strips. At100cmx3cm, BBB haven’t been stingy on the lengths either. Ample for these flared drops - doubled up at key points and that’s even forgoing the “cheater” strips.

Being a thicker density than Genetic silicone handlebar tape, let alone more traditional cork-based models, achieving graceful, flowing lines took a few attempts.

Thankfully, it’s quite receptive to being stretched and bound pretty tightly. Will certainly tolerate the sorts of pressure you’d associate with corks. The backing adhesive is also very forgiving of being rewound - a godsend given I needed to replace a brake cable a few weeks into testing. Like most, finishing strips are adequate, rather than amazing, hence electrical insulation tape remains my go-to.     

Our green sample was pot luck but coordinated very nicely with my winter/trainer’s livery, especially the green Upso Stirling seat pack  and the Jagwire Pro road brake cable. It al.so seems to stand out quite well on murky midwinter days, without being garish, like fluro can be.

Texture

The diamond cut pattern and “orange peel” dimpled effect provides dependable purchase, regardless of glove, or weather, which wasn’t a complete surprise, given the Dutch climate’s changeable nature. It also comes in very handy when leaning the bike against wet, slippery wood and masonry, preventing the bike from sliding along and potentially falling over.

An extended mild spell period permitted mitts during the first fortnight’s testing. I was pleasantly surprised by the grip - one less thing to focus on when you’re weary at the end of a day’s riding and needing to concentrate on sweeping bends/potholes/suicidal rodents.

This song remained unchanged on shorter, 10 mile loops sans gloves and withy clammy hands. As the weeks rolled by, I wasn’t surprised by a grimy patina, even when I’d cleaned my hands following home fettling, or roadside mechanicals. 

A moot point, if you’ve gone for black but if you wanted something lighter, I’m pleased to report ingrained dirt lifts with modest effort, tickled with a medium-stiff brush dipped in a warm sudsy bucket. There’s no high tech coating to strip, so don’t be shy, the sort of pressure you’d apply to corks is fine. 

Talking of wet, when it’s lashing down, the flex ribbon doesn’t assume a more rubbery nature, like Lizard Skins DSP, rather the rain beads away, leaving the dimpled arrow patterning to do its thing. Gloves with silicone detailing around the palms and fingers have arguably been the best marriage, although traditional leather and faux hides haven’t presented any unpleasant surprises either. 

Damping

The tape’s density absorbs low level road and indeed, singletrack buzz remarkably well. Sure, good quality gloves will improve the qualities of any grip or bar wrap and it’s worth noting the test rig in question sports a ti stem, carbon forks and cro-moly frame.

Nonetheless, even after dusk ‘till dawn all-nighters, through poorly surfaced lanes and B roads, shoulder, arm and hand fatigue has been minimal. Better still, unlike aftermarket foam cushioning, it doesn’t leave the bars feeling remote and there’s been no hint of deforming, despite some white-knuckle descending on my part. Qualities that should have universal appeal, although particularly among gravel and rough stuff touring audiences.

Durability

In the short term at least, the flexribbon is holding up really well. While I’ve managed to avoid terra firma, I’ve not been particularly fussy about leaning it against rendered brickwork, smooth and rough sawn wood work etc. No obvious signs of wear/deterioration and as I’ve said earlier, it scrubs up pretty well too.

Conclusion

Contact points are very personal things. Natural silicones, such as the Genetic Bar Wrap are a bit dearer but win by a nose if damping and wet weather grip are top of your list. Their naturally gummy characteristics means they can be unwound and yes, even machine washed. Another definite plus, if you change cables seasonally. 

Describing the flexribbon as a pauper's polymer is doing it a disservice.

I’ve found it capable in every context. True, outright performance in the most challenging conditions, isn’t level pegging with space age polymers but the flexribbon is a fraction of the price and arguably a better choice for winter, cross and other hard working bikes.

Verdict 4/5 Great value bar tape, particularly suited to bikes in hard service.

Michael Stenning

www.windwave.co.uk

PUBLISHED DECEMBER 2017

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