BOBBIN LEATHER HANDLEBAR TAPE
Long term (18months) test 128g £54.99
Bobbin Leather Handlebar Tape has graced my fixed gear winter/trainer’s big curly bars for eighteen months. Leather wraps and, indeed, other accessories have enjoyed a quiet resurgence over the past decade, particularly among fixed gear and retro-fans.
Given the asking price, it seems a bit extravagant for working bikes. However, the Bobbin has resisted the inevitable rough 'n’ tumble remarkably well and proved generally hardier than some household names.
In response to the BSE crisis, until recently, EU cattle were slaughtered at 30 months, but Texan cows lead longer lives. This may go some way to explaining its durability. Treating ours to a light lick of leather preserve on a six weekly basis has kept it supple, dismissing the lion’s share of grit, silty road spray and similar contaminant, too.
Minimising direct contact with bike washes, solvents and storing the machine in a cool, dry and windowless garage certainly helps. However, the bike in question is ridden year round and in all weathers. Look very closely and you’ll notice a faint patina but otherwise and unlike several I’ve used long term; there’s no evidence of fading, scuffing or similar distress.
Most backings at this price point are just the right side of tenacious, tolerant of occasional rewinding, when performing cable replacement, introducing a top mounted interrupter brake lever, or even a change of bars.
I’ve replaced two cables, several months apart and it’s rewound beautifully on both occasions. Admittedly, it’s turning a little brittle and flaky now, but so long as you’ve invested in some decent aftermarket plugs and good quality electrical tape, the wrap should stick uniformly, without unsightly and annoying slippage.
Natural silicone wraps have an edge when it comes to purchase in the wettest weather and when it comes to insulation from prolonged, low-level vibration. This is most apparent after several hours mixed terrain riding when tiredness is beginning to bite. However, the Bobbin never felt slippery slippery-regardless of glove choice and grip improves with age.
Unusually generous length allows easy customisation. I’ve doubled up at key points - even without cheater strips, providing additional damping against low-level vibration, without resorting to a gel underlay, compromising on the aesthetic, or feel.
There’s no getting away from the fact that £54 is steep for bar tape. Decent gel impregnated corks and natural silicones such as the Genetic are readily available at the £20 mark.
Compared with other leather wraps, the Bobbin seems genuinely superior quality and the exchange rate is bound to have some influence too. That said; I can fully appreciate an extra tenner and single colour option will alienate some.
Ultimately, contact points and handlebar coverings in particular, are very personal things. Strict vegetarian and vegan riders will want to steer clear and there’s a lot to be said in favour of corks for winter/training bikes.
Otherwise; the Bobbin isn’t simply a stunning finishing touch for pampered 80’s classics dripping in chrome and brought out for Eroica type rides. Tourists and gravel riders prepared to accept the single colour, lack of cheater strips and upgrade the plugs will find it an extremely rugged and practical bar wrap.
Verdict: 3.5/5 High quality, durable bar wrap. Price and single colour will turn some off though.
PUBLISHED MAY 2017