LIZARD SKINS DSP BAR TAPE
2.5mm version 96g £27.99
Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm handlebar tape is pricey, compared with more traditional coverings and does require a bit more care when cleaning. That said, its blend of all-weather grip and shock absorption are extremely seductive.
Pros: Superb, all conditions comfort and grip, bewildering array of colour options
Cons: Cleaning requires a bit more care than others but hardly a deal-breaker.
DSP stands for dura soft polymer, which has a pleasantly gummy texture, although unlike silicones, such as Genetic Flare it sports an adhesive backing. This hugs the bars’ surface and ensures it’s easily rewound, whether for aesthetics, or to facilitate bar/cable replacement.
There are three densities and 21 colours to choose from, which frankly, should suit all but the most particular of tastes. 82 inches should literally cover all bases, including big, swoopy flared drops popular on expedition tourers and gravel bikes. Since we’re on the subject, there is a 3.2mm version. If the majority of your riding has an endurance/rough stuff flavour, we’d go this route.
Roadies/time-trialists looking for the sleekest, lightest option may find the 1.8mm sibling a better choice. We opted for the 2.5, which sits slap bang in the middle and promised the best of both worlds.
In terms of care, the official line is wash with clean water and dry carefully with a towel, to avoid stripping the space age, hydrophobic (water shedding) layer. A dark colour certainly helps and is a more practical choice for touring lorries and daily drivers. That said, ours seems very tolerant of warm sudsy bucket solutions or non-solvent-based degreaser potions. These were applied via a sponge, or scrap towel, not a brush.
This also requires a gentle, methodical touch, coming from corks, but is broadly similar to natural silicones. Think consistent, moderate pressure and you can’t really go wrong. I had to go back on myself a couple of times, getting just the right amount of overlap eluded me to begin with. Helpfully, Lizard Skins also have a video tutorial .
The sharp-eyed among you will note I’ve ditched the OEM plugs for aftermarket Ritchey, simply because the latter feature composite tyre levers. Means I can pop the spares in my luggage and plug a friend/fellow rider’s bars, should need arise. Finishing strips are better than most. However, I prefer decent quality electrical tape - a personal quirk, rather than a criticism.
Purchase and control are top notch, regardless of glove choice, or how wild the weather’s been. While the texture becomes more rubbery, it stops short of feeling sticky, which some silicones can, especially in warmer weather.
Long, steady, mixed terrain miles, when the mercury’s barely hit zero can really zap energy reserves. Even at my weariest, through a bitterly cold March, I’ve been bowled over by how relaxed my hands could be, while remaining in full control, whether thundering along unmade roads, or hossing home at full pelt with trailer and 20 odd kilos of supermarket shopping following behind.
Talking of which, BBB-BHT-14 flex ribbon wasn’t outclassed in similar contexts either, the dimpled texture just feels less -refined in comparison.
Both tapes grip most textures of wall/fence/tree really well too, which is helpful when leaning the bike at café/rest stops. Inclines and weird cambers are inviting trouble. Otherwise, there’s been no call for home-brewed parking brakes when heavily laden, either.
In these riding contexts, damping has been in goldilocks territory, insulating low level vibration perfectly, without giving my tubby tourer a chunky persona, or feeling bulky.
Decent gloves/mitts are a must for anything more than a few miles, although a few ten mile round trip commutes didn’t reveal any obvious downsides, let alone numbness/tingling.
Given the wind chill and predominantly sub-zero temperatures, I’ve defaulted to these heavily insulated Btwin 700 gloves. There’s a little trade off in terms of dexterity/”feel”, so when the mercury’s crept into single figures, I’ve switched to much thinner designs, providing a more intimate rapport/feedback.
Riders looking at centuries, or endurance gravel riding might find the 3.2mm version has some advantages but mixed terrain all-day outings haven’t steered me in that direction.
Used on a daily basis and for 500 miles, there’s no obvious signs of wear, or damage. Being black, ours has hidden oily hand prints and similar mid-ride fettling grime handsomely. Having used previous incarnations on a longer term basis, there’s nothing to suggest - nasty spills aside - that it shouldn’t repay its investment several fold.
£27 isn’t cheap but it certainly isn’t outlandish, given the standards of performance. On a budget and willing to accept some minor trade-offs? I’d be inclined towards the BBB BHT 14, which is almost half the price, doesn’t lag far behind in terms of comfort and seems pretty tolerant of more enthused scrubbing.