T-ONE MR FANTASTIC HANDLEBAR TAPE
187g £23.95 Orange
The T-One Mr Fantastic Handlebar Tape sounds like it could be a lead mobster in a gangster movie. It’s certainly a force to be reckoned with in the grip and comfort stakes. There's also loads of it. More than enough for generous double ups on uber wide, swoopy drops. Oh, and if orange isn’t your thing, there are six alternative colours to choose from.
Pros: Generous, grippy, excellent damping qualities, durable and easy to care for.
Cons: Requires a careful, consistent pressure when applying to avoid patina.
100% silicone - no backing required, which means its easily removed and refitted, come time for a cable replacement, Brifter/lever upgrade/bar swap - you'll just need some electrical tape to replace the OEM finishing strips. The pack includes two very generous rolls (200cm all told), cheater strips, end plugs and finishing strips. Pretty good for £23.99.
More than enough for the biggest drops and I’d saved enough to dress a set of tri-bar extensions or track style pursuit bars, too. Uncut it carries a 24g weight penalty over the Acros Silicone Bar Wrap, but then, it’s also 15cm longer. Claimed completely waterproof, it is also reckoned resistant to UV light between –40 and +260 degrees, so degradation and fading should be moot points, even in very harsh environments. Bodes well for daily drivers, winter trainers and indeed, some touring applications.
Closer to Genetic Flare in characteristics, it’s more compliant than the Acros so achieving a neat, even flow is a little easier. I’ve found nominal pressure and continuous rhythm best. While the Acros is tolerant of being tugged tight, the T-One less so and results in very faint stretch marks, less evident than with the Genetic but nonetheless, apparent close-up.
Relatively relaxing to fit, be ready with the finishing strips/electrical tape, otherwise it will also unravel with similar ease. However, if you’ve got the overlap wrong, its’ easily unwound and corrected. The finishing strips are a nice touch (although some would argue unnecessary, thanks to the generous roll lengths. I have gone without, given the Soma Condor2 bars shape and variable diameters. In common with the other silicones discussed here, the finishing strips are better substituted for decent quality electrical tape, but will get the job done.
Grip is superb, wet or dry and regardless of glove type. The embossed, contoured patterning of the Acros has a slight edge in this respect but then it’s also 50% dearer. Otherwise, the tenacious, tacky characteristics enhance the connection between hands and bars, reducing the fatigue inducing temptation to “death-grip”.
This is particularly welcome when digging deep on long climbs and letting rip on winding descents. We’ve had some slippery, wintry conditions during the test period and though I’ve shod my working bikes with Schwalbe Marathon Winter/Plus, the tape’s pleasantly tacky characteristics enhanced my control. I’ve also done the bare hand test-grip and damping are similarly impressive.
A notch higher than the Genetic in these respects, too-regardless of glove choice. That said; (as might be expected), those with silicone detailing along the palms, including the Pro-Viz Reflect 360 and Chiba Pro Safety Reflector Gloves were the perfect combination.
The Acros Silicone Wrap Handlebar Tape has been a fixture of my fixed gear winter/trainer for several thousand miles, so I was expecting the change to feel different for a while. It did, but the smooth texture felt more tactile in mitts and bare hands. This also meant it collected dirt less readily and any patina was more easily dismissed.
To some extent, this can be tailored to suit taste-doubling up at key points for example-there's enough of it, afterall. Nonetheless, I’ve gone for a gentle overlap and uniform coverage throughout.
The Acros is a little thicker, so again has a slight edge here but the Mr Fantastic still does a superb job of ironing out intrusive buzz-rumble strips and washboard tarmac, reducing fatigue around the shoulders, wrists and hands on longer rides. Admittedly, suspension stems and supple mid-section tyres have their part to play but that doesn’t detract from the wrap’s qualities.
I some respects, it’s difficult to comment on longer term durability after four weeks and four hundred miles. Nonetheless, its proven easy to care for and live with.
I haven’t popped ours in the washing machine-being a smooth finish, it’s attracted less patina than the Acros. (A mix of mucky roads and oily transfer from hands following cable swaps, chain tensioning/lubricating and other routine maintenance).
This has been easily dismissed using bike degreaser stocks diluted 70/30 and a medium stiff brush, such as Green Oil Bicycle Brush or the Oxford Tyre Scrub. By the same token, I’ve not “babied” or treated the Mr Fantastic differently. I’ve regularly leaned it against concrete posts, rendered brickwork and rough sawn timber with no signs of scuffing/similar abrasion damage to date. However, as I’ve said earlier, a gentler touch is called for when re-dressing the bars to avoid leaving faint “tan lines”.
£23.99 represents pretty good value, especially for a silicone. Arguably Genetic Silicone Bar Tape (£25) is its closest rival on the price front. Available in five colours, its 1.8 metres long and comes complete with cheater strips, end plugs and finishing strips-104g all told, which might be a better choice for bikes on the strictest of calorie- controlled diets.
Otherwise, you’re looking at £30 plus. Aside from the Acros Silicone Wrap Handlebar Tape (£34.99) Fabric Silicone Handlebar Tape is offered in 7 colours and also comes complete with end plugs, cheater, and finishing strips-£36.99 Guee Sio Dura Handlebar Tape is £34 (185mm long, 3mm thick).
Those looking for the last word in damping and durability are probably better served by the Acros Silicone Wrap Handlebar Tape. However, it’s a good tenner dearer. For the money and general riding, it’s hard to find fault with the T-One Mr Fantastic .