When I was 12 I had the wisdom of a squirrel, in that I was as completely without wisdom as a human being in good health could be. Even so, I knew that a thin ribbon of celo tape wrapped around the chromed handlebar of my AMF 10-speed did little to increase my comfort. Even when I used an entire roll of tape per side, my increase in comfort was as measurable as compassion in John Wayne Gacy. Sigh.
I hated that my bar tape was padded as a fork, that it had no adhesive and slid on the chrome, that it tore like paper. The only thing about my handlebar tape that I didn’t lament way back in our bicentennial year was that it was orange and matched my bike.
So it’s not a stretch to say I’ve been obsessed with handlebar tape and proper technique for wrapping bars ever since Schoolhouse Rock was on TV.
Two seasons ago I got on a review bike and thought to myself, “Oh wow, how nice; they double-wrapped the bar for me.” What I would come to appreciate a couple of months later was that the bar had been wrapped with Lizard Skins’ DSP tape. Lizard Skins offers their DSP tape in three different thicknesses: 1.8mm, which is perfect for anyone who wants padding, but not too much padding; most tape out there is in the 1.8 to 2.0mm range. It’s a great choice for people with smaller hands. The 2.5mm thickness is noticeably thicker than most tape. It’s really nice stuff for a road bike.
But what of cyclocross and gravel bikes? I like a bit more padding, when possible and the Lizard Skins 3.2mm DSP bar tape is the thickest stuff I’ve encountered; it genuinely feels like the bar has been double-wrapped.
The DSP tape is a laminate of traditional EVA foam like most bar tapes and then their Dura-Soft polymer cover that makes the Lizard Skins tape easy to wash. Trying to wash mud and dirt out of EVA foam after a ‘cross race or gravel event is a recipe for frustration (and failure). I can always get the stuff cleaner, but never back to clean.
There is a wrinkle caused by the laminate, though. You can’t stretch the DSP tape the way you would typical EVA foam tape as the polymer cover will separate from the foam. What that means is that wrapping the DSP tape takes both patience and care. When wrapping, there will be an edge of the tape that doesn’t completely embrace the bar. To address that, I learned that I needed to wrap deeper coils, covering about 50 percent of the previous wrap. Even so, that’s not foolproof as until recently, the DSP tape had a 4mm-wide adhesive strip. I noticed that sometimes the tape would slip some. They recently widened it to 8mm, which better reflects what other tapes are doing, and that will prevent the slip I have previously experienced.
The fact that one edge of the tape often doesn’t lay flat actually contributes to how padded the bar feels. At 3.2mm thick, this isn’t double the thickness of most other tapes, but that’s a good thing; I believe that if it was truly twice the thickness it would be too thick to securely grip for many of us.
I’m still happy running the 2.5mm-thick tape on road bikes, but the 3.2mm tape is perfect for gravel bikes and ‘cross bikes. Obviously, thick tape can’t cure a road that is more patched potholes than actual road, but if anything can make a difference, this tape does. The 3.2mm tape also gets a different surface texture than the thinner tapes, making it easier to grip.
One other truly handy detail to the Lizard Skins tape is that you get 89 inches of it, which is a good four inches more than with many other tapes. The upshot is that you have plenty of tape to overlap as you wrap, while still leaving enough tape to wrap a figure-eight around the lever body.
I suppose some people will flinch at the $45.99 price tag for the 3.2mm tape (the 1.8 and 2.5mm tape starts at $41.99). What helps to justify that price is that it is easy to clean up the tape with a brush and soapy water and will last for years. I just recently replaced the tape on one bike that had been on for almost two full seasons, and honestly, it was still perfectly serviceable.
Final thought: Thieves aren’t this thick.
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