This post explores the advantages and disadvantages of using bar tape instead of grips:
The Advantages of Bar Tape
If you use bar tape for your grips, you will have complete control over the thickness and length of the final product.
Some people with big hands purposefully choose bar tape to increase the diameter of the bar and make it more comfortable for their anthropometry.
If regular grips are too hard on your hands, bar tape can help because it’s softer than most grips. The effect can be amplified even further by wrapping two layers instead of one.
3. Accommodates to Oddly Shaped Bars
Bar tape is not reserved solely for drop bar handlebars. It can be used for other handlebars with lots of curves.
4. Bar Tape On Bar Ends
Bar ends are considered archaic, but they’re still in use as shown by the great number of products available on the market.
If standard bar ends are too firm for your liking or condition, you can use bar tape to cover them and essentially turn your handlebars into bullhorn bars.
A standard bar tape package comes with:
- 2 rolls of bar tape (one for each side of the handlebars)
- finishing tape
- 2 bar plugs
If you rely on bar tape for your grips, you will need very little material. Maybe 1/2 of a roll.
Therefore, one bar tape can last you a long time.
6. Endless color options
Bar tape comes in a variety of vivid colors and graphic patterns which aren’t always found on standard grips.
7. Easier to Install & Remove
Slip-on grips can be very difficult to install. Of course, there are different ways to facilitate their installation such as an air compressor, a deodorant, or some sort of alcohol, but those items aren’t present in everyone’s arsenal.
Conversely, bar tape doesn’t require any of that to install it.
The piece of bar tape needed to make grips for flat bars is notably lighter than standard grips. Having said that, the saved grams are too few to matter.
The Downsides of Using Bar Tape Instead of Grips
1. Less Grip
Bar tape creates less friction than standard grips. For that reason, it’s considered a suboptimal solution for aggressive mountain biking and BMX riding.
2. Lack of Stability
Even if you wrap the tape super tight, there’s a chance that it will unravel if you do lots of technical riding requiring you to pull the handlebars.
The inner side of the bar tape grip has to be secured either with electrical tape or the finishing tape that comes in the package. Some people may consider the final product unsightly in comparison to standard grips which do not require the use of additional tape.
4. Inconvenient Readjustments
Every time you have to remove a shifter or a brake lever, you will have to unwrap and re-wrap the tape.
Conversely, grips with bolt locks allow you to do the same procedure a lot faster.
Many people like using bar tape because it’s softer and more joint-friendly but dislike the aforementioned downsides.
For that reason, many riders switch to ergonomic grips which are also kinder to the joints but without the negatives of bar tape.
Is Bar Tape Reusable?
Bar tape can be reused if it’s in a good condition. However, if it’s close to disintegration, it’s best to replace it with a new one. If you want to learn more about this topic, consider reading the dedicated post.
Tips and Tricks
- If you want to wrap more than one layer of bar tape, but you don’t have enough of it, you can first wrap a piece of an old inner tube around the bars and then follow with the bar tape.
- If you want to reduce the movement of the bar tape, you can wrap the bars with sticky double-sided tape and then follow with the actual bar tape. The downside of this approach is that you will have to deal with extra stickiness when you want to replace the bar tape. If the sticky tape is particularly strong, the bar tape may rip when removing it.
Summary: What You Need to Know
1. Bar tape can be used instead of grips and has the following advantages:
- custom diameter of the grip area
- adaptive to oddly shaped handlebars
- easy to install and remove
2. Grips made out of bar tape perform poorly when the bike is used for aggressive riding (MTB, BMX…etc.)
Bar tape grips are better suited for commuters and touring bikes.