When you’re riding a bike there are three points of contact with your body: your posterior, your feet and your hands. While there seems to be endless discussion on the merits of various saddles, pedals and gloves, people often neglect a very simple way to improve the bike/human interface: the bar tape.
The Arundel Bicycle Company specialises in bottle cages, but they also offer two types of bar tape: Cork and Gecko. Both are available in black, white, red, blue and yellow. Arundel products are supplied by Artisan Cycles in Albert Park.
Cork bar tapes like the Arundel Cork have been around for a long time. I have often thought about putting on some yellow bar tape to match my frame, but hesitated because of worries about discolouration from my black mitts which seem to stain anything that comes in contact with them. Arundel however, claim their bar tape is easy to clean, so it was time to give the Arundel Cork bar tape in yellow a try.
The guys at Arundel are up front about their products and clearly a bit tongue in cheek, as evidenced by the fitting instructions which say:
8.) Slap the enclosed “finishing tape” on your toolbox, chainstay, bumper etc
9.) Find some nice electrical tape and use it to hold the barwrap in place
Opening the box you find two rolls of tape, two pieces of the above mentioned black finishing tape and two bar end plugs with the Arundel logo of an old stone castle, namely Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England.
The tape has the Arundel name embossed continuously along one edge so you can choose to wrap the tape to either show or hide the name. I chose to keep the name in view.
There is a narrow adhesive strip along the back that is quite sticky. The yellow cork tape is very similar to my existing Cinelli cork tape in texture and thickness, possibly a bit thicker although I did not stretch it as much. Like most “cork” tapes it is in fact a foam with cork chunks which gives the lighter coloured tape a slightly speckled look.
Ed. Now this is a Cockpit… we will get Ken to share his secrets of high-tech cycling soon.
Dan from Artisan Cycles warned me that stretching the tape too much can break it and that removing the backing can also cause the adhesive to come off. These problems did not eventuate with the first tape I tried, which went on surprisingly easily. I followed the instructions carefully, apart from points 8 and 9 above. Before starting you need to cut of a short piece to go under the brake levers. The strong adhesive definitely helped to keep the tape in place and I had no problem with removing the backing. As per the instructions I finished off with yellow electrician’s tape. The extra thickness did make it a little harder to get the bar end plugs into place and it was especially tricky to get the logo right way up.
When fitting the second tape I encountered the problem I was warned about with the backing tape. The backing adheres to the adhesive, which is itself a clear plastic and comes off the bar tape with the backing if you are not careful. I wasn’t and it took me till halfway through the wrap before I realised what had happened. Even so, it made no difference to the ease of wrapping and I just separated the backing from the adhesive and continued
The colour was not a perfect match for my frame but it was near enough and certainly changed the appearance of the bike. On the road I could not discern any difference from the Cinelli tape in either grippiness or softness. It only took a few hours riding in fine weather for the inevitable staining from my mitts to occur, but a quick wipe with a damp sponge was enough to clean off the stains. The speckled look from the cork may also have helped hide any lighter staining but it looked clean to my eye.
The tape got a better workout by accident while I was doing some maintenance and grabbed the handlebars with my greasy hands. Wiping with a damp sponge was not enough, but a spray with mild cleaning liquid and a wipe with a sponge did the job. I had occasion to re-wrap some of the tape and underneath was brighter in colour but without that contrast the discolouration was of no concern.
The Arundel Gecko tape is a new style of tape that that offers a better grip than cork. The Gecko tape is made of foam and polyurethane with a dimpled surface. The one I tested was black and the colour is uniform.
It is a bit thinner than the Cork and feels very different. Interestingly, the Gecko comes with two pieces of bar tape about 8cm long, already cut to fit around the brake levers. The box has the same fitting instructions as the Cork tape and the same warning about the adhesive applies. As with the Cork tape I had no problems wrapping it on. I took the bike for a longish ride with the Gecko tape on one side and my older tape on the other to provide a direct comparison. The Gecko felt slightly grippier with my gloves on, but the real difference was when I was riding bare handed. In the drops, putting some power down, I found the feel of the Gecko grip to be very comfortable and easier to maintain a tight hold of.
Only time will tell whether the Gecko retains its grip, but for now I’d say the Gecko tape adds another level of comfort, especially when you need to pull on the bars under power, such as when you’re climbing.
Arundel bar tape is available through artisanonline.com.au. Both the Cork and Gecko tapes are $21.95 RRP