Ready for the Rough: Handlebar Gels and Tapes

When the cobbled spring classics take center stage, a common feature on pro bikes is double-wrapped handlebar tape. This time-honored practice adds thickness and padding to handlebars to reduce bone-shaking vibration from ancient cobbled roads.

Several manufacturers are offering modern versions of handlebar padding. They offer comfort for casual riders and hardcore cyclists alike, whether your roads are cobbled, graveled or simply frost-cracked.

Bontrager IsoGel

Bontrager IsoGel ? $30
Bontrager's package includes black synthetic cork bar tape, clear IsoGel padding, bar end plugs and decals. The gel padding is clear, tacky and stretchy, shaped to fit across the bar tops and drops of a road handlebar.

A self-adhesive backing keeps it from slipping under the bar tape. The gel portion for the top wraps nearly around the entire bar circumference, while the padding for the drops covers the top of the drop only. IsoGel pads are available sold separately for $20.


Specialized Bar Phat (top)
SuperPhat (bottom)

Specialized Body Geometry Bar Phat ? $20 ? SuperPhat ? $27
Specialized has several options to pad road bars underneath bar tape. One is BG Bar Phat, which is available in 2.5mm and 4.5mm thicknesses. Both are durable enough to be cut to size and reused multiple times. The gel pad is self-adhesive and wraps around the top-most part of the tops and drops, adding minimal thickness to the handlebar. Standard black, suede-texture Roubaix bar tape is included to wrap over the top of the padding.

BG SuperPhat bar gel is made of lightweight foam padding with supplemental gel inserts in key areas. It is molded and tapered to fit the contours of a road bar, and offers thicker, more substantial padding. SuperPhat is also packaged with suede texture Roubaix tape.


fi'zi:k BAR:GEL


fi'zi:k BAR:GEL ? $32
Fi'zi:k's kit includes Technogel pads for the top and drops, black Microtex bar tape, decals and end plugs. The Technogel pads are self-adhesive and cut to shape, but can be trimmed as necessary.

Technogel uses no silicone and is a non-toxic, volatile-agent-free material, so it is durable over time, will not harden, and is tacky enough to stay in place. Microtex bar tape is thin and more durable, stretch-resistant and breathable than cork. The gel pads are also available separately.


Aztec Vibewrap

Aztec Vibewrap ? $30
Aztec offers a lightweight, closed-cell foam pad and bar tape set called Vibewrap. Ergonomically molded pads are included to fit both the curves of a road handlebar and the shape of a rider's hands. They are designed to reduce pressure on the Ulnar nerve.

The foam pads can be trimmed for a custom fit, and have an adhesive backing to keep them in place. Black, lightweight, non-adhesive bar tape and soft rubber end caps are included.

Cinelli AVS Gel Pad (top)
Volee Tape (bottom)

Cinelli AVS Gel Pad ? $10 ? Volee Tape ? $30
The venerable Cinelli brand is virtually synonymous with handlebar tape. Among many options, the 2009 lineup includes Volee bar tape and AVS Gel pads.

Volee tape is made of a rubberized, shock-absorbing elastomer compound, not unlike what is used for tennis racquet grip tape. The surface texture has a grippy, leather-like look and feel.

AVS (Anti Vibration System) Gel pads are not packaged with bar tape, and are sized specifically to fit the tops or drops of Cinelli bars (although they can easily be retrofitted to other bars).

The pads are clear with black lettering, self-adhesive, and have a tight, tailored shape. They do not wrap around the entire bar, but sit just on the top surface, and fit underneath any handlebar tape. One pair of AVS Gel pads is included per package.

Attention cycling fans: Subscribe to VeloNews—the Journal of Competitive Cycling—and receive 15 huge issues filled with behind-the-scenes race coverage, news analysis, action photos, rider interviews, expert training advice, unbiased product reviews and more.

Discuss This Article