Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fizik Microtex Handlebar Tape

Last week we replaced the cloth tape on the Co-Habitant's Surly with Fizik Microtec tape. He wanted something that would not get dirty, did not require shellacking, and was not as heavily padded as cork tape. I've been using this tape in red for the past several weeks, so I suggested he try it. We both purchased it at Harris Cyclery, but it's available in many bike shops.

Fizik Microtec bar tape is a synthetic tape with about half the padding of typical cork tape. The perforated surface is smooth, but not slippery. It lies down flat, the edges resist fraying, and the surface stays clean. I know some complain that cloth and cork tape tend to get dirty and frayed, so if you want a bright handlebar tape that is durable and retains its colour, this could be it. Mine looks and feels the same after 300+ miles of sweaty gripping as it did when first installed. But more importantly, this tape could work for those who find cork tape too soft and cloth tape too hard - it is sort of the happy medium.

Although visually the perforations resemble leather tape, there are no tactile similarities. The Fizik tape is stiffer than leather, and it feels distinctly synthetic to the touch. While I would not describe the surface as slick, I can see how some might find it too smooth - especially if riding without gloves. My preferred handlebar wrap is cloth tape, but on some handlebars - particularly on modern ones that have channels for cables - I feel that I need more padding. The Fizik Microtex tape is durable, easy to wrap, provides just enough padding, and is available in a variety of colours.

37 comments:

  1. My formerly yellow cloth tape was mostly dark grey on top, remaining yellow only next to the stem where I don't touch the bars. It stayed durable and the edges didn't fold back, but it completely lost the colour everyone loved. Too bad. I guess it's true what they say, cloth tape will be done in a month unless you shellac it.

    Changing tape isn't ever fun, but removing unshellacked cloth tape is very easy. It peels off without a trace. Similar to cloth tape, Fizik tape doesn't stretch when you wrap it (unlike synth cork), so it's fairly simple to maintain stable pressure. Of all the tapes I've ever put on, this particular type was the easiest to wrap around the hoods without creating any bulk or exposing pieces of metal bar. No fancy clipping and redoing required.

    I don't know if I'll ultimately like it, though. I think it may get a little bit slippery (uh oh!). But we'll see. I'm yet to take it on a serious ride.

    Really not sure what to try next. Perhaps back to cloth and shellac. :)

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  2. My red Fizik tape still looks good after 2000 miles. The plugs are, however, long since replaced with more durable ones.

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  3. I've never tried this stuff (not even sure if they have it at my LBS), but I've been thinking about something to use on my fixed-gear that is a bit less padded than cork. Cloth is out, largely for the cable groove reason V mentions above. I've thought about trying wrapping cloth tightly around cork to mash it down some, but maybe cloth around this stuff would be even better? I'd like something that is padded a bit but more on the firm side than cushy. This might also take care of the slipperiness factor that MDI is talking about, although getting dirty would still be a problem.

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  4. douse a rag in Simple Green and twist it on your bars in the same direction as your tape (cloth or cork). in 5 minutes you have tape that looks new.

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  5. Anon - It's not just about the tape staying clean, but about durability. Every cloth and cork tape I've tried so far has tended to curl up and/or fray at the edges and to rub through in the parts where I hold my hand the most. The Fizik is the first tape I've tried that shows no sign of this. I still prefer the texture of cloth tape by far and would use cloth tape on a bike with classic handlebars, but the Fizik wins in durability.

    apophasis - I've tried to wrap cloth around cork. It felt v. weird and way too thick. What about 2 layers of cloth?

    Steve - 2,000 miles? Good to know. I used the plugs that came with the tape and will see how they hold up. MDI has bar-ends, so not an issue.

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  6. The white tape on the Panasonic was Fizik. I put under 200 or so miles on it, but I did once drive the bike on the back of the car through three hours of rainstorm, and it was good as new when I sold the bike. I asked on Bike Forums and it was generally considered the one to hold the white color best. It was indeed exactly as you describe it: neither cushy, nor hard.

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  7. apophasis--it would be entirely too wide then. Already, cork is way too wide for what I prefer. I guess I like skinnier bars. Fizik is borderline, or maybe just right, who knows.

    I've read some people do two layers of cloth for thickness, but that doesn't make it softer. It may disguise the cable channels more.

    I like how naked cloth feels the best, it's entirely perfect. I guess if I didn't care about colors I would just replace it every season and it would probably last a few months before the edges frayed. I might try two layers just to be adventurous next maybe.

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  8. I have used continuous leather wrap for years. I have always made my own from scraps from our local leather store, bur Velo Orange sells it in three or four colors. I first coat the bars with shellack and then soak, stretch and sew the wrap on the bars. the shellack or for that matter the adhesive strip on the Velo Orange variety stops the leather from slipping. This takes WAY more time to apply than regular bar tape. Maybe the Velo Orange wrap takes less time but then I do all the cutting,and pre punching myself. The results have always been satisfactory and the leather never seems to wear out. The only maintenance required is the application of mink oil or your leather dressing of choice.

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  9. One of the reasons I like my non-aero levers is that I can use cloth tape without having to cover cables. I do shellac, but I've found I like the feel of two coats instead of the usual three. That's enough to seal the edges together so they don't peal, and to protect the surface from 'yellow-waxy-buildup', but thin enough to leave the texture grippy and not slick. There's still some dirty build-up, but a quick swipe with an alcohol rag, let it dry, then touch up with shellac and it's good as new. I've also dabbed a little extra shellac just above the hoods 'cause that's where my hands are most of the time.

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  10. Thanks guys. It sounds like either two layers of cloth or the Fizik will be closest to the feel I'm looking for. I'm not too picky about hardness/softness, as long as it's not too soft; I rode this bike with bare bars for a bit when I first built it and wasn't sure about the bars I had. I didn't actually miss padding at all, it was the lack of grip when I sweat that bugged me.

    I'll have to see if my shop has the Fizik so I can feel the texture. Not having to replace the tape for thousands of mile sounds pretty good.

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  11. Everyone who uses/used shellacked tape knows this, but it lasts forever. Even if you dump your bike, all you ever need to do is apply another coat. New season? Another coat. Wore through it in torrential downpour? Another coat. It will never wear out. Toughest thing ever.

    Available in any colour you like as long as it some shade of brown. :)

    I want to see someone put 2-3 coats of clear shellac onto white or yellow or orange tape. Does it still look bright?

    If I end up hating the fizik, I'll probably redo the bars with yellow cloth again and apply 2 thin coats of clear shellac.

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    1. Nope. Clear shellac darkens the color a bit. Just not a dingy brown that u get with amber shellac, but a definite darkening--white goes to light gray and bright colors lose their zip.

      After some experimenting, and learning how to do a two-braid harlequin wrap with cloth using my old bars (about to be replaced), I find that while doing harlequin wrap is fun, the feel of naked cloth is too hard for me, and shellacked cloth is EVEN HARDER. Yuck.

      I love the feel of cushy cork (OK, so I am clearly in the minority here). BUT, I am thinking of doing a 3-color harlequin Fizik. with a 4-strand braid that should be 2-layers thick in all spots, this might have the perfect combo of style, cushioning and easy maintenance.

      Only drawbacks are high cost for 4 units Fizik (maybe can get away with 3) and width of the fizik at 3 cm. I think the narrower cloth will be better for the harlequin...

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  12. I've been running cloth over cork without shellac for about a year now on my Hillborne. The thickness is not for everyone, but I like the increased diameter, cushioning, and slight absorbency of the raw cloth - especially since I rarely wear gloves. I never liked the hard, unyielding feeling of the old shellacked tape on my grandpa's old racing bike; it sort of required gloves.

    My cloth tape definitely did fade instantly and fray eventually, which I allow myself to see as "beausage", thanks to GP. I have now worn through the cloth and can see the underlying cork, but this is after something like 5000 miles, including a month-long tour last year. If I have to replace my tape once a year with that kind of use, I'm fine with that, but I suppose it doesn't qualify for bicycle loveliness in it's current state.

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  13. Colors are a bit bright for me, and the texture still seems kind of plastic-y, like a tennis racquet--can't seem to find anything I like. They need more restrained, lower saturation colors for pretentious, shallow, retro-grouches like me.

    The perforations don't do much to disguise the synthetic nature of it either; it's very smooth and uniform. I still like the weave of cloth tape, and the random crackly texture of leather.

    I certainly appreciate the durability of modern synthetics, but design, texture, and color selection tends to leave much to be desired.

    Sticking with my maroon red cloth tape for now.

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  14. I haven't tried the Microtex, partly because I was put off by a "sweat and stink problem" mentioned in another cyclist's review.
    http://euphoriabeforetotalimplosion.blogspot.com/2009/02/product-review-fizik-microtex-looks.html

    On the other hand, I've now got over 5000 miles on bars wrapped with Stella Azzurra Fabwik Tape. Fabwik has an interesting near cloth-like texture, but is cushier, more durable, and has held up great so far. Was highly recommended by another rider at my local bike shop, and I see it also mentioned favorably in the comments section of the sweat/stinky Microtex review.

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  15. All my road bikes have black Fizik. For me it has to be black, that's the main thing because years ago I settled on red frames and it just made aesthetic sense to me to have black tape given that tires, brake hoods, sometimes fork if it is carbon but not necessarily, and saddle are...black.

    With road bikes, gloves (of varying thickness) are the most easily and inexpensively controlled factor: sometimes I wear them, sometimes I don't. Depends on whether the ride is training or competition, distance, weather, or just lazing around with the gang. But the gloves have to black and gray.

    The bar plugs have to incorporate a skull and crossbones motif. It's not that that I notice them when riding, just nice to know they are there.

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  16. Nice "yellow" tape! My favorite color! :^))

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  17. I've found that a layer of generic "cork" (really 1% content???) tape stretched really tightly, then covered with cloth and shellacked works really well. A little more padding & circumference than plain cloth, and looks nicer/wears longer than cork. Mine is pretty grubby, and could use another coating, but is holding up wonderfully: www.flickr.com

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  18. "I want to see someone put 2-3 coats of clear shellac onto white or yellow or orange tape. Does it still look bright?"

    MDI, the shellac'd bar tape will go amber where the sun hits it as it is photoreactive. So it will probably be honey-colored on the top and less so underneath.

    The uses shellac by the pound some days,

    Corey K

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  19. It was a really overcast day, too, in both pictures.

    These Fizik tapes really pop, don't they?

    Almost vulgar, like f-you yellow or red. :)

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  20. Walt / MDI - Ha! It did not occur to me that the red and yellow tape are hi-vis, but they definitely are. At the same time, I find the shades nice, especially on a "fast bike." Gotta let them know you mean business.

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  21. Yellow! Red! Fun colors.
    I have a roll of bright apple green that I'm trying get up the gumption to use.

    Fizik tape is so good that it must be wrong. (I'm a cork/cloth/etc convert) It lasts and lasts, even if you take it off and re-wrap it again. Looks good. Feels good. Try the Microtex Soft Touch version - bar tape doesn't get any better than that.

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  22. Update: went on a semi-serious rainy ride without gloves. Verdict: not slippery. Weird. It seems like it wouldn't be comfortable and might slip, but yet it is and doesn't. Magic.

    BTW: the Fizik package is just enough to wrap 44cm Noodles which are a bane of tapes because "long." I always semi-run-out of cloth tape and try to really be careful about using the most efficient run on every loop. Some people just give up and use two rolls, but I think that's bogus. :)

    It's important to wrap such that your grip will tighten it all along the entire length of the drop bar. Fizik tape loves lots of tension when being wrapped, just like cloth. Also, you may notice these are wrapped from the stem as opposed to from the barends. The common wisdom is to start at the barends and work toward the stem in order to avoid tape edges peeling up from hand friction. But I like having the edges the way they are shown, it works well without gloves and the tape stays put (even my unshellacked cloth stayed put). Anyway, use whichever method you like, ours works for us.

    From what people seem to report online, this tape lasts for thousands of miles.

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  23. "I haven't tried the Microtex, partly because I was put off by a "sweat and stink problem" mentioned in another cyclist's review."

    Ew : ) Haven't found that to be the case with mine so far, but will report back if I do.

    Stella Azzurra looks interesting. I would like to find a corkish tape in lilac though.

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  24. I love that stuff too, mine is kind of a black suede.

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  25. BTW, you can get Fizik in two shades of brown to match the Brooks Honey and Antique Brown colors if you want a more traditional look, but only from European vendors. It's not available in the US for unknown reasons.
    It may not be worth paying the shipping just for the tape, but if you are ordering other stuff it might be worth it.

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  26. MDI- I tried clear shellack on bright bordeux cloth tape. Gorgeous for a few weeks and then it faded with sun exposure. I now have amber shellack on yellow and it doesn't seem to fade, but gets darker and richer when I reapply.

    Mona

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  27. In my experience, cloth tape changes in colour even with clear shellac. It's fine if you're going for a more organic or vintagey look, but not if you're hoping for a saturated primary colour.

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  28. I've found that clear shellac definitely yellows over time, while amber shellac fades over time. If shellacking a dark base color with clear shellac, the yellowing is not too noticeable, but on a light color tape, the yellowing will definitely be noticeable.

    Shellac also becomes brittle. It's not so much a problem on cloth tape, which doesn't compress, but on cork tape, the shellac will crack and flake as the cork is subjected to being repeatedly squeezed.

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  29. Regarding training and recovery,
    I think that the most important part of resting up is simply not to push yourself. There are debates in the sports-training world over just how active "recovery time" should be because it's unclear just what works best, and it may be that different people recover differently. Your feeling is as good an indicator as any of whether you're giving your legs enough of a rest.

    In my experience, transport cycling is great recovery, because you do it every day and it can be as intense or easy as you want. At its slowest, transport cycling is probably less strenuous on your legs than walking. The difference between a hard training ride and a leisurely roll to the cafe is like the difference between running a 10K and walking around the block. You'd never see a marathon runner refuse to walk to the deli because he'd been on a run the day before. They're completely different animals, but complementary to each other if you'll let them be.

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  30. This same type of tape came with my new drop bar touring bike. I don't know if the brand is the same but mine doesn't get slippery when wet. I'm still getting used to the padding but after a couple of 70km trips (without gloves) I can't say it's uncomfortable. The only drawback is the white colour got dirty very easily, I'll try cleaning it with simple green as a previous commenter suggested.
    The above comments made me be even more satisfied with it. If it's durable (and easy to clean) as they say it is I will install this same tape in the future, only in a darker colour.

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  31. I love this tape. Perfect amount of cushion, nice grip, looks good IMHO on any bike, no fuss to put on, and really durable.

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  32. I also love this tape. I love cloth tape, but it gets really gross really fast because my hands get sweaty. For that same reason I can't shellac--my hands slip without gloves. The fizik stuff is the next best thing for me, specifically the soft touch kind. It feels less synthetic to me, almost like suede, but is otherwise the same as the regular microtex. I highly recommend it!

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  33. Peppy (the amazing I can see colors cat)June 15, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    The soft touch style only comes in like white/grey/black, not colors, right?

    There's also shiny patent leather red Fizik you can put on your bike and wear a latex outfit to match. :)

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  34. Do you know if the "Antique Brown" version of this tape matches the brooks antique brown saddles?

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  35. I love Fizik Microtex on my cx bike in it;s leather-esque format. It's grippy enough and hard wearing over a couple of cross seasons. Plus I can get it in a red that near on matches my Planet X Uncle John on the Pantone spectrum.

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