Finding the right bar tape thickness and length
All bikes come with handlebar tape by default but you will need to change it regularly. There are lots of brands and models available. But you probably wonder if all bar tapes have the same dimensions, in terms of length, width and thickness. This is why I gathered up all this information in a guide below to help you understand bar tapes dimensions and how to choose what’s right for you.
What is the thinnest handlebar tape?
The thinnest bar tape for bikes is the Velox High Grip model with 1.5mm thickness. You can also find some 1.8mm bar tapes made by Lizard Skins, with the following models: DSP race and DSP bar V2.
Velox High Grip 1.5mm is really the thinnest bar tape available for bikes. Velox is a french brand, this is why you won’t find many reviews of this product on English websites. But don’t worry, French people like it because it’s solid, it’s quite cheap, it’s easy to clean and provides a good grip. The downside with this tape is that it’s a bit short if all your cables (brake and gearing cables) are routed under the tape and your handlebar is quite wide, it’s only 1.9m long (about 10cm less than most tapes). So if you have internal frame routing, this won’t affect you in any way, else you might want to consider another tape.
If you are interested you can buy Velox High Grip 1.5mm here on Amazon.
In comparison, Lizard skin tape has 2 models with a thickness of 1.8mm, which is still really thin compared to most handlebar tapes. To give you an idea, the most commonly used bar tapes are around 2.7mm thick. Lizard skin models are quite expensive in general for bar tapes, but they are used by pros and have for sure really good durability while providing a good grip even in rainy conditions. Actually, the grip is much more important than any other type of bar tape I have tried. But do not buy them in white, it will get dirty very fast and it’s impossible to clean. To check out the price, please follow the links for the DSP race model and the DSP bar V2 model.
If you really care about having the thinnest possible bar tape, you could also consider wrapping them with hockey stick tape. It’s very grippy and quite thin. Some people use it on their aerobars to get a bit of grip. In this case, having cushioning doesn’t make sense.
How thick should handlebar tape be?
Handlebar tape thickness varies between 1.5mm and 3.5mm. In general, bar tape should be 2.7mm thick. Most people prefer a bar tape between 2.5mm and 3mm thick to provide both grip and cushioning for comfort. Extra thick tapes are appreciated for gravel and touring.
So, if you don’t know what bar tape to choose, look for a tape around 2.7mm thick to get reduce vibrations in your hands while not feeling too tacky or too big under your hands. Then, with experience, you will be able to tell if you are happy with this thickness or if you need more or less padding. Feel free to try, bar tape is quite cheap and should be changed regularly.
If you want to know more about this, I have written another article dedicated to how long bar tape last and how often you should change it.
Can you double wrap handlebar tape?
It’s possible to double wrap handlebar tape. Pros used to do it in the past but nowadays you find thick tapes up to 4.6mm from Lizard Skin and you can also choose to add gel pads underneath the tape for extra comfort.
If you decide to double wrap bar tape, I recommend you use a thinner tape underneath and don’t wrap it too far to ensure you can wrap the thicker tape on top of it without issue. If you double wrap two thick tapes, it will feel very bulky and for people with smaller hands, it will just be too fat and not comfortable.
Generally, people want to double wrap bar tape when they have some pain in their hands and arms on long rides or gravel types of terrains. In this case, having a bit of extra squishiness and therefore extra dampening of the vibrations will feel better. But it’s a compromise between enough lots of cushioning and being too bulky to ride comfortably.
This is why I recommend you also have a look at the option of using gel pads. Keep reading to know more about it.
Using gel pads underneath the bar tape
An alternative to double wrapping the bar tape is to use gel pads underneath the tape. It will make the tape less bulky and easier to grip with your hands while still providing extra comfort and cushioning. Gel pads are only added on one side of the handlebar, this is why it won’t affect too much the diameter of your grip.
Gel pads are very simple to use and really help isolate the vibrations from the road. They are cut to the shape of road bars. They come in a pack with 2 straight pads for the drops and two curved-shaped pads for the top of the bars. You just need to place them on the bars before wrapping them with the bar tape.
Not many brands sell gel pads. Personally, I like Fi’zi:k gel pads. Why? They are easy to remove without making a mess. It might sound silly that this is what I care about but getting a mess of gel all around your bars that is sticky and difficult to clean each time you want to change your bar tape is a no for me. And Fi’zi:k has nailed it. The pads are good, they do absorb the vibration but the material is strong enough not to break into pieces. Here is a link if you want to try and see it for yourself.
What is the thickest bar tape available?
The thickest bar tape is Lizard Skins DSP 4.6mm thickness V2.
You can buy it here on Amazon.
How wide is handlebar tape?
Handlebar tape width is standard across brands. It comes with a 30mm width.
How long should handlebar tape be?
Bar tape varies between 1900mm and 2350mm in length. It is best to take a tape that is at least 2000mm to be sure it will fit without worry. Shorter tapes are generally good for bikes with internal cable routing.
Generally, any bar tape length will fit your bike unless:
- you have wide handlebars
- your bike has external cable routing
- you want to use gel pads underneath
- you want to use the tape as a double wrap
In this case, I recommend you take at least 2080mm in length. If unsure, cork tapes with gel are generally very long.
Can I use electrical tape as finishing tape?
You can use electrical tape as finishing tape when wrapping your handlebars. It’s very efficient: very sticky while very easy to remove without making a mess. It lasts longer than the finishing tape provided with most bar tapes.
In my experience, I have had issues with bar tape unwrapping when using the finishing tape provided in the package. But electrical tape always works fine and a roll is so cheap that you should always have some at home (especially since it’s useful for several things on your bike). Have a look at how cheap it is! I find black tape always looks the best but feel free to look for other colors.