A White Party: The Bar Tape Review
Salt Lake City, UT, 1 February 2014 – I have a fascination with the color white. Although I’ve yet to experience the thrills and chills of the classic Palm Springs theme party and I’m not likely to do so anytime soon I find white suggestive of the freedom, independence and sensuality that the event embodies. In reality, the closest I get to such hedonistic experiences is kitting up with as much white as possible aside from the required black bib shorts (read the rules if you don’t understand).
White goes with my skin tone–on the color tone scale I’m a winter–and I happen to look great in a white button-down shirt. And its reassuring to know white has been the proper color to enrobe beautiful objects since Nathanael G. Herreshoff a revolutionary 19th Century yacht designer said there are only two colors to paint a boat and only a fool would paint one black. If you’ve ever watched a sleek 12-meter yacht glide across the ocean you understand there are few things as sexy.
However, white requires a labor of love and care to keep clean whether you’re wearing it or fitting your boat or your land yacht with it. A devotion to the color is essential if you’re going to pull off using it. But if white is so popular for objects that thrill the visual senses why then haven’t engineers designed products that can stand up to some level of use and retain their originally endearing qualities?
This is especially true for white bar tape since a bicycle rider is handling it constantly while on the bike and maybe off the bike in certain circumstances, as you’ll soon read. How is it then in the 21st Century we have yet to be able to have our proverbial white cake and eat it too? Wouldn’t life be grand if you could kit your bike with white accessories that were top of their class both in maintainability and functional sensuality.
For at least two years I’ve had my CAAD9 fitted with Fizik Microtex Superlight White bar tape. At around $20 the cost is not prohibitive to replace seasonally if one wishes to do so. Though I find wrapping bar tape less thrilling than riding in the little free time I have so I’d rather pick one brand of tape and stick to it. The Fizik tape has held up well considering I ride all year in a city with four seasons. After two years the tape is still relatively white and has maintained it’s shape and original surface condition. I find it easy to clean with soap and water or most spray cleaners to maintain it’s relative snowy whiteness. Fizik Superlight tape is probably not the best choice for comfort on an aluminum bike however. The Superlight version is not padded and does little to absorb road vibrations. It does have a classic leather look without the cost, an advantage if you’re kitting a bike and have limited funds. Although its not the most cushioned tape on the market it has a sleek classic look that enhances the aesthetic of almost any bike. The Fizik Microtex Superlight White bar tape certainly wins in the maintainability category of our requirement for white accessories.
If during your off-bike personal time you’re used to wrapping your fingers around something substantial you might just enjoy the feel of Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape. Lizard skins tape is manufactured from a slightly tacky foam material that feels, as the name implies, like you’re caressing your favorite amphibian while you’re riding your bike.
Mike DeSalvo installed white Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape on my custom to match the white saddle I’d be installing. As soon as I unpacked the bike I noticed the Lizard Skins and wrapped my hands around the bars. Unlike the Fizik Microtex covered bars on my CAAD9, this felt meaty, warm and alive; a contrast to the leather-like sleekness of the Fizik tape on the CAAD9. Having ridden the DeSalvo for a few months since it arrived in early November I can say I’ve fallen in love with the texture and heft of the Lizard Skins tape. It does however have some drawbacks if you outfit your bike in white. After two months the tape has already absorbed the dye from my winter gloves. I tried the usual cleaning methods that seem to remove some of the surface dirt but little of the imbedded black dye. I’ve read on line that alcohol will take the stains out but may after a while destroy the tape after vigorous rubbing. Since the only alcohol we have in the house at the moment is 12-year-old single malt scotch I haven’t had a chance to test this cleaning method.
Although the titanium bike frame absorbs more road vibration than my aluminum CAAD9 the Lizard Skins tape, though not nearly as important to dampening road vibrations on the titanium bike, has become my favorite bar tape. It’s nearly double the price of the Fizik tape but worth the money. Fizik sells padded bar tape that more closely matches the thickness of the Lizard Skins tape but I find the aesthetic of the Lizard Skins tape coupled with lively feel of the material more appealing. Lizard Skins will likely enhance the aesthetic of modern carbon bicycles more so than the sleek texture of the Fizik tape.
Neither the Fizik Microtex tape or the Lizard Skins tape meets our requirement for a combination of maintainability and functional sensuality; though separately they do one or the other well. If you’re looking for a classically sleek and durable white tape Fizik’s Microtex is your tape. But if you’re willing to compromise on some level of maintainability and are looking for a lively warm and sensual white bar tape that might not stay as clean during the rigors of year-round riding Lizard Skins bar tape is for you.