Fizik Dual Handlebar Tape
We're fans of Fizik handlebar tape. It's light and thin, durable, and cleans easily. It's been our tape of choice since we taped up one handlebar with their black suede Microtex Bar:Tape and put Fizik Bar:Gel pads on the other before covering that with more black Soft Touch (suede) Microtex. We eventually gave up on the Bar Gel, but stuck with the Fizik Bar:Tape. We also moved away from the black suede to their smooth-sided colors.
We went in knowing a good bit about their tape. The white Soft Touch Microtex doesn't seem to clean well after a while, but the rest seem to clean up and look good. After months on our road bike, the smooth white is a bit faded by the sun, but a soapy wash generally restores it to looking near new. The tape cleans faster and easier than our white Hüdz. The red tape on our cyclocross bike has hit the ground many, many times and has been given several mud baths. It still cleans well, but there appears to be dried mud in the perforations and we haven't been able to get it out. The smooth tape doesn't seem to absorb water, still works well when wet, and dries pretty fast, as in within an hour; two on a particularly humid day.
In terms of installing the Microtex tape, it's pretty easy. The only thing hard about the adhesive backing is occasionally it's difficult to get the cover tape off. The short piece of tape included with each roll, the one designed to go behind your Ergo lever, is usually long enough that we cut it in half and use the two halves on top of one another before taping up the bars. The Microtex has good stretch; we like to stretch it as taut as we think we can safely pull both to minimize the chance of the tape slipping and because we like the resulting thinner feel. We've rarely used the pieces of finishing tape that come with. Since this finishing tape doesn't stretch, you need to apply plastic tape to the ends of the Microtex first, make sure the plastic tape is smooth and even and then apply the finishing tape. Too much work and the result, at least by our hands, never looks terribly good.
We were intrigued by the Dual tape. It is certainly a bit more flashy than the monochrome tapes, but at the same time, black is the main color. More importantly, the tape is padded by means of stitching two lengths of tape together, and is thickest in the area underneath the stitching. The tape is 3cm wide, 4mm thick under the stitching and a bit over 2mm thick for the rest of the tape. A roll weighs 49g. When applied to the bottom of the drops, the resulting diameter of the handlebar is almost 29mm. In contrast, the standard Microtex tape is just under 3cm wide, a bit under 2mm thick at it's thickest. A roll weighs 35g. When applied to the bottom of the drops, the resulting handlebar diameter is a bit over 26mm.
The Dual barely stretches at all. This made applying the tape to the handlebar bends a bit awkward; couldn't adjust the coverage as we went along. We stopped and unrolled several turns a few times to get it right. Also, because of the thickness, Fizik cuts the tape on a long diagonal bias at the beginning and end of each roll. We weren't sure how to start the tape on the bar at first. Usually, we wrap our handlebars starting at the bottom inside and wrapping over the top as we go forward and up. This means that the tape is wrapped clockwise on the right side and counter-clockwise on the left. Because of the starting diagonal and our desire to have the "fizik" name visible right-side up to the pilot, we ended up wrapping our right bar counter-clockwise. In retrospect, we should have totally unwrapped the tape spool and started with the other end. This would have allowed us to wrap the right as we prefer. And the thickness also made applying the final plastic tape not so much as difficult but not particularly attractive. Then again, we could have gone with matte black plastic tape to make it a bit more subtle -- this seems to be the trick that the Garmin-Slipstream team uses.
We decided to split the identity of our cyclocross bike's handlebars, with the Dual on the right and regular Microtex on the left. We used the CX bike as our daily bike for the better part of three months. Once riding the split setup, we noticed the increased diameter of the Dual right away. The padding was definitely noticeable, more cushy than the straight Microtex, not as soft as the Bar:Gel. If you've never tried Microtex, the Dual's cushion is sort of in the range of standard "cork" tape, and definitely stiffer than the cushiest of the "cork" foams. The standard Microtex is softer than Benotto Cellotape, but stiffer than just about everything else we've tried. After a while, the increased diameter of the Dual was more appealing than the padding.There is a concern among many, a concern we hesitantly share, that a covering too soft causes handlebars to move around in your hands too much, which both compromises handling and leads to blisters. Seems a bit extreme, even if we're discussing foam Grab-On grips, but the general idea, that less padding leads to a more "positive" responsive feel, is one we generally agree with.
Racing the tape in 'cross races yielded few surprises. The cush is most apparent when sprinting in the drops. For the rest of the time, the extra diameter is more noticeable than the padding. We find we're still more partial to the regular Microtex, but the Dual was hardly uncomfortable or even distracting. The one place where we were surprised was the drying time of the tape. We did a bunch of races, where the tape got soaked from rain and mud during the race and we drove home before cleaning. The Dual side would still be wet when we got home; the Microtex typically was dry. Then, we'd scrub down the bike. Several hours after the scrubbing, the tape would still be damp.
After riding with the Dual for a few months, we're partial to the regular Microtex tape. The Dual seems to hold up as well, though the "fizik" name running down the blue portion of tape is fading from white to blue. It is comfortable, though we're not partial to the extra padding. It seems that the Dual tape has yet to permanently compress under our most-used sections of the handlebar. Fizik claims this is by design and it no section will ever be crushed; we have no way to know. If we could find the Microtex in a thicker version that stretches well and doesn't have the padded feeling, we'd probably make the switch. But until then, we're happy to stick with the Microtex.