Brooks Handlebar Tape - Road Cycling UK

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Brooks Handlebar Tape

Sheer luxury

Everything you need for that Brooks feel

Embossed Brooks log

Pack includes Brooks bar end plugs

Comfort and style; dynamo hub optional

Brooks Leather Bar Tape £24.99, £29.99 perforated

When venerable British saddle manufacturer Brooks was bought by the Italian Selle Royal concern in 2004, it was making about 30,000 saddles a year and not much else. Today, saddle output has trebled, while the company has gone back to the catalogues of the early 20th century for inspiration, and now manufactures a range of cycling goodies that includes saddlebags and toolkits. Not found in those old catalogues, but very pleasing nonetheless, is leather tape suitable for wrapping around dropped handlebars.

The mundane aspects of such a product are all covered: each length of tape is easily long enough to cover a full-size bar, and there are a couple of spare bits to put around the back of the brake levers. There is an adhesive strip along the back of the tape. Brooks includes lengths of black finishing tape and a pair of black plastic end plugs decorated with the company logo in raised relief.
In order to make the required length from a naturally size-limited material, shorter strips of leather are stitched end to end. So neatly is this done that it does not intrude on the finished appearance of the tape on the bar, although perfectionists may want to reposition the tape during application in order to hide the seams on the underside of the bars.

The sides of the tape are neatly feathered, or ‘skived’ in saddlery-speak, so that they lie flush against the next layer. As the tape is overwound, this creates the spiral bulge familiar from synthetic tape, but the effect is somehow more pronounced and aesthetically very pleasing.

Despite feeling firm and somewhat inflexible straight out of the packet, the tape conforms well to the curves of the bars and brake hoods. With care, there is no reason to find a kink building up at any point. End at the top, and the black tape supplied will provide a finishing touch of a sort, but is too stiff to conform properly. Insulating tape is, as ever, a better option. This means starting at the bottom of the bars, which creates a surplus that has to be tucked inside the end. Unlike synthetic foam tape, leather does not compress easily. Small notches cut in the surplus help to reduce the final internal thickness, which can make the difference between getting the plug in easily or breaking its fingers.

The tape is very comfortable to hold, albeit a little tacky on first application. The honey-coloured version tested gets grubby quickly, although it cleans up easily and feels more comfortable after the first wash. When wet it is a little less successful, since it holds water for some time until it dries. This is to be expected. In any case it is more comfortable when wet or dry than cloth tape.

This is not a product likely to excite too many racing cyclists. It is inevitably heavier than the synthetic opposition, and even more so after a soaking. On the other hand, it feels luxurious, with a welcoming tactile sensation that makes the rider want to hold it, which is more than can be said for most tape. Furthermore, it seems to get better with age, responding well to washing and resisting the minor scrapes and nicks that quickly spoil the appearance of foam tape. With a potential life of several years or more, it even makes some sense in cost terms. The limited palette is a little disappointing, since leather can easily be dyed. Something for the future, Brooks?


Comfortable, luxurious and surprisingly easy to fit

goodComfort, pleasing to touch and hold, looks good, long-lasting

badLimited colour range

performance 8

value 7

overall 8

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