Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Review: Brooks Leather Handlebar Tape.

Ritchey Biomax Pro Handlebars
90,000₩  - approx £45. A little on the pricey side. Yikes!

The Brooks Leather Handlebar Tape has a classic antique aesthetic, which perfectly matches my Brooks Flyer saddle. I couldn't be more satisfied with the appearance of the stuff. Treating it with a little proofide gave it a much darker tone. Over time sweat and rain made the colour fade a little.

It took me a while to get used to using leather handlebar tape. My previous bike had ergonomic handlebar grips, so moving over to drop bars with leather tape was a huge change. The texture of the leather feels great to grip onto, that is until you start riding on bumpy surfaces. In contrast to my previous grips, the leather tape provides very little padding or protection to your hands. After a few medium length rides I made the decision to start using cycling gloves as my hands were becoming quite sore. Usually I wouldn't bother wearing gloves, but it really improved the comfort.

Performance in the Rain:
Leather really likes to soak up the rain... A LOT! It doesn't really affect the grip of the product, but on a longer ride it starts to cause quite a bit of discomfort. Unlike a synthetic grip, the leather tape takes a long time to dry out, so if you're going to embark on a long ride your hands will wrinkle up like raisins. I took my bike out for a 65km spin on a on a relatively wet day. I got caught in one major downpour for about 10 minutes, but once the leather got wet it remained saturated for the rest of the ride. I removed my gloves because they were soaking wet and the constant contact of my skin against the damp leather caused my skin to wrinkle up really badly and become incredibly sore.

The cotton tape that came with the tape lost it stick in a matter of days. The leather tape itself held up fine, although I did have to re-grip it on one occasion. I don't think it had been applied tightly enough on its initial application.

Overall Opinion:
Pros: Beautiful, the leather feels wonderful, tough material.
Cons: Too expensive, doesn't provide much cushioning, soaks up water like a sponge.

I do love the look and feel of Brooks leather handlebar tape but it really isn't suitable for a touring bike. I am looking to replace this with a cheaper, synthetic material which will provide more cushioning and dry quickly. It was the sore and wrinkly hands from the saturated leather that made me come to this decision. If I had a different bike for better weather I might consider using this tape again (depending on my budget!).

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