The Diamond Pattern Bar Tape from Brand-X may well be one of the cheapest I've used, but it also happens to be one of the best. As far as the look, feel and comfort goes it's up there with the expensive brands, though there are a couple of little niggles that tend to tally up with that £7 price tag.
A lot of tapes at this price use a cork mixture, which offers decent amounts of shock absorption and grip, but Brand-X has gone for a 'soft touch foam' material which gives it a sort of rubberised feel. In fact it's very similar to Lizard Skin's tape and the Kush from Supercaz, both of which are around five times the price.
What padding the Brand-X does have offers plenty of comfort by deforming without flattening itself against the bar, so you always have something there to take road buzz out. Impressive considering it's only 2.5mm thick.
I tend not to wear gloves in the summer, and on stiff alloy bikes like my two Kinesis, an Aithien and T2, I often get pins and needles in some fingers, but this hasn't happened once with the Brand-X.
The rubbery feel to the tape also means riding bare-handed in the rain doesn't see you struggling for grip at all.
I do have a couple of little gripes, though. For one thing, it's a little bit on the short side. I usually ride 42cm bars, outer to outer, and with a decent overlap the tape will only just reach the centre bulge of the handlebar. The omission of the small lengths of tape you usually get for wrapping around the levers doesn't help either. On its own, this isn't a major issue - you can keep tweaking the wrapping until it's spot on. Only you can't here, because the adhesive backing separates from the back of the tape as soon as you start to unwrap it, so your first attempt at wrapping the bar has to be spot on.
That aside, the Brand-X scores highly due to the brilliant comfort and expensive look for a mere seven quid. The fitting issues can be got round, and hopefully if you've read this review before fitting it you'll know what to expect and to take extra care.
Expensive looking and feeling bar tape, just take care when fitting it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Brand-X Diamond Pattern Bar Tape
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Brand-X describes the bar tape thus: "High quality Bar Tape with a Diamond Pattern texture. Soft touch foam material offers excellent grip in all conditions, comfort and helps to absorb shocks/vibration through the bars."
It certainly is some decent tape for the money, offering plenty of comfort and grip.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*Excellent grip even when wet
*Can cover any type of bar extension
*2.5mm Tape Thickness
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Lovely tape that really does take the sting out of a harsh frame on rough road surfaces. Plenty of grip too.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The overall quality for the money.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
On the short side in terms of length, and you only have one attempt at getting it right.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Brand-X offers an overall feel and comfort level similar to that of much more expensive tapes such as Lizard Skins and Supacaz's Kush. A few niggles like the adhesive backing separating and the short overall length stop it getting a 9, but for the money it really is a very good bar tape.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.