Vel's Snake handlebar tape is a decent performer for not a lot of money. It's easy to fit and even with minimal padding it offers plenty of comfort, although it could do with being a bit more grippy against sweaty hands.
- Pro: Enough stretch for easy fitment, soft to the touch
- Cons: Slippery when wet
Unless it's cold I rarely wear gloves or mitts on the bike, so I like a good bar tape. I want comfort but for that to come more from the material used than the padding; I'm not a big fan of a bulky handlebar.
The Snake is a good compromise in that respect with its rubber type texture deforming enough for a soft feeling without being very thick. It has a much nicer feel to it than something like the similarly priced Pro Microfibre tape or a traditional cork offering.
The material, which Vel describes as a Dura polymer, has a nice stretchiness to aid fitting. To get around the tight bends of the handlebar and around the brake/gear shifter unit you need a little bit of give to get a nice tight wrap without it snapping. You don't get any creases in the tape at the bend either.
Grip levels are fine in the dry, but in the recent hot weather I did have a few slippages from sweaty palms if I hit a rough section of road. Even though the Snake has a pattern to it, it is still basically a smooth, firm finish and I've had the same grip issues with other other similar tapes.
Wearing gloves sorted this out and in the rain too, so if you're a mitts wearer it's not really an issue, although I'd still say the tape could do with a little bit more tackiness, like the Supacaz Kush tape that I have fitted to my bikes, though admittedly the Kush is over double the price.
The Vel uses a sticky double sided tape to hold it in place and it works well enough. It stuck to the back of the bar tape when I was removing the backing, and you can unwrap the Snake from the handlebar a few times while you are fitting it if the spacing doesn't go quite right. It's too early to say if it'll leave the sticky tape behind if you were to remove it after a few months' use.
I prefer a tape that doesn't use any adhesive on the back as you can fettle it, plus if you have to change a cable the tape won't need replacing.
The Snake is available in black, blue, yellow, red, white and grey, with each priced at £15.99, which I'd say is pretty competitive. Fizik's Performance bar tape is a good quality offering that I've used on various test bikes over the years and costs £16.99, plus there's the Pro Microfibre I talked about earlier, now £19.99.
Comfortable bar tape for those who don't like a lot of bulk, but can be a little slippy when wet/sweaty without gloves on
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vel Snake Tape
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
The Vel Snake is designed for drop handlebars and is comfortable enough to be used for both on and off-road riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Dura polymer tape provides superior grip and comfort in all conditions
Adhesive backing for a reliable non-slip fit
Includes finishing strips and VEL end plugs
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A minimalist bar tape that still offers plenty of comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Easy to fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like a tackier surface.
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 overall score
A decent compromise of comfort and padding makes for an enjoyable ride, plus the Snake is easy to fit, all at a fair price.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
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.