Arundel Art Gecko bar tape is very grippy without the stickiness and propensity to pick up dirt like some rivals, but it's a pig to wrap neatly.
Arundel Bicycle is from Fort Worth rather than West Sussex, although it does use the English castle in its logo. It makes some cool stuff, like the carbon bottle cages David tested recently, and positions itself more at the hip, handmade end of cycling than the racing one.
The laid-back attitude is all over the Art Gecko bar tape's box: tongue-in-cheek instructions on the back advise you to 'Continue wrapping until you run into the stem, unwrap some tape because you went too far, slap the enclosed 'finishing tape' on your toolbox, chainstay, bumper etc, find some nice electrical tape and use it to hold the barwrap in place'.
But underneath the jokes is some seriously good bar tape. This is Arundel's flagship wrap and you can choose between nine shades of tri-colour tessellation, all of which start on the drops and fade to black below the hoods.
Lizard Skins, Supacaz and Joystick have all gone with very squidgy, aggressively sticky bar tape that could be made from recycled finger monsters. Arundel's is much firmer yet still very grippy to the touch – you can't tell this from the photos.
The printed patterned section on the drops doesn't have any stickiness at all, though, so if you were using Art Gecko on a race bike you'd need to watch out for that when you're sprinting in the drops.
Art Gecko doesn't have the same level of cushioning as its three main rivals, but for rougher riding Arundel does offer a cobble-specific Gecko Pavé that has a layer of foam under the layer of silicone. Art Gecko comprises of a single, fairly thick layer of polyurethane rubber with a top layer of very thin fabric.
The firmness and relative thickness of the tape make it challenging to wrap evenly. Because it has very little stretch, it had to overlap closely at the bends or I was ending up with folds that bulge. And unless you keep it highly tensioned all the time you can get bagging at the upper edges. I just couldn't get a decent double wrap around the hood without bagginess and/or folding so went with a single pass and left a bit of glue strip behind that hopefully isn't too obvious. I did also discover that it's a one-use-only tape because it starts to pull the surface fabric off itself if you leave it too long and then unwrap it. Maybe a pro mechanic would whip it on perfectly first time without having to go back, but the hobbyist bar tape wrapper could struggle.
The plugs are basic plastic rather than the superior aluminium expanding type that you get with Supacaz and Joystick and, as Arundel itself admits, electrical tape is better than the short, thin strip of finishing tape it supplies (I have used it in the photos to demonstrate this). At £34 there must be a bit of spare budget to upgrade these. If the plugs had a wider flange, as the expander models tend to, this might have solved the problem of getting the thick and unmalleable ends of the tape to disappear neatly into the bar ends.
The ride of the Art Gecko bar tape is just fabulous. It replaced Joystick Analog on my bike which, although easy to wrap, felt slightly distracting with bare hands because of the rubbery raised pattern of zig-zags and logos. I prefer the smooth but grippy Arundel for its ride feel as well as its aesthetic.
In the wet the top fabric layer tends to hold onto water more than its rubberier rivals and the grip is not at the same level as in the dry – also the case for Lizard Skins, Supacaz and Joystick, though they shed the water quicker – but it never becomes slippery.
Durability is looking good so far, and apart from the small sections where I had to go back for another go, it's staying in perfect nick.
Arundel Art Gecko is priced to go head to head with the most expensive bar tapes. Supacaz Super Sticky Kush goes for £34.99 but that has a lot of pros riding it to back up the high price, plus better plugs and finishing strips. Lizard Skins DSP version 2 is £34 and also has an expander plug, while Joystick Analog has an RRP of £31.99 and also better finishing hardware.
Classy, grippy bar tape that performs really well, but you need to be pretty handy at wrapping to get it looking perfect
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Arundel Art Gecko Bar Tape
Size tested: N/A
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?
Arundel doesn't specify who Art Gecko is for, but from the design I would say it's aimed more at the handmade/custom bike market.
Here's what Arundel does say:
Art Gecko is our new grippy polyurethane rubber bar tape with a colourful artistic pattern on the drops. This pattern is called a tri-color tessellation. When wrapped from the bottom it fades to black about where the brake levers mount.
POWDER BLUE, CELESTE, GREEN, YELLOW, ORANGE, RED, PINK, GREY, PURPLE"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The polyurethane layer has a very grippy fabric hot welded onto the surface. The 'artistic pattern' section is printed onto the top fabric and is smooth rather than grippy.
Good quality, well made product (made in Taiwan).
I preferred the bare-hand feel of Arundel Art Gecko to that of some of the more rubbery bar tapes out there, such as Lizard Skins, Supacaz and Joystick, but in the wet the top fabric absorbs more water than its rivals and loses some of its grip.
Still a little early to comment, but looks as though it's made to last.
Impressively low weight for such a plush, heavy feel.
Exactly the level of comfort I'm after: not too squidgy and no raised rubber patterns but cushioned enough to take out any harshness from aluminium bars.
It's around the same as its main rivals, all at the top end of bar tape pricing, but for that I would like to see better plugs and finishing tape.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall performance is excellent for standard road riding. Grip level is great without being too sticky: you feel fully connected with bare hands or gloves. Its rivals might have the edge in the wet, as already mentioned.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It has a classier look and feel than its top priced rivals. It looks like 'standard' bar tape until you touch it.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I found it hard to do a decent job of wrapping it – one that I was happy with, anyway. The bar tape is one of the focal points of a bike and has to be right. I was slightly disappointed with how it turned out despite spending far too long trying to get it just so.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but I would suggest they get a pro mechanic to wrap it for them.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I've loved using the Arundel Art Gecko bar tape but I did not love wrapping it. Fortunately, a few rides later the memory of that bit fades, but I couldn't get it looking perfect and I still have to see the imperfections every time I ride. I would also question the wisdom of putting a more slippery section on the drops, but for non-racers that may not be an issue. Otherwise I would say Arundel has got a great-feeling, great-looking, high-quality product.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, school run on a tandem
Simon finished his MA in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his eight-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).