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ESI grips RCT Wrap is unusual silicone rubber bar tape that you can reuse. Clever, but probably not worth the premium being asked over conventional tape.
Spring is a wonderful time of year, and it's the ideal time to treat your bicycle to some fresh new bar tape. Especially if you've been riding your bike all through the winter and the tape on the handlebars is looking a bit tatty. There's nothing much worse than dirty worn out bar tape.
ESI isn't the most familiar brand in road cycling circles but they have made a good name for themselves with excellent mountain bike grips, and they're bringing that expertise to their first road bar tape.
They use the same soft silicone foam as the mountain bike grips in a reversible bar tape, which is useful because one of the claims of this bar tape is that it can be rewrapped. You could after several months whip it off and wrap it the other way up. That's not possible with most bar tape that needs to go in the bin after removal.
Fitting the bar tape was straight forward enough. It's very stretchy, and that makes it easy to get the tension just right. Chamfered edges help line up the tape on the bars so you can ensure it's neatly wrapped.
Loop a figure of eight around the hoods and there's just enough length to reach the centre of the handlebars. Here it gets a little tricky. The tape is so stretchy that if you let go to cut a sliver of electrical tape, it will unravel in the blink of an eye. The trick is to ensure you've got that bit of tape ready so you can finish the bar tape off before it uncoils. A pair of branded bar plugs finishes the handlebar ends.
The tape has a very odd, and quite a pungent smell, when you first take it out of the packaging, and it stays some time after you've fitted it to the bike. After a ride and a wash though it disappears, which is a good thing because it's not a very nice smell if you keep your bike in the house.
A month of solid use and the bar tape is holding up well, with no sign of wear. The tape provides a decent amount of padding, it's nicely sprung, and provides good comfort on longer rides. The extra comfort is noticeable on the rougher surfaces compared to the PRO bar tape that it replaced, so that's a good thing if you're looking for a tape offering a bit more cushioning, without resorting to gel inserts. The tape is also comfortable if you ride without gloves.
My only reservation is that at £34.99 it's on the expensive side, you can get just as good tape for much less from the likes of Lizard Skins (/content/review/34988-lizard-skins-dsp-race-bar-tape) and Arundel (/content/review/50906-arundel-gecko-grip-bar-tape). The ESI tape is very good though, but I'm just not sure it's worth the premium they're charging, especially if you frequently change bar tape.
Comfortably cushioned bar tape that is easy to fit and lasts well
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Make and model: ESI grips RCT Wrap
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?
This complete kit comes with two rolls of reversible wrap (for the left and right, naturally), Adhesive tape and bar-end plugs. The great thing about this bar tape is that it is amazingly stretchy, allowing you to control just how dense you want the bar tape to be in different areas of your bars by controlling how tightly you wrap this tape on.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Easy to install
Works very well.
Great cushioning and comfort in the hands, with or without gloves.
Very good wear rate, and it can be refitted the other way up so prolonging its life.
Great level of cushioning.
Hard to justify the price when there is cheaper bar tape that does the job just as well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Bit smelly when you first fit it.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: 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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.