Over the years I’ve tried all kinds of bar tapes on my road bikes – some cheap and some expensive – and as a result, my expectations for grip and durability has become high.
I ride year-round and in all weather conditions, so the same bar tape will have to provide grip while sweat pours down my arms all summer as well as when grippy gloves try to tear at the surface all winter.
Lizard Skins DSP tape (Amazon link) was my favorite for quite some time, but it’s difficult to stomach replacing it as it can be so darn expensive compared to other tapes on the market. Is it possible to get this type of performance without paying as much? Zipp Service Course CX Bar Tape seemed to tick all the boxes for what I needed, and at nearly half the price of Lizard Skins DSP, I decided to give it a shot.
What’s in the package?
Inside the box, you’ll find two rolls of bar tape, two pieces of finishing tape strips covered in the Zipp “Z” logo to cover your ends, and two bar plugs also containing the Zipp “Z” logo.
This is pretty standard fare for any other bar tape I’ve purchased, regardless of price point or brand. The rolls of bar tape were curiously labeled “L” and “R”, which I can assume is for left and right, although I am unsure what the difference would be aside from logo orientation.
Is it easy to use?
Installation of the bar tape was typical of any other bar tape. The underside of the tape has a sticky strip like most tapes do, although it feels tacky like that material which holds fake credit cards in your junk mail much more than super sticky like strong adhesive.
When installing it I pulled the tape snug (but did not stretch it!) as I wrapped and it did not try to constantly unravel itself like many cheaper tapes I’ve used before. I’m no professional when it comes to wrapping bars, and if I realized I had to redo a section before finishing it was easy to unwrap and try again without anything tearing.
The bar plugs tapped in easily with a mallet, and the finishing tape wrapped and stuck cleanly without trying to peel itself up at the end. I can’t say I’m a fan of the bar tape, though, as it’s not very flexible and it would fold or crease easily when trying to tape the ends.
I tested Zipp Service Course CX Bar Tape on two different bikes: my all-weather commuter, which sees daily use in both fair weather and harsh conditions, and my regular road bike, which only gets ridden on dry days.
When I ride a road bike I primarily spend my time in the hoods, and a common trait I’ve found about many bar tapes is that even when you pull them snug as you wrap the bars they tend to slide around the bends of the bars, necessitating a re-wrap of half the tape. Zipp Service Course did not budge at all, and I never needed to re-wrap the bars due to slippage. Those areas did get quite worn but were still grippy regardless.
During testing, I had to warranty a brake lever on my commuter bike, and later on, adjusted some cables, so I decided to re-wrap the bars instead of purchasing new tape.
I was able to slowly unravel the tape without it ripping in any way (this has happened to me before with cheap bar tape), and then wrapped it again without any issues or slippage when riding. I think the tacky material under the tape helped here, as opposed to the sticky and unforgiving adhesive found on many other tapes.
The only part of the tape that did not last was the finishing tape, which stopped adhering well after it was reapplied and was replaced with a clean wrap of electrical tape. This has happened with almost any tape I’ve used, though, except the Lizard Skins DSP’s finishing tape which allowed me to re-wrap my bars multiple times before I ended up replacing it.
How Much Grip?
For grip, the Zipp Service Course CX tape impressed me, particularly in wet conditions. The tape has a nice cushy feel and was always grippy, even when wet.
The only time I ever felt like the tape was slippery was after I applied sunscreen and did not wash it off my palms before riding, but when I decided to wash the palms of my hands immediately after applying sunscreen and before I started riding the issue was less prominent.
I don’t like wearing gloves at all when it’s warm, so good grip for bare hands in all conditions is a necessity for me.
Durability has been impressive, as the tape has made it through two summers and almost two winters on my commuter bike and only now is starting to peel near the bends slightly after more than 6,000 miles of use.
A chunk was also cut into one area of the tape due to an accident unrelated to riding, but the tape has did not peel or rip afterward.
As for the regular road bike, the tape still looks brand new despite nearly 2,000 miles of usage in summer and winter, although I did replace the finishing tape with electrical tape after re-wrapping the bars recently after making fit adjustments with my shifters.
Comfort-wise I was extremely happy with the tape, as it feels very soft and cushy without feeling bulky, and on rough roads, it helps dull some of the vibrations of the roadway. No matter where I put my hands – the hoods, the drops, or the tops – my hands always feel like they have enough cushion and grip.
I can confidently say that this Zipp Service Course CX tape is one of the best tapes I’ve used. Is it better than Lizard Skins DSP tape? No, but its performance and comfort is pretty darn close, and at roughly half the price it’s an excellent value and probably the one I will choose again in the future. You can get it here on Amazon.