Fabric on your handlebars?

As a brand, Fabric is no stranger to this blog. In the years since launching with their saddle lineup, they’ve diversified into many other interesting products, among them a ratcheting multitool, a cageless water bottle, and a couple varieties of handlebar tape. With Hyro’s recent total cable replacement, I decided to call time on my double-wrapped handlebar experiment and start fresh.

I’ve seen Fabric’s “knurl tape” hanging from the walls of local bike shops for a while now. Curiosity got the better of me: how will these compare to my benchmark, Fizik’s 3 mm bar tape?

Most bar-end plugs are the kind you press into a handlebar with either hand force or taps of a rubber mallet, and they stay in there purely by friction against the excess bar tape you stuff into the end.

By contrast, Fabric springs a surprise as you open the box, and uses expanding bar-end plugs. As normal, you stuff the excess bar tape and push the bar plug in, but here you take a 3 mm hex key and tighten the bolt on the plug. This drives a wedge that expands the fingers of the end plug against the inside of the handlebar and provides better security. Prior to this, the only expanding bar-end plugs I’ve seen were expensive metal items from Nitto and similar premiere marques, costing upwards of PhP1000 a pair. Granted, Fabric’s plugs are still plastic, but nobody else I know makes the expanding type and bundles them with bar tape. These look about as reusable as Fizik’s plugs, too, which is not something I can say about most brands of bar tape.

The “knurl” on Fabric’s bar tape is finely cut into it in a diamond pattern.

Something else I like about the Fabric bar tape is how stretchy it is. One of my few complaints with Fizik’s leather-like microfiber material is its relative resistance to tension, which is an improvement over cheaper synthetic cork bar tapes, but takes a bit of getting used to if you wrap your own bars. Over time, if you wrap your bars in a figure-eight manner like I do, it may lead to gaps forming around where the control levers’ clamp bands meet the handlebars. Fabric’s tape material is a happy medium between the two, and helps provide better coverage that resists walking up or down the bars.

The “knurl” in the name is evident in the texture. Knurling, for the uninitiated, is additional repeating texture added to a surface to improve grip; you see it on the control dials of cameras and the grips of pistols. Most knurling is a fine diamond-cut pattern and it’s the same here. It improves grip over equivalent Fizik bar tape, whose leathery texture is nice to hold, but a little more slippery.

The real win, though, is how Fabric’s bar tape material provides better cushioning over Fizik’s, despite retaining roughly 2 mm of thickness and doing away with foam backing. The rubbery material dampens vibration quite well without bulking up. If you can get over the loss of handlebar thickness, you might even get along with the Fabric tape as a replacement for Fizik’s cushy 3 mm stuff.

Which leads me to Fabric’s final argument: the price. Currently, a box of knurl tape is just under PhP800. I used to buy Fizik 3 mm tape at that price, but nowadays you’re more likely to find it for PhP1100 to PhP1300 a box, with PhP800 getting you the 2 mm variety. If you’ve got the money, Fizik 3 mm is still top of the bar tape heap. Between the 2 mm options, though, I know which one I’m going with.

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