Ergon BT Gravel Handlebar Tape: Quick Review – by Guitar Ted
Handlebar tape is one of our “touch-points” on a bicycle and Ergon is known for helping with that in the flat bar realm. However; with their new BT series of handlebar tapes, Ergon has finally entered the drop bar grip scene. We were sent a sample of the BT Gravel handlebar tape to check out. Does Ergon have a hit on their hands here, as they did when they came out with flat bar grips in the mid-2000’s? Or, is this just another roll of fancy-pants bar tape that doesn’t have a lot going on that is different from anything else out there? I aimed to find out.
What It Is: Handlebar tape has taken on a new role for drop bar bikes with the popularity of gravel/allroad/bikepacking styles of drop bar riding. Just looking cool and being thin and light doesn’t cut it anymore. Riders are seeking out more comfort in their handlebar tape these days so they can mitigate vibrations, have more control in rough terrain, and deal with the grit and dirt inherent in the pursuit of unpaved fun.
Ergon claims to have achieved these goals with their “BT” series of dropbar tapes. There are three ranges to choose from: Road, Allroad, and Gravel. As you progress from the “Road” tapes in the BT series, the tape gains thickness. So, the Road range is 2mm thick, the Allroad range is 2.5mm thick, and the Gravel range has 3.5mm thickness. Here is a little bit of a description from the Gravel handlebar tape page on Ergon’s website.
“Maximum gravel fun with no discomfort: Ergon has developed its handlebar tape BT Gravel specifically for this purpose. With its 3.5 mm thickness and aggressive, block patterned surface texture, shock and vibrations are absorbed, delivering the perfect grip and bike control on the most technically demanding terrain. This special bar tape for all gravel riders reduces pressure on the hands, feels good to the touch and provides a secure grip. The BT Gravel can can be wrapped to individual preferences – thinner/thicker or increased/decreased grip texture – as wrap positioning guide marks are incorporated into the bar tape surface pattern.“
Ergon BT Gravel Handlebar Tape comes in five hues and retails for $39.95USD. There is also an accessory pad set which can be wrapped over for even greater comfort, if you desire. The “BT Orthocell” pad kit is available separately for $29.95 USD.
First Impressions: I looked over the color palette for the BT Gravel tape when I was offered to review this product and I found that the colors were more of an earthy look, not bright and ‘shouty’, as many other handlebar tapes are these days. No sparkles, no ‘sheen’ here, just a nice pattern and some rich colors. I opted for the “Swamp Green” and was delighted when I received the package to find that it was what I had imagined it would be- a nice, organic looking green which went with my pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD quite nicely, I thought. (Your mileage may vary on that!)
The tape felt differently than anything else I have handled. The textured surface is subtle, and the pattern was interesting. Ergon claims this helps you align your wraps as you install it, which I found to be true. Installation wasn’t any big deal, for me, but I’ve wrapped thousands of handlebars over the course of two plus decades of being a bicycle mechanic, so it comes easy for me. I’d say this tape is about average in difficulty. There are far harder tapes to use, including the thicker versions of Lizard Skins, Wolf Tooth’s tape, and some fizik models. That said, this is not a tape to try out a wrap job if you are doing it for the first time. I’d highly recommend seeking out a professional to do the job right. At 40 bucks a package, you cannot afford to screw up a wrap job here!
I was pleased with how it came out. The finishing tape is on par with most types of self-healing, stretchy finishing tapes you see now, and the tape finishes off nicely. The grip feel felt great, initially, and you end up with a pretty beefy feeling handlebar after you are done wrapping with this tape. In my experience, anything over 2.5mm starts to really affect the overall diameter of your handlebar, so small-handed folks might want to make note of this. Ergon has the slimmer “Allroad” version of this tape which I’d probably recommend there.
Ride Performance: Once I was able to get out on the gravel roads around here, I found that there was something to Ergon’s claim of vibration reduction with this handlebar tape. Now, I should note that I ride with a Redshift Sports Shock Stop stem on this bike, but that doesn’t filter out the higher frequency vibrations. That’s where this handlebar tape came through for me. It definitely helped reduce that sort of input from the gravel roads I ride.
The thing I really was impressed by though was the grip level the BT Gravel tape has. That subtle texture sure has a great effect when your hands get sweaty, or the going gets rougher. I ride without gloves most often, so sweat is my enemy when it comes to warm weather drop bar riding. Many tapes get slimy, slippery, and almost unrideable when they get wet, but not the Ergon tape. It has a much higher grip level than almost any tape I’ve tried without feeling tacky or sticky. Well done here, Ergon!
At The Finish: Ergon’s entry to the drop bar grip market had a lot of expectations for a great product. What with the competition out there, and Ergon’s own reputation for flat bar grips ahead of this introduction, the BT series had to be better than just “good”. Did Ergon meet my expectations for a handlebar tape worthy of the Ergon name?
In a word: Yes.
I really like how Ergon managed a nice visual treatment but made it functional in a couple of ways. The way the pattern lays out aids you in wrapping the bar, but it also provides grip with its texture, which is brilliant, in my opinion. This is the sort of innovation I would have hoped that Ergon would bring to the table in drop bar handlebar tape. That the tape also is comfortable is a bonus, and well, again, something I fully expected from Ergon.
Not that there is not room for improvement here. My handle bars are 46cm wide and I barely had enough tape to get them wrapped. There are wider bars out there now and I would be surprised to find that this length of BT tape would cover those types of wide drop bars. Perhaps Ergon can see fit to offer a special “wide” BT tape for those drop bars. Also, this tape is not a tape for those who are not experienced installers of drop bar tape. If you don’t consider yourself an “expert” at wrapping, I’d recommend finding someone who is. I’m not sure Ergon can- or should- address this. It’s just a caveat to anyone considering this product.
But otherwise, Ergon has done a smashing job of providing gravel/allroad riders with a tape that has grip, looks great, (as long as you are in to the earthy color palette), and provides some vibration damping. I feel as though this tape will have a decent, long life on this bike, and if so, I’d be looking to add this tape to another of my drop bar bikes, maybe more. It’s that good. The BT Gravel tape is definitely worth a look.
For more on BT Series handlebar tapes and other Ergon products, see their website here: https://www.ergonbike.com/en/index.html
Note: the Ergon BT Gravel Handlebar Tape was sent to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give you our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.