Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape: Quick Review – by Guitar Ted
Recently in a “Gravel Grinder News” post we told you about the new Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape. Well, now that I have had it installed on my test mule, the Noble Bikes GX5, and have ridden on it several times, here are my thoughts on this tape. First, before I get into the final verdict, I need to discuss how this tape is different and how that allows for customization of the feel and performance of this handle bar tape.
The unique factor with Supple Lite tape is how the tape is not only much wider than typical handle bar tape, but how the cross section of the tape is made. Typically, handle bar tape measures about 30mm in width and has a consistent profile from edge to edge. there may be a slightly thinner edge with some tapes. However; the Supple Lite tape has a central portion which measures out at the full 2.5mm thickness and then tapers out to either edge to be a rather thin thickness. This does a couple of things for the end user.
First, as you can see in the image to the left here, you can wrap this tape so that it has a ‘soft ridge’, ribbed sort of look which reminds me somewhat of old steering wheel designs in cars, or perhaps the sort of grips tennis rackets have. This gives your hands a bit more purchase than it would otherwise have with typical handle bar tapes. The other thing- and most effective thing- you can do, is vary the thickness of the tape dramatically. Obviously, wrapping any handle bar tape with more overlapping in certain areas can achieve a similar effect, however, you’ll be hard pressed to get up to 5mm of plush thickness, as you can with the Supple Lite tape.
I used this feature to my advantage by wrapping with more overlaps near the brake hoods on the handle bar ramps. This made riding in a position ‘on-the-hoods’ a bit more forgiving. Down low, on the handle bar extensions, I used less overlaps for a more direct feeling grip, since this is where I like to be when traversing rougher terrain or as I descend. That’s when I want to feel like I have maximum control and terrain feedback.
So, how does this EVA foam compound deal with gravel roads? Well, it does tamp down the higher frequency stuff, for sure. Especially if you overlap the tape a lot, but….. Smaller handed folk may not get on with the thicker, and thus larger diameter grip. I didn’t mind it, and for me it did work well to make my hands a bit happier. There was one thing I found out here that I wasn’t real pleased with, but I also wasn’t surprised by it either. That was when my hands got good and sweaty. That was when the Supple Lite tape lost its tacky feel and holding on was more of a chore.
That’s no big deal if you are a wearer of gloves. I could have mitigated the issue by wearing a strip of sweat-soaking terry cloth on my wrists, or a similarly effective thing. I could have probably avoided the issue by wearing sun-sleeves. But it bears mentioning since I think the grip would also be compromised by rain, snow, or in misty conditions as well. At least if you are not wearing gloves.
At The Finish: So, from a purely gravel/dirt road rider’s point of view, this Supple Lite tape has some features that make it a handle bar tape worth trying out. I liked the wider width and how the taper of the cross-section of the tape allows for grip customization. The wider tape did not inhibit the installation either, which was a concern of mine going into the review. It went on with ease, and anyone versed in handle bar wrapping should have no issues installing the tape, despite its 40mm width. It also was long enough to cover my 46cm bars with tape to spare.
I liked the overall feel and tacky grip, (when it was dry), of this tape. It does damp out some vibration – not all of them – so you end up with a nicer experience in regard to hand comfort. I liked how the cross-section allowed for the tape to have that soft-ribbed grip which aids in situations that might be a bit rowdier than your typical road surface.
I did not like the grip when this tape got wet, but again- I ride bare-handed. If you use gloves, or don’t have issues with a lot of sweat, then this may not be an issue for you. It is something to be aware of though. While some flat bar foam based grips can accumulate skin oils and grime, which renders them slippery after a time, I have not noted that the Supple Lite tape is doing that. It seems to be in the same condition and grip feel as when new, even after a few sweaty rides. It cleans well, and it seems to be holding up- so far- just fine.
Other than that? This is great handle bar tape. Maybe Wolf Tooth will make it in colors sometime, but for now you get black or black. Oh well….. That goes with about any color bike and doesn’t show grime. I really like the idea behind this tape and how it performed for me, so far, has been satisfactory. If you have issues with hand comfort, this handlebar tape may be just the thing to bring you a better experience.
Note: Wolf Tooth sent out the Supple Lite handle bar tape for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.