Friday, February 13, 2009

Product Review: Fizik Microtex--Looks Good, Grips Good But Can Be Stinky.

The Microtex is very thin tape. So thin that when I got my first roll via mail, I was skeptical that such thin tape could offer any shock or vibration dampening. Happily, I have not noted any extra harshness in my handlebars since using it. In fact, I like that the bars feel a little more immediate, which gives me a corresponding feeling of confidence, especially when I am in the speed hooks in the rain. It is grippy.

The thinness of the tape does present problems during handlebar wrapping. Because the tape is so thin, it has a tendency to twist and bind, unlike cork tape which is relatively simple to stretch into place. Also MIcrotex, by design, does not stretch, which further exasperates the kinking problem during wrapping. With care and patience, along with experience, most mechanics should be able to achieve a clean wrapping job on their second try.

I must qualify my statement about Microtex’s excellent grip. It is achieved only if you are wearing gloves. If you ride barehanded in wet conditions (or even on the trainer), you may find that the tape is slippery. On the other hand, if you are wearing gloves, grip improves if you dampen the bars. Spit and water both work.

One of the best parts of this handlebar tape is cleanup. The deepest ground in filth can be removed with a rag and some hot soapy water. I use Palmolive. It requires a little scrubbing, but would you rather scrub or rewrap your bars? I was able to use the same roll of white tape for the bulk of last road season since it always came clean and looked good afterwards.

This tape is available in a multitude of colors and finishes. Pictured on my Basso is the metallic blue.

All varieties are perforated, which I think it very sweet looking, sort of old school. I am most fond of the "Soft Touch," but it get dirty quickly and does not clean up as easily as the other varieties.

My only real complaint with this tape is the stink. That’s right, it stinks. Sweat gets under the plastic impervious layer and makes a home in the fibrous layer underneath. The sweat festers under there, since there is no way for the air to get to it through outer layer of the tape. For about a month, I couldn’t locate the rotten cheesy smell in my bike room. Finally, frustrated, I went around sniffing all of my bike stuff until I isolated the odor to my road bike’s handlebars. I pulled the hoods away and scrubbed at the underside of the brake hoods and the bartape with a clean brush and extra soapy water. The stink returned the next day. When I unwrapped the bars, there were blackened colonies of…this disgusting issue has been corroborated by other local cyclists.

Overall Fizik Microtex is decent handlebar tape. Light feeling and grippy, it inspires confidence when conditions deteriorate. Once you figure out a workable application procedure, the tape looks pro and stays looking that way with a little maintenance. If you frequently change your tape you should be OK, but if you clock major hours on the trainer, expect cheesy aroma to develop. By way of endorsement, I am still using this handlebar tape on my race bike, but I am interviewing similar candidates on the training bikes to try and find one that doesn’t become a biology experiment after a month of sweaty criteriums.


Steve said...

I was a Microtex zealot until I discovered Stella Azzurra FabWik. I think it rules if you can find it.

Anonymous said...

that's kind of a harsh, review, man. i've got the standard white stuff on my road bike, and yeah it's harsh, but whatever. it's not THAT harsh. you ridden cloth tape lately? try wrapping some drops with some old school Tressostar and tell me the fizik is hard to wrap or that it rides harsh.

also the white is super easy to clean and actually stays reasonably white.

and the soft touch black is awesome! i've raced a year with it on my cross bike and it's still super comfy.