The Spank Flare gravel bar tape combines microfibre tape with gel pads to create a thick profile that aims to create a more comfortable cockpit. The tape has some stretch, making it easy to apply, although, despite Spank suggesting it is extra-long, there was only just enough to fit a set of 42cm wide bars.
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Spank is known for its mountain bike components but has recently moved into producing road/gravel parts. Using its Vibrocore technology, Spank delivers the Flare 25 handlebar that is on test, to which the bar the tape was fitted.
The bar tape kit comprises everything you should need, with the bar tape, finishing tape, gel pads for both flat top section and drops, plus alloy expanding bolts to hold in place. One big plus to the kit is that both gel sections and the bar tape itself are essentially reusable, with neither using an adhesive. If you make some mistakes when installing, they are easy to unwind and re-do sections. The downside to not having any adhesive is that you need to take extra care when wrapping, keeping tension at all times to ensure they do not unwrap.
There are 4 gel pads, with straight sections to fit the flat top area of the handlebar and then also 2 curved in shape to fit the drops. I cut down the flat gel pads to suit the 42cm bars they would be fitted to, which was a simple process. The gel pads are a little tacky. When installing, they stayed in place for around a minute before starting to drop off, which was enough time to get them in place before wrapping began.
I found the material of the bar tape made wrapping easy, having enough stretch to get around the tight bend in the handlebar without feeling fragile or likely to rip. The tape is 220cm in length, which is a little longer than most bar tape rolls, with Spank claiming this is extra-long, although, with the extra diameter of the bar with gel pads in place, I struggled to reach the end, running out of tape before the end of the gel pad initially and had to unwrap and start again, being less generous with the over-wrap. I did succeed on the second attempt, although as the bars are 42cm, which is the narrowest width Spank Flare handlebar, anyone with wider bars and especially if using the full section of gel pads, may struggle with the length of the bar tape.
How it performed
While riding, the bar tape feel is very good and worked well in very hot, sweaty conditions where it soaked up sweaty palms nicely. When wet, the tape was still grippy and comfortable. For me personally, I struggled with the total circumference due to the gel pads in place, being 14mm, compared to around 10mm for a more typical bar tape set up, with the top of the handlebar being the most problematic for me. So, after a few rides chose to remove this section and re-wrap, with the only loss being that the finishing tape needed to be replaced with basic electrical tape. The gel sections on the drops were more useful for me, especially as this section of the handlebar that I hold on rougher sections where comfort is needed. The bar tape is 3mm in thickness without the gel pads, and this is quite generous, so with the gel pads on top, it creates a very wide grip. The feel with the gel pads is not something all may like as there is some extra movement with a slight wobble.
With all parts, the total weight was 228g, which is quite heavy compared to a lightweight road bike bar tape typically weighing around 80g. The heaviest part is the gel pads, and without those, the weight-reducing down to 124g. The cost is also higher than most standard bar tape at £40 for the version tested with the gel pads, or you can buy without for £32. The price puts it up among the more expensive bar tape like Wolf Tooth supple at £44.
The Spank Flare bar tape is comfortable and works in a range of conditions with a material that makes them easy to wrap and re-wrapped if needed. It is quite expensive and heavy, and not everyone will like the feel, even if that can mean extra comfort. It claims to be extra-long but in reality, it is only just long enough due to the extra diameter created by the gel pads and care will be needed when using on a wider handlebar.
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