Smanie’s Elite Bar Tape is thick, cushioned and grippy and great at absorbing buzz and bumps on both road and gravel, and its subtle branding results in a clean-looking handlebar. It’s well priced too, but as ours best handlebar tape buyer’s guides shows, it’s up against a lot of opposition when it comes to wrapping your bar.
Smanie’s Elite bar tape has a premium feel for the price. It’s grippy and comfortable, and its 3mm thickness helps to absorb road buzz and the more noticeable jolts from gravel riding.
The grippiness is noticeable the first time you use the tape, and the grip becomes even more evident when it’s raining or when you start to get sweaty.
With cyclocross riders being one of the target customers for Smanie’s Elite Bar Tape – along with road and gravel riders – this tape has to cope with being splattered with mud. And it did so too, with my grip on the tape never feeling compromised.
Another feature of the Elite tape is that it’s very easy to clean, as it doesn’t absorb mud or dirt. Instead, any muck and crud sits superficially on the surface, which makes it easy to wipe off. This should keep the bar tape looking good for the long term too.
In spite of the tape’s 3mm thickness, Smanie has made the Elite fairly stretchy and flexible, and as a result of this the tape wraps pretty well. The tapered edges help, creating a smooth edge that offers an excellent grip when you’re sprinting in the drops.
My preferred method of wrapping tape is the ‘figure of eight’, but using this method there was some overlap around the hoods. Thankfully, Smanie provides the perfect length of strip to place behind the hood. This does away with the need of the figure of eight, allowing for a less bulky tape covering around the hood.
Smanie describes its Elite tape as one ‘of the longest on the market’, though I found its 223cm length similar to that of other bar tapes. It was long enough for the traditional look I favour, wrapping the tape further along the bar and closer to the stem than many riders prefer.
I did find the tape’s adhesive backing strip extremely sticky, which could be to its detriment. If you have to rewrap the tape for whatever reason – a mistake first time around, for example – you’re likely to leave the backing tape stuck to your bar. Thankfully the tape itself is sufficiently tacky so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if you have to rewrap your bar a few times I can see the backing strip separating from the tape entirely.
Overall, I did find the Elite quite straightforward to fit but it is less forgiving than a simpler cork tape.
Smania has targeted this at the very crowded and highly competitive sub-£20 market. And in many ways the Elite tape is a good product and one that’s able to hold its own in this company – but I would argue there are a couple of areas that Smanie could improve upon.
My first gripe is the bar-end plugs, which aren’t very secure and can easily be knocked out. At this price I’d have liked to see metal plugs such as those PNW uses on its £26 Components Coast Bar Tape that Mike reviewed.
I also feel that the backing tape really is just too sticky, which could restrict your ability to rewrap your handlebar if you make a mistake first time around.
But for £18.99 you do get a very tacky, comfortable and road bump-absorbing bar tape that comes in a choice of five colors – black, white, blue, orange and red – one of which should complement the look of your bike.
In spite of my feeling that Smanie’s Elite tape could be better in a couple of ways, this is still a comfortable tape for rough roads or gravel and an option worth looking at.
Smanie’s Elite bar tape is attractively priced and is a reasonable choice if you’re looking to upgrade your road, gravel or adventure bike. It’s comfortable, grippy and secure whatever the vagaries of the weather, and it’s pleasingly easy to clean too. Though the end plugs could be better.
Very comfortable bar tape that’s grippy in all weathers and easy to keep clean, but the bar-end plugs are poor
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Make and model: Manie Elite Bar Tape
Size Tested: One size only
Tell us what the product is for and who it’s aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Smania says: ‘The Elite bar tape is 3mm thick. It is designed to soak up gravel and road vibrations from the harshest of roads to provide ultimate comfort. It is super tacky, so rain or mud won’t make your bars slippery and it is ultra-durable, so when you are out shredding it won’t tear on the first time you hit the deck. Also, no need to stretch the tape for every last centimetre, because Smanie Elite bar tape is some of the longest on the market.’
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bar Tape 223cm long per roll (x2)
Small Touch Up Tape 10cm (x2)
Inside Finishing Adhesive Tape (x2)
2 End Cap Plugs
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Plenty of thickness and enough stretch to make installation easy.
Rate the product for performance:
Very grippy texture even in wet and muddy conditions.
Rate the product for durability:
Smanie says ‘it is ultra-durable, so when you are out shredding it won’t tear on the first time you hit the deck’. And so far it’s held up to everything I threw it at.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
At 78 grams the Elite’s weight is comparable to other bar tapes.
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
I found the tape’s 3mm thickness offered good cushioning on road and gravel.
Rate the product for value:
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It offered very good grip and excellent comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The grip from the material and the texture on the tape.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bar-end plugs have a cheap feel and didn’t stay in that well either, which is a bit of a let-down.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The price is reasonable, though some other tapes at a similar price come with high-quality metal bar-end plugs that are much more secure.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No – the quality tape is let down by disappointing bar-end plugs.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
The tape is comfortable and soaks up road buzz well without compromising grip – regardless of the weather. It’s easy to clean too. But disappointing bar-end plugs bring the overall score down to average.
I usually laugh: Willier Cento Uno Air My best bike is: Ridley Kanzo Fast
I’ve been riding for: 10-20 years I laugh: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, mtb, Gravel, Multi Day Adventures