Throughout our two-year cycle tour, I struggled with finding handlebar tape that eliminated the pain that came with 50km daily rides towing 70lbs. On rough roads, especially, my wrists would ache and feel stiff. I tried to change positions regularly on the handlebars, but I didn’t feel comfortable or safe riding in most available positions with my handlebar set up. My wrists ached and my fingers went numb. I could never seem to find a comfortable position to relieve the tension in my wrists.
Dave would wrap my handlebars in two, if not three, different bar tapes to ease the pain. This helped, and also made my handlebars a little too thick at times. Sometime while traveling in South America, Kent MacWilliams of Tasis Bikes and the creator of FAT WRAP handlebar tape reached out to us to ask if we’d like to test his product. The thickest bar tape available on the market, he said it would reduce the pain and numbness associated with long haul cycling. We immediately said yes.
About FAT WRAP Handlebar Tape
At 4.5mm thick, FAT WRAP handlebar Tape is the thickest cork/EVA tape available and is specifically designed for bike touring and bikepacking. If you double wrap your bars, like I do, then this tape is perfect for you. The cork/EVA foam material has a microdot texture, which is long lasting, has superb grip, even in wet weather, and reduces numbness and pain associated with long days of riding.
Kent lives in Vancouver, BC (and therefore knows a thing or two about cycling in wet conditions), and is a cycle tourist himself, having completed rides to Haines, Alaska and down the Pacific Coast to Loreto, Mexico. He began designing FAT WRAP after his first big bicycle tour, when he realized that the market lacked high-quality, comfortable bar tape specifically for cycle touring and bike packing.
Why is Quality Bar Tape Important?
There is nothing worse than being in pain for 8+ hours daily pedaling up steep hills, over knotted trails or gravel roads, or simply just being in the same position for that length of time. Many riders focus much of their attention on saddle comfort, neglecting the importance of overall comfort. Both Dave and I had professional bike fittings done prior to taking off on our journey, and we made sure to build my bike using women-specific components that are smaller to fit women’s bodies.
Prior to using FAT WRAP, we suffered from daily wrist pain. I’d stop and stretch my wrists throughout the day, change riding positions regularly, wear cycling gloves with the squishiest gel I could find, and double or triple wrap my handlebars in tape, yet the pain and numbness set in after an hour or so into our ride. We even resorted to adding Styrofoam pipe insulation and securing it with electrical tape, which helped, but wasn’t ideal.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and handlebar palsy are the two most common overuse injuries associated with wrist pain from cycling.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is less common for cyclists. The median nerve, which runs through the palm of the hand is squished in normal riding position, even without gripping hard. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness and tingling in the fingers and weakness in the hands.
Handlebar palsy, also known as ulnar neuropathy, is common in cyclists, particularly those who spend hours riding daily, as in the case with cycle tourists. Gripping the handlebars causes direct pressure on the ulnar nerve. After long periods of compression from long days of cycling, the numbness and tingling associated with handlebar palsy present.
Kent experienced wrist pain during his first long tour from Vancouver to Loreto, Mexico and knew that by broadening the contact between the hand and the handlebars he could reduce the pressure on the median nerve. He likens it to the way fat tires work great in snow and mud because the width of the tires distribute the weight of the bike. To solve his own pain and the pain of his fellow cycle travelers, he created FAT WRAP.
First Impressions of FAT WRAP Bar Tape
We both felt the immediate effects of FAT WRAP handlebar tape once Dave applied it to our bikes in Ecuador. The handlebar tape is squishy, but not too soft, well-padded thanks to the thickness, and greatly reduced our wrist pain. It wasn’t until we traveled over gravel roads that I really saw how FAT WRAP performed. Rough, bumpy roads always bring on instant pain to my wrists, but FAT WRAP minimized the pain so that it was hardly an issue.
In terms of quality, I installed the tape on her bike in Ecuador and it’s still going strong two years later. Dave had to put new cables and housing on the road and therefore had to replace his tape. The difference of going back to regular double-wrapped tape was noticeable and his wrists began to ache again.
So, What Do We Think of FAT WRAP Handlebar Tape?
We cycled across Ecuador, halfway across Colombia, on a month long cycle tour of Oregon with FAT WRAP, in the pouring rain, and over rough terrain and we’re both hooked. I can’t imagine using a different handlebar tape after using FAT WRAP. It greatly minimizes the constant ache I associated with cycle touring and makes traveling by bicycle so much more comfortable.
At $38, it’s not cheap, but it’s well worth the high price. It’s long lasting and will keep the aches and pains away so that you can enjoy your ride and focus on the scenery rather than your numb fingers. Use the code LONGHAUL10 to receive 10% off your next order, (discount applied at checkout).
This post is sponsored by FAT WRAP, the best handlebar tape on the market. All opinions are my own and (we love FAT WRAP).