Gripper Bar Tape, produced by the good folks at GREPP, is an adhesive-free, durable, and washable handlebar tape. Based in Sweden, GREPP founders Jan and Thomas initially set out to produce a milled cotton cloth tape (like many other classics in the market) but very quickly found that with the use of innovative new materials, they had an opportunity to produce a much more sustainable, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly product for the market.
Construction and Materials
Plant-based bar tape. Really?!
At the risk of adding more fuel to the cycling industry hype train, we’re going to say that from a materials perspective, the GREPP team may have just developed what could be our first glimpse into the future of bar tape. But before you eye roll off page, let us explain a little more about the materials used in the Gripper tape.
The topside material facing your hands is a plant-based, synthetically manufactured fiber called TENCEL™ Modal, which originates from trees. The hardwood fibers are extracted from naturally grown beech wood by an environmentally responsible pulp-to-fiber process. This process is 100% self-sufficient in energy and recovers its co-products from component parts of the wood. The result is fabric that is completely biodegradable and compostable, extremely durable, and (they say) twice as soft as cotton, even after repeated washing.
Looking at the specs, each roll of tape is 27mm wide, 3 meters long, 1.6mm thick, and roughly 20g in weight. With Sam’s Crust Towel Rack bars measuring at a whopping 660mm wide, we were worried that we might need two rolls per side (as with say Newbaums), but at 3 meters long, the Gripper tape was more than long enough to wrap the Towel Racks with some left over. So if you’re a fan of wide-ass bars like the Towel Rack or Walmer Bar, the Gripper tape could be a great option for you.
In terms of pricing, GREPP has an RRP of 270 SEK (approximately €27 / $30 / £23), which doesn’t make it cheap bar tape, but given its promised reusability and durability, it does represent good value for the money when compared to other premium bar tapes on the market.
First Impressions + Installation
Packaged in a kraft-esque 100% recyclable box, the tape arrived feeling like a little artisan treat. Not a gram of plastic in sight (a very different experience from other bar tapes we’ve bought in the past) really set a great tone from the start of our experience with this product.
Inside the box, the two 3m rolls and the accompanying bar plugs sit snugly. We opted for the Rain Drum (a mid-toned brown color) and the Charcoal (a dark, near-black color) and were happy with our choices. The dyes look natural, deep in saturation, and durable. The brown Rain Drum offset Sam’s honey leather Brooks saddle perfectly. In hand, the Gripper tape feels considerably softer and more luxurious than other cotton bar tapes we’ve used from Newbaums, Tressostar, and Velox. The texture of the tape felt tactile, tough, and timeless. Plus, the weave on the tape made it feel grippy straight out of the box. 10/10 for first impressions.
Padding and Comfort
At just 1.6mm thick, the Gripper tape isn’t exactly cushy when compared to today’s 2.5mm to 4mm+ padding standards. Coming from the flexi bamboo handlebars on our touring rigs, the first ride with the GREPP tape felt harsh. Wrapped around our wide drop bars, they gave a very direct and undamped bar feel that – while preferable for some riders – wasn’t what we were looking for. With our European tour just about to kick off, including some rough riding on the infamous pavé sections of the Hell of the North (Paris-Roubaix) and plenty of euro-grav, some extra suppleness needed to be found.
On their YouTube channel, Jan from GREPP advises using an old inner tube to pad out sections of the bar like the riders in the Paris-Roubaix race. But with a slew of old bar tape gathering dust, we chose to use some beaten-up old wrap as the base and simply layer the GREPP tape over the top. This worked really well, but was only the beginning of our comfort journey. We also added some padding in the lower portion of the drops by way of a sliced-up ESI extra chunky grip, which we simply glued in place and wrapped over one final time. Comfort levels dialed, we took the bikes for a forest singletrack session and were soon basking in the kingdom of suppleness again.
Three Months of Testing in Europe
After building up our new rigs, we left the countryside lanes and rolling Chilton hills of England and headed south to Dover. One quick (and surprisingly cheap) ferry later and we were in Dunkirk, France. From there, we toured through Belgium, Holland, and Germany before finishing up our summer riding with the unbelievably good Montañas Vacias bikepacking route in Spain.
Throughout the tour, the GREPP bar tape was excellent. It stayed tight, remained grippy, and retained its color really well. Even in the torrential rain we experienced in France, we didn’t experience any slipping or loss of grip at all. Our only slight frustration with the tape was that it did begin to fray quite badly where it was wrapped around Sam’s bar-end shifter. We had to undo it and rewrap it twice during the trip which, while not the end of the world, was definitely something we would have preferred not to have done. That said, he is running a skinny 26.0 tubed Crust Towel Rack, bar-end shifter, and extra padding, so the Gripper tape didn’t exactly have a ton of available space to latch on to. With STI/brifter levers, this wouldn’t be nearly as bad, but something to bear in mind for fellow bar-end enthusiasts.
Out in the Wash
Upon returning to the UK, we unboxed our bikes, built them up, and immediately put our bar tape in the washing machine. We chose the hand wash setting and opted for a 40C degree wash. GREPP advocates the use of a washing bag to prevent fraying, but I couldn’t find one, so I just included some clothes in the wash and hoped for the best. Is this just a gimmick? Will the tape just shrink and become unusable? Am I going to open the door to an unraveled mess?
To my surprise, the tape hadn’t shrunk at all and looked pretty good. I wouldn’t say the wash had returned it back to its out-the-box glory, but the dust and chain oil that lingered on the tape were definitely less noticeable. Plus, when it came time to rewrap my bars, I laid the faded surface down first (the original wrap), which meant the tape came out looking almost brand new.
Overall, we really like the GREPP Gripper bar tape and would recommend it to people seeking that classic neo-retro cloth tape vibe. It feels at home on our Peregrines and really helps to hone the Randoneuer style. The tape is grippy, tactile, and timeless, plus if you wash it regularly, it should save you money and time when the call for new bar tape comes knocking.
- Soft, grippy material that feels luxurious AF
- 100% Adhesive-free thanks to the natural rubber threads on the underside
- Ability to unwrap and wash the tape and reuse again and again
- Long-length tape as standard, making it a perfect choice for wide bar aficionados
- At only 1.6mm thick, you might want to buy extra padding or double wrap
- It has a tendency to fray quite badly if not sealed with glue or stitched
Since GREPP’s inception in 2021, the brand has quickly grown both online and via relationships with a network of local bike shops around the world. In the USA, Crust is the go-to distributor and has a decent amount of stock online.