Long Term Review: Thomson’s Katie Compton Cyclocross Handlebars, Plus CX Bar Tape from Zipp & Lizard Skins

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Last fall, I put the new Thomson Katie Compton cyclocross handlebar on my bike and immediately loved the shape and feel. It’s big, fat and comfortable, with a stiff, straight upper section and compliant drops with a long perch. It, along with the low-rise mountain bike handlebars, were their first foray into carbon fiber components, but you can tell they did their homework.

And we would expect nothing less from Thomson, given their reputation for making bombproof alloy cockpit parts in their Georgia factory. These aren’t made domestically, but do meet Thomson’s stringent standards and oversight. They’re made from a blend of three different modulus Toray carbons over EPS mandrels for perfectly smooth interiors and a stronger one-piece construction. They use a proprietary “Nano Epoxy Resin” that supposedly improves impact resistance.

Over the course of the past 12 months of testing, the bars have been raced some, ridden a lot and hit the ground a couple times. They’ve also been wrapped with two amazing sets of bar tape, Zipp’s Service Course CX and Lizard Skins’ DSP. Check our original Unboxed & Weighed post for raw handlebar photos and weights, then dip in for the long term review on it and the wrappings…

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The drops’ shape is a blend between the classic rounded curve and a highly shaped ergo one. There are no harsh bends, but it is graduated and ends with a few about 2.5cm of flat. The actual drop varies with the width of the bar. Here are the measurements, click to enlarge:

Thomson Katie Compton cyclocross handlebar sizes and specs chart

Notice the cross sections. They allow for a very round shaped bar once the cable housing is wrapped into place, and they’re just a bit wider than tall. Compared to most any other bar out there, they maintain a larger diameter all the way out to the corners. For general riding, that gives you plenty of real estate to rest your hands. It also allows for installation of inline brake levers on the flats. Or clip on aero bars.

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In race situations, like in the lead photo, I’m almost always on the hoods. Thanks to the shape, which pushes the tops out as far as they can before turning forward, the tight bend makes for plenty of bar tape overlap on the inside of the corner, which gives it a crescent shape and a lot of room for your palms:

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That effect is amplified when running fatter, cushier tape like the two reviewed here. I particularly like the short 78ish mm reach, which keeps the meat of my palms mostly on the broader section of the bar while still able to reach the brakes.

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The top section is very stiff, but the girth doesn’t let it feel harsh. That girth also makes for a very solid handle when standing and yanking the bars side to side for a finish line sprint or hill attack. And the drops, on the rare occasion I used them in a race, have enough give to take the edge off lumpy grass and bumpy terrain.

All in all, it’s a very comfortable handlebar that’s held up very well to a few slips and trips and lots of miles both on the road and off. There’s nothing delicate about the way it feels, but it doesn’t beat you up either. I don’t plan on removing it from my bike unless I have to. Retail is $249.95 and includes a bag and two year warranty. BikeThomson.com

ZIPP SERVICE COURSE CX HANDLEBAR TAPE

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Zipp’s Service Course CX bar tape is spongy and grippy and fairly durable. That’s not to say it’s very tear resistant…

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…since this happened on one spill over some wet roots in a corner, but I rode it like this for another six months and the tear never propagated. The tear does nicely show how thick the padded tape is, and had it not been for the tear, I’d probably still be using it.

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The white did get dirty, which was to be expected, and a simple water wipe down didn’t do much to bring it back to new (as shown on the left where the electrical tape was). I didn’t try using rubbing alcohol, as recommended for the Lizardskins, and this stuff’s long gone to the dump. I’m guessing it’d work at least a little. Overall: Love the cushion, grip and texture, all of which held up 100% throughout the test. The pic above is just before I pulled it off and there’s no visible wear. Just wish it could resist ripping a bit better. Retail is $24, also available in black, gray and red. Zipp.com

LIZARD SKINS DSP HANDLEBAR TAPE

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The Lizard Skins DSP (DuraSoft Polymer) bar tape comes in three thicknesses: 1.8mm, 2.5mm and 3.2mm (tested) and a much wider range of colors, including dual color ones in the middle thickness. They’re also more expensive at $38 to $42.

One of the nice touches is the included finishing tape, which has the same grippy material as the bar tape. Unlike most finished tape that comes with bar tape, this stuff has actually stayed in place and held things tight.

Lizardskins-DSP-handlebar-tape-review

It also cleans up quickly and easily, particularly good if you have a light colored tape. Before and after above was with just 20-30 seconds of wiping with a isopropyl alcohol dipped paper towel. No hard scrubbing required.

Both brand tapes have resisted migration, something that can often happen at the corners and areas where your hands frequently rest. Where the Zipp tape has a spongy kind of grippyness, the DSP is more of a rubbery grippiness. It’s just as soft and cushy, just a different exterior feel that seems to have a bit more “grab” on the gloves. I haven’t had a rough spill on this tape yet, so can’t speak to it’s tear resistance. I will say it feels like it would hold up better.

Between the two, it’s really a toss up. I like them both a lot. If you want cheap, go with the Zipp. If you want easier cleaning, more color selection, better (ie. actually useful) finishing tape and possibly better rip resistance, pony up for the Lizard Skins. Lizardskins.com

Comments

sideburnz - 12/13/13 - 1:25pm

You must not have ridden that Lizard Skins tape in the rain. Slippery as snot.

Jib's Mom - 12/13/13 - 1:26pm

I really dig the Lizard Skins DSP tape. The 3.2mm can be a bit of a bear to wrap though as it is SUPER thick – but worth the effort in the end.

Jake - 12/13/13 - 1:26pm

Love that Lizard Skins tape. I use the 3.2 mm on my road and cross bikes.

Robo - 12/13/13 - 1:30pm

I’ve used them both and, you’re right, it’s definitely a toss up. My Lizard Skin was 2.5mm and never tore but, over the course of a season, the top layer eventually started peeling. The Zipp tape never has but, yeah, a little more prone to knicks and tears, though never bad enough to make me re-wrap the bars until the end of a season. Ultimately, I think I like the feel of the Zipp just a tiny bit more. Combined with the cheaper price, it tends to be the winner for my fleet.

off-roadie - 12/13/13 - 2:28pm

“It’s big, fat and comfortable, with a stiff, straight upper section and compliant drops with a long perch.”

I’ll bet it is…

CX Hotdog - 12/13/13 - 2:58pm

Here is a couple of things worth mentioning. Because the bars are so large in diameter, bartape will not go as far towards the stem as I would have liked. I used Fizik and kept running out of tape on the tops. Other brands of tape might be longer and this wouldn’t be an issue for me. The Lizard Skinz tape feels wonderful, but was not durable in my experience. I have a Saris hitch mount rack and my buddy’s tire rubbing on my drops on the way to a race destroyed my bar tape.

mudrock - 12/13/13 - 5:06pm

Spending that kind of money on tape that gets dirty and torn is nuts. Tape is disposable – the cheaper the better.

Tyler Benedict - 12/13/13 - 5:25pm

Sideburnz – actually, I have ridden it in a light misting rain for more than an hour and didn’t have any problems. I wear gloves always, though, so maybe it was the combo. I’ve noticed that bare hands on many grips with similar materials can feel much slicker when wet.

CX Hotdog – Good call, didn’t think of that. The Lizard Skins are 89″ (226cm) and the Zipp is 75″ (190cm) and both wrapped fine up to where it’s shown in the pics with a bit cut from each.

Chris - 12/13/13 - 7:53pm

I’ve used lizard skins exclusively (road and CX) for about the last 2 years and did several rainy rides and commutes in that time. They grip great in all conditions with or without gloves. Just keep your stuff clean, and water shouldn’t make it feel slick. As far as durability, I’ve had the tape tear from a crash, but CX hotdog, I imagine a wheel rubbing on bar tape during a drive would tear up any tape….. That’s not exactly normal wear and tear (no pun intended) but more trauma to the tape.

CXisfun - 12/14/13 - 9:02am

I would be so embarrassed to let such an expensive bike be photographed with such a shoddy wrap job, especially when the photographs are reviewing said wrap.

patricio - 12/15/13 - 9:41pm

CXisfun

I’ve seen first week wrenches at the shop do a better job tapping a bar :(

MB - 12/16/13 - 12:04pm

@cxisfun – for the uninitiated, what’s shoddy about it?

CB - 12/17/13 - 3:35am

@MB – poor spacing, not evenly stretched, poor wrapping around lever clamp, wrapped inwards on drops (should be wrapped outwards so hand pressure tightens it)

Gène - 12/17/13 - 4:04am

I didn’t like the Lizard skin tape. I used three sets this year on my fixie. I ride a lot without gloves. The tape is to rough for longer rides. I also had to tape the bar quite some times, because it moved. The extra padding flattens out. This makes the top layers move over each other. In the end I threw them away and bought some Bontrager Cork tape. Softer feel on the hands, easier to wrap around your bars and doesn’t move. Ow, and you can buy three sets of Bontrager tape sets for the price of one Lizard Skin set…

And yes, CXisfun said it already: the wrap shown is not representative. I wouldn’t say I do it better, but at least let a pro do it for the picture. The wrap is uneven, and gaps around the shifter. The tape will eventually move, because water and dirt will finds it way underneath the tape.

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