Long Term Review: Thomson’s Katie Compton Cyclocross Handlebars, Plus CX Bar Tape from Zipp & Lizard Skins
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…
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:
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.
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:
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.
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
Zipp’s Service Course CX bar tape is spongy and grippy and fairly durable. That’s not to say it’s very tear resistant…
…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.
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
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.
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