Review: Lizard Skins DSP 1.8 mm bicycle handlebar tape

Lizard Skins 1.8 mm bar tape review

I like bar tape that is grippy, and not slippery. I also like grip tape that has some padding to it. I used to ride this really grippy and thick handlebar tape from Specialized that I liked a lot, but they either renamed it or they don’t make it anymore. Also, someone pointed out to me how heavy the gel padding was in the bike shop, letting me hold it in my hand to see. I rode cork tape for a while, which I also liked because of the comfort. But cork doesn’t have the same grip, and can easily get torn up if you aren’t careful.

So when I was at my local bike shop last year and saw this Lizard Skins tape on display, I decided to try it in spite of its really high price. Suggested retail is around $38, and I think that’s what I paid. I put it on my cyclocross bike first, where a good grip is extremely important. And after using it there, I really liked it and also put it on my road bike.

What I didn’t know when I bought this tape at my local bike shop is that it comes in different styles and thicknesses. I got the thinnest and lightest tape at 1.8 mm and just 50 grams. It also comes in slightly thicker 2.5 mm tape at 56 grams, and a really thick 3.2 mm tape that was used in the 2012 Paris Roubaix by Vacansoleil-DCM and still weighs just a little bit more at 63 grams.

If I had known about different thicknesses, I would have gone with the thickest 3.2 mm version for my cyclocross bike for sure, and probably also for my road bike. But alas, I already shelled out the money for what I have, so I’m sticking with it until my tape wears out. And that will probably be a while, because it is holding up quite well.

lizard skins 1.8 mm bike tape full view

The 1.8 mm version is slightly plush and extremely grippy. I would describe it as only very slightly thicker and softer than traditional bar tape, with the  better grip being the main selling point. Although I have to admit that I’ve done plenty of cyclocross racing and even a gravel grinder with this tape on my cyclocross bike, with no hand discomfort. So maybe even the thinnest version is better at vibration dampening than regular tape.

I’ve had some minor cyclocross crashes with the tape, and it has held up pretty well in spite of that. I have one little spot where I can see that I crashed it, but the tape did not tear completely and just looks a little bit beat up.

The next time I buy grip tape, I plan to stick with the Lizard Skins brand, but move up to the thickest 3.2 mm version. I feel that the tape is probably a little bit too expensive, at almost three times what you can buy some cork bike tape. But having a very solid grip where I don’t worry about my hands slipping off the bars even when my gloves are sweated through or my handlebars are wet is worth the extra expense for me.

Anyone else like grippy bicycle tape? What brand are you using? Leave a comment and let me know.


Review: Caffelatex Tubeless Tire Sealant

Caffelatex mariposa tire sealant review

I have been using Caffelatex sealant in my 29er tubeless mountain bike tires for almost a year now, but had not experienced any situations where the sealant came into play until last weekend at the Austin Rattler 100.

After the race was long over and I was cleaning up my bike the next day, I started picking at a spot on my front tire that looked like it was mud stuck to the tire. I realized that it was actually dried latex when I peeled some off with my fingernail and saw a little bit of bubbling as it resealed. That means that the product was a complete success, because it sealed so well and so quickly that I didn’t even hear the air come out or see any latex squirting through.

The reason I began using Caffelatex to begin with was when I bought a new set of wheels and was over at a friend’s house who was helping me set them up. I didn’t have any Stan’s sealant with me, and he only used Caffelatex. He told me that Caffelatex had no ammonia in it, and the ammonia in other sealants can actually eat away at the metal on some wheels that it reacts poorly with. I wasn’t sure if this was bullshit or a real thing, but since I had brand new wheels and that’s what he had at his house, I decided to try it and have been very happy with it. And indeed, on the bottle itself, they advertise the “no ammonia” aspect of the sealant.

One thing you’ll notice about Caffelatex is that it seems a lot thinner than Stan’s when you pour it. That would make you think that it would work poorly as a sealant in comparison, but the reason for the thinner liquid is that Caffelatex is designed to foam up inside the tire when you are riding. This foaming action will allow the sealant to seal sidewall cuts better and faster than sealants that don’t foam up. I haven’t had a cut sidewall yet, so I can’t verify if this actually works as well as they claim it should.

One thing about sealant is that it will eventually dry up and evaporate inside your tire, leaving you with a thin layer of latex looking stuff on the inside of the tire, but no liquid rolling around in there. How long before the liquid dries up and evaporates depends upon where you store your bike (someplace hot and dry?), the humidity where you live, how much you ride and other factors.

I went seven months between checking my sealant — from just before the Leadville 100 last year until March or so of this year. My tires were still holding air just fine, but they were completely dry in there when I popped them open and looked inside. So I added the recommended amount for 29er tires and easily got them back on and sealed up with a low end compressor that I have around the house.

There’s a special ingredient that I read about that I add to my sealant. It’s plain old glitter, like you buy at a hobby shop. I put about a teaspoon’s worth of glitter inside the tire when I add sealant. The reason for this is that I read that the little pieces of glitter will clog up the hole faster and more effectively than just plain sealant by itself. My tire did indeed seal up so quickly that I didn’t even know that it had worked, but I have no idea if the glitter actually helped or not. I figure it didn’t hurt, so I will probably continue adding glitter to my mountain bike and cyclocross tubeless tires.

I am happy with Caffelatex, and will continue using it as my tire sealant on all of my tubeless tires and wheels.

Do you have an opinion or question about Caffelatex? Leave a comment!


Review: Specialized Toupe Expert road bike saddle

specialized toupe expert saddle review

I’ve been riding the Specialized Toupe Expert road bike seat for more than a year now, so I thought I would write a review for others considering this saddle.

A bike saddle is a very personal thing, and what works well for one person might not be a good fit for someone else. Until I started riding Specialized saddles, I tried many other brands including Selle Italia, Selle SMP, Fizik, Koobi and several other brands. My goal with any bicycle saddle is comfort, above all else. When you have the right saddle, you should basically never notice it when you are riding. If you feel pressure points and have to shift around a lot, or if you start to suffer from wiener sleepage issues, you’ve got the wrong saddle and need to keep looking. Especially the crotch numbness part, which should avoid at all costs.

I’ve found some saddles that were terrific when it came to avoiding crotch numbness, but just weren’t that comfortable overall, and left me shifting around. Before Specialized, I had the best luck with the Fizik Alliante, which is a great seat that I also recommend. But when I started looking for a replacement for the Alliante that had worn out, I decided to try other brands to see if I could find something even better. And after many failed attempts where I almost gave up, I ended up with the Toupe Expert that became my new favorite road seat.

As I’ve mentioned in my other Specialized saddle reviews (for my Henge and my Phenom Expert), I didn’t really think that a bicycle manufacturer could design a bike seat that would be better than a seat designed by a seat specialist. But I kept hearing good things from people who rode Specialized seats, so I went ahead and bought one. It was immediately comfortable for me, and caused no crotch numbness, and has held up great over the past year of riding it probably 8,000 miles or more.

specialized toupe expert seat body geometry design

The Toupe Expert is a light saddle designed for road racing. It has hollow titanium rails, and only weighs 188 grams in the 143 width. Like other Specialized saddles, it comes in three different widths. You can go to a bike shop that carries Specialized and sit on this pad thing, which will show indentations where your sit bones are. You measure that, and you know which width is best for you.

I think I probably paid close to the $130 suggested retail at my local bike shop, but it was worth it to have a quality road saddle that is comfortable. They make an even more expensive version of this saddle, and a heavier, less expensive version. So you can decide on your budget and go in either direction, as far as spending money. I would imagine that all of the saddles in the Toupe series are going to feel pretty similar, and it’s mostly about weight savings as you change prices.

If you are struggling with finding a comfortable saddle, I recommend this. Many bike shops have “demo saddles” of a lot of different brands, possibly including Specialized. They also sometimes have a program where you can return the saddle and trade it if you don’t like it. Take advantage of those programs, but be sure to ride a different saddle for at least a week or two before you decide. The first ride or two with a new saddle doesn’t always tell you everything, because your butt has to get used to the new shape.

I am very happy with this saddle, and recommend trying it as one of your options for a road bike.

Here’s what Specialized says about it:

Our highest-performance road saddle, this sleek minimalist is ultra-light and tuned for an outstanding fit, with a flat profile and thin padding perfect for explosive efforts.

– Patented Body Geometry design is lab tested to assure blood flow to sensitive arteries

– Super-light EVA padding for comfort and support on longer rides

– Stiff, carbon-reinforced shell for longevity and all-day racing efficiency

– Lightweight and durable hollow titanium rails

– Tough, light and water resistant Micromatrix cover

Have you used this saddle and like it or dislike it? Leave a comment!

Review: ByeKyle Simple Bicycle Strap

Bye Kyle bike strap review

Sometimes you want to carry a little something extra on your bike. Maybe you have something that won’t easily fit on your bike bag and you don’t want to stuff it in your jersey pocket. Or maybe you just want to completely avoid a bike bag because you are aiming for minimal weight and complications.

I’ve seen people use electrical tape to attach an extra tube to their seatpost or frame. That’s a cheap solution that is fairly secure if you tape it well, but it’s a lot of work to get it taped right, and it’s hard to get the tape off when you really need the tube or whatever else you have strapped on.

The ByeKyle Simple Strap is designed specifically for attaching stuff to your seatpost or bike frame, and completely solves the electrical tape problem.

These are really cheap, at $5.95 each plus only a dollar or so to ship in the mail. I bought three of them, since I have multiple bikes.

I use mine sometimes with my canister of Big Air, which is hard to fit in a seat bag, and uncomfortable to keep in a jersey pocket. But I have also seen it used to strap a tube and tire tools underneath a seat, to a seatpost, or to the frame or even the handlebar stem of a bike.

It’s made out of a really solid piece of nylon with high quality velcro that grabs well. Even better, part of the nylon on the strap is rubberized somehow, which makes it super grippy. For example, plain nylon against that metal Big Air can might slip when you go over the rough stuff, but the rubbery stuff on the nylon holds things very tightly in place.

If you ever want to go lightweight and carry the bare minimum, this strap is the way to go. Or alternatively, if you like to carry a ton of stuff, it works well for that too. The ByeKyle strap is totally worth the small expense, and I recommend picking a few up.

Review: Chain L bicycle chain lube

chain L bicycle chain lube

Until a few months ago, I have consistently only used either Tri Flow bike lube or Boeshield T9 bike lube on my chain, either in the spray can form or from the drip bottle. What I liked about those lubricants is that they are both easy to apply, and they are also very light lubes. So after you spray them or drip them on, you can run your chain through a rag by pedaling backwards, and your chain will be really clean, but still very quiet and well lubricated with Teflon.

I was pretty happy with that setup until I read a raving review of Chain L high mileage formula chain oil on the Road Bike Rider site, where the author claimed that he was getting a lot more life out of his chain as a result of using this lube, and that he only rarely had to re-apply it because it lasted so long on the chain. The review convinced me to try it, so I bought some.

I haven’t been using Chain L long enough to verify if it really increases chain life like the other review says, but I am hopeful that I will see similar results.

I have been able to verify one of the other selling points of Chain L though — the fact that it lasts a lot longer between applications, which means that you don’t have to oil your chain as often to keep it lubricated. Even if my chain doesn’t last any longer, I am happy with how I can spend less time lubing my chain and more time riding.

The biggest issue for me with this chain oil versus what I was using before is that it was a major switch for me from a really light Teflon based lube to a very heavy oil based lube. I was worried that such a thick oil would end up attracting a lot of dirt and make my chain disgusting and filthy. I really liked how my chain would stay relatively clean with Tri Flow or Boeshield T9 and didn’t want to lose that benefit.

The good news is that my chain still stays clean if I apply it correctly, the way the author of the other review of this product helpfully described.

Basically, when I apply Chain L, I will put a drop on each link of the chain, one link at a time. It takes a little bit longer, but it prevents you from wasting oil and making a thick, oily mess.

Next, I’ll let the bike sit there for 10 minutes or so, so that the really thick oil has time to actually penetrate all the links of the chain.

And then I’ll finish up by getting out a rag and holding it over the chain while turning my pedals backward, removing all of the thick excess oil.

After going through this process, you end up with a clean, well lubricated chain that stays pretty much as clean as my Tri Flow setup from before. I also noticed that my chain runs significantly quieter compared to lubing with Tri Flow or T9, which leads me to believe that it is better lubricated and possibly extending the life of the chain just as the product claims.

I also get much, much higher mileage between adding lubricant to my chain. When Tri Flow or T9 starts to wear off, you can hear your chain start to get louder. (Which really means that I am going much too long between applications.) With Chain L, I am not running into that issue.

One thing I wonder about is how a heavy lube affects the speed of the chain versus a light lube. Perhaps you’ve been reading that series of articles on Velonews about the guy who tests every type of lube to see which one is the fastest, claiming that you can get “free wattage” by using a really fast lube. I don’t ride time trials, so I don’t really consider it important. Chain life is more important to me than a tiny incremental speed improvement that probably doesn’t even pan out in real riding. But I do still wonder how it would rank!

You have to love the completely generic looking black and white label and plain bottle with Chain L. It makes you feel like you’ve discovered a secret stash of some special lubricant that they only use on military drones or something, and someone has given you a small bottle that they poured out of a 50 gallon drum. Well, it makes ME feel that way, anyway.

I am very happy with this chain oil, and I recommend trying it. It’s a cheap way to possibly make your expensive chain last longer, and it works well even if the extended chain life part doesn’t pan out.

Anyone else using Chain L? If not, what’s your favorite bike lube, and why? Leave a comment!