By Ed Pavelka
Because I’m riding lots of distance in this Paris-Brest-Paris year, I looked forward to trying Bar Phat. A product that adds cushioning, subtracts shock and reduces the risk of hand numbness is a good thing when rides extend for hours.
Bar Phat is a simple product — just four long, clear “viscoelastic” pads that extend halfway around the bar’s circumference. There’s a straight pad for each bar drop and curved ones for the tops. Two thicknesses are available, 2.5 mm and 4.5 mm. I tried
the fatter Phat.
Installation was easy. The pads have stickum on the back to stay in place as you position them. Then you simply wrap the bar with your favorite tape.
After being wrapped, however, the pads lose much of their softness. Snug tape compresses the gel, limiting how much it can flow and cushion. This might be an even greater issue with the 2.5-mm pads, which are thin to start with.
Bar Phat makes the handlebar thicker, and I like that. Once the pads are over-wrapped with bar tape, fatness, not cushioning, seems to be the main attribute. Perhaps the gel does absorb road shock — it’s hard to tell — but it no longer provides the
softness you might expect.
Like other gel products, Phat comes with a weight penalty — several ounces for the 4.5-mm version. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but I no longer have it to weigh.
I took it off and chucked it after the lower right pad burst, oozing its gel into the cork tape and causing it to loosen. What a mess. I probably had my hands down there only 30 minutes during the time Phat was on my bar. That pad must have been defective.
The pads on top, gripped and pressed much more often, didn’t break.
When I returned to using only cork tape, I noticed no difference in comfort, just a thinner handlebar. Because I wear gel-padded gloves anyway, it’s hard to see much value in $30 Bar Phat.
Fred’s Phat Feedback
“Bar Phat has been on my Gunnar Roadie for my last 20-25 hours on that bike.
“I’ve never had a pad break. In fact, I also put Bar Phat under the tape on the handles of my dip rack. It has stood up to lots of dips with my 160 pounds plus up to 50 more in weights.
“Like Ed, I don’t notice any additional padding effect on the handlebar. But I do notice it on the dip rack. That may be because I used cloth tape on the rack and didn’t wrap it as tightly as handlebar tape.”