Long gravel grinds are tough on the legs thanks to their hours of pedaling, and the hours of navigating bumpy terrain can also be tough on a rider’s hands. With the cobbled classics season heading to the Hell of the North on Sunday, methods for reducing hand vibrations will be front and center as the riders contend with section after section of pavé.
Companies have developed numerous ways of dealing with hand numbness, including padded gloves, front suspension and suspension stems such as the Redshift ShockStop. Another approach is to put the padding on your handlebars under your bar tape, as products such as Specialized's Body Geometry Bar Phat does.
The Fizik Bar Gel also puts the padding on your handlebar with gel pads designed to absorb some of the edge of gravel and other bumpy roads. Cyclocross Magazine put the Fizik Bar Gel on the handlebar of our gravel bike to see if it can provide a more comfortable gravel grind.
The current generation blue four-piece Fizik Bar Gel retails for $25 (a bar gel kit with bar tape is $40), although the older clear model we reviewed is still available at a discounted price. Two of the gel pieces go on top of the handlebar and the other two go on the drops. The four-piece package adds a total weight of 88g.
We did not have any trouble installing the gel pads and then re-wrapping our bar tape over them. However, once wrapped, we found the Bar Gel pads did not provide the comfort we expected them to.
Loosely wrapping bar tape is an invitation to having it come unraveled, so like many cyclists do, we wrapped our bar tape tightly over the Bar Gel pads. The tight wrap squished the gel and took away its shock-absorbing properties, leaving us with higher-diameter bars but little of the promised relief for bumpy terrain.
At 88 grams, the Fizik Bar Gel is about a third the weight of the ShockStop suspension stem (albeit much lower in cost), but after testing both, we think something like the ShockStop is a better option for reducing gravel vibrations.
If the ShockStop is not an option, we would probably opt for a second wrap of bar tape, thicker gel-based tape or 3.2mm thick Lizard Skinz DSP, or even (gasp) gel-padded gloves over adding this extra weight to the bars.
For more gravel products, see our Gravel Gear archives.
Fizik Bar Gel Information
Pads: Four gel pads
Bar Tape: Not included (included with $40 bar gel kit)
More Info: fizik.com