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Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Grip Tape

by The Bertrand
With grip tape, the amount of actual gripping that happens is based on the grip tape itself, the shoes a skater uses, how a skater moves their feet on the board, and the shape of the deck. Because of that, I don’t rate how the grippy the grip tape is, I only rate the observations as compared to other grip tapes. Skaters will have to figure out for themselves which level of grippiness is best for their style of skating and choice of shoes and deck.
Here are some tips for working with grip tape:
  • Make sure the grip tape is warm before applying it. This will help the grip tape conform to the concave better and stick better on first application. Before application, lay the grip tape out in the sun, grip side up, until it is warm to the touch. If the weather is cold, put the grip tape on a radiator or a hot car hood to warm it up, and apply it quickly after removing it from the heat source.
  • There are two ways to apply the grip tape:
    • roll the grip on from one end to the other, peeling off the backing as you go, pressing the center of the grip to the center of the board as you go. This is the recommended style for Black Diamond and Black Magic, but you can also do it with Jessup.
    • take the backing off completely, line up the grip end-to-end and side-to-side, and start sticking in the middle of the board and work out, pressing with your fingers as you go. Try to keep the grip relatively flat and level before you press. This is the recommended style for Jessup, Mob, Bullet, and Mini Logo, although you can also do this with Black Diamond and Black Magic. This method leads to more air bubbles.
  • Cut the grip tape from the bottom, with a new or nearly new very sharp razor blade, at a 45 degree angle to the side of the deck. Some people sand or scrape the grip tape at the board edges to form a white line on the top in the shape of the board - not only is this not necessary, but it actually makes it harder to cut a straight line around the edge of the deck. If you are using a dull razor, pre-sanding like that might help, but you’ll still have a jagged cut. I get about 3-4 grip tape jobs out of each razor blade, and I can pick up a 50-pack of razor blades for about US$3, so there should be no excuse for not using a brand new or nearly new, very sharp razor blade every time you grip a deck.
  • After you’ve trimmed the excess, sand the edges of the grip tape down to the deck with the extra pieces of grip tape you cut off. Two things are happening here. You’re wearing down the edges of the grip by the grit-to-grit contact, and you’re heating the tape part to help it stick to the round edges of the deck. You want to sand with a focus on the grip tape itself, trying to avoid sanding the edges of the deck too much; this is to preserve the lacquer on the edge of the deck and prevent moisture from creeping in and causing premature ply chips or separations. Decks that use resin glue (e.g. Almost, Blind, Cliche, Darkstar) aren’t susceptible to this, so you don’t have to be as careful with your grip sanding.
  • Use the points of your razor blade to poke tiny holes in any air bubbles, pressing with your fingers as you go. I poke lightly and quickly many times on an air bubble. Mob Grip offers perforated grip tape to help prevent air bubbles when applying; the perforations help but don’t completely prevent air bubbles. It is easy to use the razor blade, so don’t make perforation a major decision factor when buying your grip tape.
  • Walk around on your deck after you’re done to press the grip down and get rid of any remaining air bubbles.
  • Poking holes for the truck bolts is easy to mess up. You can safely poke from the bottom of the deck up with Jessup, Mob, Bullet, and Mini Logo grip tape. If you try the same with Black Diamond or Black Magic, you’ll probably rip the tape around the truck hole and have a piece missing. For Black Diamond and Black magic, push up from the bottom with a truck bolt just enough to form a little dimple visible from the top of the deck. Then, push your truck bolt down through that dimple to rip the hole in the tape. This also works well on other grip tape brands, too.
  • An optional step is to spin your skate tool’s screwdriver tip around on the top of the truck mounting hole until the edges of the hole are clear of grip tape. This helps keep the grip on the deck in the same way that sanding the edges of the deck prevents the grip from peeling up at the edges.


Grip tapes were evaluated for the following:
  • ease of application (sticking it to the deck and conforming to the concave. does the grip tape rip or crease when you’re trying to press it into the concave? does the removable backing come off easily or peel off in strips?)
  • ease of cutting (assuming you’re using a sharp razor, how hard is it to cut a straight line around the deck edge?)
  • duration of grippiness (this will vary based on skater’s style, but I present how long it took me to wear down the grip, your duration may vary, but this gives a sense of scale of which grips stay grippy the longest, relative)
  • stick (how well does the grip stick to the deck? does it peel up at the edges easily?)
  • ease of removal (sometimes, your deck is still good but your griptape is getting old. does the grip tape rip easily when you’re trying to take it off? can you take it off in 1-3 big pieces, or are you peeling many little pieces off one at a time? does it leave behind pieces of itself?)

Here are the grips, in order of best performance on observable measures to worst performance.
- Jessup
  • Pros: Easiest to apply, easy to cut, easy to reposition if you need to adjust prior to pressing it completely onto the deck, you can smooth out wrinkles and air bubbles with ease.
  • Cons: Wears down quickly. I had a smooth part under my front foot after only two sessions at the park. The grip will probably only last about 1-2 weeks at most. Difficult to remove from board after you’ve ridden it for a while - peels off in small strips. Chips easily. I leaned my board against a wooden table, and when I picked it up, the deck scraped the table a little bit and the Jessup grip tape chipped off where it contacted the table.
- Black Diamond
  • Pros: Easy to apply, easy to cut, easy to remove, easy to put on in cold weather
  • Cons: Wears down in about 4 weeks, peels up if you don’t sand the edges down
- MOB
  • Pros: Grip wears down in about 6 weeks, easy to cut
  • Cons: Difficult to apply because it creases so easily, tears easily, peels up at the edges even with sanding, hard to remove because it tears so easily
- Black Magic
  • Pros: Easy to apply
  • Cons: Harder to cut, peels up at the edges even with sanding, wears down in about 4 weeks
- Mini Logo
  • Pros: Easy to apply, easy to cut
  • Cons: Chips easily, peels up at the edges even with sanding, wears down in about 3 weeks, hard to remove once it’s been ridden on - peels off in small strips
- Bullet
  • Pros: Easy to cut
  • Cons: Hard to apply without creasing, wears down in about 1 week, peels up at the edges even with sanding, tears easily
My favorites for durability were Black Diamond and Black Magic. Jessup and Mob had great initial quality that fell off fast the more I used them. Mini Logo and Bullet were budget specials that aren’t worth the US$1 in savings.

When I put grip on a trick board, I go with whatever is cheapest because the deck will probably be done at the same time as the grip tape, about 1-2 weeks. When I put grip on a long board, park board, or a more durable board like the Almost Double Impact or some of the high-end, American-made 7-ply and 8-ply boards, I use Black Diamond.

Usage rates comes into play when considering grip tape lifespan. I skate every day. Many of my shortboard decks typically last 3-4 weeks. 1031, Almost, and most American-made decks last 4-6 months (yep, the difference is that much!), and I'm changing my Black Diamond grip tape monthly on those. I wear a shiny smooth spot where the ball of my front foot rotates.
Some skaters like smoother griptape. I like really grippy griptape. Somebody on the Thunder team, Gerwer, maybe, mentioned that they use Mob Grip, but that they use the extra bits to sand it down a little bit to get it smooth right from the beginning. 
In an interview in the mid-1990s, Rodney Mullen and Daewon Song both mentioned that they were skating so much and learning so many new tricks on the first generation of popsicle stick decks that they were changing their grip tape out every few days. 
Tony Hawk mentioned in an X-Games interview that it takes a long time for him to break in a new deck, so he will change the grip tape if it starts getting slippery. 
Many skaters on the TWS "My Ride" series of videos who prefer Jessup say they prefer smoother griptape, or grip tape that feels "worn in" or "worn down". Jessup has a coarse version of their griptape, too.
In one of the Battle at the Berrics, Torey Pudwill mentioned in his preinterview that he put a fresh sheet of Grizzly on his deck before this important game of SKATE. 
As they say for fuel economy estimates: Your Mileage May Vary. Take my griptape lifespan findings as relative. If I wear Black Diamond out in 4 weeks, and Mob in 6 weeks, and Bullet in 1 week, then you can use relative rates of wear. If I set Black Diamond to 1, then we have the following table of relative wear rates:

Tape
Relative Wear Rate
Jessup
.5
Black Diamond
1
Mob
1.5
Black Magic
1
Mini Logo
.75
Bullet
.25
Eliminate fractions and you get the following table of relative wear rates:

Tape
Relative Wear Rate
Jessup
2
Black Diamond
4
Mob
6
Black Magic
4
Mini Logo
3
Bullet
1
Meaning, Mob Grip lasted me six times as long as Bullet griptape, twice as long as Mini Logo, and so on. You can do math. But the bottom line is preference: If your feet are consistently slipping when you want them to grip, take your US$5 bill down to the local skateshop and pick up a new sheet of grip tape. The only skateboard part cheaper than grip tape are truck bolts, so it probably isn't worth your frustration to keep skating grip tape you feel isn't keeping your feet where you want them.

11 comments:

  1. Nice reviews. I've typically been limited to choosing between Jessup, Mob, and Mini-Logo -- Mob's been my favorite of the three.

    Surprised you didn't include Grizzly, as I've seen a lot of that on boards these days.

    Also, thanks for the tips on gripping. I've been gripping my decks the same way since '91: unroll it on, stomp out bubbles, sand (with screwdriver, not file) edges, blade from on top.

    Just happened to have a new deck to grip today, and tried it without sanding, and with blade from bottom. It was beautiful, fast, and clean (a little bumpy, but that's inexperience, I'm sure). Also, sanding with leftover grip at the end is brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been wanting to try Grizzly, too. It must be well-loved, because shops are always out of stock on Grizzly.

      Delete
  2. Good idea to prevent dirt build up by wiping off your board with a cloth or soft brush after each time you ride it. Even if you just brush dirt off with your hands before you bring the board in, you will keep scuffs off the grip tape, helping it last longer for you.
    www.antisliptape.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. There are actually a few people who write on this blog. Johnny is actually going to be talking about the new Indy forged 159s. And there's a plan brewing to review the Titanium Hollow Independents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Johnny would love to review the Titanium Hollow Indy's 159's.
      :P *wink wink*

      Delete
  4. Hey man, really dig your blog. I just wanted to suggest Madrid flypaper grip. I tried a lot of grips until flypaper, its got perfect grit to me, and lasts forever. Maybe a slight pain to apply, but if you file the crap out of the edges and use a fresh razor its not too bad. Anyway keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey he's right about that Madrid Flypaper.
      It does seem like really good stuff.
      A dude came to our session last month and during the night I noticed that his boards griptape was uber sparkly, it reminded me of griptape from back in the day. I asked him what it was because it really seemed different than Mob, Jessup or Black Magic. He said Madrid Flypaper. I was shocked...mostly because there were no flies die cut into it. That's what I remember about Flypaper, but I was wrong. If they sold it around here, I'd buy some for sure.

      Delete
  5. Been using jessup and mob for years. Most my decks last from two to six months. I skate 1 to 3 times a weeks. Never felt the need to replace the tape.

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  6. Did you ever review clear grip tape? I just ripped mine off a Mother Collective deck that I liked colour and logo on, but it sucks so much. Way to coarse and stiff and bubbles never seem to bleed out. Also it's harsh on your hands when you work with it/carry your board.

    ReplyDelete