Grips, saddle and pedals are the key contact points which connect you – the rider – to the bike. Everything going on between the ground and the tyres is communicated through those contact points. It’s really important that you select contact points that work with your personal physiology. Of course, we’re all a little bit different, especially in the size and shape of our hands, so it’s great to know that the range of grips to choose from is huge. There are all kind of shapes, diameters, lengths, materials, and fitting styles, not to mention the vexing decision of colour to think about!
A few things to think about:
How wide are your bars?
Wide bars are great for adding leverage to the steering, this is especially useful in rough terrain and on bike with larger wheel sizes, but there’s no point in having inches of extra bar if you’re not going to be able to hold onto a decent portion of it. This is especially true for riders in marathon events where long periods of time are spent riding and being able to move your hand positions to maintain circulation etc is useful. Look for longer grips to give options, or foam grips that can be cut and shut to longer lengths
How big are your hands?
Grips are available in various diameters, which is useful because hands are all shapes and sizes. Generally speaking the larger your hands (in terms of finger length, not width) the larger the diameter of the grips you should consider. Wider diameter cross-section grips can allow the muscles in riders hands to relax. We say generally, because people are fickle, and some like to use narrow diameter grips with a thinner cross-section, for more finger wrap and increased feel from the front tyres contact patch. It’s difficult to make any hard recommendations as it’s a matter of personal taste as much as anything.
Do you swap components regularly?
In the old days, grips were all slid onto the bar and relied upon there being a tight high friction interface between the bar and the inner surface of the grip to keep them firmly in position on the bar. The downside to this is that getting the grips on and off can be a bit of a faff, requiring something long and thin to slide between the bar and the grip and a slip/grip agent to help them on and off while also providing a level of adhesion.
Traditional grips are still available, though the majority of modern grips for mountain bikes now use bolt-on collars to attach them to the bar. The advantage of these, are that they’re easy to fit and remove with only a 2.5 or 3mm Allen key, ideal if you swap control elements regularly.
Do you ride with gloves or bare handed?
Grips are available in a variety of different material and compounds. Each has its own unique set of frictional properties and when combined with the specific grip pattern, will result in delivery of different levels of friction and hand traction. Some work best with gloved hands, others are easier on bare hands – if you like to ride that way. Grips can also change their feel and levels of friction as they wear. For example, the classic ODI Ruffian diamond file grip starts off fairly hard and ideal for gloved hands, however when it’s about half way worn out the rubber begins to get softer and more grippy. At this point, they’re really good with bare hands.
Do you ride in the wet?
Some grips work better in the wet than others. Some of this is down to the physical surface pattern, some to the rubber compound. It’s hard to tell from the shop floor which are better than others, however, most of the grips we feel work best in the wet are those with a softer, higher friction compound, rather than those with physically more aggressive surface patterns.
Specialized Contour XC
The palm swell curving design comfortably fills hands to spread pressure and reduce nerve irritation.
The grips that started the Ergo revolution, arguably the best on the market. Independent bar end angle adjustment.
Syncros Evo Plus
A typically tech ergo grip design solution from Syncros, fantastic value if you’re just trying ergo grips as a taster…
Specialized Contour BG Targa w/bar ends
The next best to the Ergon route. Specialized’s usual attention to detail and Body Geometry comfort applies.
Large diameter grips
Specialized Enduro XL
A rider favourite for comfort and price. A single lock solution for those with large hands or looking for more cush.
Fabric XL or Slim lock on
The XL and Slim are the same grip in two radically different thicknesses. The rubber compound is soft and kind to bare hands and gloved palms alike.
Bontrager Rhythm 2013 Lock on
A literal ‘oldie-but-goldie’ the Rhythm nails the chunky grip requirement and adds good durability and grip to boot.
Foam FWE Foam Lock On
Traditionally foam grips are slide-on, but FWE make a great lock on version for the best of old and new grip technologies.
Ritchey WCS Foam
Classic super lightweight foam fun from Ritchey. Softer than many, but them some riders love that vibration damping effect.
ProLogo Feather Foam
Basic, light, easy to install and cheaper than chips. Well, chips for a family of four at any rate. Worth a go if you’re new to foam grips.
SRAM Contour Foam
SRAM’s own brand foam grip features a locking mechanism making them fast and easy to fit and remove – removing a normal hitch with slide-on foam grips
RaceFace Half Nelson
Even Big Daddy (google him kids) couldn’t grip harder than Raceface’s Half Nelson. A great lock on for use on all styles of MTB.
AG-1 Aaron Gwin Lock On
A classic to be, we reckon. Hey, if it works for Downhill’s ‘Mr Chainless’, the speed demon aka Aaron Gwin, then it’s good enough for us and probably you too…
Lizard Skins Bearclaw Lock On
The Bearclaw lock-on grip has legions of followers who love the soft tacky rubber and unobtrusive hand feel. Properly good MTB grips.
Justin Loretz is @mtbgenie