Writing for the web
I’m going to stick my neck out here and say a lot of cyclists look at their grips as a bit more of an accessory than an actual important bike component.
And if we were to be completely honest, who hasn't at least once in the past based a grip purchase on nothing more than a well-groovy tread pattern, an almost perfect colour match – or in a stressful budgetary moment, even a plain-old, temptingly low price tag … yea, it’s embarrassingly true.
Anyway, so while I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with groovy patterns, matching colours, or indeed tantalisingly low price tags – there are other factors that are … well, just basically more important, like:
Compounds are one of the first things you should be looking at when browsing for a new set of grips. Compounds range from firm, medium and soft to very soft – with some manufacturers offering tackiness options:
A firm compound Chromag basic lock-on grip – direct feel for technical riding
As there’s only a small amount of squeezing flex with firm to medium compounds, they offer a very direct feel between rider and handlebars. This makes them popular with the more technically minded riders who are more than willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for improved front-end control. They also last a lot longer than softer grips, as firmer compounds are way more resilient to wear and tear.
The slight downside with firmer compounds is they don’t absorb much shock and trail buzz – making them a less comfortable option than a softer compound over longer distance rides. Being made from harder rubber, they also don’t have quite as much grip as a softer, tackier compound.
As you may have guessed, firm grips are aimed at the more aggressive – keep it short and technically sweet types. They’re considered to be a bit on the unforgiving side for riders who gravitate towards longer and slightly more leisurely days out in the saddle.
A set of Renthal super soft lock-on grips – for comfort and shock absorption
Soft grips soak up more shock and vibration – so, the softer the compound, the more comfortable they are going to be. Softer compounds also offer more grip than firmer compounds as they have tackier surfaces.
The main downside to using softer compounds is they wear out a lot faster than firmer ones – meaning more replacements if you put in a lot of miles over the year. Some riders also find the extra squeezy flex of a soft grip gives them slightly less front-end control.
Softer compound grips are a popular choice for both non-technical recreational riders and longer distance XC types who like those epic days out in the saddle.
It’s always worth checking the diameter of a grip before a purchase. If you use grips that have either a too small or a too large diameter, they can cause fatigue and even pain in your hands and forearms over longer distances.
Some manufacturers offer thick and thin options, whilst others will indicate exact dimensions in their product descriptions. Diameters generally range from a small 30mm to a large 34mm and lengths vary from 130mm to 150mm.
A set of Giant dual clamped lock-ons with spare coloured locking rings
Solidly secured to you handlebars by either a single or double clamp system, lock-on grips are pretty much the norm now for all styles of mountain biking. General rule of thumb, double clamps for aggressive riders and single clamps for light and recreational. End of the day though, this is completely down to rider preference.
Push-on grips are still available, as is the hairspray to make them stick. Generally only used by BMX riders these days – grips that is, not hairspray!
You’ll probably come across dual compound grips whilst researching your purchase. This just means that the grip will have an inner sleeve that’s made of a harder rubber compound and an outer layer made from a softer one. The idea is the firmer inner sleeve section provides better grip on your handlebar and the outer softer layer offers more comfort.
A set of Lizard Skins Northshore chunky grips – deep channels help clear water, sweat and mud
Every manufacturer claims that their particular pattern will offer the best amount of grip and comfort. It stands to reason that they can’t all be right, and likewise they can’t all be wrong. Two things you can be sure about though, are – patterns with deeper channels will definitely offer better water displacement and chunky sections on the underside of a grip will give your fingertips more to dig into. So whether it’s going to be waffles, stars, stripes or technical dimples is entirely up to you.
An Ergon GP1 comfort grip – the winged section is designed to support your palm
A set of Ergon GE1 contour grips – extra support and grip for Enduro, Freeride and DJ
There are essentially two types of ergonomic shaped grips. One style has wings at the ends that are designed support your palms and the other is designed to fit the entire contour of your hands. The winged version offers more comfort on non-technical longer distance rides whilst the contour fit grip is designed for better all-round grip and comfort on technical rides.
Posted by DL