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The “contact points,” where your feet, hands, and butt touch the bike are the most important fine-tuning component choices one can make. Mountain bike grips come in an array of options that allow you to customize how you control your bike, so let’s consider your options.
If you’re looking for a great all-around set of grips, I’d recommend ESI’s offerings. They are simple, cheap, come in a variety of thicknesses to fit your hands and do a great job of damping vibrations while providing no-compromise security.
Lock-on vs Standard Grips
Grips are attached to the handlebar by clamping with a collar, known as a “lock-on” grip, or stay put by friction or even glue, as is the case with “standard” grips.
Standard grips are simpler and often cheaper than lock-ons and can offer more cushion as more of their volume is soft, rubbery material, but they can slip off if moisture and dirt gets under them. They are also hard to remove if you like to tinker with your bike. Lock-ons are more likely to stay put in wet conditions and are easier to slide off if you are tinkering with handlebar width.
Pros: Easy to install and remove, will not slip in moist conditions
Cons: Not as much cushion as some standard grips, more expensive
Pros: Varying thicknesses available, no metal clamp to interfere with grip, cheaper
Cons: Harder to install/ remove, can slip and twist
Hack: if you prefer the all-soft feel of standard grips that don’t feature a lock-on, and the friction they create is not enough to keep them from sticking, try one of the following:
- Install the grip using a liquid that will quickly and thoroughly dry such as window cleaner, hair spray, isopropyl alcohol, or even WD-40 (you’d be surprised by how well WD-40 sticks when dry).
- Glue the grips on using a motorcycle grip glue such as Renthal. This is basically permanent, so you’ll have to cut the grips off with a knife when you need to replace them.
- Twist a thin wire around the ends of your grips and tuck the ends of the wire away. This is an old motorcycle hack that works the same way on bicycles.
Most grips are made from a soft synthetic rubbery compound that varies in density and thickness. Some riders prefer dual-compound grips, which have a softer compound where the palm contacts the grip, while others prefer the simplicity of single-compound grips. Single-compound silicone grips are becoming more popular due to their softness and durability.
dual hard/soft- soft comfort where you need it, hard durability everywhere else
single rubber- simple and cheap
Silicone- soft and durable
Foam- super lightweight
Grips come in a variety of shapes. Good old round grips with a constant diameter are still the most popular, but all manner of ovals, wings, and even “suspension.” These features can help or hurt your riding, depending on where and how you ride, and your level of skill and fitness. They can make your grips fit the shape of your hands and wrists, but could also pigeonhole your position.
Standard round: straightforward, cheap, might not be comfortable
Ergonomic shape: well thought-out for the shape of your hands, more expensive, might not fit some riding styles and hand shapes.
While the use of big, hooked aluminum bar ends was mostly left in the 1990s, some riders still consider them to be necessary. Some swear on them for climbing, while others prefer them for an alternative hand position during long rides. Bar ends have changed, becoming lighter and more ergonomic. There are also “bar ins,” a kind of alternative grip that fits.
Our Top Grips and Accessories
|Model||Price||Lock On?||Shape||Standout Feature|
|ESI||$-$$||no||round||soft and simple|
|Ergon GP1||$$+||yes||flat||wrist-supporting wing|
|ODI Rogue||$-$$||either||round||very soft|
|Wolftooth Fat Paw||$$||no||round||fattest diameter|
|Chromag Squarewave||$$||yes||round||alternating shape|
|TOGS||$$||minimalist alternate hand position solution|
|SQLabs Innerbarends||$$$$||long-haul alternate grips|
|Cane Creek Ergocontrol||$$||modern twist on traditional bar ends|
ESI Silicone $-$ These are a favorite among riders of all disciplines for their simplicity and durability. They come in several shapes and thicknesses for hands of all sizes. ☆☆☆
Wolftooth Fat Paw $ – Wolftooth set out to make the biggest, softest grip available.The 36mm diameter is even fatter than their silicone cousin the ESI Chunky. ☆☆
Chromag Squarewave $ – The Squarewave grip looks like an ordinary lock-on, but it features a subtle bulge in the middle to fit the shape of your hand, as well as a progressive tread pattern for tactile feedback where you need it. ☆☆☆
Ergon GP series $-$ Ergon prides itself in making hand-shaped grips that offer support missing from round grips. The GP series are available in two grip sizes with or without various bar ends. The “wing” shape is polarizing among riders, but those who like them swear by them. ☆☆
Lock-on/ Standard Options
ODI Rogue lock-on or regular $-$ The shape and compound on ODI Rogues have been popular among people who like a thick, soft grip. They double as motorcycle grips, which is why riders in gravity-oriented disciplines like them. ☆
TOGS $ Thumb Over Grip System is a minimalistic bar-end alternative that mounts just inboard of your grips. While riding, you can unhook your thumb from under your grip and wrap it around these little tabs to relieve pressure from your “hand crotch” area.
SQLabs innerbarends $ SQLabs focuses on ergonomics and these alternative bar ends are great for long distance rides. They put your hands in a similar position to the brake lever hoods of a road bike, relieving pressure on your palms and putting your body in a more relaxed, aerodynamic position.
Cane Creek Ergo Control bar ends $ For die-hard fans of conventional bar ends. Cane Creek makes the comfiest ones available. The Ergo Controls are soft and hand-shaped, perfect for touring, commuting, and cross-country trail riding.