by Greg May
November 19, 2013
Grip and shift. Change gears with no fuss and a clean minimalist look.
I’ve always associated two things with Grip Shift: kids bikes and beaten-up commuter bikes. My initial outings with early mid-90s versions of Grip Shift were, shall we say, less than impressive. I was happy to let them die a death and be relegated to the world of commuting and children’s bikes. I never understood why some cross-country racers worshipped at the temple of Grip Shift. It was clunky, it was a pain to maintain, and when mud got into them… you may as well have gone out and bought a new set. Oh, how times have changed.
Coming back from a jaunt around the Highland Trail this summer, I found myself with enough damage to my hands that I could not operate a trigger shifter from either SRAM or Shimano. Was I to: a) stop riding for the summer, or b) ride singlespeed all summer? Clearly option A was out of the question. Being weak of leg and of sound mind I also opted not to ride singlespeed.
The suggestion of trying the new X0 Grip Shift came about from others who had suffered a similar fate at the Tour Divide in years past, so I opted to give them a shot. Despite my misgivings and grumblings of ‘bike’s gonna look like a kid’s bike now…’ the initial set-up was simple. When combined with a X0 clutch mech it gave a reliable, chain-safe drivetrain. I opted to run mine 2×10, while a friend who’d switched to Grip Shift at a similar time ran 1×10. Neither of us had issues with routing cables, replacing cables or indexing gears. It all just works.
Both of us disregarded the standard-length X0 grips that came with our units. We both found them far too long for the job, placing the shifter unit too far inboard and our brakes even more so. I coupled mine initially with some old Hope brakes, but also tried older-style XT with its long levers, and the new Deore with its super stubby levers. There were no issues with the brake lever fouling the shifters once I’d rotated the main body to take the lever throw into account. The shorter grips and minimalist look of the X0 body opened up a ton of real estate on my bars that allowed me to better fit a Wildcat bar bag harness and made me think a little more about future set-ups for luggage scenarios.
Bar the length of the standard grips, my only gripe came from a slight rattle that developed from my left shifter. This may partially have been due to a crash on my part, but it also appeared to be from a tendency of the lock ring not to cinch up fully tight with the barrel adjuster section. Annoying, but not a deal breaker; the ability to throw the mech across the block in one swift twist of my wrist far outweighed any annoying rattle on the planet. Charge into a downhill section, turn in and give a quick twist (remembering to pedal) and the whole range of gears on your cassette becomes available in seconds. No click-click-click down the block. The only thing remotely close in speed is Di2. It led me to a true re-evaluation of riding fast and I now understand why racers of yore lamented the death of the Grip Shift. I’d never have been heard to say this before I rode these X0 shifters, but please SRAM – don’t do away with the (new) Grip Shift system. It works and I love it.
Overall: Grip and shift. Change gears with no fuss and a clean minimalist look. I am converted.