lock-on grips renthal odi lizard skins ergon dmr

Top 5 Lock-On Grips | The Cheapest Upgrade For Your Bike

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What are the best mountain bike grips? Wil’s tested a bunch over the years, and here he’s put together five of his favourite lock-on grips. Over to Wil.

Just think about this for a moment. Your hands – those fleshy starfishes at the end of your arms – are one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Apparently the human palm has upwards of 20,000 touch receptors, while each of your fingertips alone can possess as many as 100 pressure receptors per cubic centimetre. That’s probably more than an iPhone.

All those sensors are necessary in order to allow our hands to accurately recognise different shapes, materials, textures and temperatures. Just by touch, you can instantly recognise if something is spiky or smooth, thick or thin, sticky or firm, round or oblong, dry or wet, hot or cold.

Thanks to this sensitivity, your hands are also quite good at telling you if your grips are a bit shit.

lock-on grips renthal odi lizard skins ergon dmr
Five lock-on grips from five specialist brands.

Low-Cost Upgrade

As one of the triad of contact points between you and your two-wheeled mechanical bull, the grips on your mountain bike are equally important to handling as they are to riding comfort. However, as an area that’s ripe for product managers to chisel a few dollars off the spec sheet, the stock grips on many mountain bikes tend towards the cheap ‘n’ nasty side. That’s my experience anyway.

Thankfully, changing grips is a relatively cheap upgrade in the grand scheme of things. £30 is a drop in the ocean alongside things like $2,700 suspension forks and €3,500 carbon fibre wheels, but as that crucial touch point between your ultra-sensitive digits and the handlebar, fitting the right grips can make a world of difference to your riding experience.

Choosing The Best Grips

I’ve used a truckload of grips over the past few years testing bikes, but there are five sets in particular that I’ve held onto for my spare parts tub.

These grips are regularly rotated between test bikes, whether it’s a lightweight XC carbon hardtail, or a 170mm travel full suspension enduro rig. I’ve ridden them all with super-thin minimalist gloves, through to thick, insulated winter gloves, and with no gloves at all.

lock-on grips renthal odi lizard skins ergon dmr lock-on
All test grips are of the locking variety.

All five grips are of the lock-on variety, so they utilise a metal C-clamp to lock them down onto the bars. I much prefer lock-on grips myself, since they’re a lot easier to install, adjust and remove, and it’s virtually impossible for them to slip while riding.

That said, if maximum squish is critical to your riding comfort – especially for XC riding and marathon racing, then consider a non-locking foam grip like ESI silicone grips or the ODI F-1 series. Without the hard plastic core that a lock-on grip requires, these grips will naturally place more squishy material between you and the bar.

santa cruz blur fox 34 step-cast wil
As one of the key contact points between you and your bike, grips are worth getting right. Photo: Brent Mackenzie.

Options Galore

Back to the grips, err, at hand (I’ll let myself out…), as well as a range of colours, most of them can also be had in thick or thin diameters too. Choosing the right grip diameter is – generally speaking – related to the size of your hands. So the bigger your glove size, the fatter you’ll want the grip to be. And vice versa.

That said, some smaller-handed folk may prefer the added cushioning that comes with a fat grip, while some riders with large hands may prefer the greater feedback and control you can get with a thin grip.

scott genius 900 tuned wil
Consider your glove size, riding position and setup when looking for a new grip.

As well as different tread patterns and diameters, most specialist grips are available in different durometers. Durometer? What the heck? Well, some riders prefer a super sticky and soft rubber compound for traction and comfort, while others may prefer a harder rubber – either from a feel or durability perspective.

Yes, there are a lot of options when it comes to what is effectively a round tube of rubber. But all those little differences add up to turn a good grip, into a really great one.

So without further ado, here are five of my current favourite lock-on grips.

5. Lizard Skins Lock-On MacAskill Grips

  • Price: £26 / $49.95 AUD
  • From: 2pure
lizard skins lock-on macaskill grips
Thin, tactile grips from Lizard Skins.

Makers of grips, bar tape, gloves and body armour, Lizard Skins was an early adopter of lock-on mountain bike grips, having launched some iconic models over the years like the classic Logo. Starting out during the sport’s heyday back in 1993, the brand now offers no fewer than 20 different grip models.

As well as being the first single sided lock-on grip from Lizard Skins, the MacAskill is purportedly the brand’s most technical grip too.

MacAskill Lock-On Specs

  • Diameter: 29mm
  • Total length: 136mm
  • Grip area length: 129mm grip length
  • Single locking clamp w/3mm hex screw
  • Confirmed weight: 84g
  • Colour options: Black, Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Orange
lizard skins lock-on macaskill grips
The 29mm diameter and spiky knurled pattern give great feel on the bars.

Ups: Thin and firm profile provides brilliant tactility with supreme trail feedback. They’re tough and there are loads of colours to choose from.

Downs: Minimal rubber means minimal vibration damping, and the spiky tread can beat up bare skin.

Overall: An exceptionally thin and tactile grip for those who want to feel the trail underneath their palms. They’re not overly comfortable though. Bigger-handed folk may want to check out Lizard Skins new 31mm diameter Charger Evo grips. Read the full review here.

4. DMR DeathGrip Non-Flange Grips

dmr deathgrips lock-on
The DeathGrips are popular for a reason.

The DMR DeathGrips will be well known to our UK readers, having amassed something of a cult following over the past few years.

As Brendog’s signature love handle, the DeathGrips feature a clever combination of otherwise simple tread patterns to create a single, unique profile – something that’s becoming more difficult amongst the sea of grip options these days.

DeathGrip Non-Flange Specs

  • Diameter: 29.6-30.5mm
  • Total length: 134mm
  • Grip area length: 123mm
  • Single locking clamp w/3mm hex screw
  • Confirmed weight: 92g
  • Colours: Black, Blue, Camo, Yellow, Red, Tango, Snow Camo, Pink & Grey
dmr deathgrips lock-on
These are the non-flange version in a thin size with a soft rubber compound. And they work very well for me.

Ups: Great trail feedback with a high-traction tread pattern. Once locked on, they ain’t going nowhere. Huge array of colours and options.

Downs: The non-captured locking collars are a pain, and the tapered core makes pushing installation/adjustments/removal more difficult than it needs to be. Soft rubber will wear faster.

Overall: A popular mountain bike grip for a reason. They’re not the most comfortable, and they can be tricky to install. They do possess excellent traction for all but the muddiest of conditions though, with great feel and control for white-knuckle riding. Read the full review here.

3. ODI Elite Flow Grips

odi elite flow lock-on grips
The Elite Flow grips sit in the middle of the ODI Elite grip range.

Having invented the concept some 25-years ago, ODI has long been the king of the lock-on, with the iconic Ruffian being the jewel in its crown. The Ruffian still exists (and continues to be copied by every other grip brand out there), but it’s the Elite series that has taken that has taken the design to the next stage of development.

Elite Flow Specs

  • Diameter: 30.2-31mm
  • Total length: 130mm
  • Grip area length: 123mm
  • Single locking clamp w/3mm hex screw
  • Confirmed weight: 100g
  • Colour options: Green, Blue, Black, Graphite, Red, Orange
odi elite flow lock-on grips
Adjust the rotation to change where the thicker rubber sits.

Ups: Deceptively comfortable given the low-profile pattern. Lovely rubber compound that’s friendly on bare skin.

Downs: Rubber end flanges could have a more gradual and supportive taper for wide-hand placement.

Overall: A durable, well-made set of grips that feature slick anodized clamps and high quality rubber. The evolved design will suit a broad range of riders looking for a comfortable, yet low-profile grip that works in a wide range of conditions. Read the full review here.

2. Renthal Traction Lock-On UltraTacky Grips

renthal lock-on grips
Using the UltraTacky compound, these Renthal lock-ons are super sticky.

Makers of handlebars, stems, and chainrings for all things moto and MTB, Renthal currently splits its off-road grip range into three specific categories; Push-On, Lock-On, and Traction Lock-On, all of which are manufactured in the UK.

Each design has its fans, but it’s the Traction grips shown here that I’ve been using for the past six months.

Traction Lock-On UltraTacky Specs

  • Diameter: 29-30.6mm
  • Total length: 133mm
  • Grip area length: 114mm
  • Dual locking clamps w/2.5mm hex screw
  • Weight: 115g
  • Colour options: Black
renthal lock-on traction grips
Deep grooves give more bite between you and the bars.

Ups: Incredibly soft rubber compound is comfortable and sticky. Traction grooves deliver low-fatigue grip.

Downs: The hex bolts work fine, but 2.5mm hex keys are often lacking from most multi-tools.

Overall: If you want maximum grip, these are without doubt the gluiest grips on test. The soft rubber will wear faster, but along with those traction grooves, it provides unbeatable all-condition traction. Fingers crossed for a single clamp version in the future, which would make these absolutely perfect. Read the full review here.

1. Ergon GE1 EVO Factory Grips

ergon ge1 evo grips
Ergon has revamped the GE1 grip, and it’s made them even better.

German brand Ergon may be best known for its popular flared grip design, though it also offers ‘normal’ grips too, including the GD1 series (gravity), the GA series (All Mountain), and these; the GE1 series (enduro).

The GE1 EVO on test here is an update to the original design, with a more heavily textured surface that’s improved all-condition traction. It’s also now available in a standard compound, or the softer ‘Factory’ compound I’ve been using, and you can get both regular or slim sizes.

GE1 EVO Factory Specs

  • Diameter: 29-33mm
  • Total length: 135mm
  • Grip area length: 118-121mm
  • Single locking clamp w/3mm hex screw
  • Colours: Orange or Black
  • Confirmed weight: 98g
ergon ge1 evo grip
The profile tapers throughout the length of the grip, providing a ‘just right’ position that is incredibly comfortable.

Ups: Encourages proper positioning with wide bars. Comfortable. High quality construction. Flared ends widen effective bar width.

Downs: End caps are getting a little beat up. They’re also not cheap for a set of grips.

Overall: An expensive, but highly engineered set of grips that are best suited to wide bars and an elbows-out riding position. The new EVO Factory version is grippier and better damped than the original, making these a fantastic option for a broader range of riders – from XC through to enduro. Read the full review here.

The Verdict

So there you go; my five current favourite lock-on mountain bike grips. Hopefully that’s provided a little inspiration for when you’re next in the market for a new set of love handles for your bike.

Of course what the touch receptors in my hands like, and what yours like, may very well be different things. Because when it boils down to it, the right grip for you will be based entirely on personal preference. So you’re going to have to experiment a little to find out what works and doesn’t work for you.

Make sure you take into account those various factors – like whether you prefer riding with or without gloves, whether you’d prefer vibration damping over feedback from the trail, and what kind of weather conditions you’re typically riding in. Take into consideration your glove size, which should help you find a grip that isn’t too thin or too fat, but just right.

How about you – what grips do it for you? Let us know what your favourite lock-on grips are in the comments section below!

Review Info

Brand: Assorted
Product: Assorted
From: See review
Price: See review
Tested: by Wil Barrett for 6-9 months

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