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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 6-9 months|