SRAM's ten speed Grip Shift shares the same basic principles as the original design, but take it apart and you'll discover that it is an entirely different animal inside.
SRAM XO Grip Shift details:
- Ten speed shifters
- Shifter barrel rotates on three rows of stainless steel ball bearings
- 7075 Alloy shift indexing
- Coil return spring
- Integrated lock-on grip
- Weight: 207 grams (shifters, clamps, cables), 287 grams (including interlocking grips)
- MSRP: $225 USD (XO Grip Shift), $295 USD (XX Grip Shift)
The original Grip Shift was a relatively simple unit that consisted of only a few parts: the outer shift barrel, the body, and a flat spring, as well as the barrel adjuster. While the simplicity meant that there was very little to go wrong, SRAM knew that the old Grip Shift would require a complete redesign to meet today's standards. Inside of the new Grip Shift you'll find three rows of ball bearings for the shift barrel to rotate on, a much smoother and more robust setup than the plastic-on-plastic rotating parts within the original.
The section view above shows the three rows of ball bearings, two on the outer end and one inboard, that the shifter barrel rotates on.
That old design also employed a series of ridges on the inside face of the plastic barrel that passed over a flat spring (that could be either plastic or metal
), providing the shift indexing. Those plastic ridges would wear out in the longrun, causing the shifting to feel less defined and with an amount of free play. The internals of the new XX and XO units make use of a much more polished layout, utilizing an aluminum indexing surface for the flat spring to click against. This should not only provide consistent performance down the road, but also be exact enough to accurately manage the tighter tolerances of today's ten speed gearing ranges.
The stock grips interlock directly with the shifter.
SRAM has designed an integrated lock-on grip system that joins the stock grips to the shifter, effectively turning them into a single unit. The grip itself is held in place with a clamping collar at its outer end (very much like a standard lock-on grip
), and its inboard end features a split flange that clips directly into the the shifter. This not only helps keep both the grip and shifter stationary, but also allows the interlocking section to act as a seal to keep out moisture and grime. Want to use your own grips? Not an issue. Simply pop out a ring in the end of the shifter and slide in the included blanking plug that now acts as a seal.
The XO Grip Shift system in its entirety, including the shifters, all hardware and cables, as well as the interlocking grips, do weigh more than a set of XO shifters on their own. That is a bit misleading, though, given that you have to add a set of lock-on grips to the trigger shifter pile in order for it to be considered apples to apples. The totals add up to show that the Grip Shift system is lighter by 76 grams, not much by any means, and certainly not enough to warrant choosing twisters over triggers, but the weight weenies out there will might take it into consideration. Installation and Setup
Installation and setup was a no-fuss job, requiring only a 3mm hex key to clamp the shifters and lock-on grips in place. Start by joining the shifters and integrated grips together or, if you're using other grips, simply install the blanking plugs into the end of the shifter bodies, then slide them onto the bar as one unit. Orientate the shifters so that their bodies and adjuster barrels don't interfere with brake levers, and then tighten the 3mm clamping screws on the shifter and grip clamps. Sorting out the proper cable tension follows the same routine as on a trigger shifter - dial out the barrel adjusters a turn or two in order to give you some room to work with, then pull the cable snug and clamp it in place with the anchor bolt on the derailleur. Make any required adjustments with the barrel adjuster and you're set.
Changing a cable is a simple job that only takes a few minutes.
The system comes from SRAM with cables already in place, but we performed a cable change shortly after installing the shifters in order to see how easy, or hard, the task is. Begin by shifting the rear changer to the highest gear postion (or the lowest gear if you're working on the front shifter
), then slide the brake lever inboard on the handlebar in order to make enough room for the next step. Loosen the inboard lock-on collar that holds the shifter in place, slipping it off of the split flange. This allows the cover to be removed, giving you access to the port on the shifter body to push out the old cable and slide in a new one. The procedure is the same for both the front and rear shifters, and is much easier than what was required of some of the older Grip Shift models. We'd even argue that changing a cable on Grip Shift is actually easier than changing one on any of SRAM's trigger shifters, which shouldn't be considered tricky themselves. On The Trail
We had the chance to form some early opinions of the new Grip Shift when we first rode the system back in March, but a few solid months of riding on our more technical local terrain has shown us the strengths and weaknesses of the design. The question that most riders likely want answered is how they compare to the trigger shifters that we're all used to. The answer is, of course, that they are an entirely different animal requiring an altogether different technique. The key to getting the most from Grip Shift is riding with the shifter barrels just under your thumb and pointer fingers, allowing you to change gears by rotating your hands slightly. The motion will feel foreign at first to those who have never used Grip Shift in the past, but it doesn't take long before it becomes more familiar - we went from feeling a bit lost to completely at one with the system in only a few rides. We quickly found ourselves easily making required shifts in awkward trail situations, be it mid-corner or when on top of a technical section of trail, without any fuss. An issue arrises when you want to jump more than two or three gears at a time when braking, though, because it is quite difficult to rotate the shift barrel any more than that with a finger on the brake lever. Contrast this to trigger shifters where shifting doesn't require any wrist motion, allowing you to shift as many times as you like while on the binders.
Nevertheless, Grip Shift does have the advantage over triggers when it comes to running through a lot of gears quickly. Blow a corner and lose all of your speed? As long as you don't have your finger on the rear brake lever you can shift from your smallest cog to the largest in one motion by turning the right shifter barrel roughly 110°, allowing you to grab that easy gear if you get surprised on the trail. The same goes in the opposite direction as well. SRAM's current XO 10 speed trigger shifters, on the other hand, only allow you to grab five easier gears per full stroke of the thumb paddle, and going to a harder gear requires you to hit the release paddle for each cog.
The shifter barrel provides plenty of traction without feeling coarse.
Shifting to a higher gear out back is met with a very SRAM-like ''ka chung'', but going the opposite direction results in a bit softer of a feel and sound. You still are very aware that a shift has been accomplished, but it doesn't have that same super positive feel that shifting to a higher gear produces. The shift detents are quite firm, with a strong enough force to overcome that we didn't find ourselves over-shifting, but not so strong as to require a lot effort to roll the shifter barrel through. This is a significant built-in attribute that greatly lessens the chance of an accidental shift when jumping or working the handlebar aggressively. In fact, we never once shifted by accident while jumping, manualing, or playing around in general. Up front, the amount of rotation needed by the shifter to go between the chain rings is very manageable, and the effort required to rotate the front shifter is also substantially less than that of older Grip Shift models. There is no trimming that would allow the user to move the front derailleur cage by only a millimeter or two in order to prevent chain rub, but we never found we needed that feature.
The lock-on grips that come stock with Grip Shift are entirely too long, putting your hand too far away from the shift barrel.
We cut down a pair of ODI Ruffian grips so that they were 10mm shorter than the stock Grip Shift versions, a mod that brought the system to life.
While trigger shifters stay out of the picture until you need to shift, Grip Shift plays a more prominent role on the handlebar because your hands are constantly in contact with them while riding. It's for this reason that SRAM has clearly put quite a bit of effort into designing a shifter barrel grip that makes sense, with the result being a user-friendly feel that provides an intuitive interface. Yes, you can feel the shifter grips under hand, but not enough to become bothersome at any point during a long ride. More importantly, the shape provides more than enough traction to allow your hand to turn the shifter barrels without needing to grip them tightly. We never had an issue with our hands, gloved or un-gloved, slipping on them when making a shift. This was true even when they were covered with rain water or mud. We can see long-term use by ungloved hands possibly causing some irritation, however, so take note if you ride with unprotected paws. More Grip With Grip Shift
The system's ergonomics, how it's setup when it leaves the shop on a customer's bike, is going to have a massive effect on how Grip Shift is perceived by mountain bikers out there. And we're not talking about it having the proper shift cable tension, but rather the postion of the shift barrels relative to the user's hands and other controls on the bar. This is a setup point dictated by the lock-on grips that come stock with the Grip Shift system, grips that are entirely too long in our opinion, putting the shift barrels too far inboard. This results is the brake levers having to also be mounted too far inboard, making for a bit of an awkward setup. With our hands on the grips in a natural position out near the end of the handlebar, we actually had to slide them in to make a shift - not ideal when concentrating on the terrain. The long grips also meant that braking could only be done with one finger, not a huge issue given that that is how most riders brake anyways, but those two finger stoppers out there won't be happy. This was the case with both Avid and Shimano brakes. The same goes for the Reverb remote - it simply sits too far inboard when using the stock grips.
Swapping out those long stock grips for a set of cut down lock-ons was the obvious answer, with us trimming a set of ODI Ruffians to measure 10mm shorter than what Grip Shift comes with from the factory. The difference was night and day: the shift barrels were now positioned near perfectly, with their outer edges resting under our thumb and pointer fingers (see the photo at right). We were no longer required to change hand postions when shifting, making for a much more ergonomic feel to the setup. There was also less
of a need to anticipate shift points ahead of time because they could now be done exactly when required without having to loosen our grip. The shorter grips also meant that our brake levers could be positioned in a better place relative to our hands, with two finger braking becoming a possibility if required. The Reverb remote, while still more of a stretch than we'd prefer, was also easier to reach.
The triple row ball bearing internals have proved to stand up much better to the elements than the original design's plastic-on-plastic internals, with perceived shift effort not changing throughout the duration of the test. This includes what most riders would call excessive wet weather riding, followed up by numerous cleanings with the jet washer. The shifter barrel grips are certainly showing some wear after two months of hard use, but we wouldn't call it excessive. Issues
Grip Shift's biggest shortcoming has to be shifting while on the brakes - it's just plain difficult to make more than two or three shifts of the rear changer while also pulling the right hand brake lever. We noticed this anytime that we wanted to grab an easier gear while trail braking into a corner, a riding technique that we hadn't realized was so prominent until we had difficulty doing it. Trigger shifters come out far ahead in this regard, not requiring the extra anticipation that Grip Shift does when riding on your personal limits. This is a trait that was present regardless of replacing the stock lock-on grips with shorter versions.
As mentioned above, we couldn't get along with the stock lock-on grips provided by SRAM. The extra length hindered shifting, and they were also a bit too thick for our liking. We're also surprised at just how large the outer clamping collar is, standing up high above the grip itself. If you're like us and ride with your hands close to the edge of the bar, you'll likely find that the tall collars bother your hands quite a bit.
We managed to crack the rear shifter's body where it extends down to meet the barrel adjuster. Granted, the damage was inflicted by a violent over-the-bars crash that we were lucky to walk away from, but it does highlight the vulnerable nature of the design. We remember cracking multiple Grip Shift bodies on the original shifters many years ago, so hopefully this isn't also a trait of the newer version. Having said that, rotating the shifter body so that the barrel adjuster is tucked up close underneath the brake levers will go a long way to protecting them in a crash. Pinkbike's Take:
|SRAM's new Grip Shift may bear a name from the past, but it is an entirely new animal in our minds. Shifting is precise and positive feeling, with none of the foibles of the original design. And while there were a lot of comments made by users about accidental shifting with Grip Shift, this has proved to be a non-issue. Simply put, we never once shifted when we didn't mean to, blowing that theory out of the water. We are surprised that the system comes stock with such long lock-on grips, though, a design that handicaps the shifters from the get-go. Fortunately, this can be remedied by using shorter grips, a simple alteration that brings the system to life. SRAM also has plans to offer shorter grips at some point in the future. No, Grip Shift isn't going to be for everyone, but doubters need not panic - trigger shifters are not going anywhere. SRAM has brought another option to the table that allows riders to choose the system that makes the most sense for them. As for us, we'll be continuing to rock Grip Shift now that we've made some adjustments to the lock-on grips that we're using it with. - Mike Levy|