More Comfortable Grips that Can't Slip
With just two or three exceptions, this year's Interbike show hasn't seen much in the way of truly interesting pieces of gear. One of those exceptions was found in the WTB booth: their PadLoc grips and modified handlebar system is certainly worth a closer look. To be honest, I was a pretty skeptical when the PadLoc press release dropped into my inbox a few weeks back. After all, a redesigned grip that can't slip but necessitates modifying your handlebar seems like overkill when you could just tighten up your lock-ons correctly. Cynicism aside, and whether it's needed or not, WTB has some clever thinking going on with their PadLoc system.
PadLoc is really two parts - the grip and a modified handlebar - that have to be used together. The grip uses a traditional lock-on collar at the inboard end much like what's probably on your bike right now, while rubber grip material is laid over a plastic barrel with relief cutouts in it. Nothing that different there, but it's the outboard end where things change. The last outboard inch of the plastic barrel has had half of its diameter cut down at a thirty degree angle, over which WTB has placed a much softer rubber compound than what's usually used for grips. The standard and softer rubber are co-moulded together and the result is a soft and thick last inch to the grip that's much more forgiving than what we're used to seeing. Think of it as a soft pad for the outside edge of your hand and pinky finger.
The grip's novel shape requires that the handlebar be cut to match, so the last inch also needs to be trimmed at a thirty degree angle to match the inner shape of the grip. This not only creates the required room for the grip's soft rubber end, but the interlocking shape means that the grip won't ever be able to rotate on the handlebar, even if the single inboard locking collar hasn't been tightened down properly (please tighten it regardless). Park Tool has just released their $20 USD SGI-7 saw guide that will allow you to easily make the required cut to existing aluminum or carbon handlebars, and word is that more than one component company will be offering PadLoc-specific handlebars in the future.
WTB Global OEM Sales Manager and Downieville Classic overall champ Jason Moeschler had his Cannondale Habit in the booth, giving me a chance to put some gloveless hands on the PadLoc grips. Having only wrapped my hands around them for a minute or two, and without actually using them on a ride yet, I'm still not convinced that I'd be rushing to cut up my handlebar so I could fit a pair. Having said that, the outer edge of the grip was noticeably softer to my bare hands, which will be a boon to anyone who is prone to sore mitts during a ride. That doesn't describe me, so I'm one skeptic that will have to hold off on final judgement until I get to actually spend some time using the PadLoc system.
WTB will have a number of different PadLoc grip models to choose from, including 28mm and 30mm diameters for average hands, as well as a 33mm size for those with big paws. A few different shapes can be had as well, all of which retail for $34.95 USD. Availability is slated for December.