What's in a grip? For starters, grips are your single most direct connection to the bike. Sure, your feet are on the pedals, your bum in the saddle, but steering, shifting, and most importantly, feeling the connection to the trail through your hands... that starts with the handlebars, and grips that are installed on them.
All grips are most definitely not created equal. Sure, they all start out (in general) as a nylon core with a soft, grippy compound of some sort to wrap your mitts around. Some have lock-on clamps, some don't. Other than that, all grips follow the same general structure. Since they are all basically made the same, in a pinch, anything you have on hand will do, but the grip that will work best for you is directly proportional to your hand size, the durometer of the grip (how squooshy it is), and your personal preference on whether you like a thin grip, a fat grip, a soft or hard feel.
Ultimately, most people are happier running a softer durometer grip for the simple reason that it's easier on your hands; that softer compound works to damp out high-frequency vibrations that can make your hands hurt after a while. Bonus: a softer grip tends to be a bit tackier, too. Yes, a softer compound, just like a super tacky tire, will wear out quicker than a harder compound, but if you've ever bruised the nerves on your palms, your hands will thank you for running that softer grip. So.... lots of variables to juggle: How wide should a grip be? How thick? How soft? And what kind of grip pattern? And finally, how grippy?
We here at Pinkbike we took it upon ourselves to grab a handful (nine) of grips suitable for the typical aggressive trail rider and then spent the last six months testing them to give you the goods on what’s available. Gripping stuff, really, if you care to read on.
Chromag Format Grips
Chromag hails from the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, with a lineup that includes a range of handcrafted goods from hardtail steel frames to quick-release seat post clamps (gasp what is that?). The Format is a modern single clamp grip that has a tight plastic sleeve (not too tight) running the length of the grip to prevent twisting. Unlike most grips that have a uniform shape to them, the Format has a few finger divots at the end of the bar for your pinky and ring fingers to lock into. Additionally, there are different textures across the grip that Chromag intelligently designed based on examining the wear patterns of grips that had been through the wringer.
Installation was easy, and the screws on each side of the handlebar faced the same direction when installed (not all grips have this feature). While riding, the comfort was excellent, and I enjoyed the soft ribbing on the inner sides where my palms press down, with the harder plastic and finger cut-outs towards the edges for grip. Another feature of this grip I appreciated was the durable end caps, which looked no worse for the wear after dropping my bike in the dirt whenever the nearest keg was tapped. The Format comes in a wide gamut of colors so you can easily match the vibe of your bike.
These were pretty much my ideal grip: easy installation, symmetrical screw direction, good comfort, and durable end caps. -PM
Plastic end guards handle abuse.+
Finger indents reduce slippage.
WTB Wafel Grips
• Weight: 70g/pair
• Diameter: 130mm x 30mm
• MSRP: $20.95
The description from WTB reads as follows: "Stickier than syrup and more desirable than bacon! Large blocks of conforming rubber cover the entirety of the Wafel grip, while ample spacing allows them to smoosh independently for increased grip while also providing an exit channel for muck and water." There are large, smooth blocks covering the upper part of the grip for comfort while the dimples covering the bottom part offer secure traction on the grip—that stickier than syrup feeling. Exit channels? Testing, testing, testing...
The Wafel grip is one of fifteen available grip styles that WTB has in their line up. We chose the Wafel grip for this review, as the popular Padloc
type grips require a PadLoc-ready bar with angled sidecuts which is not something everyone is familiar with. The Wafel is about as easy as they come in regards to installation—it's a slide on grip with a single clamp on the inboard side and a built-in plastic end cap. I did accidentally snap the bolt head off on the first grip I installed because I had my son helping me and I hadn't set the torque before having him tighten it... Lesson learned really fast that grip clamp bolts can strip or snap easily—treat them accordingly.
The grip comes in a somewhat standard 30mm diameter and 130mm length, and is designed to fit most hands. I found the grip comfortable, and the textured blocks offered excellent grip in all riding conditions while having a softer feel than other options. Tightened to the correct torque, I had no issues with the grips rotating or moving on my bar. The end caps are durable and seem to be able to handle the run of the mill wear and tear. I can't swear as to the exit channels working better than other grips, but the Wafels do offer good traction in all conditions.
The Wafel is a simple, lightweight soft-style grip with a pattern that worked well for my hands in all weather conditions. While it's only available in black, its the cheapest option available out of the nine grips we tested, and is right up there as a top contender in my garage. -NR
Easy to install.+
Affordable - best bang for your buck grip.
Only available in black.
Race Face Grippler Grips
• Weight: 108g/pair (tested) or 136g/pair
• Diameter: 30mm (tested) or 33mm
• MSRP: $29.95
Another British Columbia brand, Race Face offers the Grippler as a dual lock-on grip that has clamps on both the inboard and outboard sides of the grip. The advantage of a double clamp is that they ensure the grip stays in place, without any twisting (aka throttling). The rubber on the Grippler is uniform without any special texture or patterns based on finger or palm placement. The wider flange on the outboard end of the grip covers the lock-on clamp and keeps your sweaty wet hands from flying off the grip (it can happen, trust me; without gloves it's amazing how quickly a sweaty grip can turn into a greased piggy).
Installation was slightly more difficult due to the fact that you have to move the rubber grip material out of the way to access the clamp screws. Another small issue with these grips is that the metal outside caps begins to show some wear after leaning your bike over on the ground or bashing into rocks while riding. On the plus side, these grips are comfortable with the ramped grip profile on the finger-side providing plenty of traction, and the Race Face logo on the palm-side providing plenty of cushion.
If you are looking for a dual lock-on grip, the Grippler is an excellent choice. It is offered in both 30mm and 33mm diameter varieties, should you wish for a little more girth. There are 10 distinct colors available to suit your bike matching needs. -PM
Wide flange on outboard end.
Not the easiest installation due to covered clamps.-
Metal end caps show wear easily.
ODI Elite Flow Lock-On Grips
• Weight: 100g/pair
• MSRP: $28.95
• Diameter: 30.5mm
These grips feature the version 2.1 lock-on system which features a single clamp on the inboard end of grip vs the twin clamps on all original ODI grips. That’s neat but even neater still is that the Elite Flow Lock-on Grips have an eccentric offset padding on the grip—thin for good bar feel at the fingers, but it's 1.5mm thicker under your palm for a cushier ride. This allows riders to customize where to set the thickest part of the padding by rotating the single clamp (thoughtfully marked in increments from -30 to 30, with the thickest part of the grip padding at the 0° mark) to set the thickest section of padding under your the hands in exactly the spot where they get the most pressure while riding.
Installation of these single clamp slide on grips is simple enough that my 11-year-old child did it for me without snapping the bolt or stripping the head. As described above, this is ODI's improved grip clamp option that went from the tried and true two clamp per grip design to a single clamp with a plastic end cap - circa 2016. The outboard end now offers a soft ramped rubber end vs. the hard metal clamp, yet the grips stay put just as securely as the old twin clamp system. That soft rubber end is also a bit more comfortable—an upgrade in my book.
While I have spent the last five years riding ODI grips, this was the first time I have tested the Elite Flow model. The waffle pattern on the underside offers a phenomenal ledge style grip for your fingers and as the thickness of the rubber increases towards the palm, the grip feels softer and more forgiving than other grips in this review that I tested. I really like the feel of these grips and seemed to experience less hand fatigue due to the unique offset rubber padding design giving me the thickest padding exactly where I needed it without making a grip with a diameter too big for my medium-sized hands to easily grasp.
These were my favorite grips of the review. While I wish they came in an even wider variety of colors, the six options should satisfy most customers' color demands and the price is such that buying a set every year or two is relatively affordable. -NR
Offset padding offers soft forgiving feel.+
Lizard Skins Grips
• Weight: 90g/pair
• Diameter: 136mm x 31mm
• MSRP: $29.99 (+$4.99 for engraving)
Lizard Skin considers this the most complex grip they’ve ever created. It has dual patterned textures on each grip with the theory that they will allow riders to absorb shock from riding while still giving good handlebar feel and support no matter how hard the rider is pushing the bike. The lock-on design ensures the grips stay securely in place on the bar for long-lasting performance.
This grip is yet another of the simple slide-on single clamp designs with a built-in plastic end cap. The grips specify which side they go on, left or right, which I honestly always struggle with, so I'm thankful for that detail. The grips come in a variety of color options and with the choice of black, red, or blue clamp, which is kinda nice. Bonus: for an extra $5 USD Lizard Skins will engrave your name (or anything else, up to 14 characters long) on the clamp.
While I appreciated the sheer traction of the dual texture pattern—my fingers and palms felt glued to the grips—the grips had a little firmer feel than I like. There is some padding, but where some grips offer extra padding for the palm area, the ribbing on the palm area of these grips seemed to collapse under pressure. This was great for added grip and direct contact with the bar, but contributed to a harsher feel from repeated impacts while pedaling vs some of the softer grips I've tried. -NR
Lots of traction+
Plenty of grip and clamp color options
Not as comfortable under the palm as other grips tested
Ergon GE1 Evo Factory Grips
Elbows up! If you need some grips that will automatically make your biking photos look better, these are for you. The GE1 grip from Ergon has a unique shape that promotes better riding form by naturally angling your forearms upwards and outwards. In addition to the unique shape, the core and rubber of the grip are intelligently placed to reduce vibrations and provide more cushion where needed.
The left and right specific grips are easy to install and there are angle markings on the grip clamps to dial in the exact twist of the grip for maximum ergonomics. The set screws on the clamps both face upwards in the same direction leading to a polished look.
Overall, I think the claims made by Ergon are true. The first thing I noticed while riding was the very thin inboard section of the grip where my thumb and pointer finger do most of the upward pulling action. Leading to the outboard end, the grip gets wider with much more padding and comfort where my palms usually rest and perform most of the downward pushing duties. I also noticed that my hands/forearms were slightly twisted outboard, which is something I always have to remind myself to do when I am bonked at the end of a long ride and sloppily slouch into the middle of my down-tube. This all leads to an extremely comfortable grip without any arm pump or hand pain issues while riding.
Ergon offers the GE1 in a standard rubber and also an upgraded Factory level which is softer and more compliant at the expense of durability. Additionally, there is a "slim" version of the grip available. Color options are limited to orange or black, so you better like orange if you want some "bling" on your bike. -PM
Unique ergonomic shape.
Soft rubber isn't the most durable.
Red Monkey Klämpz Lock-on Silicone Grips
These grips are manufactured in the USA with what Red Monkey says is the highest grade vibration damping and weather resistant silicone compound available. Red Monkey feels that the top quality silicone, combined with their proprietary extrusion process, makes the Klampz lock-on Silicone Grips the most comfortable lock-on grip in the market. They are designed to have a comfortable, grippy bar feel, regardless of whether you wear gloves or go Blenki style and ditch ‘em for better bar feel. Each grip offers 5mm of silicone padding under your hands.
Installing these monkeys was fairly straightforward - a simple slide on double clamp design with a plastic bar end plug to dial in the correct placement. I've stripped plenty of clamp bolts in my life, so I make sure to carefully read each manufacturer's recommend torque directions before tightening and then I just close my eyes and pray to the bike gods, because it always happens at the most inopportune time. These grips went on fairly easy and when torqued correctly, they stayed in place without any noticeable rotational issues (or stripped bolts—yay!). One small thing to note is that when I fully screwed the clamps on, the end of the screws protruded out past the clamps more so than with other grip clamps, which was slightly annoying as I could feel them when riding, even through my gloves.
Without putting much thought into the increased diameter, my first ride with these was a 7 hour day with 8K feet (2500 meters) of climbing. The end result is that size does actually matter and my hands are not compatible with a 35mm diameter grip—my hands were too sore to ride for three days. Once recovered, I did keep the grips on for the entire month and while I got more used to the larger diameter, I still struggled with hand fatigue. The grips did have some redeeming qualities—in wet weather they remained perfectly grippy and comfortable but not sticky feeling despite the fact they are completely smooth vs the detailed grip designs from some other companies. And the 5mm of silicone padding was a nice level of soft that offered good damping from debris on the trail and impacts from roots and rocks. But ultimately, my hands weren't happy running a grip this fat.
For someone who likes a slightly larger diameter grip, these are a pretty sweet option. They come in a variety of grip and clamp colors for you fashionistas, too, while offering a nice, tacky grip. -NR
Tacky soft non-textured grip for all weather conditions.
Clamp bolts protrude.-
Diameter may be too wide for some riders
ESI Fit XC Grips
On the minimalist end of the spectrum, ESI produces 100% silicone grips without any clamps or lock-ons. Different from some of the fixed diameter grips, the Fit grip is ESI's ergonomically shaped grip that contains a wider inner section, a thin middle section, and a thick outer section. ESI provides end caps for completing a finished look to your cockpit. The Fit grip is available in either the thicker Extra Chunky (XC) version or the thinner Chunky Racer (CR) version in a variety of colors
For me, when I first tried to install these grips I didn't have any rubbing alcohol on hand, so I tried to use Windex. Boy, what a rookie mistake; this lead to about 30 minutes of cursing and wheezing as I tried to muscle a small hole onto a much too large peg. Switching out to rubbing alcohol as recommended, these grips slid on like a ... well, pick your own example there.
I was a little skeptical these grips would perform that great and was envisioning myself trying to hang on to small little nubbins of foam that slowly disintegrated and slid off the bars as I blasted down a full commit rocky chute. Man was I wrong! These grips were shockingly locked in place and surprisingly grippy. My usual ride ends in a long gravel road descent at high speeds with lots of small square edge rocks and these seemed to offer the most vibration damping of all the grips I tested.
These grips lock on so well that trying to remove them to test other grips was quite difficult. ESI recommends jabbing a screwdriver into the grip and pouring rubbing alcohol over it while rotating the screwdriver around. I wasn't quite comfortable doing this on my nice Yeti carbon bars, nor did I have access to a compressor to blow them off (bike shop trick) so it took me quite a bit of muscle and soaking the grips in rubbing alcohol to remove them. -PM
Good vibration damping.
Difficult to remove.
REV Suspension Grips
• Weight: 130g/pair
• Diameter: 31mm, 32.5mm, 34mm
• MSRP: $89.95
Revolution Suspension Grips has its roots in high-quality machining from high tech aerospace parts to burly off-road suspension. The grips from Revolution aim to improve rider comfort and reduce fatigue so you can ride day after day without excessive hand fatigue.
The unique aspect of the RevGrips is that they are not directly mounted to the bar, and instead allowed to float on rubber bushings. This allows the grip to have a bit of rotational travel (and a small bit of radial travel as well). Various thicknesses of washers allow for different "firmness" settings by controlling how much of the bushings interact with the plastic tabs in the grips themselves. There are five settings available from extra firm to extra soft depending on what you desire.
Installation of the RevGrips is much more complicated than other grips. Getting all the small pieces lined up and clamped together takes some patience and it probably isn't wise to leave the install until right before you are heading out on a group ride. Bonus: the screws all point in the same direction, so no fiddling about with swapping your angle of attack to dial them in on the bars.
Independent of the floating rubber bushing design, these are some of the most comfortable grips out there with a very nice high-quality plush rubber. The little bit of extra compliance from the rubber bushings does seem to help reduce hand fatigue, although to me it wasn't as drastic as Revolution claims, and I couldn't tell much of an improvement over other grips.
In addition to the various washer settings for controlling firmness, there are multiple diameters and rubber patterns. You can also mix and match from a large number of grip and clamp colors, which can give your bike a much more personalized look. While not cheap, there is a lot going on with these grips and each grip system includes grips, your choice of clamp colors, bar ends, a tuning kit composed of shock-absorbing inserts and various washers, and some hex wrenches for assembling everything. All of the soft bits can be re-ordered for $35, once you wear them out. Bonus, the Pro series is a bit lighter than their Race series, but all parts are interchangeable between the two, and the Race series rings in for $30 USD less. Another aspect that I appreciate to these grips is you can replace parts here and there as they wear out, instead of having to buy a whole new pair. -PM
Unique vibration damping design.+
High quality machined clamps and end-caps.+
Huge variety of grip and lock-on clamp colors - choose your own combo!
Complicated install with lots of small parts.-
About the TestersNikki Rohan
• Men's size medium glove / women's size large (typically)
• Palm to middle finger length: 7 inches (177.8 mm)
• Palm circumference: 8 inches (203.2mm)
• Typically rides ODI Troy Lee Design grips or WTB PadLocPierce Martin
• Men's size medium glove (typically)
• Palm to middle finger length: 7 inches (177.8mm)
• Palm circumference: 8.5 inches (215.9mm)
• Typically rides Ergon grip