Bar end plugs may seem like another of those bike parts that are little more than an afterthought, but these tiny bits of plastic or metal do have an important role to play. Not only will they help stop the ends of your handlebars from impact or crush damage in the event of a crash, but they can also prevent serious injury from an exposed bar end coming into contact with soft tissue.
For BMX and MTB riders using lock-on style grips, bar caps and lockrings will ensure they stay in place, while ‘push-in’ bar plugs also help secure the end of handlebar tape on drop bars, ensuring your wrap stays tight and comfortable.
Read on to find out more about the different types of bar end plugs that are available, and to help choose the ones that are right for you.
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As with most BMX parts, bar end plugs are designed to take some punishment, and to look good while doing so. Types range from simple push-in nylon plugs (available in a range of colours to match your bike’s livery, of course), to hard-wearing aluminium end caps that are secured over the end of your bars by means of pinch bolts.
The choice is up to you – cheap and cheerful nylon or polycarbonate plugs may get torn up with use, but they are inexpensive enough to be regarded as a disposable item and a no-brainer to fit. Slightly more upmarket ‘push-in’ plugs may be made of aluminium and feature some kind of expansion mechanism (usually a threaded bolt and elastomer plug) for secure fit, and these may offer more protection against crush damage to your bar ends. Finally alloy end caps – which are fitted over the end of the bar, rather than being inserted in to it – can add a bit of bling to your bike (but will get scuffed up over time).
While all BMX bar end plugs are designed to fit the standard 22.2mm external bar diameter, some models on the market are threaded so will require that you either purchase bars with tapped ends, or tap the ends of your existing bars.
As with BMX end plugs, MTB and road bar end plugs will protect both you and the bars from damage in the event of a crash. In addition, ‘push-in’ end plugs on road drop bars help to keep the bar tape in place – a pair of plugs is included with new bar tape, but you may need to replace in the event of one or both falling out or becoming damaged.
Although the end diameters of MTB and road bars differ – the standard MTB external diameter being 22.2mm, compared to 23.8mm for road bars – most ‘push-in’ types will be designed to accommodate a range of sizes, either via compressible plastic materials or some kind of expansion mechanism (the latter being more common on MTB plugs). It might be worth checking, however, if your desired end plugs are characterized as MTB or road specific – if not, you should be good to go.
The most common types of bar end plugs are:
• ‘Push-in’ plugs: The simplest type of bar end plug, and the one most commonly used on road bikes, is the push-in plug made of nylon or plastic. It does exactly what it says on the tin. More durable alloy plugs, secured by means of an expandable elastomer plug (such as the Hope Grip Doctor) are popular among MTB riders and may also offer a little extra reinforcement to lightweight carbon bars.
• Bar end caps: These are designed to fit over the end of MTB bars rather than being inserted into them, and are secured by means of small grub screws. Usually compatible with lock-on or ‘normal’ grips and often as much of an accessory to aid colour coordination as a practical addition. They do look good though…
• Lockrings: Replacement alloy lockrings and ‘snap-on’ end caps for lock-on grip systems such as those made by ODI. For BMX and MTB bikes.
• Extender plugs: These are bar end plugs for road bikes that extend the bars’ drop by a couple of inches, giving the rider a little extra choice in terms of hand position and comfort.