Best Handlebar Grips Buying Guide
Grip choice and positioning will affect braking control and gear shifting as well as hand and arm positioning. Quality grips that suit your physical dimensions, riding style and riding discipline will add comfort and control to your ride – poor, ill-fitting grips will lead to problems under pressure, hand discomfort and even long-term pain.
The difficulty in choosing grips from the hundreds on the market is that what suits one person may not necessarily suit another. In many cases it is a matter of trying out a number of styles and models until you find the set that is ‘right’ for you.
At their most basic, grips are rubber tubes that slide onto the end of your bars. However there are a number of variations on this very simple theme.
• Plain-gauge grips are the same thickness for their entire length, while others have a palm bulge in the middle that some riders may find more comfortable, or inter-finger bulges. Meanwhile there is a separate breed of ergonomic grips that claim to provide vastly improved hand comfort by being a better anatomical fit. These have their fans, and are certainly worth trying if you are experiencing hand pain that seems to be made worse by ‘normal’ grips, but some say they impair handling in technical terrain.
• Grip thickness can vary – some riders with smaller hands can find a thinner grip more comfortable in the long-term, while riders with bigger paws and fans of the sports’ gravity-oriented disciplines – Downhill racing (DH), Enduro, Freeride (FR) and All-Mountain (AM) – may prefer the feel of a larger grip. Again it’s largely a matter of personal preference – some riders ‘get on’ with certain grip thicknesses, others don’t.
• Dual compound grips use two different types of rubber – a harder foundation layer overlaid with a softer-compound surface layer. The theory is that the firmer inner sleeve maintains the grip’s form and helps to provide a secure hold on the bars (to prevent slipping), while the softer outer layer feels more comfortable to hold. The theory seems to be a sound one but the dual compound tends to result in a thicker grip – so perhaps not suitable for riders who only find a thin grip comfortable – and they are more expensive.
• Some grips have BMX-style flanges on their inner ends. The idea is to prevent the hands accidentally slipping off the bars, but for many riders the choice is simply one of style.
• Grip patterns vary widely, from barely-there racers’ favourites to the pronounced ‘waffle’ pattern favoured by many DH and FR riders (many companies also manage to incorporate their logo into the pattern). Pattern choice is again essentially a matter of personal preference and you may need to try a few grips before you find a pattern that is not only comfortable but also maintains traction in the wet.
MTB grips: in-depth
To lock or not to lock?
Most basic grips simply slip onto the ends of the bars (sometimes requiring a little gentle persuasion) but many riders have come to appreciate the advantages of the new generation of lock-on grips.
These feature small metal collars, either at one end or at both ends, which tightly lock the grip to the bars by means of a small Allen bolt.
They have a number of benefits – firstly, because they are bolted on they can be a little looser in fit than traditional grips, making them much easier to get on and off. This is useful if you wish to try a number of different types, or if you are the kind of rider who is constantly experimenting with different cockpit setups (or if you just don’t want to wrestle with stupid #?%&ing grips that won’t &%$#ing come off the #!%&ing bars).
Secondly, and most importantly, traditional grips can have a tendency to slip or rotate when they become warm and sweaty, or in wet conditions. Lock-ons eliminate this problem, clamping the grips to the bars much more securely – an essential consideration for riders tackling demanding terrain and conditions.
Thirdly the end plugs of lock-ons help to prevent bar ends getting damaged in crashes or more commonly, the ends of ‘traditional’ grips being ripped off (if you’ve ever had the sharp end of a bar dig into your thigh or stomach in a spill, you’ll know why this is important).
Lock-ons do have their drawbacks – they are generally heavier and more expensive than slide-on grips, and can be more uncomfortable for riders who like to rest their hands on the ends of the bars during climbs or long rides. However most riders today are prepared to accept this trade-off for the added security and confidence they provide.
Lock-on grips are available in full sets – including rubber grips, collars and end plugs – or as separate parts to allow riders change worn-out grips without having to buy new collars.
NOTE: Some grips are a compromise between traditional and lock-on models, being secure to the bars with a zip tie. These promise the best of both worlds but some riders may prefer one or the other.
Simple rubber sleeves that slide on to the end of the bars. Can be a bugger to get off, sometimes slip in wet conditions and lack of end plugs is a disadvantage – but cheap as chips and you can’t have a simpler bike part.
Grips that are shaped in some way to offer more hand comfort on longer rides (manufacturers claim) and may also feature integrated bar ends for multiple positioning options. . A personal preference – they may work for you, they may not. Worth trying if ‘normal’ grips are giving you hand pain.
These feature metallic collars at either end which ‘lock’ the grip to the bar by means of small allen bolts. Increasingly becoming the standard on most MTB bikes.
BMX grips are for many riders a fit-and-forget item – a cheap and easily replaceable consumable part that may be chosen as much on looks, colour and price as anything else. Wear your old grips out, get a new pair… simples.
However it’s worth knowing that BMX grips are available in a number of types and styles – traditional or lock-on, and flanged or flangeless.
• Traditional grips: These are the simple rubber sleeves (flanged or flangleless) that slide on to the end of your bars. This type of grip is by far the most co mmonly used among BMX riders
• Lock-on grips: These feature small metallic collars on either end that ‘lock’ the grips to the bars by means of small allen blots, to prevent the grips slipping or ‘throttling’. These have taken over in the MTB world (see ‘MTB Grips’ for more) but are less common among BMXers.
• Flanged grips: These have a small rubber flange at the open (inside) end.
• Flangeless grips: These don’t have a flange. The matter of ‘flanged or flangeless’ is simply a matter of personal preference but the ‘flanged’ style is the more classic/retro look.