Mountain Bike Action: Grip Shootout
Mountain biking is a sport where risk is a factor every time you saddle up. All components play a part in safety and performance. If your current grips are not keeping you comfortable on the trail, you may find yourself confused by the huge number of aftermarket options available. With hundreds of different choices on the market, we chose to review some of the best-known grips from ESI, Sensus, RevGrips, Ergon, ODI, Deity, Lizard Skins and Oury. Each company has its own special design that makes its grips worth considering. The challenge is to figure out which designs and features are right for you. To simplify the process, we divided our competitors into three categories: cross-country/endurance, trail/enduro and downhill. Now, let’s help you get a grip!
Features: The Lite grip uses Sensus’ traditional pattern but with a lower rise to the grip-able area and closer-spaced ribbing. These grips feature an integrated end cap with a single-lock flange securing them to your handlebars.
Test results: Even though Sensus isn’t known for designing cross-country grips, the Lites were a surprisingly good fit for the category. The rib design provided slight vibration damping while still maintaining a nice, tacky feel. This design also helped wick moisture away during climbs when riding with no gloves and sweaty palms. The grips’ weight made them appealing to XC gram counters, and the width made them comfortable for riders with smaller hands. One miss that we noted was the durability of the grip compound. We tested that factor by dropping each bike intentionally 20 times in our drop tests. The end cap was solid, but the grip tore easily. Regardless, the reasonable price point and comfort, along with weight savings, make this grip a good choice for cross-country riding.
LIZARD SKINS LOCK-ON CHARGER EVO
Features: The Charger Evo grips are unlike any other grips we’ve tested. Described by Lizard Skins as “the most complex grip we’ve ever created,” the texture has vertical ridges on the palm side with a ramped diamond pattern on the other side. They weigh 90 grams per set and feature a single-lock design with an integrated end cap.
Test results: Although described as complex, these grips felt perfectly natural in our hands. The striped pattern where your palms rest provides a nice cushion, while the raised diamond pattern locks your fingers as they wrap around the grip. The more-than-average length and medium width proved useful for different hand positions. For a rider who counts every gram, the Charger Evos are a bit thicker than the Sensus Lite grips while still maintaining the same weight. It rained during our testing, and while the grips excelled in dry environments, they did not perform quite as well in rainy conditions, as the water seemed to collect in the surface pattern of the grip.
Features: A pair of ESI Chunky grips weighs 60 grams, making these the lightest grips of all the ones we tested. The grip compound is made from silicone, while the grips are latex-free, right down to the end cap. With an easy installation on the bars, we got to the trails for some cross-country testing.
Test results: The Chunky is the cross-country weight weenies’ grip of choice! Even though it was the lightest option we tested, the silicone construction provided great shock absorption, reduced fatigue on longer rides and still held up well during our drop testing. We found the length a bit short compared to the rest of our lineup, which reduced palm-placement options. The grip performance was slip-free with or without gloves in dry conditions. The grips performed well in the wet but worked better with a lightweight glove instead of bare hands for moist riding conditions.
ODI F-1 SERIES VAPOR
🏆Test Riders’ Pick🏆
Features: The F-1 Vapor grips from ODI hit the scales at a lightweight 67 grams—perfect for a light, cross-country bike. Featuring an inner layer for added durability, the construction highlights ODI’s exclusive A.I.R.E compound that infuses air into the grip for reduced weight and increased comfort. The pattern design and ergonomic finger cuts enhance grip.
Test results: Installing the Vapor grips can be a bit annoying, but with a liberal amount of rubbing alcohol, they slipped right on and into position. The ergonomic cuts with the circle pattern design offered exceptional grip and finger placement. We had no issues with the compound in all conditions, gloved or gloveless. On the trail they provided a good platform to damp the rockier bits on our cross-country rides. A bonus with these grips is the budget-friendly price tag. The one flaw is the material did break down sooner than expected during our testing. If you want to count grams on your cross-country bike but are still looking for a grip that feels like a fresh performance pillow, the Vapors are the winners for the cross-country enthusiast.
LIZARD SKINS LOCK-ON MACHINE
Features: The Lizard Skins Lock-On Machine grip is a single side lock-on design that features a waffle section on the bottom of the grip to place your fingers on and a checkered grit pattern on the rest of the grip.
Test results: Lizard Skins’ Lock-On Machine grips were easy to slip on and torque onto our handlebars for some testing. We thought the lighter, thinner compound in this grip performed decently during long days in the mountains while still handling terrain well when the trail got choppy. We do recommend these grips be used with a favorite pair of gloves, as otherwise the compound marked our bare hands with a perfect checkered pattern. Durability-wise, the tougher compound held up well to trail abuse. These grips use a harder compound than most in our lineup. We would have liked a bit more vibration damping for longer rides.
Features: Deity’s latest grip, called the Lockjaw, is a take on the popular Knucklebuster but with a diamond top pattern that leads to a recessed waffle pattern. For the palms, the new TRC+ rubber compound squishes out to a 32mm diameter. Deity designed the grips for all categories and claims they are “the ultimate in control at your fingertips.”
Test results: We immediately noticed how well the supple durometer of the Lockjaw aided in comfort for our all-day test ride. The recessed pattern was great for finger placement once our hands were securely wrapped around the bars. The bit-thicker diameter worked well with most riders’ hands. With the proper feel, we rarely slipped gloves on, as the grips were so tacky. Being so squishy, the ends did tear in our moving drop test. Regardless, the grips went beyond our expectations for the price point, offering all-day comfort for our test riders.
ODI F-1 SERIES DREAD LOCK V2.1 LOCK-ON
Features: The ODI F-1 Series Dread Lock V2.1 grips is another option from ODI that has the A.I.R.E compound, but in this case, the grip design is offset for more padding on the palm side. A small, almost tree-bark-like pattern has been added to the surface, along with ergonomic cuts for finger placement around the grip.
Test results: Padded, fast, comfy, soft, tacky, ergonomic and durable, the Dread Lock met all our needs on long days in the saddle. We noticed they worked great for medium/largesized hands, while the texture was optimal for gloveless riders. The ergonomics of the grip are well-suited for endurance riding. Overall, the grip held up to our testing and gave us all-day comfort in the saddle.
ERGON GA3 LARGE
🏆Test Riders’ Pick🏆
Features: This is a new option in Ergon’s All-Mountain lineup and is a 2mm-thicker version than the standard GA3. It’s called the GA3 Large. Its design features a flexible wing that assists in total hand support. Ergon’s compound, which is developed and produced in Germany, puts the set at 133 grams. Can this ergonomic design pass our tests?
Test results: If you are looking to get after an all-day ride, meet your grip of choice. Okay, we admit that Ergon’s site may seem like a lot to navigate just to order grips for your bicycle, but if you follow the guide to selecting grips, you won’t think twice about the time invested. We tested the GA3 Large and found it offered ideal support via the wing shape of the grip. It flexed enough to damp the chunk, but was sturdy enough to provide needed support. To have the best contact with the grips, we preferred them with gloves in all conditions. While meeting our comfort needs, the grips also held up well in our unplanned crash test. Fear not! No grip or rider was harmed. The end cap needed to be replaced, but the grip only suffered minimal scuffing. For an all-mountain or endurance ride, the GA3 Large will help you get a grip.
SENSUS SAN-FLANGE SWAYZE
Features: This is a new product from Sensus that features the company’s traditional-spaced rib platform on a longer dual-lock grip. These grips feature a snap cap that pops right into the locking flange holding them to your handlebars. As the fun team at Sensus would say, “It’s packed full of science!” So, we put these grips to the test on trail and enduro rides.
Test results: The traditional pattern used may not be for everyone’s hands, but the design has a really unique feel for controlling the bike. These were some of the longest grips we tested, and we loved having the extra hand placement during cornering and climbing. The dual lock with snap caps proved very durable and held up well during our drop testing. Unlike the Lite, the San-Flange Swayze grip compound seems tougher for trail abuse. Gloves or no gloves, we recommend these for riders with medium hands to get the most out of the available placement area during trail laps.
Features: The Loam grip features what is known as 25A Happy Camper compound. PNW came up with this name for this blend that is soft enough to absorb trail chatter yet firm enough to maintain its shape. The design features a single closed-end grip with two distinct textured patterns. The horizontal strips run across the grip for traction, while the mountain zig-zag pattern is intended to support your palm.
Test results: During our testing on the trails, the Happy Camper compound provided a firm grip that was very durable but lacked all-day comfort and support. We did do a fair amount of riding in the rain, though, and that is where they shined. We preferred using them with gloves in wet conditions. This is a solid price-point grip that features a clinging pattern to displace water while still damping trail hits for the rider.
Diameter: 30mm avg.
ERGON GE1 EVO FACTORY
Features: This is a proven race-winning option in Ergon’s Trail lineup. The GE1 Evo Factory grips’ right- and left-specific design features textured zones to help with the rotational direction of the hand. The design is set for an aggressive position of riding when wide handlebars are used and keeping elbows bent is crucial. Can this ergonomic design pass yet another one of our tests?
Test results: We enjoyed the GE1’s, but we were not completely head over heels for them. It took some time to set them up and get them properly aligned for maximum comfort. Once we got them dialed in, however, we found that Ergon’s unique grips served us well for all-day use and proved extremely durable. Although great in some respects, the ergonomics of the GE1 were not everyone’s cup of tea.
Diameter: 32mm avg.
🏆Test Riders’ Pick🏆
Features: Another hot release from Deity’s lineup of grips is the Supracush. This grip features a beefy diamond pattern with Deity’s new TRC+ rubber compound. The grips are an all-use design that Deity claims is “the world’s most comfortable grip.”
Test results: We hit the trails hard with this latest price-point grip from Deity. The thick 34mm diamond pattern felt ultra foamy and form-fitting when put under pressure. As with the other new Deity grip, the squishy compound absorbed hits better than expected from such a soft material. This grip is the best bang for your buck when it comes to comfort and ultimate trail riding. Not all are believers in love at first grip, but the Supracush may persuade your hands.
ERGON GA2 FAT
Features: The latest GA2 Fat from Ergon is its thickest downhill-specific grip for high-demand trails where greater control is needed. Its design features an optimized pattern to help reduce fatigue while the rider is holding on tight. The inner element of the grip varies in thickness for damping performance.
Test results: If coming into a rock garden faster than necessary or death-gripping your bars into a downhill slalom is your style, the GA2 Fat could be for you. Although designed for going downhill, the grips actually work really well for climbing, too. Of course, when the trail called for more aggressive body positioning, the pattern and texture of the grips kept the rider strapped in. The grips perform well in high-speed chatter, but we didn’t feel like they had as much damping in bigger hits as their competitors in this category.
SENSUS MEATY PAW
Features: The Meaty Paw is the signature grip of rider Kyle Strait. Sensus designed this grip with a thick inner sleeve and an oversized grip diameter of 35mm. The grips come with an integrated end cap and lock to your bars with a single-lock flange.
Test results: Bulky and long, the Meaty Paw was a great option for our larger-handed test riders. The new rubber compound from Sensus was soft and grippy. The texture dramatically helped minimize slip (gloves or no gloves) while still offering a large area for palm placement when cornering. One of our test riders had the slight misfortune of saying “hello” to a rock while testing these grips. In our unintentional rock-smashing test, the grips performed really well. Given their thickness, durability, extra-tacky feel and price point, the Meaty Paws are a great choice for hitting the trails.
REVGRIPS PRO SERIES LARGE
🏆Test Riders’ Pick🏆
Features: The Pro Series Large from RevGrips is the most technologically advanced grip we tested. The grips offer a patented shock-absorbing system that is housed inside the aluminum bar-end design. The only things contacting the bars are the clamps so the absorption inserts can function.
Test results: Some of you may be thinking, does this much tech need to go into a grip system? After putting the grips to the test with our riders, our answer is, “Yes.” These grips have an awesome ability to adjust the stiffness of the shock absorption. We found that the grips performed best with the one thin washer on each side as recommended. Say goodbye to fatigue if you are hitting shuttle runs or bombing a mountain all day! We were skeptical at first, but were pleasantly surprised to experience noticeably less fatigue. Although these grips are not cheap, the option of being able to tune the grips made this our choice for hitting downhill runs.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET
MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.
Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.