In the infancy of mountain biking, a simple Grab On foam grip was the standard. They often slipped on the bars, got torn, and would get slippery when wet. So much has changed in the decades that have followed, with hundreds of grips to choose from. We will review and list some of the best MTB grips on the market.
It is quite crazy when you look at the listings of all the grips available. There are so many companies and models, and quite a few outright imitators as well. How do you navigate through all the choices?
If you are looking for the best MTB grips, take a look first at Ergon. While most grips are round, and if they aren’t, they are imitating Ergon. Ergon has approached grips scientifically to help the biomechanics of gripping the bars properly. Not everyone is the same, so there are different models, and diameters to help fit various needs.
The Ergon GP1-s is one of the best MTB grips on the market, and has been for several decades. When you look at the design, you will see that it supports the hands better, and allows you to relax your hands easier, preventing hand fatigue.
Top Pick: Ergon GP1
The Ergon GP1 grip has been around for years, and still leads the market for molded ergonomic grips. If you are having hand issues, this is the grip to try first.
The GP1 comes in a variety of sizes. This is based on the diameter of the grip. While it would be assumed that larger hands should go with a bigger grip, part of this is also determined by how hard you grip the bars. You may find that stepping down a size actually helps you grip the bars lighter and with that less fatigue.
As you can see, these grips have wings for the palms of your hands. The idea here is to spread out the pressure. Without this feature, you get more pressure on the carpal tunnel, which cuts off some blood flow.
There are several variations of the GP1, some that even have integrated bar ends. One of the issues with mountain bikes is being able to change hand positions. With integrated bar ends, this helps significantly as 2-3 more positions are created.
Best Leather MTB Grip: Brooks
Brooks is one of the most respected brands in the cycling industry and has written the book on leather-based products for bikes. Many riders swear by their saddles, and once broken in seem to stay comfortable for years.
When it comes to leather grips, Brooks is definitely a company to look at. The Brooks Leather Wrap Slender Grips is everything that you think a leather grip should be.
These grips come in several different colors so that you can easily match your bike or go for a specific look if you are into that. They come out of the box with an incredible feel. After some riding and your natural oils, they get even better.
One thing to be careful about these is that if it gets wet in the rain, it can be slippery due to your body oils. In desert-dry conditions, they can dry out as well and feel abrasive. But, that could be a good thing for some people.
Most Affordable MTB Grip: Binmer
Like was mentioned before, there are tons of grips on the market. You have to be careful about what you buy. There are grips that are less than $1, but they are for a very small kids bike. How they are made is also important.
If you are looking for cheap grips check out these Binmer(TM) 2pcs Mountain Cycling Bike grips.
At around $1, and with aluminum locking rings, these could work in a pinch. But an issue with cheap grips is that the rubber is poor quality and disintegrates. The resulting goo stains clothes and is gross on the hands.
Generally, an adult grip will be around 130 mm in width. If your bike has Gripshift on it, the grips will be narrower than 130. Small kid’s bikes are around 90mm in width. Make sure you buy something appropriate for your needs.
Best Alternative Grip: Avon
Many people don’t realize that motorcycles and bikes have the same bar size where the grips are installed. This can open up a world of possibilities. Realize that on motorcycles, they run heated grips and other weird stuff for accessories. Some ingenious could hook up the grips somehow on a bike during the winter hand have warm hands!
Let’s take a look at Avon grips. These caught my eye in that they have air cushions built-in.
On bicycles, riders have tried all types of methods to get comfort. Gel grips, gel in the gloves, different rubber types. Why not air?
These Avon Grips Air Cushioned Rival Grips are aluminum lock-on grips that have rubber air chambers built-in. They are expensive, but for bigger hands, they could be an answer to help create a positive feel but with cushioning.
The base grip is made from aluminum with a rubber bellows style outer covering. Each bellow is an air pocket. A very neat idea!
Just Cruising: Velo
Velo is a company that makes many accessories such as saddles, grips, bar tape, and many other comfort items. They probably have 50 different choices for grips on their own.
A cool grip that Velo makes is the Velo Vinyl Leather Grips. These are not real leather but are made to look that way. The stitching is awesome, and either is the same color or two-tone to add some style to your ride.
These grips look great on beach cruisers and similar bikes. They have a vinyl leather-like material wrapped over a foam base grip. They also come in various colors, so you can customize to your own needs.
On an MTB a difficulty had by many is how to change your hand position. Riders find that since they only have one hand position, that numbness occurs. A great accessory to add on is MTB bar ends.
Bar ends come in many shapes and sizes. Most are made from aluminum, some from carbon fiber. Basically, you cut the end of your grip off, and then move your brakes/shifters inboard about 20mm. After you move your grips inward as well, you can mount the bar ends onto the bars. Always make sure they are tight!
The Serfas Dual Density Bar Ends help with multiple grip positions, and also feature an ergonomic shape. Most other bar ends are just round tubing profiles. Serfas and several others create some shape that sometimes helps with numb hands.
When you crash, you always screw up the grip ends. Many riders now run cool bar end plugs that add some style to their ride.
These Keywell bar end plugs are easy to install and come in several colors. There are other brands that allow storage inside the bars. I would think the rattling would get annoying, but it could be handy if you need to carry something important, or money.
Ever since the first bike was invented, grips have been an important part of the controls. The first grips were made of cork, and some riders seek out specialty grips that either have cork as an ingredient or are made of cork entirely.
One thing that has remained though is how to best use grips. Like how to mount them, the position, the care, and things like that. It isn’t all that straight forward as you might think.
Lock-on grips have helped to solve a key mount problem. Some grips just naturally slip on the bars, and there is no way to truly solve that easily. So some grips have built-in clamp mechanisms.
Other grips are just rubber. So how do you get those on? How do you keep them from slipping?
One key way to get grips on and off easily is compressed air. Every bicycle shop has an air compressor, but they use it for far more than airing tires. You can mount grips by spraying air between the grip and the bar. For the most part, grips work well this way. Make sure the bars are clean before, any petroleum products can make the grips slip around.
A very old trick is hair spray. I use Aqua Net. Using outright glue doesn’t normally work well. Hair spray is in an alcohol base and dries quick. We spray a little on the bar and inside the grip and then slip them on. It works incredibly well.
Conclusion – Best MTB Grips
Grips are a funny thing. Unfortunately, there is no one size that works for everyone’s solution. What works for your buddy, won’t work for you. It can be really weird how something so simple varies so much between riders.
With that, don’t be afraid to try many grips. Luckily, they are inexpensive, so if you dislike one, go on to another. Even ask to test ride friends and other bikes. Take note of the grips, the position, and things like that.
One key to look for is quality and a quality brand. Ergon is one of those brands. They work to design grips based on riders’ needs. The Ergon Gp1model has been a mainstay of riders and shops all-around when asked for something to help with hand numbness. The answer is to try Ergon!
It may take a few tries, but there is a grip out there with your name on it. Once you find it, you won’t need to change. The cool thing is that all bars are standardized, so you can’t mess up!