The handlebar grips of a mountain bike are one of the simplest and most underrated components. Many times they are not given the attention they deserve. It should not be forgotten that they are a point of contact between the cyclist and the bicycle and that aspects such as their hardness, materials, size or touch influence both comfort and injury prevention. The grips must be in perfect condition, of the correct size and thickness, and provide the necessary grip for handling the handlebar.
There are currently two main types of cuffs on the market depending on their installation or adjustment: with or without lock-on closure . There is also a special type of grips with a specific shape to delay or eliminate hand fatigue, such as ergonomic ones. On the other hand, within each of these classes, the cuffs can be made of different materials to enhance qualities such as grip or lightness.
Types of cuffs according to their material
To start with this guide on mountain biking grips, we will analyze the most used materials for grips, explaining their advantages and disadvantages.
Provides better grip and firmness but also more weight. It introduces reliefs to ensure adherence of the palm of the hand and prevent them from moving.
- Advantages: Better fixation to the handlebar and grip for the hands. Durability.
- Disadvantages: More weight and less comfort.
Neoprene foam or foam is used to create smooth or low relief cuffs. The advantage of using this material is its lightness and its comfort when gripping the handlebars. But this material degrades faster than rubber and gets dirty more easily.
- Advantages: Lightness and comfort.
- Disadvantages: Less resistance.
We could say that it is a hybrid between rubber and foam. They provide better grip because the material is less porous than foam, they are light and they repel dirt better. In terms of prices, foam and silicone are very similar, although the latter are generally somewhat more expensive.
- Advantages: Lightness and grip.
- Disadvantages: Higher price.
Types of cuffs according to their shape
Once the main materials for the manufacture of grips have been described, they can be classified according to their type of attachment to the handlebar or shape:
Clenched or lock-on cuffs
They have the part of the cuff itself and one or two clamps with a screw (generally of the Allen type) at the ends of the latter. Once tightened to the handlebar, the grip remains fixed and without the possibility of moving. However, it adds a little more weight although its installation and removal is much simpler than the conventional ones, introduced under pressure.
They are installed on the pressure handlebar. It is not necessary or advisable to use glue or other adhesive to fix them since their removal will be very difficult. In general, these types of grips are made with foam or silicone, although there are also rubber grips that are fixed by pressure.
Ergonomic cuffs primarily cater to form. Although the conventional ones are mostly circular or with small grooves, the ergonomic ones are special grips with flat and curved sections that provide better grip and comfort to the hands. They are recommended models for marathon bikers or cyclists who like long days of cycling. They delay the appearance of wear on the hands and wrists and are made of rubber.
What grips to choose for my bike?
Once the main materials and their properties and the types of mountain bike grips on the market have been described, it is time to guide you in your future purchase. For this, you will have to attend to three main aspects to facilitate your choice:
If you are looking for a standard grip that does not add much weight and provides you with comfort and better vibration absorption, your choice should be a foam one. If you need more grip but without sacrificing comfort or lightness, you should look at the silicone ones. And if you want grip and firmness without a doubt the rubber ones should be your fists.
Thickness is an aspect that not everyone values when choosing cuffs. And it is, however, a very important aspect in the chapter on ergonomics and hand grip. Certain models are offered in two or three different thicknesses. A large one will be more suitable for large hands, while a thinner one will suit a smaller or thinner one. From there personal tastes come into play: thicker to absorb more vibrations, thinner for better grip and handling, etc.
The modality you practice
Finally, you have to pay attention to the type of mountain biking you do, since there are certain grips more adapted than others to the different types of mountain biking . For pure XC (short and explosive routes) a silicone grip is ideal, in XC Marathon foam or ergonomic ones will provide extra comfort. While in more radical modalities, such as trail or enduro, the rubber grips are the preferred ones of the riders, and if they are lock-on much better.
Maintenance: fixing, removal and cleaning
Installing and uninstalling a fist can be the simplest operation in the world or the most complicated, depending on whether you have followed the manufacturer’s recommendations or have decided to go it alone. For example, if you have used adhesive to stick the grips to the handlebar, it may take a long time to remove them, having to inject solvent or thoroughly wet the grip to remove it.
Therefore, it is best to fix them without any glue. The grip is expressly designed to snap onto the handlebar. If you want an extra firmness you can wet the interior a little with medicinal alcohol, as well as to remove it, injecting it with a syringe.
For locking grips, installation and removal is very simple, just have a suitable wrench to tighten or loosen the screw and the grip will come off quickly.
As for cleaning, it is very important to carry out a basic cleaning after each trip and a thorough cleaning every month. A lot of dust, dirt and sweat (if you’re not wearing gloves) tend to adhere to the cuffs, compromising grip and comfort. To clean them thoroughly, we recommend removing them and cleaning both the outside and the inside, with the help of soap or a grease remover.