Monday, January 12, 2015

Grips - Personal Preference and Functionality

It's often said that paying attention to seat, handle bars, and pedals are the biggest factors in fitting a person to his or her bicycle. You can adjust, replace and/or fiddle with these components to your hearts content to make almost any frame—barring an oversize or ridiculously small frame—suit your transportation needs.

The biggest obstacle may well be your wallet; you must weigh how much to invest in your bicycle's makeover versus what you hope to accomplish. Do you have extra parts on hand? Can you locate suitable used parts? How invested are you in the frame?

Ask me how I know.

Through trail and error, numerous work sessions, replacing parts, many miles ridden, even tears—I didn't give up on the Ross Mount Saint Helens. Because I loved the frame style. It's now very serviceable transportation, a bike I hope to keep for many years.

But that's not the main focus of this blog post, except to illustrate that bike love takes time.

Once you've dialed in your machine fit, and put some miles on your bike, your next consideration may very well become handle bar comfort. There is a direct correlation between time spent in the saddle versus distribution of weight upon handle bars. There will be an inevitable outcome, whether it's immediate comfort, pain, or numbness, which is unique to the individual.

There is no science involved in comfortable grip selection. Much of it is trial and error, pertaining to your handle bar style, or preferred material. Do you require more padding beneath your palms? A double layer of bar tape to accommodate larger hands? Do you like the comfort of cork, rubber, or foam? Rounded or ergonomic grips?

Perhaps you are not sure where to start.

That's okay. I discovered there are less expensive versions of all options. My Trek's bar ends sport cheap foam grips (see photo above), which does the trick, providing comfort and insulation for cooler weather. I'm sure there are many ingenious solutions that other's have come up with. You just need to explore.

Whether it's a drop bar machine or upright bicycle—trust me—comfortable and functional grips go a long ways towards making your riding adventures into dream trips.

But maybe you need to discover that yourself.


  1. Good timing! Just last week we bought the Ergon GC-1 grips (the version shaped for city bikes that have some sweep to the handlebars). These are shaped ergonomic grips that we purchased from Universal Cycles, but they are on Amazon too.

    We purchased the grips since we'd had trouble with discomfort and numbness - especially for the longer rides on the flats. Not so much of an issue when climbing or descending.

    So far, we really like the grips. Not just for the reduced pressure on our hands, but also because the grips give us more to hang onto. I like that when going downhill, braking and signaling a turn all at once. Now that we've tried them out, we wonder what took us so long. I guess we thought they were for amateurs. We realize now that's silly. They are really a big improvement.

    1. +1 on the Ergon's I have built up a few city bikes with them and love the feel and comfort of them.

  2. I fully understand your love of these grips. I never appreciated the extra platform they provided until I rented bike in France which came with them. On that bike the grips tended to rotate, but now that manufacturers are placing a set screw this is no longer a problem. I like the variety of ergonomic grips these days, from cork to rubber to any width of surface. And the fact that you can customize the angle to what feels comfortable.

    1. I agree about the set screw clamp - grips that come with that makes the grips very easy to adjust and secure once tightened down.

  3. Grips grips necessary, so comfortable, so vexing! Some install very easily then end up feeling not-right. Others go on with difficulty then feel almost-right but don't get adjusted because impossible to adjust. Others are just mediocre and don't work and don't last. Most are in the end very dependent on handlebar setup, which is dependent on stem size and setup, which is dependent on frame geometry and material, with feel in practice being very dependent on tire pressure. So, I keep on dialing to try to get the whole thing "in".

    1. Endless possibilities, endless choices, but when I get it right - at least for me - I find them quite comfortable. Much better than what came on the bike originally.


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