In this mountain bike Buyer's Guide, we are going to break down everything you should consider before buying your next pair of lock on grips. Just like your pedals and saddle, the grips on your mountain bike are one of the few contact points that keep you connected to the bike. Having your preferred grips mounted up on the handlebars will keep you feeling comfortable and in control no matter what kind of riding you are doing. With the wrong set of grips, your own bike can immediately feel foreign to you. There are so many different grip options out there to suit a variety of different riding styles and preferences.
Worldwide Cyclery's founder Jeff is a big fan of the ODI Elite Pro grips and runs them on all his bikes
For this particular buyer's guide we are solely looking at lock on grips for mountain bikes. While now a days over 90% of mountain bike grips are the lock on style, it's important to note that grips haven't always been that way. Slide on grips for a long time were the standard for grips with mountain bikes, bmx, and motocross, and still to this day, you can find slide on grips on lots of different bikes. Slide on grips are just like they sound. They slide on and can be fixed with glue and/or wire tied down. When ODI engineered the very first lock on grip, it really has drastically improved handling performance, reliability, and overall function. Instead of your grips sliding around or having to wire tie them secure every time, all of the sudden the lock on fature remedied all of that. Just like the dropper post has changed the game, so did lock on grips!
When lock on grips were first introduced, there were always two clamps on each side of the grip. As manufacturing and design creativity has improved, a majority of brands now only use one lock on clamp on the inside of the grip. What this does is it allows you to slide your hand all the way out to the end of the handlebars without having to rest your palm on an aluminum clamp. Over a long ride, that outside clamp can cause discomfort and pain in your hand. A grip with only one clamp is quicker and easier to install and gives you a bit more freedom on the grip itself.
Some grips thicker or thiner than others and are designed for riders with either bigger or smaller hands. Depending on what your preferences are, you'll find that some grips have a really thin feeling allowing you to wrap your fingers all the way around them. Other grips are much chunkier feeling which can help reduce arm and hand fatigue. The one grip that is right in the middle of the spectrum is the ODI Elite Pro, which measures 31mm in diameter. The Deity Knuckleduster for example measures 32mm in diameter and the PNW Loam grips measure on average 30mm. The biggest thing you can do is go put a couple different grips in your hand and see how they feel.
Brendan Fairclough's signature DMR Death Grip comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and compounds
The biggest difference between all the different grips out there is of course their design and construction. Most lock on grips utilize two different rubber compounds, one harder compound for the base and a softer rubber on the outside of the grip. You will also see some grips start with a thin plastic tube that fits in to the locking clamp covered with softer rubber.
Traditionally a majority of grips have used a diamond cut pattern. This diamond cut pattern you can find on anything from a mountain bike grip to a rifle grip. It's a popular design because it provides plenty of control without addition raised features. Another popular grip design is the half waffle. Similar to the cross hatch you see on a waffle iron, the "half waffle" uses raised grooves on the underside of the grip that your fingers can grip on to.
Now there are so many different creative grip designs that all are aimed at finding the perfect balance between comfort and control. A grip with too much padding will have you feeling like you're holding on to a marsh mellow, and a grip with not enough padding will have you feeling like you are holding on to a jack hammer. Having the optimal padding and grooves in the right places will keep your hands comfortable on those long rides, all while giving you the best control benefits. Check out our top 5 favorite and most popular lock on grips.
When it's time to buy your next set of grips for your bike, first think about what type of riding you are doing. If you are someone that likes to take your mountain bike out on the bike path a few times a week, finding a grip with ultimate comfort might be your best bet. At the same time, if you are riding your mountain bike on more aggressive trails, your focus might shift away from pure comfort towards performance and control. Thankfully plenty of the different grips out there offer both! Check out our top 5 favorite and most popular lock on grips below.
PNW is a small rider-owned company that has brought high quality innovative products to the market, all at a fair price. The PMW Loam grip features two contrasting patterns that play in to the overall ergonomics of the grip. On the inside of the grip (more towards the thumb side of the grip), thin ribs run horizontally across the grip's surface to help improve traction while giving a supple feel. The thicker ribs towards the outside of the grip beefs up that side where more body weight is delivered to the handlebar. The shape and profile of the Loam grip is designed to relieve hand fatigue without sacrificing any tactile benefits.
The DMR Death Grip is Brendan Fairclough's signature grip, designed to be the ultimate grip to go on any bike from trail to downhill. The Death Grip uses mushroom ribs on the inside of the grip, a diamond cut knurled pattern on top and a half waffle design on the bottom side of the grip. The Death Grip is offered in a variety of different options. With a thick and thin model, with or without a flange, two different rubber compounds available, and 13 different color options, the Death Grip can be configured in so many different ways.
Ergon calls the GA3 grip their all mountain comfort-grip with their famous mini wing design. The concept behind Ergon's wing design is to correct your hand and wrist position on the bike. Keeping your wrist out of the extreme extended position relieves the carpal tunnel nerve and helps eliminate pain in the hand and wrist. This design allows you get the same control and feel for the front end without applying as much grip force. The single clamp design on the GA3 grip features laser etched tick marks to help you adjust the angle of each grip. While of course the GA3 grip is not for everyone, Ergon's innovative approach brings something unique to the market.
ODI was the first to engineer a lock on grip and since then has always been at the forefront of innovation and creativity. The ODI Elite Pro grip is now one of ODI's flagship grips and the first to feature a single lock on design. The Elite Pro uses a variable diamond cut pattern that transitions from a smooth to sharp texture, giving you traction where you need it without irritating your hands. On the underside of the Elite Pro you will see their tried and trued half waffle pattern. On the top side, the Elite Pro uses a unique ergonomic design that provides padding where you need it without creating a bulky feeling grip. The reinforced end on the Elite Pro is much more durable to help prevent the grip from tearing up when you set your bike down. This grip is packed full of features and is on this list for good reason!
The Deity Knuckleduster ridden by World Cup downhill wild man Sam Blenkinsop truly embodies Deity's focus on performance and function. On the top side of the grip you will see what Deity calls a mushroom ribbing in a chevron pattern to help provide comfort and absorb vibrations. The underside of the grip features a recessed half waffle design with a tradition diamond cut pattern. The recessed half waffle helps eliminate hot spots on your palm that can be common with a half waffle design without sacrificing any feel or control over the handlebar. Deity's unique tapered inner sleeve ensures the grip doesn't slip on the handlebar even with just the single lock on. When installing your Knuckleduster grips, be sure to give the closed end of the grip a good wack with your palm to make sure the grip slides all the way on the handlebar.