Skip to main content

Best MTB grips: models that will improve your bike's comfort and handling control

Best MTB grips
(Image credit: Ergon)

As one of the three key contact points a rider has with their mountain bike, grips may seem like a small thing but they're actually incredibly important. Investing in the best MTB grips will not only help you to hang on for dear life on white-knuckle descents and sprints, but they also offer superior control while guiding your bike through winding singletrack and over rocks and jumps.

Just like the best mountain bike saddles and best mountain bike shoes, everybody has their preference when it comes to the best MTB grips, and what suits someone who wears a children's size glove isn't going to be comfortable for another person who can palm a watermelon. 

Scroll down for a round-up of the best MTB grips, and if you're not sure what you're looking for, you'll find some extra guidance afterwards.

Best MTB grips

PNW Loam grips

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Soft compound gives excellent wet and dry bar grip

Specifications

Lock-on: Inside
Texture: Ribs

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent wet or dry grip
+
Super soft compound
+
Rich feedback
+
Nine different colors
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively firm
-
Tear easily

The PNW Loam grips come in lots of color options so you can match them to your bike. They feature tapered sleeves, which help them to tap into place securely once you lock in, and they have a slight flair against the clamp. The ribbed tread features multiple chevrons towards the inside of the grips, while the outer is ridged at an angle.

They're made from an ultra tacky compound called 25a Duro 'Happy Camper', which offers excellent grip and stiction. In the hand they feel relatively firm, compared to a fully mushroom-style grip, but they offer all the support you need when you're rallying hard.

Read more of our thoughts on the PNW Loam grips within the wider components review.

Gusset S2 handlebar grip

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Soft compound eco-friendly MTB grip

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Knurling

Reasons to buy

+
Zoned control features
+
Super sticky compound
+
Very good price
+
Five color options

Reasons to avoid

-
Likely to wear fast
-
Limited cushioning

If you're looking for a soft compound grip, the Gusset S2 Extra Soft is an excellent option that uses a very tacky VEXK3 compound for great performance in the wet and cold, as well as other riding conditions. An eccentric design puts more rubber under your palm for cushioning, and the diamond ‘tread’ pattern is also bigger here to add some more damping. Ribs and a smaller file pattern enhance fingertip grip when pulling on the bars.

While we rate the Extra Soft version, Gusset also offers a Standard S2 version that has a harder wearing rubber, but all the same features.

Want more detail? Check out our Gusset S2 Extra Soft Compound grip review for more.

ODI Bjorn grips review

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Soft compound eco-friendly MTB grip

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Knobs

Reasons to buy

+
Super tacky
+
Shock damping
+
Eco-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Soft rubber ends wear quickly
-
Some slip

Grip powerhouse ODI joined forces with Bjorn Bikes to produce an eco-friendly grip that uses 100 percent recycled offcuts from ODI’s United States factory, giving a super soft, tacky and damped grip feel with less impact on the environment. The blocked profile and extra material depth adds extra grip and reduces vibrations traveling into the palms, whilst leaving the thinner sections under the fingers to provide more precise feedback.

The good level of trail damping does come at a little sacrifice in weight, and the larger 31mm grip diameter might be too big for those with smaller hands.

We've tested the ODI Bjorn grips, so check out the review if you want to read more.

ODI Ruffian grips

(Image credit: ODI)

ODI Ruffian

Copied by many, matched by none

Specifications

Lock on: Dual
Texture: Knurling and waffle

Reasons to buy

+
Soft version eliminates break-in period and offers out-of-the-box comfort 

Reasons to avoid

-
Outer lockring limits how far out you can comfortably grab the grip

Easily one of the most popular MTB grips on the market, the ODI Ruffian is a lock-on grip you will find on many gravity rider's bars. The slim profile suits a wide range of hand sizes, and once they're bolted on, they will remain play-free for many moons. The rubber sees light knurling and waffling on the underside for added traction. 

ODI offers the Ruffian in soft- and hard-rubber compounds. Although the soft compound doesn't last quite as long as its firm cousin, it’s still hard-wearing and doesn't have the breaking-in period that can leave you with sore palms.

Ergon GE1 Evo grips

(Image credit: Ergon)

Ergon GE1 Evo

German engineering at its finest

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Grooved

Reasons to buy

+
Ergo shape can reduce arm pump
+
Hard-wearing grip material

Reasons to avoid

-
Tough to get the angle just right
-
Bar ends are susceptible to crash damage

A noticeably less radical design than the Ergon's GP1, the GE1 grips have an ergonomic design to take some of the stress off the muscles used for grip to reduce arm pump. With several compounds through a cut-out skeleton and a unique shape, the GE1s create a wide contact area for your hand. 

Ergon also says angling the outer portion of the grip helps to gently remind you to ride with your elbows out; we're a little bit dubious of this claim. It can take a few rides to get the tilt just right but, when you do, the grips will leave you with happy, pain-free palms.

ESI Chunky grips

(Image credit: ESI)

ESI Chunky

Grips for the gram counters that don't leave you with sore hands

Specifications

Lock on: N/A
Texture: Smooth

Reasons to buy

+
Simple design
+
Light 
+
Comfortable
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Install and removal can be expletive inducing

Arizona-based ESI was the first brand to make silicone foam grips and has inspired copycat versions from most other grip makers. Basically, the ESI is a silicone tube that's lightweight, offers plenty of vibration damping, durability, and heaps of purchase even when wet.

ESI makes them in a range of shapes, though we tend to prefer the Chunky version. With a slightly ovalized form, the 32mm of padding seems to offer the right balance between damping, comfort and bar control.

Lizard Skins Oury Lock-on grips

(Image credit: Oury)

Lizard Skins Oury Lock-on

Best for those with big hands

Specifications

Lock on: Dual
Texture: Knobs

Reasons to buy

+
The grippy compound absorbs plenty of trail buzz
+
Custom options

Reasons to avoid

-
Diameter likely too big for those with small hands

With big, deep soft rubber lugs, the Oury Lock-on grips eat trail buzz like seagulls eat chips, and the knobby blocks stick to your hand like Velcro. The compound is soft, but not so squishy it twists or causes hand fatigue. 

With a reasonably thick diameter, they suit bigger mitts. Lizard Skins even offers customization options, allowing you to choose the bar end style, collar color, and even engrave a message into the colors. Better still, the old-school aesthetic suits everything from a rigid single-speed to a long-travel charger.

Race Face Half Nelson grips

(Image credit: Race Face)

Race Face Half Nelson

Best for pint-sized hands

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Grooved

Reasons to buy

+
Small diameter matches small hands
+
Super tacky compound

Reasons to avoid

-
Not much vibration damping

At 28mm in diameter, the Half Nelson grips are pretty small and ideal for those with miniature mitts. Race Face doesn't use any ergo shaping and the exterior sees minimal channeling or knurling, save for the logo.

The grips feel firm, due in part to minimal rubber around the inner sleeve, but the compound is tacky, even when wet. Make sure you check the torque on the lock-ring bolts because they can move if you don't crank them down. 

Lizard Skins Moab grips

(Image credit: Lizard Skins)

Lizard Skins Moab

Like Slickrock for your hands

Specifications

Lock on: Dual
Texture: Arch pattern

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra grippy
+
Low profile

Reasons to avoid

-
 Minimal damping

The pattern on the Lizard Skins Moab is actually a print of Utah's Delicate Arch, paying homage to the mountain bike heaven after which they are named. They provide pretty good grip too, even in the soaking rain without gloves.

With lock-rings on either end, they stay firm despite your best efforts to spin them, and the only downside comes in the form of the minimal vibration damping.

Renthal Traction Ultra Tacky grips

(Image credit: Renthal)

Renthal Traction Ultra Tacky

Grip in the right direction

Specifications

Lock on: Dual
Texture: Ridges

Reasons to buy

+
Ridges make a noticeable difference in grip

Reasons to avoid

-
Outer collar can cause discomfort
-
Requires some attention to setup

Available in a range of compounds, Renthal's Traction grips use ridges that are spaced into zones to accommodate your fingers. The back of each ridge has a square edge, to increase grip when wrenching back on the bars, while the front edge lays flat so as not to dig into your palm. Renthal says its 'Ultra Tacky' compound continually produces and renews a sticky-surface coating.

With the directional nature of the ridges, they are left and right specific, and getting the angle just right to match your hands in the attack position can take a bit of time.

DMR Deathgrip grips

(Image credit: DMR)

DMR Deathgrip

The party mix of MTB grips

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Waffle, kurrnel, rib

Reasons to buy

+
Varying patterns are matched to your hand's anatomy 

Reasons to avoid

-
Finding the right angle can be fiddly

With a mixture of ribs, knurling and waffling, the DMR Deathgrip is a single-clamp lock-on grip that combines all your favorite patterns in one. The ribs around the forefinger and thumb provide a comfortable platform on the inside while waffling down below adds some grip for your fingertips – knurling supports the heel of your hand. 

For the BMX Bandits among us, they are also available with a flanged version. Be aware, the Deathgrips have a tapered core, so you'll need to tap the end with a rubber mallet to get them fully onto your bars

Deity Knuckleduster grips

(Image credit: Deity)

Deity Knuckleduster

Comfort and plenty of damping

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Ribs, waffle

Reasons to buy

+
Bright colors
+
Tapered ergo design 

Reasons to avoid

-
Outside of grip gets chewed up

Made using the Deity TRC rubber compound, the Knuckledusters offer support and grip for both your palm and fingers. If you ride with your hands out on the end of the grip, you'll appreciate the rubber extending over the end. 

Measuring about 32mm in diameter, they are on the larger end of the spectrum and come in enough colors to match any bike. 

Fabric Magic Grips

(Image credit: Fabric)

Fabric Magic Grip

Best for those who like ergo-shaped grips

Specifications

Lock on: Inside
Texture: Ribs

Reasons to buy

+
Soft compound hourglass profile adds more cushioning on big impacts 
+
Well priced 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not everyone will like the centre bulge or mushroom movement

Developed in collaboration with the 50to01 crew, the Magic Grip is an ergo grip with a ribbed ‘mushroom’ texture throughout. Measuring 32mm in diameter at the widest point, the ribs are supportive enough that they don't immediately deform when you give them a squeeze – offering impressive comfort, too.

The claim is unique in that the sleeve interfaces with the lock-ring using two prongs to eliminate any play, and the single lock-on eliminates the pressure point on the outside of the hand.

How to choose the best MTB grips

What type of MTB grips should I get?

What's the difference between lock-on and slide-on?

Lock-on grips have hard plastic with a rubber grip molded around it. As the name suggests, they slide onto your bars with ease and are held in place by clamping lock rings — some only have one, others have two. Because you bolt them on, they offer a high level of security, and it takes a hell of a lot of force to make them slip. However, even with the rubber coating around the inner sleeve, lock-on grips aren't as forgiving as their slip-on cousins.

Slide-on grips are made entirely of rubber or silicone and usually offer a more plush feel and vibration damping, because they are in direct contact with the bar. To actually get them on your bars, you'll need hairspray, rubbing alcohol or an air compressor — make sure there are no children present when doing it, as there will likely be an expletive or two uttered with gusto.

Are all MTB grips the same size?

Which measurements do I need?

Grips vary in shape from perfectly round tubes to ovalized cylinders, and some even have supportive wings. Round grips seem to be more responsive, while broad flat surfaces help to spread pressure over a wider surface area and are more comfortable for some.

However regardless of which shape you opt for, there are varying measurements that you'll need to be aware of when buying some new MTB grips.

Diameter

Usually grip width is measured in diameter, and this tells you what size/thickness they'll have, which is useful to know if you have particularly big or small hands. It tends to range between 25-40mm, with most coming in around 30-32. The diameter width indicates the kind of performance you'll get from them as well. For example, thicker grips will provide a more plush, comfortable ride due to the enhanced vibration damping they'll likely provide. However, their larger size will also likely cause a bit more strain on your hands while gripping them, which could cause them to fatigue sooner. Meanwhile more narrow grips won't be so cushy, but they'll offer the best grip and control because they're essentially easier to get your hands around. 

Length

As you might have guessed, this is the measurement for how long the MTB grips are, from end to end. They tend to range between 128-140mm in length, with 130-135mm being the average size. This is useful to know if you're swapping out some old grips but really like the current positioning of your brake levers and shifters. Measuring the length of the exposed handlebar (or previous grips) will tell you what you need to look for.

Why do MTB grips come with different textures?

Which 'tread' pattern is best?


Some grips are totally smooth such as ESI's silicone grips, while others have deep grooves, some even verging on tread-like the Oury Lock-Ons. Channels cut into the grip help to move moisture mud and sweat away from your hands, though riders who regularly wear gloves tend to prefer smaller, less aggressive 'tread patterns.'

Just like tires, the rubber compound plays a role in grip and durability. When brands use words such as 'sticky' or 'ultra tacky' to describe their grips, they will offer good purchase but these compounds tend not to be very hard-wearing. 

What's wrong with the grips that came with my MTB?

There's nothing wrong with them per se, so there's no reason to immediately swap them out when you get a new bike, unless you know that you want a specific kind of performance. The grips that come with most mountain bikes tend to be quite basic and they'll always wear out eventually. At some point or another, you're going to need to buy some more.

When will my MTB grips need replacing?

There's no clear-cut answer for this, as it will all depend on how often and how hard you ride your bike. All MTB grips will wear out eventually, and you'll know when yours are nearing their end because the rubber will become so sticky it starts to attract dirt. The grippy texture - or 'tread' - will wear away and become less prominent, and in some cases the grips might even tear.

It's not just about wear and tear though, if you're experiencing discomfort in your hands while you ride, whether it's sore spots, hot spots, numbness or tingling, or you're developing blisters or calluses, then you should try a new pair.

If I have MTB grips do I also need MTB gloves?

While the answer to this is technically no, if you're riding on trails, or any kind of terrain that's challenging, it's always sensible to wear a pair of the best mountain bike gloves, as they'll protect the delicate skin on your palms in the event of a crash. Many of them are armored specifically to pad the most vulnerable parts of your hands, so it's a good idea to take advantage of this.

Colin Levitch
Colin Levitch

Born and bred in Colorado, and now based in Australia, Colin comes from a ski racing background and started riding as a way to stay fit through the summer months. His father, a former European pro, convinced him to join the Colorado State University collegiate cycling team, and he hasn't stopped since. It's not often he pins on a number nowadays, and you'll likely find him in search of flowy singletrack, gravel roads and hairpin corners. Colin has worked at Bikeradar and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

Rides: BMC Team Machine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9, Ibis Ripley