Grips are one of three contact points a rider has with a mountain bike. You hang on for dear life on white-knuckle descents and sprints, and use them to guide your bike through winding singletrack and over rocks and jumps.
Just like shorts and shoes, everybody has their preference when it comes to grips, and what suits someone who wears a children's size large glove isn't going to be comfortable for another person who can palm a watermelon.
Scroll down for a few of our favourite MTB grips.
Best MTB grips: what you need to know?
1. Lock on vs Slide on
Lock-on grips have hard plastic with a rubber grip moulded around it. As the name suggests they slide on to your bars with ease and are held in place by clapping 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. Even with the rubber coating around the inner sleeve, lock-on grips aren't as forgiving as their slip-on cousins.
Push on grips are made entirely of a rubber or silicone foam and usually offer a more plush feel and vibration dampening 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 so as there will likely be an expletive or two uttered with gusto.
2. Shape and texture
Grips vary in shape from perfectly round tubes to ovalised 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.
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 tyres, 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.
The best MTB Grips
Copied many, matched by none
Lock on: Dual | Texture: Knurling and waffle
Easily one of the most popular grips on the market the ODI Ruffian is a lock-on grip you will find on many a gravity riders bars. The slim profile suits a wide range of hands, and once they're bolted on 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 it’s 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
German engineering at its finest
Lock on: Inside | Texture: Grooved
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, 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.
Grips for the gram counters that don't leave you with sore hands
Lock on: N/A | Texture: Smooth
Arizona-based ESI was the first brand to make silicone foam grips and have inspired copycat versions from most other grip makers. Basically, the ESI is a silicone tube that's lightweight, offers plenty of vibration dampening, 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 ovalised form, the 32mm of padding seems to offer the right balance between, dampening, comfort and bar control.
Best for those with big hands
Lock on: Dual | Texture: Knobs
With big deep soft rubber lugs, the Ouray 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, and replacement clamps are available from ODI. Better still, the old school aesthetic suits everything from a rigid single-speed to a long-travel charger.
Race Face Half Nelson
Best for pint-sized hands
Lock on: Inside | Texture: Grooved
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 channelling 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
Like Slickrock for your hands
Lock on: Dual | Texture: Arch pattern
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. These grips provides 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, the only downside comes in the form of minimal vibration dampening.
Renthal Traction Ultra Tacky
Grip in the right direction
Lock on: Dual | Texture: Ridges
Available in a range of compounds, Renthal's Traction grips utilise ridges which 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.
The party mix of MTB grips
Lock on: Inside | Texture: Waffle, kurrnel, rib
With a mixture of ribs, knurling and waffling, the DMR Deathgrip are a single-clamp lock-on grip that combines all your favourite 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 full onto your bars
Comfort and plenty of damping
Lock on: Inside | Texture: Ribs, waffle
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 colours to match any bike.
Fabric Magic Grip
Best for those who like ergo-shaped grips
Lock on: Inside | Texture: Ribs
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.