The 5 Best Mountain Bike Grips

Published on 05/12/2023 · 7 min readCycling Expert Adam Luban explains the differences between different mountain bike grips and lists his top five recommended options for mountain bike grips!
Adam L., Cycling Expert
By Cycling Expert Adam L.

Photo by Dó Castle

TL;DR: One of the most enjoyable aspects of owning a mountain bike is upgrading, customizing, and tweaking it to meet your needs. One of the simplest upgrades you can make to your ride is to swap out your grips. They’re cheap, varied, and easy to replace at home. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of mountain bike grips, and discuss the top Expert-recommended options.

Out of all the components in your mountain bike, you only truly interact with three components—the saddle, pedals, and grips. We call these three the “contact points” on a bike; and no matter how great the rest of your setup is, if your contact points aren’t dialed in, your ride quality will inevitably suffer.

Luckily, contact point components are among the easiest swaps to make on a mountain bike. Above all, grip changes are especially simple to do, since they’re cheap, available in lots of variations, and can be replaced at home with minimal tools.

Our team of Curated Cycling Experts has tested just about every grip out there. So, we’ve narrowed down the many options in the marketplace into our top recommendations. Whether you’re a weight-weenie XC racer, a budding enduro rider, or a lift-accessed adrenaline junkie, we’ve got something for you.

Types of Mountain Bike Grips

Mountain bike grips are divided into two major categories: lock-on and push-on. The best option for you depends on your riding style and other factors.

Lock-On

The SDG/ODI Lock-On Grips. Note the locking collars on either end of the grip

These grips feature one (or more) small bolts that tighten the grip to the handlebar.

  • Benefits: Super secure hold thanks to the locking bolt
  • Be Aware: Significantly heavier than non-bolting options

Push On

The Oury MTN Grips. Note the lack of locking collars on these push-on grips

These grips range from very cheap, entry-level options to high-end options used by racers. High-end options use a snug fit to replace the locking collar and stay stationary while riding on a trail.

  • Benefits: Lightweight and offer excellent trail feel
  • Be Aware: Lower-end foam grips are not as secure, and can be less durable

Care and Maintenance

Luckily, grip-specific care is minimal. If you use lock-on grips, occasionally check the bolts to make sure they’re secure. Wiping your grips clean, especially after muddy rides, and making sure they dry well after wet rides is also recommended.

Further, you should avoid excessive heat and UV light, especially with softer rubber compounds. So, it’s advised to bring your bike inside the garage rather than leaving it out on a sunny summer afternoon.

Grip Replacement

Needing to replace your grips is dependent on their use and how they wear down. Generally, you might need to replace them once a season. A few signs you want to consider replacing your grips include:

  • Excessive wear (logo or print is no longer visible)
  • Torn rubber/silicone
  • Small pieces rub off onto your gloves or hands while riding
  • Grips are slick or difficult to hold on to

Luckily, replacement is one of the simplest bike maintenance tasks you can do. If you’ve got lock-on grips, you’ll need a set of allen wrenches. Simply loosen and remove the old grips, attach and tighten your new grips, and you’re good to go.

For push-on grips, you’ll need to use isopropyl alcohol to lubricate the handlebar. A spray bottle works well to get the alcohol between the grip and bar. It should be easy to slide on the new grip, but more lubrication may be required. It’s best to give the alcohol plenty of time to evaporate, so replace your grips a day before riding, if possible.

Ergon GE1

The Ergon GE1 looks like a straightforward lock-on grip, but it packs a multitude of technical features into a deceptively simple package. In this latest iteration, Ergon added a soft rubber compound for better grip and slip resistance, a suggestion that came straight from Ergon-sponsored riders competing at the Enduro World Series.

When installing the Ergon GE1, you’ll notice small “left”, “right”, and “up” markings on the grip. Each grip is subtly shaped to encourage putting your wrist and elbow into the perfect position for maximum control on trail. Additionally, this position helps to cut down on numbness and arm pump on long descents.

Finally, a simple one bolt attachment keeps the grip secure on the bars. The GE1 fits a lot of tech and refinement into a small package, and is a great choice for a small but meaningful upgrade to your ride. Ergon also offers several color choices to match one’s personal style.

Ergon GA3

To be honest, the first time I saw someone riding Ergon GA3s, I thought these winged grips looked like the mountain biking equivalent of orthotic sneakers. However, after talking to riders, digging into the tech, and trying these grips, I’m now a true believer.

The wings on the GA3 support the hand and wrist, forcing the arm into a more natural position, and giving you more control over the brakes, shifters, and handlebars itself. They also offer the features you’d expect from an industry leader like Ergon—including a tacky rubber compound, inlaid grip pattern, and a secure yet simple locking design. The tacky rubber used on these grips further helps increase traction throughout the life of the grip.

Overall, the Ergon GA3s are a great choice for riders who may have wrist issues, or riders who want maximum control and comfort for longer or particularly rough rides.

ESI Extra Chunky

ESI Grips have a strange and almost cult-like following among cross-country mountain bike riders. They’re prized for their unique combination of grip (in wet and dry conditions), low weight, and low cost. The ESI Extra Chunky are my personal favorite grips, and what I run on my down country trail bike. You can see these grips used at cross-country races around the world, and they’re one of the most popular components on UCI World Cup race bikes as well. There aren’t many components on a World Cup bike you can get for this price point.

Compared to the standard ESI grips, the Extra Chunky version is thicker for more comfort. And I find my palms don’t mind going gloveless with these grips—even on hot rides when sweat is an issue.

Since switching to these grips, I’ve definitely noticed a difference on long rides. Specifically, I’ve experienced less hand fatigue and arm pump, which makes those longer rides a lot more pleasant. ESI models are also available in smaller diameter thickness versions for a little weight savings or personal preference. Finally, they come in plenty of colors to match one’s bike style.

The only downside of silicone grips like these is that they aren’t as durable in a crash and can get scratched or torn more easily. So, if your riding style frequently includes meeting the ground with your bike, you might want to consider alternative choices.

Lizard Skins Machine Lock-On

Lizard Skins is another leading name in cycling grips, with a large presence in mountain bike grips and handlebar tape for road and gravel bikes. The Machine Lock-On is one of their simplest yet most reliable grips. They feature a single-locking collar, embossed waffle pattern, and a raised grip zone, and come in a few color options.

They’re a straightforward and reliable grip, which makes them a great upgrade or replacement to stock grips. I’ve been running this model on plenty of bikes, and really appreciate the increased grip and control they offer in both wet and dry conditions.

Lizard Skins Northshore Lock-On

The Northshore is Lizard Skins’ burliest and best-selling model. They were originally designed for epic rides on the steep terrain of British Columbia’s North Shore. So if they’ve been proven there, they’re sure to perform at your locale, too.

Four columns of raised blocks provide plenty of comfort and shock absorption without sacrificing grip or bar feel. The spaced blocks do an especially effective job of cutting down on vibrations—like those transmitted from braking bumps or rooty terrain.

Unlike other grips, these are only available in muted gray and black colors, but offer a sweet North Shore graphic on the locking clamps and grip itself to remind you of their high-class heritage. End plugs are also included for securing the extremities of the handlebar.

Ready to Get a Grip? Chat With a Real Expert

Photo by Tim Foster

One of the most enjoyable parts of owning a mountain bike is upgrading, customizing, and tweaking it to meet your needs. A simple, easy, and effective way to do this is swapping your “contact points”, including the saddle, grips, and pedals.

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