Ask a Mechanic | What to Look for in Mountain Bike Grips

Oliver asks, “What do I look for in choosing a new set of grips?”

As one of three contact points with your bike—saddle and pedals being the others—the importance of grips should not be overlooked. Grips affect your comfort, endurance, and bike control, and come in a wide variety of rubber compounds, tread patterns, and attachment styles.

By trying different grips, you’ll eventually figure out what works best for your morphology, riding style, and riding conditions. Grips are one of the easiest and most affordable ways of experimenting with your bike, so don’t be afraid to keep trying until you find a favorite.

When choosing grips, a rule of thumb is that the tip of your index finger should reach to the crease in the middle of your thumb.

There are several ways to classify grips, including lock-on or push-on.

Lock-on grips have a hard plastic core with the rubber grip molded around it, and slide easily onto handlebars. They are held in place with clamping lock rings on the inboard and/or outboard ends. Lock-on grips are very secure and essentially never slip. Dual-lock ring grips provide the highest level of security.

The main advantages of lock-on grips are ease of installation and slip-proof performance. Lock-on grips with their plastic core are, however, often not as forgiving as push-on grips.

Push-on grips are all rubber, and use liquid adhesive or compressed air to install. Push-on grips can be zip-tied or wired on also. Push-on grips generally provide more vibration damping and “cushiness” as the rubber directly contacts the bar.

The easiest way to install a push-on grip is to spray cheap hair spray or spray paint inside the grip and then slide it over the handlebar. Some push-on grips have grooves for zip ties or wires, should you want that extra security.

Shape is quite variable, ranging from highly supportive with wings and bumps, to purely cylindrical for high performance. Wider surfaces spread out pressure and are usually more comfortable, while rounder grips are more responsive.

Grips with a more pronounced tread pattern and deeper grooves are good at clearing moisture from mud, water, and sweat, and are more forgiving for riding without gloves. Knurled diamond, half waffle, and lower profile tread patterns are often favored by riders who consistently wear gloves.

Besides tread pattern, rubber compound contributes to traction as well. Several manufacturers make tacky and ultra-tacky rubber grips, which provide great traction but tend not to last as long.

In addition to rubber, some grips are made out of silicone foam. Foam grips, like those from ESI and Lizard Skins, have excellent vibration damping properties, and slightly conform to your hand shape. Most are ovalized in some way and come in almost any color to match your bike.

We’ve got a great selection of grips at, so click over and find your favorite pair of grips today.