In 1991 I went on vacation to Crested Butte, Colo., where I participated in Fat Tire Bike Week. On one of the days we did a ride up to Teocalli Ridge and got what I consider to still be one of the best self portraits—come on, there was no such thing as a selfie back then—I possess. On the ensuing descent I had to pull over several times. The first because of forearm pump, the second and third because my hands could barely hang on to the bar. I had to rest at the bottom before riding back into town. This was on a bike with zero suspension and 26-inch wheels.
Compared to then, the riding I do now is faster, the stops harder, the lean angles greater, the g-forces higher and to use a technical term, infinitely more rad. Srsly, I’m amazed that the mountain biking I did in the 1990s was fun. It’s pretty pedestrian compared to what I do now.
So when I tell you that my hands take a beating, I say that not as a rider who has aged two dozen years, but as a cyclist who may not actually be rad, but can at least claim to be rad adjacent. I ride a good deal harder these days and at the end of four or five hours of mountain biking my hands are worked. Callouses, blisters, muscle fatigue—I get the gamut.
So when a friend of mine gave me some ribbing for the grips currently on my bike I responded, “Yeah, but I’ll be able to hold a beer with one hand when I finish. And yes, I’ve been so fatigued I’ve had to two-fist a beer to keep from dropping it.
Of late, my grip of choice has been the GS1 from Ergon. Where these things were during the Clinton administration I’d ask, but the simple fact is Ergon didn’t exist back then. Ah, the march of progress. Please note my complete lack of irony.
This is a grip, so at a certain level, there isn’t a lot to say about it. The grips benefit from a cold-forged aluminum clamp to keep them from twisting on the bar. (Remember when grips used to twist, or worse, pull off?) They come in black or white. I suspect the black grips show dirt less quickly than the white ones, right?
Ergon was the first company to introduce an ergonomic grip that provided increased support under the heel of the hand and they are good enough at it that others have entered the market to imitate their designs. Ergon’s copy goes on about German-produced rubber and great engineering, but their success owes to something much simpler: by increasing the surface area on which your hands rest pressure is distributed more evenly, reducing what I have called “hamburger hands.”
Ergon says the medium grip (they come in three sizes), which I’ve been riding, weigh in at 145 grams. It never occurred to me to weigh the grips. When I pick grips, it’s not out of a desire to shave another 12g from my bike. In addition to the width I used, Ergon offers shorty version for riders using twist shifters. Pretty smart.
At $39.99 these aren’t the cheapest grips around, but anything I can do to make the bike easier to hang on to and increase control on hairy descents gets my vote.
Final thought: The boys in .38 Special said to hold on loosely. They were on to something.
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