Keep a solid grip on the roughest terrain. These are the best mountain bike grips of 2021.
While much attention is paid to more visible components like shocks, gears, and wheels, having the best mountain bike grips can make or break your ride. Slipping off your handlebars on bumpy terrain or losing your grip in the air can result in severe damage to your bike — and your body!
Disaster aside, soft compounds, well-placed contact points, and sizes geared toward large or small hands can help riders maintain a comfortable grip on their bikes during epic rides and long days in the saddle.
While looking for the best grips, we considered a wide range of shapes, textures, riding styles, and price ranges to find grips that would suit a variety of mountain bikers. Here are the best mountain bike handlebar grips of 2021.
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The Best Mountain Bike Grips of 2021
Best Overall: Race Face Half Nelson Locking Grips
Race Face is well-known in the mountain biking industry. And they earn their reputation with the Half Nelson Locking Grips ($24). The grip uses a metal lock ring to secure the grips to your handlebars, making sure that they stay put until you’ve worn them out.
The logo texturing along with the super tacky rubber ensures a solid grip. And the topographic pattern creates moisture channels that prevent slippage when charging through a creek or on hot, sweaty days. As a bonus, the soft rubber provides some give, making for a more comfortable ride.
Length: 203 mm
Pros: Sticky grip, moisture channels
Cons: Softer rubber sacrifices long-term durability
Runner-Up: Ergon GA3
Ergon’s GA3 handlebar grips ($30) are built for long-distance hauls, thanks to its grip design. The flared rubber grip is designed to provide wrist support and conform to the shape of the rider’s hands.
The ergonomic shape allows riders to maintain control without a tight grip, which reduces rider fatigue. And the double-butted inner cores reduce vibration on bumpy single-track and fire roads.
The soft rubber exterior sticks to gloves for great control on trails. And its UV-stable design prevents drying out and cracking due to sun exposure. The grips come in two sizes, so riders with large hands and small hands can have a perfect fit.
Length: 136 mm
Pros: Added wrist support, sun-resistant
Cons: Unique shape not for everyone
Best Budget: ESI Grips Racer’s Edge
These simple and affordable grips are built for a smooth ride and all-conditions control. Made from vibration-damping silicone, these grips can help prevent numbness and pain in the hands during long rides ― all for just $16.
Whether you’re sweaty, muddy, or soaked with rain, the solid silicone construction of the Racer’s Edge will offer reliable hold. These grips don’t just stick to your hands, they also stick to your handlebars — and they won’t slide or spin. Many riders find that the silicone also conforms to their hands over time and develops an unbeatable custom feel.
Also, these grips are offset, meaning that they are slightly thicker on one side. You’ll want to make sure the thicker end is facing your palms to maximize performance.
Length: 130 mm
Pros: Affordable, very grippy
Cons: Thin, can make hands sweaty
Best in Mud: ODI Rogue Grip
For slippery conditions, ODI’s Rogue lock-on grip ($30) provides excellent grip and stability. When plowing through a muddy trail, the extra-large raised pads add friction to your grip, and the deep grooves channel away dirt and debris, ensuring a solid grip no matter how messy the trail.
The Lock-On Grip System makes sure that the grips do not slip, so you can crank on your handlebars with abandon, while the snap-on end plugs keep mud out of your handlebars. Bonus: You can personalize your grips — ODI will laser-etch up to 15 characters onto the Rogue’s clamps.
Length: 130 mm
Pros: Debris-clearing channels, grippy texture
Cons: Raised pads can feel awkward underhand
Best for Downhill: DMR DeathGrip
When ripping downhill, a solid grip on the handlebars is the difference between a ride to the bottom of a hill and a ride to the emergency room. DMR takes this into account with its collaboration with pro rider Brendan (Brendog) Fairclough.
As the name suggests, the DeathGrips ($28) go the extra mile to ensure a solid handle on the bike. A combination of waffle and knurl patterns and a flange on the interior help keep riders’ hands in place no matter the terrain (or lack of it). We also liked the tapered core, which helps keep the grip in place without the need for an outer lock ring.
Length: 140 mm
Pros: Extremely grippy, durable
Cons: Harder to apply than other grips
Best Single-Clamp Lock-On: PNW Components Loam Grips
Our favorite aspect of PNW Components’ Loam grips ($19) is the balance that it strikes — both the pattern and the rubber manage to serve multiple functions. The varying patterns are a great example.
Thin horizontal strips near the thumbs add traction and give some cushioning. And a thicker mountain pattern cushions the palm from trail vibration and wicks water away while riding in wet conditions.
The Loam’s rubber compounds find a happy medium between materials that are soft enough to provide grip and absorb vibration, yet firm enough to provide stability on the trail.
Length: 133.5 mm
Pros: Moisture-regulation, vibration damping
Cons: Stiffer than other grips on this list
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Mountain Bike Grips
Slide-On vs. Lock-On Grips
Lock-on grips are composed of a rigid interior covered by a rubber compound outer. They secure on handlebars with a locking collar — a metal ring-shaped clamp on one or both ends of the handlebars with an Allen bolt, which locks them in place and prevents them from sliding around.
This also allows the diameter of the inside of the grips to be a bit wider than the diameter of the handlebar, so it slides over the handlebar easily. This is in contrast with a slide-on grip, which has a smaller interior diameter than the handlebar, using friction to keep the grips in place. A slide-on grip is a simpler design, consisting of a rubber compound tube that slides over the handlebar.
Lock-on grips are easier to install and are generally more secure. However, they’re also heavier and tend to be more expensive than slide-on grips, as they have a rigid tube core and metal collars. This core also makes some lock-on grips incompatible with carbon fiber handlebars.
Slide-on grips are compatible with any handlebar material. Because they lack an internal core and collars, they tend to be much lighter than lock-ons. That said, they are more difficult to install, sometimes requiring lubrication. They’re also more difficult to adjust and can slide around if not properly secured.
If your priority is security and ease of application, lock-on grips are the way to go. But if cutting weight and saving money are first and foremost, slide-on grips are the better option.
Photo credit: Pearl Izumi
Shape & Length
Choosing the right shape and length can depend on the rider’s anatomy. Most grips are somewhere between 130 mm and 140 mm in length, but there are shorter 90mm options for riders with small hands or who use grip shifters, as well as 150mm grips for riders with larger hands.
The most basic and common shape is the plain gauge grip, which has the same thickness throughout the length of the grip. Riders who downhill often, or who simply prefer a better grip, tend to go with this option, especially with the flange (a rubber disk near the inside of the grip) to help prevent the hand from sliding off.
For cross-country riders, ergonomic grips feature a flat section near the outside of the grip to add support for your hand or wrist, which can come in handy (no pun intended) on longer rides.
An extension of this is the integrated bar end, which is a short bar that points forward from the end of the grips, which allows riders a second hand position.
The vast majority of the grips on the market are made up of rubber compounds. The types and amounts of rubber in the compounds vary between makes and models, but they are designed to provide a combination of grip, cushioning, and padding.
Silicone foam grips are popular for cross-country riding and touring, as they provide the most comfortable cushioning, but less so for technical riding for their lack of grip and durability.
Bar plugs and bar end caps are designed to protect the handlebars and grips during a crash or when riding through tight terrain. Generally made of plastic or polymer, they fit within the handlebars to keep debris out, provide some protection, and add stability to lightweight carbon fiber handlebars.
What Are the Best Mountain Bike Grips?
That depends on the type of terrain you generally ride. If you tend to ride more technical terrain or prefer downhill, control is going to be at a premium, as you’ll be cranking on the handlebars to find the perfect line. Grips with a lock-on design are a great choice here, as they don’t tend to slip.
Also, look for grips with an aggressive tread pattern. They’ll keep your hands from slipping off and will drain away moisture and any debris that you kick up.
For longer rides, comfort is king, so look for a less aggressive tread and more padding. As a softer, lighter slide-on grip is a good way to go, consider a silicone foam grip. An ergonomic grip or integrated bar ends will help take pressure off of your wrists on long rides as well.
What Size Mountain Bike Grips Do I Need?
Most grips are 130 mm to 140 mm in length, but riders with large hands can find grips up to 150 mm. If you have grip shifters, 90mm grips will accommodate the extra space the shifters will take up on the handlebar.
As far as diameter is concerned, a grip that you can’t fully wrap your hand around is too large, as you’ll pump your arms out trying to maintain a grip on it. But a grip that’s too small limits your contact with the grip.
Riders with smaller hands should opt for grips in the 29mm to 30mm range, while riders with larger hands should go with 32mm to 34mm grips.
Are MTB Grips Universal?
As far as fitting a bike goes, most grips are designed to fit a handlebar’s 22mm diameter, with some variance. Grips come in a wide range of shapes to accommodate all types of riders and mountain biking styles. It all depends on how deep into the weeds you want to get with your type of riding.
Most plain gauge grips will do well in any mountain biking situation. But if you want to cater your grips to how you ride and how comfortable you want to be, there are a myriad of options to choose from.