The best mid-fat grip we’ve ridden to date
I used to hate fat grips. Maybe it’s because I grew up riding BMX in the 80s and the ODI Mushroom grips of the time felt at their prime just as the chrome of the handlebar started to become visible through the rubber.
Equally, it could be that 20-plus years of testing mountain bikes with skinny grips reinforced that early-formed relationship. Either way, I’ve never got along with fat grips… Now, though, I won’t ride anything else.
So what’s changed? Two things. First came a shift in mindset. For years now I’ve been thinking about how the plastic sleeve that’s integral to any lock-on style grip reduces the amount of rubber between the palm of your hand and the bar, thus reducing comfort.
I’ve even toyed with the idea of going back to regular gips, and wiring them onto the bar to stop them spinning, but with so many bikes to test, the convenience of lock-on grips always won the day.
The pivotal moment, however, came in Pila, Italy after riding an XL Specialized Demo 8 downhill bike. With 20-minute long descents, Pila offers the type of riding that will leave even the toughest hands in tatters and your forearms pumped for days. It absolutely smokes brakes too.
But what’s this got to do with fatter grips? Well, Specialized fits fat grips to all of its size Large bikes and above. They’re 30.5mm in diameter rather than 28.5mm. The idea being that bigger riders have bigger hands, bigger hands need bigger grips. I know this, as I’ve been removing them from test bikes for years now and fitting the skinny ones instead.
Seeing as the Demo 8 wasn’t my bike, it was the first time I had to suck up the fatter grips. Initially they felt totally alien, but by the end of the first day I had no hand pain or arm pump to speak of. This was even more surprising when you consider that the suspension on the Demo 8 was sprung for a rider weighing 20kg more than me.
Getting back on my own bike, with its skinny grips was a real eye opener, and reinforced my realisation that bigger is better, and the so my search for the perfect fat grip began.
The XL Specialized SIP grip is good, but the rubber is a touch too hard.
I tried the Renthal grips, and although fat, they didn’t seem to have any more rubber on them, so I quickly ruled them out.
Then ODI launched the Pro Elite series grip.
I always liked the old Intense lock-on grips, and the Elite Pro has a similar design, albeit without the Intense logo. They also have an eccentric core that puts more rubber in the palm of your hand and less on the underside of the grip where the fingertips rest. So you get all of the benefits of fatter grips without the bulk.
The new single collar design has proved secure, even on carbon bars, and with an integrated end-cap ODI has addressed the only real issue I’ve found with the Race Face Half Nelson grips – namely the end of the grip filling with mud and moving on the bar.
So the ODI Elite Pro is the best mid-fat grip I’ve ridden to date, but I suspect that just like milk, you don’t quite get all of the creamy goodness of full-fat. It’s a great stepping stone, though, for anyone with an open mind or sore hands.