I’ve always had a problem getting a grip and lately it’s got worse.
My bike came with cheap rubber handlebar grips that were, at best, functional. The problem, though, wasn’t them but me.
I have osteoarthritis in every joint of my hands (not to mention lots of places elsewhere). This means I don’t have a lot of gripping power in my hands, and the smaller something is the harder a time I have keeping hold of it. And then there’s the pain. When we decided to get e-bikes, I had a nagging worry that cycling wouldn’t be a realistic ambition for me because of the joint problem.
So I went on a search for ergonomic grips. Ergon’s range of grips kept turning up in reviews and blog posts, usually talking about the GP range of ‘touring’ grips. These have a spade-like shape providing a place to rest your palms. And I was about to buy a pair of the BioKork version when I spotted the less-mentioned GC1 model.
The Ergon GC1 Biokork grips are very similar to the GP1 model but have an extra feature – a forward sweep. This partially corrects the angle of your wrists when you’re holding onto swept-back handlebars. I’d already replaced the somewhat swept-back bars of my Dutch-style bike with a set with even greater sweep and rise because I need to ride in as upright a posture as possible. The slight forward sweep of the GC1 grips means I don’t spend the whole time with my wrists unnaturally twisted.
The BioKork versions, made from sustainable sources, use a lot less plastic than the standard models – and this world could do with less plastic in it. They also look great.
As soon as they arrived, I was filled with confidence. This is a well-made product. But I do have one gripe – a flaw that left me cursing and annoyed before I’d made even one ride with the new grips.
There’s a tightening bolt that runs through the grips. Ergon thoughtfully provides installation instructions with torque settings for tightening this bolt, and I followed these settings to the letter – and still managed to strip the hex head of one of the bolts. Why? Because it’s aluminium. And why is it aluminium? Well you tell me.
I suspect the answer is that bike equipment manufacturers automatically make every component as light as possible. This is because many cyclists have an obsession with weight. And this is the malign influence of racing.
But these are not racing grips. And besides, how much difference in weight (or cost) would be made by replacing two small aluminium bolts with stainless steel versions? None.
I drilled out the stripped bolt and screwed in a steel replacement.
Once on the road, my irritation quickly vanished. I love these grips. The angle is perfect. The BioKork is pleasant to touch whatever the temperature. Both the cork and the incised plastic panel mean my hands never slip. The grips also hold on tightly to the handlebars and have never budged once since fitting them over a year ago.
There’s a plastic end stop that you can leave off if you want, as I did, to fit something like a mirror into the end of the bars. If you opt to keep it, though, it’s very firmly fixed in place – you’re not going to lose it even after dropping the bike a few times <ahem>.
These grips give me a lot of confidence on the bike. Often I’ll ride using just using the heels of my hands to guide the bike, giving my fingers a rest. To be honest, I rarely think about the problems with my hands while cycling. So these grips not only help to make cycling more pleasant, they are part of making it possible at all.
[UPDATE: 15 Jun 2019] Around three years on and the Ergon grips are still going strong. The cork has darkened somewhat from my sweaty little paws, but otherwise they show no signs of significant wear or damage.
I now have a new bike and the first thing I did was replace the default grips with a new set of Ergon BioKorks. It needed to be a new set because the new bike has a Shimano Nexus gear set, so the right-hand grip needs to be shorter to accommodate the gear shifter. Luckily, Ergon does most of its grips in both standard and Nexus versions.
And yesterday, Trish announced that the grips on her bike (some pink rubber concoctions) are cracking and look like they’re about to give up the ghost. So I’ve ordered a pair of BioKork grips for her too. I could try to palm her off with the grips from my old bike, but I’m not sure that would go down well…