Being 50% of our contact points on a bike, grips are certainly one of my most particular pieces of kit and one that I am loath to change. Over the years I have ridden many a grip, from the bare-bones ODI Ruffian and its many clones, to much thicker grips like the ODI Rogue and the Lizard Skins NorthShore. Even though I don’t have overly large hands, I have gravitated towards the thicker end of the spectrum, and have been quite happy there. It seems to me a thicker grip offers a more secure feel on the bar and more vibration damping simply by way of there being more material in between your hand and the bar. That being as it may, I have heard good reasons from much better riders than myself as to why they exclusively run thin grips.
The setup of one’s mountain bike is a highly personal affair and everyone has their own opinion when it comes to what results in the best/fastest/most comfortable ride. These opinions are not necessarily always formed through logical inferences, but commonly are the result of what one has become used to over their time mountain biking.
Whatever your opinion, I recently acquired RaceFace’s new Love Handle grip to try out, and they piqued my interest. It is a highly contoured grip, with the diameter tapering from 30mm in the middle of the grip to a thinner 28mm near the ends, before expanding to the love handles at the edges from which they derive their name. The surface on which your palm sits has channels designed to wick away moisture and allow for increased airflow while the under-side of the grip has a coarse diamond pattern. This combo does create the most desirable trait in a pair of grips, which is, of course, substantial grip!
I typically sit my hands as far out on the grips as they’ll go, using the edge of the bar as my indicator to when I’ve reached this point. The tapered shape of the Love Handle grip offers some extra feedback and allows for a little more room between my hand and the edge of the bar. I have been grateful for this on a couple of recent instances where I clipped a tree limb which may previously have resulted in a broken pinky.
These grips are made of silicone, which is more resistant to heat, UV, and fungus than rubbers more commonly found in mountain bike grips. Having only ridden them for a couple of weeks now, I can’t attest to their durability, but this last point should result in a grip that doesn’t develop the dreaded gummy feeling that many grips do after a few months of exposure to the elements. It definitely does result in a grip that doesn’t feel quite as slippery in the wet, a much appreciated trait on both rainy days and very hot, sweaty days. Having recently worked on bikes in which the grips had developed a horrible sweat-induced musk, I appreciate the anti-fungal properties inherent to silicone.
Once I got over the Love Handle’s relatively thin profile, I began to appreciate their high level of rider feedback, and going back to my thicker grips left me with a cumbersome feel. They maintain a level of grip, especially in wet conditions, that I have not experienced elsewhere. I look forward to running this set for a while, and suspect that they will continue to take all the abuse I can lay on them due to silicon’s unique properties.
Race Face Love Handle Grip Quick Specs
- Weight: 98 grams
- Diameter: 28-30mm (directional)
- Double lock-on
- Super slim low profile design
- Race Face’s durable yet super tacky silicone compound – won’t wear out as quickly as typical grips and maintain superior grip even when wet
- Directional design features contoured palm area with moisture dissipating channels and diamond patterned underside to enhance finger control and mitigate unwanted slips
- Color Options: Pink, Black, Orange, Purple, Yellow, Blue, Red
UPDATE 12/4/2015: After three months of heavy use and riding the small worn spot that sits under the outside of my palm is the only functional sign of use on these grips.