Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Making The Choice: Mountain Bike Grips

There is going to be a fair bit more mountain bike content springing up on the blog over the coming months; as 2015 approaches and my dual season of XC racing and road racing evolves. In this post, I consider a question that has probably been encountered by most mountain bikers at some time: What kind of grips should I get?

Your handlebar grips are one of the key contact points on a bike, and along with tyres, pedals and saddle, they are one of the most significant (an cheapest) upgrades you can make. However, start shopping for new grips and you'll find there is a wide market: there are lock-on grips and slide-on grips, chunky grips and thin grips, cheap grips and expensive grips. Which one do you choose?

I've been testing three sets of grips from Lizard Skins, and so this seemed like a good time to comment on the difference in feel and performance of each of the varieties.

Lizard Skin Slide-On DSP Grips

First up on test, the Lizard Skins DSP grips. These slide-on grips use the same technology as the super comfortable Lizard Skin DSP Bar Tape; it's a grippy and soft tread pattern, which provides great shock absorption and protection from road/trail buzz.

Slide-On grips have a number of advantages. One, they're usually cheaper than lock-on grips, as there are no metal collars to manufacture and supply. Two, they're lighter, because again there are no collars or internal plastic sheaves. Three, they can provide a "cleaner" look in some people's opinion, as you don't have the clutter of the collars on the bar. Fourth and finally, they can often be made of a softer and thinner material, which provides more "feedback" for the rider and better suits smaller hands.

The Lizard Skins DSP Grips come in two thicknesses of 30.3mm and 32.3mm; I opted for the smaller, but it still provides a great amount of cushioning, and the smaller diameter really means you can wrap your hands around the bars and give a firm grip.

A great product, especially for weight weenie XC riders, those with smaller hands and those wanting a great clean and colour co-ordinated look (they come in masses of colour options).

Lizard Skins Bear Claw Signature Series Grips

Next on test, the BearClaw Signature series grips: providing a durable and super stable grip with double lock-on collars.

Lock-on grips have a number of advantages too. Firstly, you'll have a real job making them slip on the bars, even when you're riding in a downpour and water manages to get underneath the grip; this makes them ideal for all-weather riding. Second, because they use an internal plastic tube (that the two collars sit on), they hold their shape very well and aren't prone to distortion. Thirdly, removing and refitting lock-on grips is far easier than slide-on grips; this makes them ideal if you are often changing your cockpit set-up.

Lock-on grips are a good option if you are a rough handed rider, or if you like to keep riding in all weather. They're common place on All-Mountain and Downhill bikes, and increasingly they are found on XC bikes as well, as people enjoy the ease of fitting.

The Lizard Skins BearClaw grips are some of the best lock-on grips I've used: the micro-diamond pattern provides great grip in the dry and the wet, whilst the stepped design means that the diameter of the grip isn't so great that you lose trail feedback too much. A great option.

Lizard Skins Lock-On Logo Grip

The last option in the grip line-up is the large diameter lock-on: the super cushioned grip that is favoured by many downhill riders, as well as those looking for additional comfort. 

The Lizard Skins Logo grip has a 31.5mm diameter, noticeably larger than the BearClaw with its 29.5mm size. The result is that you have a larger grip to wrap your hands around, and more rubber between you and the moving bike beneath you.

Thick lock-on grips have significant advantages for those that suffer from numb hands or tired wrists. They are also more suited to those with larger hands, as there is a wider object to put your palms in contact with. 

The Logo grips are soft, rubbery and very comfortable. They would be my choice for longer arduous rides, or if you prefer to wear thinner gloves. They're well branded, but then with the underlying quality in the Lizard Skins products, that is certainly no bad thing.

Another great option that provides a comfortable contact point.

Hopefully the above has helped to outline the different tyres of grips available, and perhaps suggest which one might be right for you. Whether you're the weight weenie or minimalist XC rider, or you're the hardcore downhiller, you should be able to find an option that will keep you in comfort on the mountain bike whatever the conditions.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas 2014 - Gift Ideas for Cyclists

This is a bit late in production, but with just a week to go until Christmas there is still time to get a great gift.

I tag up a lot of product reviews as 'Gift Ideas', but in this post I've picked a few of my favourites; a select number of products that I think would make super presents for a cyclist.

[Note: I haven't picked any nutrition products or cycle clothing, but if there is something you know your lucky recipient is looking for, then these could clearly also make great gifts! I've reviewed some fantastic pieces and products in 2014, view them HERE]

For the Book Worm:
'Land of Second Chances' by Tim Lewis

Land Of Second Chances' gives a detailed and eye opening account of not just Rwanda's rise in professional cycling, but also that of many other African teams and individuals. Africa is becoming an interesting and potentially great power in pro cycling, and a source of riders that are from an incredibly different context than most current Grand Tour riders. This book tells without doubt one of the most interesting and inspirational biographies of a cyclist that I have read to date.

Read the full review HERE

For the Casual Cyclist:
SUNDRiED SD Autumn Hoody 

We all need something casual to relax in this winter, and the SUNDRiED SD Autumn Hoody is a great bit of well made casual kit. Tailored to fit the athletic cyclist or triathlete, it's a fantastic winter warmer

Read the full review HERE

For the Gadget Lover:
Mio Alpha Watch or Mio Link

The Mio products use clever optical sensors to monitor your heart rate at the wrist - gone are the days of needing a chest strap. These will pair with your smartphone or ANT+ device, providing a neat new way to measure how hard you're working.

Read the full review HERE

For the Accessories Guy:
Bellroy Elements Pocket Wallet

Bellroy make some superb products, and the Elements Pocket Wallet quickly won me over. It is very compact, yet will swallow an incredible number of cards and cash, and keep it all safe inside a water-resistant leather pouch. I use mine every day.

Read the full review HERE

For the Sock Guy:
Sock Guy Socks

Everyone gets socks for Christmas, right?! So, they may as well be cycling socks. These colourful and well made options from Sock Guy add a touch of cool to any kit. "I'm With Awesome".

For the Racing Cyclist:
Secret Training Personal Care Kit

Preparing for a race and cleaning up afterwards is a lot easier with this little kit. Hygiene wipes, warm up cream, lip balm and a whole lot more. All packed up in a very neat little bag. This would be a super gift.

For the Big Gift Giver:
Garmin 510 GPS Computer

This is one bit of kit that I would never be without. The Garmin 510 is my favourite GPS computer without a shadow of a doubt. Compact, accurate and with a long battery life. Any cyclist would enjoy using one. 

For the Training Camp Cyclist:
Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 Bike Bag

Lucky enough to be heading off to the sun sometime soon? Or know someone that does? The Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 is one of the most popular bike bags with the pros, and is incredibly easy and safe to use.

For the Jersey Pocket:
Lezyne Phone Wallet

Your phone can take a battering in your jersey pocket. Protect it from the elements and knocks and bumps with this well made little wallet from Lezyne.

For the Traveller/Commuter:
Thule Enroute Escort Rucksack

Whether you're jetting off with your hand luggage or you're heading into the office on your daily commute, the Thule Enroute Escort is a incredibly well made pack for the job. There is a sleeve for a laptop and an iPad, as well as a neat hard case section for your sunglasses. Superb.

For the UK Cyclist:
Wet Weather Riding Accessories

I'm not going to link to one specific clothing product here, because I've reviewed so many good ones this year. However, if the cyclist you know is not lucky enough to be flying off somewhere warm, then these wet weather accessories will be well received.

For the Stocking Filler:
Sportique Care Products

Finally, everyone needs little things to put in the stockings; Sportique care products seem to be mutually loved by male and female cyclists, as well as non-cyclists. Without a doubt, some of the best care products on the market

Have a great Christmas!

Weekend Watch: Riding The Trafalgar Way in 24hrs

Check out my blog entry on riding the length of the Trafalgar Way from Falmouth to London in 24 hours back in October 2014.
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