My Rides

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Coming to Grips - Wrapping Mountain Bike Bars with Foam Tape

When I began fair-weather commuting to work a few years ago, my hands and wrists got a little tingly on the short ride.  Since then, my rides have gotten longer, and my annual mileage has gone up considerably.  Anyway, way back then, I got a pair of Ergon GC3 grips. The outer palm support, and the extra hand positions provided by the bar-end portion, helped a lot to prolong time-to-tingle.
Ergon GC3 Comfort Bicycle Handlebar Grips (Large)
On a trip to upper Michigan one summer I saw a bike, on a rack, on a car with bar-tape on the bar-ends and thought:  "clever."  I gave it a try, and ever since I've added bar-tape on the bar-ends of the Ergon grips.  I've even tried some on the inboard, cylindrical portion (this is nice for grip, and soaking sweat, but moves too much in off-road riding - at least with my taping technique).
(Ergon GR2 shown)
I fell in love with the bar-tape for a couple of reasons:
  1. It's comfortable, soaks up vibrations
  2. It's grippy without gloves - I don't like to wear gloves, but I sweat a lot.  (my other secret is hockey-tape - I use it on the brake lever ends to ensure a good grip with rain, mud, sweat)

About a year ago, I over-tightened, and broke, the clamp bolt (holding the grip on the bar) on one of the grips.  I hadn't been using all of the length of the GC3 grip, so I switched to the GR2 grip.  
Ergon GR2 Bicycle Handlebar Grip, Small
These are the grips I raced with this spring.  Towards the end of the race, I was definitely feeling the tingle.  

So, for about 3 years, Ergon grips with taped bar-ends seemed about perfect.  That was until I built the S.U.B. (Sport Utility Bike), which has foam-tap wrapped bull-horn bars.  In spite of having no Ergon-style palm rest, I find the bars more comfortable on a long ride.  With a race coming up that will be twice as long as the one this spring, one of the things I worry about most is "comfort" (not the luxury kind, but the basic necessity kind) after 2 hours of riding.  

I decided to try to see if I can improve the "comfort" or "time-to-tingle" of my handle-bar configuration.  I ordered a set of Ritchey WCS Ergo bar ends (Ebay, $17).
Ritchey WCS-Ergo bar ends, black
I removed the wrapped Ergon grips, and installed the bar-end grips, and wrapped them in bar tape (first I applied strips of tape to the top of the bar - all the way around to the bar end).  
So far, I've only taken a quick spin, but it feels good.  I get one more hand-position with this configuration:
  1. On the bars.
  2. On the bar-ends
  3. (New) Both - fingers on the bar ends, palms on the bars (with outer palm in that corner)
That third position didn't really work with the Ergons, at least not for long.  Since the wrap continues right around the corner, it's a nice soft spot.  This is an experiment, so stay tuned as I report on how this works, and compares to my other references.

Update 10/27/2011 (3 months)
I notice a few hits on this, so an update is due.  Due to some health problems, I didn't ride in my 3-4 hour race in August (the true test for these).  I have put several hundred miles on the bike, including one 3 hour ride, and one 2 hour ride - most of my daily training rides are 45 minutes to one hour.

Overall, I like them.  I like them better than the Ergon grips, with the ends.  I love the bar-end position - this is where I hold for most riding.  Initially the lack of the Ergon's palm platform made my wrists get sore - I think I had become dependent on them and probably a bit weak in the wrist (shut up).  Also, initially, the diameter felt small (a road bar is 23.8 mm diameter, and my mountain bike is 22.2 mm - I think that 1.6 mm makes a difference).  On a hilly trail ride, I find the tape slipping or a little loose (I think it would have been best to first wrap the bars in hockey/grip tape, then bar-tape).

Update:  1/25/2015 (3.5 years)
Haven't given these much thought for over 3 years.  I've changed the handlebars (and therefore re-wrapped), and the frame, but have kept this form of grip.  Recently, I've been demo'ing full suspension bikes, which means I'm holding onto something other than my familiar wrapped bars.  I will definitely be removing whatever grips come with my new bike, and wrapping on a couple of layers of bar tape.  When my hands get sweaty they're slipping on the grips.  I never had that problem with the wrapped bars.  I also miss the bar ends - I really don't wrench on them when climbing, but I use them to give my hands a break on the flat sections.