The first aftermarket grips I ever bought were for a custom build I was doing while employed at the long closed Ichabod’s Bike Shop. It was a cool shop for the mid 1990’s when it was in Puyallup,WA. When it moved a couple of towns over, the game was already up and I was just another kid stuck in an awkward job, trying to make it all work out. My bike was a GT Backwoods I bought from Bonney Lake Bicycle and I wanted to make that thing awesome. So, I bought a Judy, ordered a build kit from QBP and had my sweet, yellow and red Yeti gummy grips shipped. They matched the bike perfectly, lasted about 8 years and HURT like hell. I was young and could take the abuse then.
Go forward a lot of years and I was sitting in an Orthopedic Hand Specialists office trying to figure out why my finger would start moving and then spring shut like a trap. It would have been cool to try to lure flies into my hand and snap down on them, but I didn’t think of that until now. The good ideas are always slow to percolate. Anyway, I was diagnosed with trigger finger, and afterwards walked down the hall to the OT. She made a ridiculously expensive custom molded thermo-plastic shield to protect my tendon. (See illustration below detailing trigger finger, not my lame shield.) It didn’t work and I was out of 400 hard earned dollars. Real nice. The thing is, I could have done some self remedy but I was slow to find the ESI Grips site and read the testimonials of guys like me who were fighting thru hand problems so they could still ride. For less then 20.00 US dollars, I could have been on the road to a happy tendon. That was 4.5 years ago.
All grips are not the same. While my Yeti’s lasted years, they sucked. They moved all over, slid, had no grip and hurt. Later I bought locking grips, they were really hard and hurt even more, but they stayed put. After that, I got some bike company grips that looked similar to snake skin. They stayed, they had traction but they hurt real bad and wore down in weeks. They all sucked in rain.
When my buddy Ivan was showing off his bike/grips(ESI) at the 24 Hours ‘Round the Clock race in Spokane, WA I was intrigued, but that was pre-trigger era stuff. After I did my research and refound ESI I ordered several pairs to try. I like the idea of a solid Silicone grip. Within weeks, my tendon inflammation was residing, my finger felt better and so did my hands. My palms didn’t hurt anymore on jarring descents or on rides out at Black Diamond or Little Bald Mountain (Rocky trails) . One huge advantage that became the biggest selling point for me was how well I could grip in rain, and W.Washington has a LOT of rain. No pain, lots of grip. But how could a soft, spongy grip last the harsh conditions that mountain bike racing and training create? I guessed I would get maybe a season. I am on my second pair of grips in 4 years. The first ones I took off to put on another bike and the green ones I currently have have 3 years into them and a lot of hard training and racing. These grips last. Now, with all things comes enrtropy and I will admit that the grip is starting to move now that there has been 3 years worth of riding to contaminate. Dirt, sand and grime have a way of working into any surface and into any crack. The cool news is rubbing alchohol will clean them right up and bring back some of the color, texture and feel. Not to mention the bar/grip contact need, no required, by aggressive riding.
Now, I do like the grip and they saved me a lot of pain. My opinion is based not only on personal opinion from that circumstance, but also 3 years as a bike mechanic when I was doing that. I saw a lot of grips, I used a lot of grips.
ESI makes three thicknesses of grips- From Thin to fat: Racers’s Edge= 30mm- Not that thin at all and perfect for weight weenies or folks who have small/med hands. I have what I think are “large” hands according to the fit charts and I really like the Racer’s edge for comfort and feel. Chunky is getting big and for those who might be set on Oury type grips.
Chunky Grips- are 2mm larger at 32mm. I used these once and liked them.
Extra Chunky- I do not have experince with this grip, but at 34mm, they seem fat and that might be good on a bike I was planning on using at a touring or casual bike. It would be really nice on a fully rigid single speed.
ESI has a large color selection. I see 9 colors for Racer’s and 9 colors for Chunky. Extra Chunky has 5. They are Grey, Black, Yellow, Orange, Green (Seahawks Green!), Blue, White, Red and Aqua. I even see that they can do some custom color grips if you so desire.
Racer’s are 50 grams light! Chunky is 60 grams and Extra Chunky is 80.
Cut that old crap off with a razor blade, but watch the carbon for the weight sissy. Unless you like the ER. Douse the grip with rubbing alcohol and then the bar, slide on, wait a couple of seconds and you have solid, no fuss grips.
I would give the grips 4.75/5 stars for a lot of reasons and if your the type that doesn’t like to read:
Pro’s- Top quality, long lasting, light, and forgiving. Top rated for hand troubles. Grip superbly in wet conditions. Super easy to install. Cool bar plugs and sticker in every pack*
Con's- Get dirty fast in light colors, but do clean up some. If you are crash prone, they can get ragged. Eventually they will get to the point of contamination- ugly entropy again- but it takes a lot and you might get extra life by washing them.
*Well, at least that was the case 4 years ago!
Lastly, I really want to try the road bar tape that ESI has just come out with. I like the bar gel that is out there these days, but I also would like to try a pure silicone wrap and see how it holds up. That, and I bet it would be superior for muddy CX races. I will have to order some and do a review on that later. They also make a ESI silicone tape that sounds interesting. Too many choices.
So, there you have it, the impressions of an amateur racer who has found a great grip. It can keep pain and suffering out of my hands and in my legs. Now, I just need to work on getting more time, I wonder who makes that?