When it comes to securing your bike’s grips in place on your handlebars, there are two different attachment systems to choose from. This guide outlines the pros and cons of lock on vs slip on grips to help you decide which grip design is best for your style of cycling. We’ll cover slippage, weight, comfort, cost, ease of use, and more.
What are Lock-On Grips?
Lock-on grips secure in place with a locking collar system. The collar is a metal ring-shaped clamp that is built on to one or both ends of the grip. It operates with an Allen bolt. When you tighten the bolt, a small gap in the collar closes so the collar tightly clamps down around the handlebars. This holds the grip firmly in place and prevents it from sliding around. The grips are essentially bolted on. This way, they stay securely locked in place until they are worn out.
Lock on grips are rigid. Between the clamps is a plastic or metal tube that slips over the handlebars. This part prevents the middle of the grips from sagging or shifting around under your hand. The inside tube diameter is slightly larger than your handlebars so the lock-on grips can easily slip on and off when the collar bolt is loose. A soft grippy material, like rubber, covers the rigid tubes to make the grips comfortable to hold on to. Some models have an ergonomic shape.
Slip On Grips
Slip on grips work just like they sound. They stretch onto the handlebar ends and stay in place with friction. The inside grip diameter is slightly smaller than the handlebar diameter. This way, the grip fits tightly so it doesn’t slide around on the handlebar.
Slip on grips are usually made of soft stretchy materials like rubber, silicone, or foam. They are not rigid. The handlebar gives the grips their form.
To help hold a slip on grip in place, some riders use glue or wire tightly wrapped around the ends. Some grips use zip ties to hold them in place. Slip on grips are sometimes called glue on or push on grips.
Lock On Grips Pros and Cons
- Easier to install and remove- You just need an Allen wrench. The job takes 5-10 minutes.
- More secure attachment.
- Easy to adjust- You can loosen the bolt and make adjustments to the angle of the grip.
- Lock-on grips can be safer because they attach more securely so they won’t slip or rotate.
- Heavier- Lock-on grips weigh more because they have metal collars.
- More expensive
- Some lock-on grips are not compatible with carbon fib handlebars
Slip On Grips Pros and Cons
- Lighter- Slip-on grips weigh around 50 grams less than lock-on grips on average.
- Compatible with all handlebar materials
- More difficult to install and remove- You may need some kind of lubricant.
- Slip-on grips can slide around if they aren’t securely attached.
- Difficult to adjust.
Lock On Vs Slip On Grips
Which attachment system you choose depends on your hand anatomy, the type of riding you do, how often you need to swap out grips, as well as personal preference. For most riders, lock on is the better option. Having said that, slip on grips still have their place in cycling. In this section, I’ll outline the benefits and drawbacks of lock on vs slip on grips to help you decide between the two.
Slip on grips are lighter than lock on grips. They weigh about 60-90 grams per pair. An average pair of slip on grips weighs around 80 grams. They are lighter because they are made of a single thin and flexible piece of grippy material like rubber, silicone, or foam.
Lock-on grips, on the other hand, have metal collars, bolts, and a plastic internal form under the grip surface. These add a bit of weight. Lock on grips weigh 100-200 grams per pair. An average pair of lock on mountain bike grips weighs around 130 grams. Lock on grips with integrated bar ends can weight 300-500 grams.
By choosing slip on grips instead of lock on, you can save about 50 grams on average. For most cyclists, this is insignificant. If you’re a racer or you just want the lightest possible setup, slip on grips are the way to go.
Grip Installation and Removal
Lock on grips are much easier to install and remove than slip on grips. The reason is that the grip interior diameter is slightly larger than the handlebar diameter. The grip doesn’t have to fit tightly because the collars lock the grip in place. You can simply slide the grips on and tighten the collars. Installing a pair of lock on grips takes about 5 minutes. Removing them is just as easy. Just loosen the collars and slide them off.
The biggest benefit of this design is that you can easily swap out your grips whenever you want. For example, you might want to do this if you use the same bike for two different types of cycling. Maybe you have a bike that you use for bikepacking and mountain biking. When riding long distance, you can install comfortable but heavy ergonomic grips with integrated bar ends. When you want to go mountain biking, you can install lightweight plain gauge mountain bike grips.
Slip on grips, on the other hand, are more difficult to install and remove. Because they fit so tight, you might need to use some kind of lubricant to help you slide them on the handlebars. Rubbing alcohol, dish soap, and hairspray are three common options. It takes some muscle and elbow grease to stretch a tight pair of slip on grips onto the handlebars.
Removing slip on grips can be a challenge as well. If they’re worn out, the easiest way to get them off is to just cut them. You can also use compressed air or some kind of solvent like WD40 or rubbing alcohol to help slide them off. I’ll talk about installing and removing slip on grips more in-depth later on in this guide.
Another drawback to slip on grips is that you may have to wait for the lubricant to dry up or dissipate overnight before you can use them. If you used some type of lube or adhesive to install them, they’ll just slip around if it’s not dry. With lock on grips, you can use them right after installation.
Secure Attachment: Grip Slips and Rotation
Lock on grips attach more securely than slip on grips. After all, this is the reason they were invented.
They tightly clamp to the handlebars so they don’t rotate or slip around. They are essentially bolted in place.
For mountain bikers, it is particularly important that the grips stay put. You don’t want to have to worry about the grips moving at the wrong time while you’re speeding through a technical trail. You don’t want the grip to slip off the bar after a hard landing.
Slip on grips don’t attach quite as securely. They can slip and rotate on the handlebars under certain circumstances. Whether or not your grips slip depends on the material they’re made of, the design, and how you installed them in the first place.
The most common cause of slippage is moisture from sweat or rain getting under the grip. This reduces the friction between the grip and handlebars which allows them to move around. This is particularly common if there is grease or residue from soap or hairspray that you used to get the grips on. It gets wet and becomes slippery. If you ride in the rain often, you’ll probably want to avoid slip on grips.
Slip on grips can also begin to move around as they wear out. Heat, UV light, damage, or heavy use can cause your grips to loosen as they age. If your grips are getting worn out and start to slip, it’s time to replace them.
The best way to prevent slip on grips from moving around is to glue them in place during installation. Grip glue like this Pro Taper Grip Glue Adhesive Compound works well. Make sure you let the glue dry before riding.
For added security, you can also tightly wrap some 20 or 22 gauge safety wire around both ends of the grips to help hold them in place. It is also essential that the bars be clean and dry when installing the grips so you don’t trap any grease or grime underneath.
This point mostly comes down to personal preference. Comfort is pretty subjective. The grip attachment system doesn’t really play much of a role. Both lock on and slip on grips can be very comfortable.
A few factors that determine the comfort of the grip include the grip’s shape, texture, material, and thickness. Some riders prefer an ergonomically shaped grip while others prefer a cylindrical grip. Some prefer more padding while others prefer less. Maybe you have large hands and need a thick grip.
One complaint I have heard about lock on grips is that, because they have a hard inner shell around the handlebar, there isn’t as much space for padding. Particularly if the grips are thin. This means you may feel more vibrations and shocks from the road. Oftentimes lock on grips are a bit shorter as well. Whether these points are true or not really depends on the brand and design of the lock on grips.
To help you choose the most comfortable grips, check out my guide to the different types of bike grips.
Lock on grips are easy to adjust. You can just loosen the Allen bolt on the collars and move the grip to your desired position. This is nice if you use ergonomic grips with wings where you rest your palms or grips with integrated bar ends. You may want to make some micro-adjustments to the angle of the grips to dial them in after installation.
With lock on grips, you can test out the grip position and make minor adjustments until you get them just right. If you cut your bars shorter, you can easily move the grips into their new position. If you swap out your handlebars, shifters, or brake levers, you can easily remove the grips in just a couple of minutes.
Slip on grips, on the other hand, cant be easily adjusted after they’re installed. You need to position them where you want them before the glue dries. If you don’t glue your grips, you can usually make some minor adjustments. You may need to spray some rubbing alcohol under them or use compressed air to move them around.
One major annoyance with slip on grips is that you may need to remove them if you need to remove your shifters or brake levers. This may be necessary if a brake lever breaks in an accident, for example. This turns a relatively simple job into a big hassle.
Slip on grips are generally cheaper than lock on grips. A quality pair usually costs around $20-$30. A quality pair of lock on grips costs about $30-$50. You’ll probably save $10-$20 by going with slip on grips.
Lock on grips cost more because they are more complex and take more parts to make. There are metal collars, bolts, the grip surface, etc. Most slip on grips are made of one material that is molded into shape.
This point mostly comes down to personal preference and your hand anatomy. Riders with larger hands often prefer thicker grips. Oftentimes mountain bikers prefer thicker grips as well. Riders with smaller hands may feel more comfortable with thinner grips. Riders with Carpal Tunnel may need a specific grip thickness to avoid hand and wrist pain. Usually, thinner grips are preferable for those with wrist pain.
When choosing grips, you’ll also want to consider whether or not you plan to ride with gloves. If you do, you may prefer a thinner grip because the glove usually has padding on the palm and fingers. This adds thickness. Thick grips paired with padded gloves may put too much material between your hands and the handlebars.
Grip thickness is a measurement of the grip diameter in millimeters. Thin grips often measure 28-30 mm in diameter. Thicker grips measure 32-34+ mm in diameter. Most grips measure somewhere in between 28 and 34 mm.
Lock on grips are generally thicker than slip on grips. The reason is that most models have an extra layer of rigid plastic or metal between the handlebars and grip surface. This extra material limits how thin the grips can be.
If you need extra thin grips, it can be difficult to find lock on grips that are thin enough. The ODI Ruffian lock on grips are some of the thinnest grips that I have found.
Slip on grips can be made thinner because the grip surface sits directly on the handlebars. There is less material between your hand and the handlebar. This means you can find some incredibly thin slip on grips. There are models that measure less than 30 mm in diameter.
If you want to use extra thick slip on grips, one issue that you may run into is that they can have too much padding. Some riders feel that too much padding removes road feel which harms handling. Basically, your hands are too protected so you don’t get enough feedback from the trail. You don’t run into this problem with lock on grips because they rigidly attach to the handlebars and have less padding.
If properly attached, both grips styles are perfectly safe for any type of cycling. Having said that, there are a couple of things to consider to ensure that you stay as safe as possible.
In the event of an accident, handlebar ends can cause injury if they hit your body. Regardless of whether you’re using slip on or lock on grips, you should use bar end caps. Most grips include them or have them built-in. You can also buy end caps. These Wake Bar End Plugs would work well.
If you’re using slip on grips, you’ll want to make sure that they are securely attached if you’re tackling any kind of technical terrain or jumping. I have heard of grips slipping all the way off after a big drop or jump. This could result in a serious accident. Even a small slip of a grip could cause you to crash if it happens at the wrong moment.
One issue with lock on grips is that they can fail catastrophically. Under heavy stress, the collar could break away from the rest of the grip. If this happens, the grip will just spin freely on the handlebar or simply slide off. This could cause you to crash if it happens while you’re riding through a rough section.
Of course, this is an incredibly rare failure. Even if it happens, you won’t be stranded. You can just ride home without a grip. To reduce the likelihood, you might consider choosing lock on grips with collars on either end. You might also want to inspect your grips periodically to make sure there aren’t any cracks forming.
Slip on and Lock on Grip Compatibility
For the most part, lock on and slip on grips are compatible with all mountain bike handlebars. When buying grips, you’ll want to double check that the inside grip diameter is compatible with your handlebar diameter.
For mountain bikes, the standard handlebar diameter where the grips attach is 22.2 mm (7/8”). This size has been the standard for quite some time. Most older and vintage bikes have the same diameter.
You will want to be careful when buying grips for carbon fiber handlebars. Some lock on grips are not compatible. The reason is that carbon fiber handlebars can crack if the grips put too much pressure on the material when the collars are tightened. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications before installing to make sure you don’t damage your handlebars.
For more info on handlebars and compatibility, check out my guide to 17 different types of bicycle handlebars.
Tips for Installing and Removing Slip on and Lock on Grips
Replacing grips is pretty straightforward. The hardest part is often getting the old ones off. Particularly if they’ve been on the bars for awhile. In this section, I’ll share a few tips that will hopefully make the job a bit easier.
How to Remove Slip On Grips
As mentioned earlier, slip on grips are a bit of a hassle to install, adjust, and remove. Before installing new slip on grips, you’ll need to remove your old ones. Start by removing the bar end plugs if you’re using them. Most just pry off with a screwdriver. Some use an expansion system. You’ll need to loosen a bolt before you can pull the plug out.
There are three ways to go about removing old slip on grips:
- Cut them off- If the grips are worn out, you can simply cut them off with a knife or razor blade. This is the quickest and easiest method. It may be your only option if the grips are glued on. One thing to note is that this method does not work with carbon fiber handlebars. Scoring the surface with a blade can weaken the bars and make them unsafe to use. Damaged carbon fiber can fail catastrophically and without warning. If you accidentally scratch your aluminum or steel handlebars, the damage is only cosmetic.
- Use compressed air- This is the best method if you want to re-use the grips later. To get the grip off, start by stretching the end open with your fingers or gently pry with a thin object like a screwdriver. Use a nozzle to blast compressed air between the grip and handlebar. This creates an air pocket. You can usually twist and move the grip while moving the nozzle around. Eventually, you can work the grip off without causing any damage.
- Spray rubbing alcohol or WD-40 under the grip- These are both solvents. They can dissolve grease, soap residue, hairspray, glue, or whatever is holding your old grips in place. Use a tool, like a screwdriver, to stretch the grip open at one end. Spray the WD-40 or rubbing alcohol under the grip and work it around until you can slip the grip off. This may take a bit of time and elbow grease. You should be able to re-use the grips after if you’re careful not to stretch them out.
How to Remove lock on grips
This job is much easier. Simply loosen the bolts on the collars or clamps and slide the grips off. Most lock on grips use hex bolts that are 2.5, 3, or 4 mm.
If the lock on grips haven’t been removed for a long time, grease, grime, corrosion, etc. can cause them to stick to the handlebars. If this happens, gently tap them with a rubber mallet to break the collars loose. You can also try applying some kind of solvent like WD-40 or rubbing alcohol.
After you get your old grips off, you’ll want to clean the handlebars thoroughly. This is particularly important if your old grips were slip on. Use some rubbing alcohol to clean off any grease, glue, dirt, or residue from the bar ends. You want to make sure the bars are clean to reduce the likelihood of your new grips slipping around or rotating.
How to Install Slip On Grips
It can be a challenge to stretch new slip on grips onto the bars. Particularly if the grips are tight-fitting or made from a tough or thick material. A few tricks to help make slip on grip installation a bit easier include:
- Blow compressed air under the grip- This same trick commonly used to remove grips can also help you get the grips on. Place the nozzle between the grip and the handlebar and blow some air to create an air pocket. This can help you work the grip on by reducing the friction between the grip and bar.
- Rubbing alcohol as lubricant- Put the alcohol in a spray bottle and spray some in the grip and on the handlebar end. Use the rubbing alcohol as a lubricant to help you work the grip on. This works well because rubbing alcohol leaves no residue after it evaporates away. Be sure to let the alcohol evaporate for a few hours or overnight before you go for a ride so the grips don’t slip around.
- Hairspray as lubricant- Many cyclists swear by this method. The hairspray acts as a lubricant when it’s wet and works as an adhesive when it dries. Spray some in the grips and on the bars and work the grips on. Be sure to let the hairspray dry out and set before you go for a ride.
- Dish soap as lubricant- This works as an ok lubricant but it leaves a residue that can cause the grip to slip around. Particularly if moisture works its way underneath. As you can imagine, the soap turns into a slippery mess when it gets wet. I don’t really recommend this method but it is an option if it’s all you have on hand.
- Muscle- Sometimes you can just work the grips on without any lubricant or adhesive. I recommend you try this method first and only use lubricant if you need to.
A note about gluing grips- Some mountain bikers choose to glue their slip on grips in place so they can’t slip around. You can buy glue that is designed for the purpose. Purpose-made glue like Pro Taper Grip Glue Adhesive Compound is also available. You can also just use super glue or Gorilla Glue. They are basically the same thing.
The glue acts as a lubricant when its wet then holds the grips firmly in place when it dries. If you decide to use glue, be sure to install the grips quickly after applying it. If the glue dries, you might have to cut the grips off and start over with a new pair. You only have a few seconds to place the grips where you want them before the glue begins to harden.
How to Install Lock On Grips
Lock on grips go on much easier. Just slide them on, adjust them to a comfortable position, then tighten the bolt on the collars to clamp them on.
If you’re using carbon fiber handlebars, it’s important that you torque the bolts to the manufacturers recommended torque so you don’t risk cracking your bars.
A Few Grip Recommendations
ESI Silicon MTB Slip On Grips
These silicon slip on grips attach firmly and don’t slip around. No glue is required. They are also incredibly comfortable. ESI grips do an excellent job of dampening shocks and vibrations. Many mountain bikers swear by them.
ESI silicon grips come in a range of sizes and colors. One of the most popular models is the ESI Grips Extra Chunky MTB Grip. They measure 34 mm in diameter by 5 1/8” in length and weigh just 80 grams. Bar end caps are included. ESI also offers thinner models if you prefer.
Ergon Lock On Grips
Ergon is a German company that makes a wide range of lock on grips. They attach securely with a forged aluminum clamp. Most models feature an ergonomic ‘winged’ shape that ensures that you hold your hands in the ideal riding position. This comfortable design reduces hand and wrist pain and numbness. These grips are also compatible with carbon handlebars.
The Ergon GP1 is the original model. If you prefer grips with built-in bar ends, check out the Ergon GP5. They also offer cork grips and thinner grips for mountain biking.
ODI Lock On Grips
ODI makes an excellent range of lock on grips. The ODI Ruffian model is an excellent choice for those who prefer narrow grips. They feature clamps on both ends so they won’t move around. The diamond pattern on the grip surface provides excellent traction for your hands. End caps are included. The grips measure 130 mm in length.
Final Thoughts about Lock On Vs Slip On Grips
Even though the grips are simple and inexpensive, they are one of the most important components of your bike. After all, they are one of only three points of contact. The grips play a major role in your steering, braking, and shifting as well as your hand comfort.
For most riders, lock on grips are the better choice. They are easy to install and adjust. They don’t slip around when they get wet. The technology has been around for over 20 years now and they have proven to be incredibly reliable, durable, and easy to use. Many riders consider them to be one of the best recent inventions in cycling.
Having said this, some riders still prefer the feel of slip on grips. They claim they are more comfortable and offer a better connection to the trail. Whichever grip attachment system you end up using, I hope this guide has helped you decide.
Where do you stand on the lock on vs slip on grip debate? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!
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