Bicycle Touring: Grips

Touring is one of the many delights of riding a bicycle. It is one of my favorite ways to ride a bicycle. Being out on the open road is exhilarating. You feel your environment. You hear things without obstruction. You see things you would miss in a car. You can pull up at almost any point on the road and ‘smell the roses.’ You can’t do that in a car unless there is a wide patch on the side of the road that is safe to pull into. And besides, there is some psychological thing about driving a car that makes our minds think that we have to get to our destination as quickly as possible, so pulling over becomes an impediment to that goal. With bicycle touring your destination is the journey itself. So, going fast or going slow doesn’t really matter; and stopping can add a lot of enjoyment to any tour. Think about it. When is the last time you took your car to do anything but chores or going to work? When was the last time you said to your family, “Let’s go for a ride in the car!”

The only trouble I have had with touring is that after awhile my hands might start to cramp and/or hurt because of my grasp on the handlebars. Changing up how I hold the handlebars and moving my hands helps as does using the proper style of grips for the type of riding I do.
Grips are one of the three contact points on a bicycle – hands, feet, and butt - hence they are supremely important. The type of grip you choose should depend on several factors: the type of handlebars you have on your bike, how you store your bike, and personal preference.
I will discuss the different type of handlebars and the best grips to use with them.

1. Drop handlebars: These are used on road bikes and traditional touring bicycles. Handlebar tape is most often used to cover drop bars as a way to comfort the rider from road shock. I find that cork tape is the most comfortable tape on the market, and if you use any other type of tape you will immediately notice a difference. Give it a try and you’ll see. In addition, I’ve used gel pads that are fastened under the handlebars. Gel pads make the handlebar super comfortable to hold. They retail for around $20 on line or at most bike shops.

2. Straight handlebars: You have a basic choice of either rubber or soft foam handlebar grips. Rubber grips give you a solid surface to grip but don’t give the best cushioning for touring. I find it is harder on the hands too, so cramping is common place. I personally use soft foam grips. I prefer Ritchey WCS grips. They are easier on my hands and give great cushioning while touring.

Buyer Beware

If you have an old set of grips on your bike you might find it very difficult to get them off. It can require so much effort and frustration that some people just cut them off. The newer grips have screws that tighten them to the handlebars. These are much easier to get on and off.

Everyone is different, and you should choose the style that feels right to you.