How Do I Choose Handlebar Grips? Beginners Guide

How Do I Choose Handlebar Grips? Beginners Guide

Choosing the right handlebar grips for your bike can make a huge difference in comfort, control, and minimizing hand fatigue on rides.

As a beginner, you may not realize just how many factors go into selecting the proper grips.

Beyond just rubber and foam, there are important considerations like grip diameter, texture, thickness, and materials.

The right pair provides a better cycling experience by absorbing vibrations, resisting slipping, and fitting your hand size perfectly.

In this in-depth article, I’ll walk through everything you need to know when picking new grips for your bike.

You’ll learn how to measure your bars, find the ideal size and texture, and evaluate materials so you can ride comfortably for miles and miles.

Let’s get started!

How Do I Choose Handlebar Grips?

When it comes to finding the perfect handlebar grips, you have a surprising number of variables to consider:

How Do I Know What Size Handlebar Grips to Get?

Grip diameter is one of the most important factors for comfort, control, and avoiding hand pain.

Grips that are too small will lead to cramping and numbness in your hands.

Ones too large can cause control issues from excessive movement.

The best way to get the right grip size is to carefully measure the diameter of your current handlebars.

Use a soft measuring tape to wrap around the center of the bars and get an accurate grip circumference.

Compare that to grip sizing charts to find your proper match.

For example, the standard mountain bike handlebar diameter is 22.2 mm.

So if you measure 22mm, you’d want to search for standard MTB grips, not slim road grips.

Matching grips precisely to your bar diameter ensures no slipping, rotation, or play between your hands and the bars.

Are There Different Grip Sizes for Different Handlebars?

Absolutely!

While shops label grips as “standard,” there are actually many size variations to fit different hand sizes, bike types, and riding needs:

  • Standard – For 22.2 mm diameter bars on most mountain bikes.
    Fits average male hands.
  • Slim/Women’s – Around 20.5 mm for smaller hands and drop-style road bars.
    Promotes easier shifting on road levers.
  • Ergonomic – Shaped for natural hand positioning to prevent numbness and fatigue.
    Offered in range of sizes.
  • Oversized – Wider diameter around 24-25 mm to accommodate larger hands that need more grip surface area.
  • Downhill – Extra chunky at 30+ mm for stunts and aggressive downhill terrain where control is key.
  • Lock-on – Offer a wider size adjustment range to fit various bar diameters. More secure hold.

So it’s crucial to measure your specific handlebars and get properly fitted grips, rather than assuming one generic size will fit all bikes comfortably and safely.

What is My Exact Handlebar Diameter?

To find your ideal grip size, you’ll need to measure the actual diameter of your current handlebars using a measuring tape:

  • Wrap the tape around the center of the bars to get an accurate circumference.
  • Compare the measurement in mm to grip sizing charts to match up.

Some common mountain bike handlebar diameters are:

  • 22.2 mm – Standard size
  • 25.4 mm – Oversize
  • 31.8 mm – Extra oversize/Downhill

Road bikes have smaller grip fitments, usually around 20-21 mm since drop bars have narrower placement.

Recording your specific diameter makes it easy to identify grips guaranteed to fit right.

How Many Grip Size Options Are There?

While exact sizing varies slightly by brand, here are some of the most common grip diameter measurements:

  • 20-21 mm – Road drop handlebars
  • 22 mm – Standard MTB straight bars
  • 23 mm – Mid-size MTB grips
  • 24-25 mm – Large/oversized MTB grips
  • 30+ mm – Downhill/gravity MTB grips

Within this range, you’ll see half and quarter sizes like 22.2, 22.5 or 23.25 mm.

Matching as precisely as possible gives you the best fit and hand comfort over long distances.

I recommend having a few sizes on hand like standard and mid-size to test what feels most comfortable before installing grips permanently.

What Is Considered the Standard Handlebar Grip Size?

For straight mountain bike handlebars, the most common “standard” diameter is 22.2 mm.

This size should fit most men’s hands comfortably.

Road bikes have a smaller standard grip diameter, usually around 20.5 to 21 mm since drop bars offer a narrower grip placement.

When in doubt or without measuring, choosing a 22 mm grip first provides a safe bet for proper fit for trail and enduro riding.

But always measure first, since even 2 mm difference in grip size impacts comfort tremendously.

How to Measure Your Hand Size for Bike Grips

In addition to measuring your handlebar diameter, you may want to measure your hand size as well to optimize grip comfort and control.

Here’s how:

  • Use a flexible tape measure and wrap it around the widest part of your hand, usually right above the knuckles and thumb joint.
  • Make sure you keep your fingers together and measure where your hand is most broad when open.
  • Note the measurement in millimeters or inches.
  • Compare your hand circumference to grip sizing charts from manufacturers to find your ideal fit range.
  • Size up if you fall between grip sizes to make sure ample coverage.
  • Repeat on your other hand and take the larger measurement for your size.

Knowing metrics like your hand span and palm width also helps in determining ideal grip thickness and shape.

The right grip fit minimizes fatigue by supporting your hands evenly throughout long rides.

Take the time to get hand measurements, and find grips that match your personal dimensions for maximum comfort on the trails.

How Do I Know If My Current Grips Are Too Small?

It’s pretty obvious if your handlebar grips are too small in diameter:

  • Your outer fingers hang off the edges and can’t get full grip.
  • Fingers overlap when trying to grasp the grip.
  • Grips rotate on the bars when hitting bumps.
  • You experience hand numbness, pain, and quick fatigue because hands aren’t supported.
  • You lack adequate control and leverage over the front wheel to maneuver precisely.

If you notice any of these issues, chances are you need larger diameter grips for your particular hand size.

Moving up just 1-2 mm can drastically improve grip comfort and stability.

Don’t settle for grips that are visibly too small and cause strain.

How Can I Tell if My Grips Are Too Large in Diameter?

On the other hand, oversized grips that are too wide will have these indicators:

  • Hands can’t fully wrap around the grip circumference.
  • Excessive wiggle room or play within your grip.
  • Grips lack stability and freely rotate on handlebars.
  • Insufficient leverage over the bars leading to control issues.
  • Constant need to re-position and adjust your hand placement during rides.

Just like grips too small, oversized ones lead to discomfort, slippage, and difficulty controlling your bike.

Take a minute and measure to see if a slightly smaller size would provide a more locked-in feel.

Are Thinner or Thicker Grips Better for Comfort?

Grip thickness comes down to personal preference, hand size, and the type of riding you do:

Thinner grips around 30-33mm tend to be lighter and promote easier maneuvering, making them popular for cross country, marathon, and general trail riding.

Thicker grips around 35-38mm provide more cushioning and shock absorption.

This can increase comfort over long distances if you have larger hands.

Wider grips also help smooth out vibrations and impacts if you ride rigid bike frames.

I suggest trying out rides with thin gloves using both a thinner and a thicker grip set to assess which you prefer.

Ride over bumpier sections and consider fatigue in your hands afterwards.

Thinner may feel too harsh over ragged terrain whereas thicker provides more dampening.

Play around to find the width that offers you the best combination of cushion, feel, and function.

What’s The Difference Between Textured vs. Smooth Grip Textures?

Handlebar grip surface texture plays a major role in stability, control, and hand strain when riding over variable terrain:

Textured Grips

Textured grips use small bumps, channels, or tread patterns to increase friction between your hands and the rubber.

This helps keep your hands locked in place when the trail gets rough.

Ideal for downhill, enduro, and aggressive mountain biking where you need the stickiest hold possible.

Smooth Grips

Smooth grips provide an uninterrupted rubber surface without much texture.

Allows repositioning your hands easily and can feel more comfortable for casual cruising.

However, prone to slipping when conditions get wet or bumpy.

For technical trail riding, I would recommend a grip with defined texture to ensure your hands stay securely planted even when things get rowdy.

Smooth shines for road riding where vibration absorption matters most.

Try out each to see what gives you the confidence and hold you need for your specific riding style.

Do Universal Handlebar Grips Fit All Bike Types?

Unfortunately, no.

You can’t reliably assume one general grip size will properly fit all handlebar types and diameters. Factors like these need to match:

  • Exact handlebar diameter – Grips should measure precisely the same.
  • Grip length and shape – Varies based on flat, riser, or drop handlebar shapes.
  • Mountain vs. road bikes – Very different grip sizes.
  • Downhill vs. cross country – Wide variance in grip widths needed.

The best practice is to always measure your particular handlebars first, then buy grips specifically engineered to fit that diameter.

Avoid guessing or eyeballing it.

Taking an extra couple minutes to size your bars guarantees you get grips that fit perfectly right from the start.

Final Thoughts

Finding the optimal set of grips for your riding needs and hand size doesn’t have to be a tedious process if you follow a few key steps.

First, accurately measure your handlebars to determine the right grip diameter.

Next, consider your terrain and preferences to choose between textured, smooth, thin, or thick grip designs.

Finally, test fit a few options to find the exact pair that enables you to ride in total comfort, control, and confidence mile after mile.

With so many factors involved – size, texture, thickness, materials – the right grips can make a world of difference in how your bike performs and feels.

Take the time to get properly fitted grips and your hands will thank you on even the longest, toughest rides.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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