If you’re not picky about your grips, you should be. Our palms and fingertips are some of the most sensitive parts of our bodies. They’re up there with the lips, tongue and forehead, which unfortunately don’t work with this intro at all, so I’m not sure why I brought that up. The hands, though, are our most intimate connection with our bikes. Except maybe the crotch. But that’s got nothing to do with this either. Stop distracting me.
I install a set of Ergon GA2 Fat grips on probably 9 out of 10 bikes that I test. Part of it is that I wear a size XXL glove, and holding a traditional grip makes me feel a bit like Shaquille O’Neal holding a Red Bull can. But it’s more than just proportion. Maximizing the surface area shared between hand and grip has benefits on its own. The extra friction offers greater security advantage than simply being able to wrap your fingers further around the grip. It’s why tennis racquet grips got wider a few decades ago. Once your digits safely opposite your palm, you’ve got a firm grasp. Digging them deeper into the heels of your hands won’t keep tragedy from striking if there’s ever enough force to wrench the bars from your grasp. The extra surface area also distributes load better. A larger diameter grip will widen the “hot spot” across the middle of your palm, causing less pain, less fatigue, and a more secure grip.
Thankfully, there are a growing number of oversized grips out there. The Ergon GA2 Fat grips are, of course, my favorite, but ESI and Wolf Tooth slip-on silicone grips have loads of cushion in place of a lock-on sleeve. Sensus Meaty Paws do the opposite, with an extra thick plastic sleeve and only moderate rubber padding. The Ergon GA2 Fat grips are somewhere in between. The traditionally-shaped single-clamp chassis is surrounded by Ergon’s softest rubber compound. And that rubber gets thicker on the outside edge where the weight is concentrated. It’s a little unfamiliar until you put weight on it, and the heels of your hand help flatten out the rubber. I barely notice the conical shape. Or maybe I do notice it, and I kinda like it. It’s like adding a slight bit of backsweep to a bar.
Also, that extra material extends past the end of the plastic sleeve. This may have been done for aesthetic reasons, so the bar plug (which is separate, not integrated into the sleeve—which is a bit of a pain) can sit flush with the rubber around it. But it also serves people like me who hang the edges of our palms just slightly outside the end of the bar, so that pressure relief goes all the way to the end.
The actual tread in the grips, honestly, doesn’t really stand out to me. But judging by how worn, but still in use the grips pictured here are, there must have been some smart siping in the design. High-wear areas have larger blocks while traction-crucial parts have smaller blocks. Probably a little over-teched, but remember this is a German brand we’re talking about. Over-teching is what they do.
There’s little touches like a 3mm (not 2.5mm) pinch bolt, durable etching indicating the left and right side, as well as a gradient to guide you to keeping the angle consistent between them. They’re also a nice, moderate length. The above mentioned Sensus Meaty paws are a close second behind the GA2 Fats, but they’re very long. Because of my preference to ride out on the edge of the grips, some brake levers (most significantly, current-generation Shimano levers) don’t reach far enough out to catch my index finger correctly. The Ergon GA2 Fat grips work for me with any brake lever, with even room to spare if I ever need to get creative with a dropper lever or remote lockout.
That happens to be the setup I use on my Scott Ransom, where the grips pictured here have lived for the better part of a year. But taking them off for a photo was an excuse to slide on a pair of freshies. Which is another thing I like about these. The soft compound makes a brand new pair feel already worn-in, even to my giant, sensitive hands.
Photos: Anthony Smith