Hey Mountain Bikers! Are you finding your hands are getting a bit crampy on longer excursions? Well check this out. Coming straight out of the mountain bike paradise that is Boulder, Colorado, is a new take on the handlebar grip called Sushi Grips.
The Sushi Grip is the brainchild of Sean Madsen, a world-renown cycling biomechanics expert who has worked with 4 Tour de France winners, over two dozen UCI World Champions, 4 Kona Ironman victors and over 12,000 athletes of all abilities during a career spanning 20 years. So the guy knows a thing or two about getting people comfy on their bikes. Like many innovations, his is now looking for funding through Kickstarter. Luckily though, I was able to get my hands on a pre-production sample. Do they live up the term revolutionary? Let’s find out!
Out of the box, they do certainly look a little different. After all, they do have an integrated side wing that is reminiscent of ye olde bar-end days…without reminding you of a guard from a motocross bike. The slightly conical grip with a flattened surface is what really sets this apart though. This is where the comfort comes in. The wing is supposed to help with control.
My pre-production sample were 3-D printed out of reinforced nylon. The eventual production versions will have a softer, textured 3mm surface on them to help enhance grip and comfort even more, but I could already tell this could be something interesting. But first, I had to get them on the bike!
The grips themselves fit just a little differently than your standard lock-on grip. Instead of sliding your bar all the way flush on the outside, these have about 2.5” (65mm) of handle that extends beyond the end of the bar. This requires a narrower bar, so you can either modify your existing bar or rummage through the old parts bin. The additional length beyond the bar is there so that the grip can narrow down to a smaller diameter than being wrapped around the bar would allow. …kind of like a sushi wrap!
But, actually installing them is just as simple as any other lock-on grip. Slide them on until the bar hits the end, tighten the bolt, and you’re good to go. I managed to do a full bar swap and grip install in about 30 minutes, and that was with fighting a hex bolt that was partially rounded out on my old grips. You’ll want to do a little adjusting on the actual position of the grip before you tighten them down, but if you start with the nubs back to you just a touch from vertical, you’ll find your sweet spot pretty quick.
There’s really only one way to see how a grip fares – Get out and ride!! It worked out really well that the weather cleared up after receiving the grips (and a pre-cut bar) in the mail. After a solid week of soaking, the trails were a bit wet in the more exposed areas. Thankfully, things dried out pretty quick.
The first trail was a pretty calm but twisty little bark-chip trail that winds its way through some tall poplars and along a river bank for about 4 miles. While the grips currently lack any padding on the surface, it was never missed with gloves I had on, and the shape fit well in my hand. Pushing through corners was easy and during the longer straight stretches the flatter top surface was appreciated as it gave a little extra surface area to lean on. The initial run was comfortable and in control the whole time.
A couple of days later, it was time for to hit a little more challenging trail. Zigzagging down the side of a local hill, this trail is all about that maintaining that tenacious balancing act of speed and control…unless, of course, you LIKE to go careening off into the brush. Soft, banked corners following a straight stretches where you pick up a ton of speed…back and forth, over and over; lather, rinse, repeat.
When using my oversized downhill grips in the past, I’d be lucky if my hands didn’t feel like they were ready to explode by the end of the run. I’m happy to report, with the Sushi Grip, it was different. While there was still a just a slight bit of cramping at the end, it was nothing like what I have experienced in the past.
Just as important, the feeling of control that is part of the point of these grips is definitely there. The combination of conical shaping and the wing gives a feeling of security and connectedness with the bar that isn’t quite there with standard grips. While I was initially a little concerned about the grip being, perhaps, a little flexible since the bar doesn’t extend through the entirety of the grip, I experienced ZERO movement through rough terrain or leaning hard into turns – the Sushi Grips were solid performers.
So, are they worth it? At an entry point of $40 on Kickstarter, the Sushi Grip occupies a price point that is less than premium ergo-style grips, but a bit more than standard lock on grips. They certainly feel a lot better than standard grips though! To me, the feel is worth it. Just keep in mind you will either need to modify your bar to accommodate for how these install on the bar, or consider the $100 option on their Kickstarter that includes a new aluminum bar chosen to your specification.