Finding the right components for your bike can feel like a never ending journey especially when those components are small and you're unable to test them before making a purchase. If you're feeling stuck in your search, read on to find out how one PNW customer took a leap of faith after finding the Loam Grips and successfully completed his hunt for the ultimate grip.
Review provided by PNW Customer and SoCal rider, Andy S.
A Quest for the Perfect Grip
How a Dusty SoCal Rider Found Great Mountain Bike Grips in the PNW Land of Loam
I doubt that a story about mountain bike grips would make the Top 100, much less Top 10, most read MTB articles in 2019. Not when much juicier topics are on offer (see: Ebikes, Downcountry, Seat Tube Angles, Reach). Nevertheless, I’ve done copious amounts of research in my (insert voice echo here): “Quest for the Perfect Grips”. Enough to consider that I may have lost my grip on reality somewhere along the way.
All’s well that ends well, though. I discovered my Holy Grail of Grips: the PNW Loam Grips. These nifty grips resolved some of my ongoing hand pain issues while delivering the combination of cushion and feel I’d been seeking for months, and they’re a fraction of the price of most grips, an important factor considering how many grips I had to buy before trying these.
Teaching an Old Dog New Grips
Before embarking on my quest, I’d happily used the same brand and model of dual ring lock-on grips for many years. At least I thought I was happy, until I started noticing post-ride pain in the outer pads of my palms. It almost felt like my palms were bruised and a bit tender, especially after a multi-lap day in the bike park.
I chalked it up to age or my 4 month recess from the bike following shoulder surgery. Regardless, this new sensation led me to focus on where, and how, I place my hands on the bars, something I hadn’t bothered to register in my previous pain-free riding days.
Living on the Edge
Once I started paying attention, I noticed that I place the outer edge of my palms outside of the grip ends while riding. Those metal outer rings on my old standby grips were sitting a good 15-20mm inside the outer edge of my palms. Not coincidentally, that’s right where my post-ride soreness was cropping up.
At the time I was also experimenting with bar width (another hot topic online). I noticed that no matter how wide my bars were, from 780mm down to my preferred 740mm, I’d run my hands outboard of the grips.
The solution seems simple, right? Ditch the dual-ring grips for a single ring model. But my old standby grips weren’t available in a single ring version. I was facing a chasm of fear and uncertainty. What brand, style, durometer, and diameter of grips would eliminate this soreness while keeping the comfort and grip-feel I knew and loved?
Spending Green on Grips
It's definitely a first world problem, but most grips are pretty expensive, and you have to buy them, install them and ride them to find out if they’re The Ones.
I’m here to tell you, the market for slightly used grips is a bit soft. You've gotta invest in the research though - grips are arguably the first or second most important contact point on a bike, especially when you’re pointed downhill.
I tried no less than five different grips from five different brands and with well over $150 and multiple rides invested, I still hadn’t found the right match. My outer palm pain was pretty much gone, but the cushioning and feel of these newcomers didn’t cut it.
Breaking Through the Clutter
The usual clutter on my workbench slowly became dotted with the colors and styles of failed grip experiments; A festive, colorful reminder of my many attempts to solve my problem.
One day, while researching handlebar options (again, looking for solutions), I came across the PNW Components website and checked out their new Loam Grips. At around ½ the price of several of the grips I’d tried so far in my search, I pulled the trigger and bought a pair.
The Cement Gray color was my first choice, but they were sold out, proof that I have good taste in color. So I went with black, the classic practical choice that’s easy to swap between different color bikes. I’m hoping they add purple to the family one day soon.
Hitting the Trail
I work in ecommerce so I appreciated the clean website and ease of ordering. I dig their logo too; who doesn’t like trees? The grips arrived a couple days later in a cool little box.
I slid them on my bars, tightened down the single inner ring and headed for the trail. My local loop consists of both flow and rocky trails. Short climbs followed by rowdy descents makes for great proving grounds and these grips proved their worth from ride #1.
They offer a noticeable reduction in vibration and impacts through rock gardens and they have just the right amount of give without feeling vague or squishy. I could feel what my tires were doing, which is critical on our dusty, loose over hard-pack trails. Best of all, my palms were happy during and after the ride.
After 2 months or so of riding, they still look fresh, with no noticeable breakdown or fraying. Long term durability remains to be seen, but at this price they could wear out twice as fast and I’d be no worse off!
I always ride with gloves, so I can’t speak to their performance for bare-handed riders. I’m sure someone will review or comment on that if they haven’t already.
On your own quest for the perfect grip? I recommend testing these PNW Loam Grips sooner rather than later. They might be your Holy Grail of Grips too!