Want to start an argument? Try to tell your racing buddies what the best grip is. There are as many opinions on grips as there are grip companies—and no one knows how many grip companies there are, because new ones pop up every day. Addtionally, the big grip companies make so many different models that the actual number of grip choices numbers into the hundreds.
As a rule, MXA does not change the stock grips on its test bikes. We want each test rider to feel the complete package as it rolls off the showroom floor. Once the stock grips wear out or get torn in a crash, however, the test rider of record gets to put his favorite grips on the bike. As you would imagine, this process doesn’t sit well with the next MXA rider on the test schedule. He wants his favorite grip instead, so we let the next test rider change to his favorite grip. Since as many as seven test riders will race each bike, this goes on like a crazy game of musical chairs. Grips galore.
To try to understand this phenomenon better, we asked Daryl Ecklund, John Basher, Jody Weisel and Dennis Stapleton to tell us why their favorite grip is their favorite. Here are their gripping tales.
RENTHAL KEVLAR DUAL-COMPOUND TAPERED GRIPS BY JOHN BASHER
“Kids say the darndest things. Case in point: when I was a wee lad, I told my parents that I wanted a Kevlar tank, because I thought it would be indestructible. No one would bully a pimple-faced kid in a Kevlar tank. Why the U.S. military hadn’t constructed such a marvel of technological warfare was beyond my comprehension. I was enamored with Kevlar. It turns out that I still am.
“Renthal introduced Kevlar dual-compound grips in 2006. They weren’t heavy pieces of artillery, but I still had to have them. Fortunately, Renthal’s headquarters is right down the street from the palatial MXA towers. I rushed over and got my hands on the bulletproof grips. I immediately liked everything about them. The natural rubber color was different from the traditional black, white and gray offerings. The half-waffle pattern, with state-of-the-art dual-compound construction, blew my mind. Most important, Renthal magically injected Kevlar resin into the rubber.
“The Kevlar dual-compound tapered grips ($19.95, www.renthal.com) aren’t bulletproof, but they’re pretty darn close. They are my preferred grip out of any on the market because they wear like iron and fit my hands perfectly. Grips that stand the test of time are typically made out of uncomfortably hard rubber. Not so with the Kevlar grip. A soft outer section of rubber keeps my soft-as-an-accountant’s hands from sustaining extensive wear, while the inner carcass is incredibly durable. Renthal covered all the angles, evidenced by the grip ends having a protective lip of firm rubber to prevent the grip from tearing in a tip-over. Brilliant!
“Some riders prefer full-waffle grips, while others like a full-diamond pattern. I’m a middle-of-the road kind of guy, because I like a half-waffle pattern with a diamond design. The added traction keeps my fingers from blowing off the handlebars while hurtling down a rough straight. I wear large size-10 gloves, so I like a rather thick grip. A full-diamond grip is too small, whereas a full-waffle is too bulbous. The Renthal Kevlar dual-compound tapered grip is just right.
“Renthal makes two versions of its Kevlar grip: standard and tapered dual-compound. The original standard grip has a smooth surface, whereas the tapered grip has diamonds that taper down from large at the thumb area to regular-sized at the end of the grip. Renthal believes that it mirrors a closed fist, which equates to the highest level of staying power for your hands. I can’t argue with that.
“Next to cleaning air filters, installing grips is my least favorite pastime. Grip glue is messy. I probably put 100 sets of grips a year on test bikes, and I always use too much grip glue. It gets everywhere. Not only that, installing grips properly is a race against time. The grips must be set in the desired position before the adhesive dries. It’s a harrowing ordeal. I wish that Renthal would introduce a lock-on grip system. Even so, I’ll always bite the bullet and wrestle the Renthal grips on. Why? Just the way my favorite pillow cushions my head perfectly, the Renthal Kevlar dual-compound tapered grips make me feel right at home.”
EKS BRAND HALF-WAFFLE GRIPS BY DENNIS STAPLETON
“Over a lifetime of riding and racing, I have searched for the perfect grip that works in all scenarios—including mud, square-edge bumps, loam and hard pack. As a kid, I bought every kind of grip made. I was a member of the Grip-of-the-Month club. I went from the fattest, fastest grips to full-waffle grips to diamond-patterned grips to soft grips to old-school Honda full-waffles, all in hopes of eliminating arm pump and having one less excuse to tell my father why I pumped up at a six-lap local race. (My father didn’t believe any excuses, since he knew that I rode four days a week‚ yet only pumped up on the weekends.)
“When I was a test rider for Honda, I didn’t have a choice about what grips to use. I rode the bikes stock, which meant stock grips all the time. It didn’t matter what I liked, my job was to ride the bike as it came off the showroom floor. On the flip side, as an MXA test rider, I got to test every brand of bike made, and I could choose whichever grips I liked. I admit that for quite a while I played grip roulette in search of the perfect grip. Because of all this testing, I could never use the excuse of not having the parts I wanted on my bike‚ because I had access to all the parts I could dream of.
“I have realized through the process of trial and error that I like soft, single-compound, half-waffle grips with a small barrel diameter. There are lots of grips that fit this bill, but I have settled on EKS Brand grips. They conform to the shape of my hand very quickly and have that soft, sticky feel that keeps my hands secure—even when I’m not holding on tightly enough. Additionally, they come in lots of flashy colors and, at $10.99, a rider can afford to change his grip color whenever the mood strikes him.
“I have raced in all parts of the world, and when I’m in Thailand, the Philippines, Qatar or China, I don’t always get to race my own bike. Because of this, I have dealt with many crazy kinds of grips. I have had to wrap my bars with duct tape to tighten up loose grips or pour gas in the grips and toss in a handful of sand to make them stay in place. You haven’t lived until you wake up in a Timbuktu hospital because a grip flew off a borrowed bike in mid-air. These experiences make you very conscientious about your choice of grips.
“EKS Brand grips come in flo-yellow, flo-red, graphite, gum, white, black and aqua. The best thing about EKS Brand grips is that they are made from “Softidium.’ Never heard of it? Neither had we, but we’re pretty sure that it’s just a goofy marketing name.”
AME FULL-WAFFLE CLAMP-ON GRIPS BY JODY WEISEL
“My grip knowledge extends back to the good old days. In the early 1970s, my favorite grips were made from gum rubber. They didn’t have waffles or diamonds or ridges on them; they were smooth. I raced with them because the honey-colored surgical rubber was exceptionally tacky — especially against the pigskin gloves of the era. The problem? Smog ate gum rubber and caused ozone cracking. Surgical rubber grips deteriorated very quickly.
“After my surgical rubber phase, I tried every grip known to man, including Oury grips, Preston Petty Hex grips, Oakley Octopus grips and the Sunline DeGrip. The grip breakthrough of the mid-1970s was when Lance Moorewood took the ubiquitous full-waffle grip and hacked at it with a razor blade to produce the first half-waffle grip. Grip companies clamored to make their own version of Moorewood’s half-waffle grip when a photo of it appeared in MXA. And, for most of the 1980s, the half-waffle grip held sway in the motocross world.
“But, my world changed in the mid 1980s when my hand fell into the rear wheel of Jeff Hick’s Honda CR250. My left thumb was mangled and, while the doctors saved my thumb, it wouldn’t bend anymore. Once I got the 75 stitches removed and went through rehab, I had to change the way I held the throttle. Without the ability to wrap my thumb around the throttle tube, I had to hold on by jamming the juncture of my thumb and forefinger hard against the grip, turn my palm outward, and grip with my fingers only. It wasn’t easy to adjust to, but I adapted. In fact, I think my doorknob-style hand hold was a step in the right direction; however, everything about modern grips was now wrong for my hand.
“I couldn’t use full-waffle grips because a larger portion of my palm rested on the abrasive waffles. When I used half-waffle grips, my palm was half-on and half-off the waffles. Diamond grips didn’t have enough traction for a rider hanging on with just his finger tips. I preferred soft compounds for better traction, but I wore them out quickly from pressing so hard to hang on. Nothing worked—which strangely meant that I was satisfied with what was available and raced with whatever grip was on a test bike. Unlike most MXA test riders — bar bends, lever positions and grip designs don’t bother me because I attribute any issues to my thumb, not the bike.
“Finally, a solution came to me from an old source. Bob Rutten and I go back to the Hodaka days. Today, Bob works at Ame Grips and we both race at REM. One day in the pits, I told Bob about my grip problems and he said that he had a solution. It was Ame’s full-waffle clamp-on grip ($24.95, www.amegrips.com). I said, “I don’t like full-waffle grips because the ridges hurt the palm of my hand.” Bob replied, “Don’t worry. This grip has lower waffle ridges than a normal grip, and the rubber compound is very soft. It will feel like a half-waffle but with more traction for your fingers.” He was right. This is my favorite grip.”
RENTHAL FULL-DIAMOND SOFT GRIPS BY DARYL ECKLUND
“As the saying goes, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. As far back in my riding years as I can remember, I insisted on having the thinnest, softest grips on the market—grips that would conform to my hand after only a few rides. Any grips that had a waffle or were firm created blisters on my palms. The funny thing was, these hot spots on my palms only formed from the ring finger over to the pinky. My palm from the middle finger to my forefinger was smooth as a baby’s bottom.
“My search for the perfect grip always led me to the thinnest and softest compound grips on the market. I liked them because I believed they allowed my petite hands to have a full, firm grip on the bars. But, that wasn’t really it. I came to realize that I liked these grips the most when they were worn out. Everyone thought I was crazy to be running grips that were almost worn down to the bare bar, but they were only worn down on the outside of the grip where my ring and pinky finger laid. Seeing the ever-decreasing contact patch that my hand had worn into the grip didn’t ring any bells in my brain. I thought my grips were displaying normal wear and tear.
“It wasn’t until 2007 that the pieces of the puzzle came together. I was racing the AMA Supercross series, and MXA’s John Basher invited me out to do a photo shoot. As I looked at the photos on his computer, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I had John zoom in on my hand placement on the bars, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Both of my forefingers were over the grip flange. I was using my middle finger for the clutch and brake. That meant that the only fingers left to hold on to the bike were my ring finger and pinky finger. I had been holding on to my bike, over Supercross whoops, with two fingers…and the two weakest fingers at that.
“Strangely, no matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn’t break myself of my old handhold. I tried every trick in the book, but photos always revealed that my hands went right back to where they were before. I couldn’t break my bad habit. I had become an old dog who couldn’t learn a new trick. So, I took my bad habit and made the best of it. Knowing that Renthal’s full-diamond, soft-compound grips ($12.95, www.renthal.com) worked best with my misshapen grip, I started to modify them. I filed down the rubber so that the hot spots on my palm would be recessed. I made a customized “Daryl Ecklund Signature” grip.
“I have been riding for eight years now with my modified Renthal grips. As a test rider, I dread riding bikes with rock-hard stock grips, but I suffer through it. What will happen if Renthal quits making its full-diamond soft-compound grips? I’m ready for that. I’ll take a Renthal half-waffle soft-compound grip and attack it with a box cutter. It won’t be pretty, but my hands will.”