People have been telling me “you gotta try the Ergons!” for a long time now, but I wasn’t drinking the Purplesaurus Rex Kool Aid. The things looked just plain goofy and I knew from the small amount of research I’d done that they were heavy as hell (compared to a minimalist-hand-shredding-foam-grip). Then it happened: I won a pair of Ergon GR2’s out at the Breck Epic a little while back, and while I was tempted to sell them for an immense profit, I opted to give them a try. And what better way to try out a new, potentially horrible hand-crippling product than by “rockin’ it” at a five day stage race in North Carolina!
Find out how my love-hate-love relationship with these grips developed in Pisgah after the break…
Photo cred: Brad O Allen
My bike had been in the travel case since the Breck Epic, marinating in a mixture of spilled energy drink and Colorado dust. The only real reason I took it out of itsÂ stinking, plastic, coffin before heading down to Brevard, North Carolina for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race was this: I had to install my new-weird-grips that I was probably going to hate. I kind of imagined that this experiment, this trial by fire, was going to go something like my “using a wing bar for cyclocross” experience. Which actually went fine…until I had to bunny-hop an obstacle (the word THUD! comes to mind). Without my thumbs hooked, I was simply unable to pull up the front end of my bike in a proper bunny-hopping fashion. So those bars came off rather quickly. My prediction was that I might have a similar problem with the Ergons, but, for the first time in my entire life, I was wrong.
I got one test-ride in out in the woods near my house before lining up for the first stage of the PMBSR, it went well. In contradiction to my prediction, I was able to bunny-hop logs and rocks as well as I ever could (think Danny Macaskill if he were castrated and drunk). That, and the comfort-thing was pretty noticeable, I really felt like my hands were getting a break during the whole ride. The grips also worked fine on the first stage of the PMBSR. Problem was that just about the entire stage was uphill and the grips were so heavy that they caused me to finish next to DFL in my category. Or maybe the ten extra pounds I’m carrying in the form of a hairy, flaccid, spare tire around my mid-section was more to blame for that. Who knows.
The real problem was that I had yet to descend a gnarly descent on the grips and the first time I did, things got interesting.
Coming down the Squirrel Gap descent on stage 2 I began to feel that something was off, but I couldn’t pin-point what it was. I thought it maybe had more to do with me and perhaps a sudden attack of acute-ineptitude than anything to do with my equipment. Then, while plummeting down the Black Mountain descent like a run-away shopping cart, I figured out what it was: the angle of the Ergons was putting my hands in an awkward position, a position where they couldn’t quite grip the bar and operate the brake levers simultaneously. They were simply angled too far back, a position that was fine for riding on flat ground and climbing, but apparently near-deadly for steep-descending.
While an experience like that would cause most people to remove the offending piece of equipment immediately, I am much slower and dumber than most people, so I kept the grips on. My logic: Dejay Birtch rides Ergons and Dejay drops me like a wet baby on descents. That thought alone caused me to keep them on for another day, and it was ultimately the right choice. I checked in with some other riders around the venue who were using Ergons, they all told me variations the same thing: “Ya, you gotta angle ’em forward a lot steeper than that.” So I tried that. On Stage 3 I knew we would be descending the infamous Farlow Gap, a belligerent-rock-slide of a downhill that eats people alive and forces even the toughest pros to walk sections…an awesome place to test out my new-improved grip angle! But lucky for me, I got it right, the angle was perfect, and my descent down Farlow was by far the best of my three attempts at the thing. I even remember getting to the bottom alive and thinking “my hands, they feel so…refreshed.”
In the end I found the Ergon GR2’s to be incredibly comfortable, I experienced no serious hand-fatigue during five days of brutally hard racing over rocks and roots and all sorts of craziness . The bar end portion of the grip worked very well, it is super-easy to transition from the grip up onto them and back. The bar end is also autonomous of the grip â€” it can be pivoted freely independent of the angle of the grip. The angle of the grip…that’s the only real issue I had, otherwise these grips are awesome and,Â small weight penalty be damned, I will be keeping them on my bike. The comfort pay-off far outweighs the, er, weight trade-off.