For years, ESI has been the benchmark and trendsetter in silicone mountain bike grips. Sitting at a comparable weight to foam grips, but with greater shock absorbency, improved durability and better grip (especially when wet); silicone grips are now offered (you might say copied) by numerous other brands and are used by the majority of cross country and marathon pros.
The original ESI silicone grips have been a long-time favourite of mine, and so I was eager to learn more when ESI released a contoured version – the Fit. This new shaped grip is available in either a thicker ‘XC’ version or a thinner ‘CR’ version.
For those that know ESI grips, the CR version is the thickness love child of the Chunky and Racer’s Edge grips. The thicker XC is more a mix of the Extra Chunky and Chunky grips. With less material, the CRs weigh 55g for a pair, with the XC at about 10g more.
Varying thickness grip, that's Fit
Where the standard ESI grips feature a straight, yet subtly ovalised shape, the Fit models are quite different. Here, the round profile grips are divided into three distinct zones of thickness along the generous 130mm length. The thickest part of the grip is at the outside (where the bars are widest), where shock-absorbing comfort is provided for your palms. The innermost part of the grip provides a step which is said to provide bar control in turns, while the middle of the grip tapers down, something that is said to be ideal for driving ‘power on climbs’.
While it did at first release, ESI no longer makes any hand pressure relief boasts. Instead, the Fit grips are claimed to be all about improved bike control through natural hand placement.
Like saddles, grips can be highly personal items. My preference to date has been for the thinner ESI Racer’s Edge grip – bar feel is improved and the lack of bulk allows more finger wrap with my medium-size hands. Grip thickness is mostly about hand size, but it’s not only limited to that.
I preferred the thinner Fit CR grips
With that, I felt at home on the thinner Fit CR grips. Being able to move my hand along the length of the grip for a slightly different hold and associated elbow bend can provide subtle relief from fatigue. The additional thickness at the palm is a nice touch too.
However, sit your hand in between the dips wrongly and its possible to actually increase hand pressure. It’s easy enough to shuffle the hand away, but you may not know you’ve got it wrong until discomfort sets in.
Additionally, I didn’t notice any improvements in bike handling over my regular thin ESI’s. It’s possible that if you like a thicker grip, the thinner sections of the Fit grips will provide you with better handling without losing that palm padding.
From a bike fit point of view, the raised outer portion of these grips may actually tilt your hands in an opposite direction to ideal. The Fit grips also go against the ergonomic opinions from the likes of Specialized, which say the solution is to spread the load across the whole hand. While I didn’t experience any issues, it’s plausible that these grips could accentuate hand numbness and similar issues.
Personally, after months of use I’m still unsure if these varying thickness Fit grips are just a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. At times I love being able to slide my hand along and receive a different grip, but the discomfort if my hand is placed wrongly between the tapers isn't a good thing. I’ll continue to be an ESI grip user, but I’ll be going back to the originals.
Priced a little higher than straight-shaped ESI grips, the US-made Fit CR grips are available in black, aqua, green, orange (pictured) and red.