Posted by Jonathan "J.R" Reed on March 15th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
As a custom frame builder, I pay a lot of attention to the distances between the three primary contact points that a rider shares with their bicycle — their saddle, pedals, and grips. The millimeters in between guide my decision making from design to assembly. Component and accessory designer Ergon concerns itself, not only with where you connect to the bike but how your body interfaces with the bike in an effort to let you ride with maximum efficiency and comfort. Ergon, based outside Koblenz, Germany has been developing ergonomically designed handlebar grips and winning design awards for them since 2004.
“The cork provides a soft feel without being crumbly, slippery or mushy, even after lots of time in the rain.”
I’ve been using Ergon’s GP1 Biokork lock-on grips for three months and I’m very pleased with their style, performance and comfort*. I never gave lengthy consideration to grips (other than to wonder what good an embossed rubber logo does for the rider) and I was skeptical about these relatively large, oddly shaped handlebar grips for one main reason: I worked in a bike shop whose rental fleet used similarly shaped grips (by a different company) and the mushy rubber globs never stayed where I put them.
With this bias in mind, I broke into the Biokork’s recycled packaging and decided if the folks at Ergon make grips as solid as their display boxes, I’m in for a treat.
I chose to install the natural cork handles on my cargo bike, wondering if the swept back city bars would clash with Ergon’s intended use. They did not and with one minor rotational adjustment for optimal wrist position (see image) I was on my way. Immediately, I noticed they felt firm and supportive, but not awkwardly large. (The GP1 Biokork comes in 2 sizes and I tested the large ones.) The cork provides a soft feel without being crumbly, slippery or mushy, even after lots of time in the rain. Some darkening has occurred which doesn’t detract from their appearance and the aluminum lock-on has not budged from where I like it.
At around $40, these aren’t the cheapest grips on the market and the bling factor may not be as high as Brooks or Portland Design Works. However, Ergon’s mountain bike racing origins have driven them to excel at grip performance and, well, ergonomics. The result is a noticeable increase in comfort and control. This particular model utilizes sustainably harvested Portuguese cork, vegetable oil based rubber and a grass fiber compound inner core. Its inherent hypoallergenic quality isn’t much of a selling point for me but it’s nice to see companies working hard at thoughtful lifecycle production rather than just painting their stuff green.
The GP1 Biokorks are meant for a variety of handlebars with standard 22.2mm diameters and would make a fine upgrade, particularly for city or commuter bikes with swept or straight bars. The variety of handlebar grip designs available from Ergon is amazing, sixteen by my count, in three categories ranging in retail price from $30-$130.
It is worth noting that I also installed a set of Ergon GR2 grips from the same Performance-Comfort series on a customer’s bike and her response was an immediate and enthusiastic, “Wow!”. I will not be getting those back. I look forward to using Ergon products on future bike builds because the quality and design complement the ergonomic fit I strive to achieve with each frame.
You can find Ergon products at many local bicycle retailers. Ask to demo a bike with these installed and I think you will be convinced.
*Ergon provided this product at no cost and is a supporter of BikePortland.