What are Spirgrips?
The Spirgrips are two handles placed between your grips and brake/ shifter controls on your mountain bike handlebar. The intention, like traditional bar ends, is to create a comfortable alternative to the handlebar grips. The Spirgrips also claim to have an ergonomic shape that further eases the strain on the rider hands.
The Spirgrips are mountable without having to remove your existing grips thanks to the hinged system. In my case, all I had to do was make a bit of space by moving the dropper seatpost lever. A pair of Spirgrips weighs 120 grams.
The only point of the setup that might require adjustment is the angle of the handles. It is worth having a multitool in your back pocket on the first ride just to fine tune the position to your personal preference.
The bar end stigma
It’s real. I was not aware just how much emotion they evoke until I stuck the Spirgrips onto my handlebars. The number of odd looks and riders that said they’d never put “those” on their bike was astounding. To be fair, the Spirgrips do look a little odd on a modern mountain bike, like the horns of a small bokkie. But for those seeking functional comfort over cool factor, the Spirgrips might be a solution.
On the trail
Control: On my first ride with the Spirgrips, I set off along the Constantia greenbelts. Not exactly the ultra-endurance event that you might associate with the need for comfort but the winding urban singletrack gave me an excellent sense of the handling the Spirgrips provide. And it’s good. I was able to navigate the entire route while holding the Spirgrip handles. I could even perform a somewhat subdued bunny hop.
In the Spirgrip position, there are some speed and gear control drawbacks. Riding along straight and open routes, the braking was decent for adjusting speed with your index or middle finger. But for harder braking, like on single track or an emergency stop, the Spirgrips position lacked the leverage you get from having your hands on the handlebar. Changing gears required some contortion of the fingers. I could shift down (this would be much easier with a Shimano RapidFire shifter) but for shifting up, I needed my thumb, which while on the Spirgrips is pointing away from the shifter and completely useless for the task.
Comfort: I found the Spirgrip position to be a comfortable relief on my hands and upper body. Holding a traditional mountain bike grip and supporting your weight flattens the palm’s natural arch. I have been told by bike fit experts that this is a significant cause of hand discomfort on mountain bikes.
On the Spirgrips, however, the hand wraps around the shaped handle maintaining that arch with much of the weight being placed on the area between the thumb and index finger and not on your palm. A welcome change from the usual pressure points on the hand. I did wonder about a slightly longer version of the Spirgrips, having large hands, a few more millimetres of length could easily have been used.
The Spirgrips position also provides welcome relief to the arms and shoulders. By turning the hands inwards by 45 degrees (give or take) your elbows tucked in towards the torso and the shoulders drop slightly. It is similar to riding on the hoods on a road bike. I am not sure whether it is a more efficient position for the body or simply the alternative riding style, but I found a comfort in this position. Plus, there are probably some aerodynamic advantages that come with moving the arms inward. The change from handlebars to Spirgrips quickly becomes natural. I found myself unconsciously switching between the two during a ride. Interestingly, I frequently found myself reaching for the Spirgrips on steeper climbs and leveraging through them for power.
In the end
The Spirgrips provide the rider with a different position in which to ride, and with it noticeable relief. Holding the Spirgrips is comfortable and the control from this position is surprisingly good. The only drawback being limited braking and shifting capabilities, which a quick transition back to the bars will solve. If you’re spending lots of uncomfortable hours on the bike, Spirgrips are certainly an option to consider.