21 April 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: ESI Chunky silicone grips

Brace yourselves for the world's first unenthusiastic ESI grip review. I know- everybody loves Extreme Steering Inc's silicone grips. Could that be why I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed?

I first came across silicone foam grips at Interbike a couple of years ago. Though I didn't pick a pair up at the time, the company's pitch was convincing enough that it stuck with me. ESI claim that their grips' silicone foam material is durable, damps vibration, and conforms to the hands. In fact, they've come up with a clever backronym to tout the grips' benefits:
  • Shock absorbing
  • Installs easily
  • Long lasting
  • Increased bar control
  • Conforms to hands
  • Optimum for all conditions
  • No seal to break
  • Extreme grip
While the "no seal to break" bit had (and still has) me scratching my head, it all sounded pretty appealing for a big-day rider such as myself. As an added bonus (far behind comfort and control concerns), the thick "Chunky" model weighs only 60g/pr (saving 35g over my favorite Ritchey True Grip Vs). Late last fall, friends were ditching their Lock-Ons left and right after one of the guys pulled a pair out of a shop's bargain bin in Sedona. I asked a number of them what they thought and the response was unanimous: ESI grips were the bomb.

This winter, with a 24-hour race on the horizon, I decided to give the ESIs a go. Taking the advice of a friend whose ESIs were spinning (he thought that he'd stretched his by using an air compressor to install), I used isopropyl alcohol to wet the grips and slid them onto the bars of my cross country bike. Though it's hard to see without looking for it, the grips centers are eccentric to their outside diameters to allow a bit more padding between the palm and the bar. Beyond that, the Chunky grips are featureless cylinders. I mentioned being concerned about this to ESI at the show but was told that they Conform to the rider's hands after a time. The grips are a nice 5 1/4in in length, reducing that unsightly gap that can often be found between brake levers and grips.

Between the Extreme Steering grips and some fancy new ergonomic gloves, I was expecting to be transported to another plane of metacarpal bliss. While they're not uncomfortable, I can't say that I feel the ESI grips have delivered on their many promises. The silicone foam just isn't as soft as the rubber used in modern dual-compound grips. It may be psychological, but the lack of texture or shaping means that I find myself hanging on to the ESIs just a bit tighter than other grips, especially in technical conditions, which can make my hands tire more quickly. As you can see from the photos, the grips haven't taken on any shape, despite well over 100 hours' riding.

Why, then, are they so darn popular? I have to think that ESI's success is a result of lock-on grips'. As many riders have shifted to grips consisting of a thin layer of rubber over a hard plastic core, they've forgotten what comfortable grips feel like. After a couple months, I went back to my friends with ESIs and asked what what those had replaced. Without exception, the riders raving the most about their Chunkies were those who'd come from lock-on grips.

At $19 for a pair, I really don't feel that the ESI Chunky grips deliver any more comfort than most $7 rubber grips. In fact, I find them less comfortable (though not by as much as most Lock-Ons). At least they don't seem to move when properly installed. Anyone looking for a bit of additional comfort would do well to try the Ritchey True Grip V. If weight is the priority, $12 isn't a bad premium to shed 35g (we've all probably spent more to save less) without compromising too much comfort. I'm guessing that it's with racers that ESI are likely to find the most success (they make a thinner 50g "Racer's Edge" model as well). For riders looking to increase control and comfort, however, there are better and less expensive alternatives available.



1 comment:

rrguezz said...