Choosing Mountain Bike Grip Diameter – Step by Step Instructions + Tips/Tricks


The internal diameter dimension of bike grips has been standardized to fit just about any mountain bike handlebar. However, grips come in a number of different lengths and outer diameters in order to suit the riders’ different preferences. We’ll help you determine the right mountain bike grip diameter based on your technical specs as well as your preferences in this article. 

To choose a mountain bike grip diameter, first measure the outer diameter of the handlebar to confirm that the handlebar uses standard sizes. Then determine the external mountain bike grip diameter based on hand size, grip thickness, and the type of terrain you intend to ride on. 

Step 1. Measure Inside Diameter of Handlebar

The internal diameter for standard mountain bike grips is 22.2 mm. If your handlebar looks overly large in the middle, it’s probably 31.8mm at that location. However, you’ll want to confirm the grip diameter needed at the edges of the handlebar. 

You can measure the inside diameter of the handlebar with a vernier caliper. If you don’t have a caliper, then simply use a measuring tape. This digital vernier caliper from Amazon is easy to use and will ensure a reliable and accurate measurement. 

Wrap the measuring tape around the bar at the point where it attaches to the grips to get the circumference size, then divide by pi (3.1415) to get the diameter. 

Use a caliper to measure mountain bike grip diameter
A digital vernier caliper will give an accurate measurement of the handlebar’s outer diameter. Measure at the location near the current grips because the center may have a different “bulge” diameter. Image Source: Knog.

Step 2. Determine External Mountain Bike Grip Diameter Based on Hand Size

The outer diameter of the grips is important for the rider to have a comfortable ride while wrapping his hands around the bars.

People with smaller hands will find a larger diameter grip too big and uncomfortable to hold, whereas riders with larger hands will find it hard to hold a smaller diameter grip steadily. 

You’ll need to use a chart like the one on the image below for grip measurement. First, place your hand on the chart and align the top of the middle finger with the tip of the arrow drawn on the chart. Next, spread your thumb out a little to the side, and mark the bend of the thumb (the point between the thumb and the index finger). Read the size on the chart and select the appropriate grip size accordingly.  

Remember, your hands should be totally relaxed and able to maintain a good hold of the grip.

A hand grip chart will help you determine the right mountain bike grip size for your hand
A hand grip chart will determine the size grip best suited to your hand size. Image Source: SQ Lab.

You might also want to take a look at our guide to mountain bike grip sizes with tips and tricks to find more useful information when buying new grips for your bike.

Step 3. Determine Grip Thickness Based on What Terrain You Ride on

Not only does the thickness of the grips depend on your hand size, but also on the type of terrain you ride on. Fat grips can be tempting because they are well cushioned, and designed for shock absorption when riding on rocky roads and downhills. They give you much better bike handling, and provide more support and less arm pump during riding. However, they may end up being uncomfortable after a few miles because you might find that your hands are slipping. 

Thinner grips, on the other hand, don't fatigue your forearms and hands. So they allow you to ride comfortably for a longer time on flat terrain without bumps. The theory is that the wider the grip’s diameter, the less tightly you have to grip it and the less energy being driven back up through your arms. This article from OhioLink titled, “Towards the Prevention of Handlebar Palsy: The Contribution of Handlebar Shape and Road Grade on Localized Hand Pressures,” goes into tremendous detail about the injuries that can result from improper hand grips on bicycles. 

Your typical ride terrain affects what kind of grip you should choose
Mountain bike trails are uneven and you can jolt and injure your joints if your bike isn’t properly equipped and customized. Image Source: Culture Trip.

The chart below will give you some examples of choosing mountain bike grip diameter based on your needs. 

Handlebar Outer Diameter (same as grip inner diameter) What Kind of Terrain You Ride On Other Considerations Example From Amazon Reasons to Choose This Grip  Price
22.2mm (standardized for most mountain bikes) Casual Trail and Road Riding    Prettyia Skid-Proof Rubber At 25 mm outer diameter, it’s a bit easier to grip this. During casual riding, you shouldn’t need to grip tightly so these thicker grips will be comfortable. ~$10
22.2mm Light-Med Trail Riding You feel pain in your arm after a ride HQdeal 1 Pair Universal Bike Handlebar Grips This is a thin grip (22.2mm) which leads to less stress on your arm because you won’t grip as tightly. It’s also soft, and anti-slip and includes some shock absorption.  ~$10
22.2mm Med-Heavy Trail Riding No arm pain or fatigue in your hands/grip after a ride Race Face Lock-On Grippler Grips At 30mm thickness, these are comfortable to grip and thick enough to absorb most of the shock you would feel. They’re also great for sweaty hands. ~$35

You may also be interested in learning about our 5 tips to choose mountain bike grip adhesive as well. Make sure to take a look at that related article as well.

Tips to Choose Bike Grip Length & Width

Apart from choosing the right size and thickness for your grips, you should also take into account the grip length and width.

Tips to choose a bike grip length and width include picking a shorter grip for smaller hands, selecting longer grips to be able to adjust hand positions during the ride, and choosing standard grips along with narrower handlebars to maneuver more quickly. 

Tip 1. Shorter Grips Are Better For Smaller Hands  

Most mountain bike grips range in length from 90mm to 150mm. 90 mm grips are generally used for bikes that are equipped with grip shifters. You may also want 90mm grips if you have smaller hands because brake levers and gear shifters are closer, allowing you to reach and operate the controls easily. 150mm grips are the standard length for bikes without grip-shifters.

Therefore, find a length that works with your brake/shifter combo and allows you to ride comfortably with your index finger resting and ready on the brake lever.

Tip 2. Longer Grips Are Better For Different Riding Positions  

Some riders like to slide their hands inward and outward while in different riding positions. These riders may actually benefit from better control with a wider bar & consequently also need longer grips that are 150mm in length. Read our article on mountain bike sizing, where one of the topics we cover is factors that affect your riding position on a mountain bike. 

Tip 3. Narrower Handlebars Are Easier To Maneuver. Choose Standard Grip Length Even With Narrower Handlebars. 

A narrower handlebar makes it easier to maneuver the bike because you don’t have to move your arm as much to get the same amount of movement. On the other hand, a wider bar forces you to move your arm more in order to get the same amount of turning capability. This makes your ride more stable. 

You may think that you need the shorter mountain bike grips for shorter handlebars, but you don’t. Short grips are really designed for grip shifters. Most standard 150mm grips will fit the narrower handlebars. 

Read our complete guide on carbon mountain bikes versus aluminium mountain bikes for more information on other factors and material that affect handling. 

Other Things to Consider When Picking Mountain Bike Grips 

You can find a grip for almost any ride. Here we’ll consider other factors that might affect your grip choice besides the diameter and thickness. 

Other things to consider when picking mountain bike grips include the texture of the grip, the terrain you ride on, the grip material, and the grip style. 

Grip Texture

There are various mountain bike grip textures and patterns. They can be soft, medium, hard, tacky, smooth or a combination of these characteristics. The soft and tacky ones are designed to give riders the best connection with their grips. Both of these are great choices for riders who wear thin gloves or none at all, as they have a sticky feel and can reduce trail vibrations. However, they can wear out easily. When choosing soft handlebar grips like these ones from Amazon, consider also buying riding gloves like these

Medium grips that are made from a firmer material (not tacky or soft) provide better control and durability. These medium handlebar grips have carbon-friendly clamps to make installation easier.  

Hard grips are for riders who enjoy longer and harder rides in rocky terrain. Harder grips are much more durable, and they reduce vibrations, but you may feel more energy transfer to your hands and get a better “feel” for the terrain. These hard handlebar grips are durable and have shock absorbing components as well. 

What Kind Of Terrain You Ride On

You should also choose your mountain bike grips based on what kind of terrain you ride on. For those who are fans of rocky, bumpy roads and like to go downhill, we advise getting thicker and medium-to-hard grips in order to absorb vibrations. Some grips have a hard core and a soft outside which provides comfort as well as durability. You should also consider getting lock-on grips to keep the grips from slipping off the bars, which is a very common problem with slip-on style grips. 

Conversely, if you ride flat terrain more often and go for really long rides, then thinner grips would be better for you, especially if you wear gloves. Holding on to thin grips is easier on your grip muscles and you can ride longer. However, you will feel a connection with your bike and the terrain more when using thinner grips. Silicone and foam grips are a good way to go. An ergonomic grip or integrated bar ends like these will also help take pressure off of your wrists on long rides.

Grip Materials

Bike grips come in different materials such as rubber, silicone, Kevlar, foam, and others. 

Most grips are made from rubber or rubber-like material. Synthetic materials generally manage moisture by repelling it while natural materials and foam tend to absorb moisture. Rubber and rubber-like grips offer various degrees of softness. Softer rubber grips tend to grip better, even if you are not wearing gloves, but will degrade more quickly than a harder, less sticky rubber.

Foam grips have excellent vibration damping properties, and slightly conform to your hand shape. Most of them are oval-shaped and come in different colors. Foam grips like these from Amazon slide on the handlebar like a sleeve, and do not have any lock on collars or integrated bars at the end.

Silicone grips are popular for cross-country riding and touring, as they provide a balance between comfort and durability. Silicone handlebar grips like these offer a high level of shock absorption with very minimal weight.

Contrary to what you might expect, Kevlar grips are typically soft. They offer a very tacky feel and this allows you to grip better during challenging trails. Here are some Renthal grips which have 6082 T6 locking collars and end caps. 

Grip Style

There are two types of grips: slip-on and lock-on.

Slip-on grips are basic. You just slip them onto the ends of the handlebars. They stay on using friction and a compression fit. They are also lighter than other grips, which is more suitable for gram-counting cross-country riders. If your grip keeps coming loose, you may need to keep slide-on grips in their place using glue or wire. Slip-on grips also tend to perform well during dry seasons but start slipping in wetter seasons. 

Lock-on grips feature small metal collars, either at one end or at both ends, which tightly lock the grip to the bars. They are heavier and more expensive than slip on grips, and can sometimes be uncomfortable for riders who like to rest their hands on the ends of the bars. Lock-on grips either have a single lock ring or a dual lock ring. Riders who like using the outer edge of their grips may find single lock-ring grips more comfortable. Those who place their hands more towards the middle can go with either style. Dual lock-ring grips like these feel the most secure since they can be tightened to the handlebars. Single lock-rings like these are a bit less secure since they can occasionally develop movement on the non-lock-ring side.

Double lock on grips like these prevent slipping
Here are some double-lock on grips from Eastern Power (the “CNC” locations are the locks). As opposed to slip-on grips, lock on grips have rings that tighten onto the handlebar that prevent slipping. Double lock on grips like these prevent movement on both sides of the grip and tend to slip the least amount. Image from Amazon.

You're also going to be interested to find out which mountain bike grips to purchase for numbness. Our related article can help! Once you find the perfect grips, make sure to also read our step-by-step guide to mountain bike grip installation too.

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