Step by Step Guide to Mountain Bike Grip Installation

Properly installing good quality handlebar grips will ensure your ride is comfortable and safe. In this article we discuss mountain bike grip installation with a step-by-step guide.

To install a slip on mountain bike grip, remove the bar end plug, spray the inside of the grip with a lubricant like silicone, twist the grip off, and replace the grip and the bar end plug. To install a lock on mountain bike grip, use an allen key to loosen the screw holding the grip in place. Replace the grip and retighten the screw. 

Mountain biking is adventurous and intense, so you need to ensure that your bike is comfortable to ride over rough terrain and can safely support your body while relieving stain on your wrists. Page 11 of this article from Working, titled “Safe Cycling”, explains how to prevent hyperextending the wrist which causes finger numbness and hand weakness in riders. An essential component to having proper control of your bike and reducing hand fatigue during riding is to properly fit the correct type of handle grips to suit your specific needs. 

Mountain bike grips come in various diameters, lengths and can range from soft to harder compounds. Read our article on mountain bike grip diameters for handy tips that will help you determine what type and size grip you need. You might also find interest in our guide to mountain bike grip sizes with tips and tricks as well. A snug fitting handlebar grip shouldn’t rotate or move around on the handlebars when it is correctly installed.

Knowing when to change your grip is important too. A worn out grip can cause your hands to slip while riding which could result in a dangerous fall and severe injury. When you start to notice that the grips are shifting on the handlebars or the grips have lost their tackiness, then it is time to replace them.  In this article we discuss how to replace and properly install handlebar grips on your mountain bike. 

When installing a new mountain bike handlebar grip, it is crucial to methodically remove the previous bike grip so it doesn’t damage the surface of the handlebar. Take care to protect the surface of the handlebars, by avoiding scratching them and removing all traces of the old grips,  so that the new grips fit securely on the handlebars. The next step is cleaning the handlebar with a non-residual cleaning agent so that there are no oils or sticky residues left on the surface. When the handlebars are clean and dry, then you are ready to install the new grips on your mountain bike.

Types of Mountain Bike Grips

Mountain bike grips add extra cushioning for your hands to reduce the impact on your palms and wrist during biking excursions. 

There are two types of mountain bike grips, slip-on grips and lock-on grips. Slip-on grips have a small inner diameter and are pushed onto the handle, usually with the aid of a lubricant. Lock-on grips have locking rings on their ends which fasten the grips in place on the handlebars. 

1. Slip-on Grips

Slip on mountain bike grip installation requires you to remove the end caps.
Fabric silicone slip on handlebar grips have end caps that must be removed before replacing the grip. Source: Amazon.

Slip-on or push-on grips are soft, pliable grips for handlebars. They are made of soft pliable materials such as silicone or rubber so they can be easily installed on the handlebars. Slip-on grips have a smaller inner diameter for a tighter fit and are pushed onto the handlebars. This prevents the grip from continuously sliding or rotating on the handlebars which is hazardous and could affect your control of the bike.

Slip-on grips are generally lighter in weight compared to lock-on grips. They are often cheaper and don’t require any tools to install.  Because of their tight fit, these grips aren’t adjustable, so you need to ensure that you measure your handlebar diameter and buy the right size grip. Additionally, it is difficult to install them since they have a smaller diameter so you would need some sort of lubricant to install it on the handlebar. This rubber lubricant is recommended by many mountain biking enthusiasts, and this video will show you how to use it to install your slip-on grips. 

2. Lock-on Grips

Lock on grip installation requires an allen key to loosen the collars.
A reliable lock-on grip ensures you maintain proper control of your bike on trails. Source: Amazon.

Lock-on grips have a collar locking system that keeps the grip in place when installed on the handlebars. This collar consists of a metal ring clamp that is either placed at one or both ends of the grip. Lok-on grips with a ring on one end are called single-lock grips, and those with rings on both ends are called double-lock grips. 

A lock-on grip doesn’t simply slide on the handlebar, rather it is positioned on the handlebars and then secured in place by tightening the ring. These types of grips don’t require lubricants to install, but do need to be properly tightened with an Allen wrench. 

Lock-on grips are generally more expensive than simple slip-on grips and weigh a little more because of the metal rings. If your bike frame is made of carbon fiber then take care not to over tighten the lock-on grips so that you don’t damage the handlebars. For more information on carbon fiber mountain bikes read our article where we compare aluminium and carbon bikes

Comparison of Slip-on Versus Lock-on Mountain Bike Handle Grips.

Type of Grip Pros Cons Product Price
Slip-on Grip Cheaper than lock-on grips Can be difficult to push onto the handle bar
Use lubricant to install and uninstall these mountain bike grips
Yana Shiki yellow slip-on grips ~$5
Single Lock-on Grip Easy to install Requires an Allen wrench to tighten it Marque Mountain bike race grips ~$15
Double Lock-on Grip A more precise and custom fit is possible because the clamps can be tightened Heavier weight because there are locking rings on both ends of each grip Odi Ruffian lock-on grips ~$20-$35

No matter which type of grip you choose, you may still need adhesive from time to time. Check out our 5 tips to choose mountain bike grip adhesive to find out more information on this topic too.

You might also find interest in keeping a healthy back while riding. We have a related article will explain where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture. Additionally, make sure to check out this article detailing which mountain bike grip to purchase for numbness as well. And if you're interested in learning how to choose mountain bike grip shifters and what to do when a mountain bike grip shifter is stuck, take a look at that article as well.

Materials Needed for Slip-on Mountain Bike Grip Installation

1. Long Thin Screwdriver

A long and slim flat head screwdriver like this one from Amazon is the first tool you will need to remove the old slip-on grips and install new ones. To remove the old grips, first place the screwdriver’s head between the grip and the handlebar. While being careful not to scratch or damage the handlebars, gently push the screwdriver outwards to create a gap between the handlebar and the grip. You can either apply a lubricant or water in the gap to ease the grip off the handlebar. 

2. Mountain Bike Spray

Mountain bike spray is ideal for lubricating the inside of the slide-on grip so it can be easily pushed onto the handlebar. Spraying the inside of the grip where you create the gap—with the screwdriver—with a bike lubricant like this one will help the old grips to glide off the handlebar, and the new grips to slide on. These sprays have alcohol in them which serve as an excellent lubricant when wet, and once the spray dries out it adheres the inner surface of the grip to the handlebar and prevents the grips from twisting loose. 

3. New Slip-on Grips

Now you can install your new grips. You need to take a precise measurement of your handlebar diameter and buy a grip that will fit tightly over that diameter.  If you buy a grip with a diameter that is too small, it is going to be impossible to install it on the handlebar. Similarly, if you buy a slip-on grip with a diameter that is too large, it is always going to slide and swivel around on the handlebar defeating the purpose of a grip. You can purchase high-quality grips like these to since they’re easy to install.

How to Change Slip-on Mountain Bike Grips

Changing bike handle grips should be done when your current grips are worn out and no longer feel stable. You can also change your grips if you want ones with a more pronounced texture like the texture on these grips from Amazon, which help you maintain a secure hold on the handles while riding. This article from Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology titled, “Tactile Image of Different Grasp Types on Rubber Texture Pattern,”  investigates how various textures affect a person’s grasp. 

To change slip-on mountain bike grips, remove the bar end, edge your screwdriver under the grip, spray the inside of your existing grip, twist the grip, repeat the spraying process and twist the grip of the handle several more times until it moves freely off the handlebar. Next, spray the handlebar and inside of the new grip, slide the new grip on, let the new grip set, put on the bar end plug and repeat on the other side. 

1. Remove Bar End Plug

To change the slip-on mountain bike grips, you need to follow the step-by-step procedure usually included with the handles. The first step is to remove the bar end plug. The bar-end plug has a dual purpose. It secures the handlebar grips and prevents moisture from getting inside the handlebars and rusting the bike. Be sure to carefully remove the end plugs so that you don’t damage them. If they are damaged you can also purchase new bar end plugs from Amazon, just make sure you measure the inner diameter of the handlebars and buy the right size.

Removal of the grip bar end plug.
Remove the bar end plug first. Traditional end plugs can just be screwed off, others may require a tool. Image from Parktool.

2. Edge Your Screwdriver Under the Grip 

The next step is to edge the screwdriver under the grip. For this step, you should have a thin and long flat-headed screwdriver. Insert the head of the screwdriver between the grip and the handlebar. Once between the grip and the handlebar, lift the screwdriver up and away from the handle to create a considerable gap between the grip and the bar.  

3. Spray the Inside of Your Existing Grip

Spray lubricant into the gap between the grip and the handlebar. You should have a spray that contains alcohol like this one, so it can act as an instant lubricator for the grip. If you’d prefer not to use chemicals, you can use water instead of an alcohol. If you have an air compressor at home you can follow this video tutorial on how to use an air compressor to remove bike handle grips. 

4. Twist the Grip

The next step is to twist the grip  to loosen it from the handle bar. If you try to remove it without twisting, it will create a lot of friction, and it may be difficult for you to remove the grip. 

Twist off the mountain bike grip to replace it with a new one
Twist the grip off after applying lubricant. Image from ifixit.

5. Repeat the Spraying Process

After the first twist of the grip, you will need to lift the grip again with the screwdriver and apply the lubricant to another inside section. This will ensure that the lubricant is spreading all around the inside of the grip and along the entire handlebar surface to make it easier to slide the grip off.  

6. Twist the Grip of the Handle 

There is a lot of twisting and spraying involved in the process of removing the slip-on grip and installing the new one. When the grip is moving freely around the handlebar it will be easier to slide it off. 

7. Spray the Handlebar and the Inside of Your New Grip

Once the handlebar is bare, you need to spray a non-residual cleaning solution like this one so there is no dirt and grime on the handlebars. Once the handlebar is clean and dry, apply a fresh layer of lubricant to the handlebar and inside of the new grip. The lubricant prepares both surfaces to reduce friction as the grip is sliding on and produces a snug fit when the alcohol dries. 

8. Slide the New Grip On 

Once you have lubricated both the surfaces the grip is ready to be installed. It can help reduce friction if you twist the grip as you push it on. Work quickly to position the grip where you want it to be because once the spray dries it will be extremely difficult to reposition the grip. 

9. Let the New Grip Set

Now you need to let the new grip set on the handlebar. Don’t move it at this stage because the spray is in the process of drying, and movement could prevent it from adhering properly. Leave the grip to settle on the handlebar and let the spray evaporate. 

10. Put on the Bar End Plug & Repeat on the Other Side

The final step is to reattach the bar end plug. Securely fit the bar end plug back in position to ensure the grips are fixed in place. Then repeat the same steps on the other side. 

Materials Needed for Lock-on Mountain Bike Grip Installation

1. Allen Key

Allen key set
An allen key set is useful for installation of lock on grips since you may not be sure of the size of allen key required. Source: Amazon.

Installing a lock-on grip is simpler and easier than a slip-on grip. The only tool you need for it is the Allen key/wrench to release the old lock-on grip and put on the new grip on the handlebars. You can buy the hex Allen key set from the Amazon basics store. 

2. New Lock-on Grips

Double lock on mountain bike grip installation requires more time.
Double lock-on grips include collars on both sides so they are more resistant to slipping. However, they tend to be slightly heavier and take more time to install since you need to screw close both the collars. Source: Amazon.

Lock-On Mountain Bike Grip Installation

Installing lock-on grips is simpler than slip on grips since there is a locking mechanism that is visible and easy to work with. There’s no lubrication required because the grips aren’t held in place with friction. 

1. Use an Allen Key to Loosen the Collar Lock

An allen wrench with the right size should be able to open up your grip’s collar lock. 

Use an allen key to loosen the grip collar.
Loosen the collar locks on the lock on grips with an allen wrench. Image from ParkTool.

2. Remove the Old Lock On Grips

Your old grips should easily slide-off now. Just grab them and twist or pull them off the handlebars. 

3. Add in New Lock On Grips

Replace your old lock on grips with a new set of lock ons. Just slide on the new set. If they feel tight or are hard to put on, then you may need to loosen the collar on the new set of grips. Like we said before, a simple single-lock grip or a double-lock grip should do the trick. Here’s an example of a single lock on grip you can buy online.

4. Tighten the Collar Lock with an Allen Key

You’re done! Just use your allen wrench once again to tighten your new lock on grips. If your handlebar is made of carbon fiber, it may be more ductile than an aluminum bar, so be careful not to overtighten. 

You can test your grips as you tighten them by holding on and trying to pull outward from the handlebar. If you can’t pull them off, your grips are tight enough! 

How Often to Change Mountain Bike Grips 

How frequently you change your bike grips will depend on how often you ride your bike and what type of terrain the bike endures. 

Change mountain bike grips immediately if they are worn, damaged or slipping on the handlebars. Change mountain bike grips every 2-3 years because the material of the bike grip wears down and may reduce control over the bike. 

The material and its quality also plays an important role in the longevity and durability of mountain bike grips. Softer materials will usually wear down quicker than harder compounds. If your hands slip on the grips or you find that riding for long periods causes numbness of pain in your palms, wrist or fingers, then you should definitely consider changing your handlebar grips. 

If you're still in the market for a new mountain bike, you may be wondering, "what mountain bike should I buy?" Also, be sure to take a look at our mountain bike sizing chart to learn more about what you need.

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