Tips and Tricks for Choosing Mountain Bike Grips for Numbness

Your hands feel every little bump or pothole when you’re on your bike, especially on rocky terrains and riding downhill. Numbness in your hands is especially common with mountain biking. One of the easiest ways to reduce numbness in your hands is to purchase a good pair of mountain bike grips. In this article we’ll provide you tips and tricks to choose mountain bike grips for numbness in this article. 

To reduce numbness while mountain biking, choose thin, lock-on mountain bike grips with ergonomic designs and deep tread patterns. Grips like these maximize friction so that the handlebar doesn’t need to be held tightly and the ulnar nerve can remain uncompressed longer.

Let’s discuss each of these grip characteristics and the underlying cause of numbness in the next section.

Why Does Your Mountain Bike Grip Cause Numbness? 

From a medical perspective, hand numbness is called ulna neuropathy and it occurs when the ulnar nerve, which runs through your neck and shoulder, all the way through your arm and finishing in the little finger, is compressed for long periods of time and remains in the same position. It causes tingling and pain. You can learn more about ulna neuropathy at the elbow from the Cochrane Library.

A mountain bike grip can cause numbness when it requires a rider to hold on tightly. The underlying cause of numbness is squeezing handlebars too tight so that the ulnar nerve compresses. Instead of holding on tightly, hold grips gently so that blood circulates better, hands relax and the ulnar nerve decompresses periodically.  

You will tend to hold your grips tightly if you have the wrong handlebar grips. Choose grips that you can trust because they have high friction coefficients and don’t slip off easily. Make sure to check out our guide to mountain bike grip sizes to make sure you buy the right ones.

Additionally, grips that degrade quickly over time or those that don’t fit your hand because they are too small will also cause you to hold tighter. 

The size, pattern, and material are very important when choosing mountain bike grips. Having the right pair will make your ride more comfortable so you can go longer distances.

The right mountain bike grip for numbness will have a combination of tackiness, durability, friction, and other factors
The right mountain bike grips can keep you going on rough terrain longer without numbness. Source: Ritcheylogic.

Choosing Mountain Bike Grips for Numbness

To reduce numbness, choose thin, ergonomically designed, lock-on mountain bike grips with patterned treads that are easy to hold.

Thin and Thick Mountain Bike Grips

To reduce numbness, your primary goal should be to make it easy to hold on to the bike without a tight grip. 

If you have small hands, buy thin mountain bike grips that are easy to hold. You’ll also be able to feel the trail better and feel like your bike is more responsive. The downside is they do not absorb as much vibration as thicker grips. So to avoid wrist pain and numbness you need to wear gloves.

Thicker mountain bike grips are more suitable for people with larger hands. Thicker grips help absorb bumps along the road. However, they require more strength to hold onto. If your hands are too small, they will go numb and feel unnatural.

If you’re not sure what size of bike grip you’d need, check out our tips and tricks for choosing mountain bike grip diameter.

Lock-on Mountain Bike Grips 

To feel confident that your hands won’t slip, you need grips that will stay in place. Lock-on mountain bike grips have small metal collars, either at one end or at both ends.  They tightly lock the grip to the bars. Lock-on grips either have a single lock ring or a dual lock ring. If you are a rider who likes to use the outer edge of the grips, single lock-on grips will probably suit you better and feel more comfortable. If you prefer placing your hands more towards the middle of the handlebar, you can go with either style.

Dual lock-on grips tend to be more secure since they can be tightened to the handlebars. Single lock rings are also very secure, but they can occasionally slip a little on the non-lock-ring side.

Lock-on grips have several advantages. Since they are bolted on, they can be a little looser in fit than traditional grips, making them easier to get on and off. In addition, the end plugs on these grips protect the bar ends if you crash.

The downsides to lock-on grips are that they tend to be heavier than the traditional ones and are more expensive because they are made well and last a long time. 

Ergonomic Mountain Bike Grips 

We’ve previously discussed how you need grips that fit well and are secure on the handlebar. To avoid numbness, you also need grips that are easy to hold. 

For a comfortable and long ride without any pain or numbness, the shape and size have to be paired for both your hand and riding type. 

Ergonomic grip designs have a contoured shape that fits almost all hands and supports your wrist differently. Ergonomic grips have a flat section near the outer part that supports your hand and wrist. They are perfect for cross-country riders and longer rides. 

If you want to learn more about ergonomics and mountain biking, read the Ergonomics journal issue about it. Additionally, you want to ensure back health while you're out there riding. That being said, you might also find interest in our related article about where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture too. 

Mountain Bike Grips with Deeper Tread Patterns 

Grips with deep treads maximize friction between your hands and the handlebar. 

There are a myriad of grip patterns out there from knurled patterns for your fingertips, waffle pattern for your palm, to a raised mushroom profile for thumb cushioning. However, if you want to avoid numbness, mountain bike grips with a deeper tread pattern are the way to go.

Grips with aggressive tread patterns keep your hands from slipping off and drain off moisture and debris that you pick up.

Avoid smooth grips which get more slippery as your hands begin to sweat and require you to hold on tighter so you don’t lose control. As we discussed earlier, this causes hand numbness and pain.

Below is a summary of different mountain bike grips for numbness:

Mountain Bike Grip Features What’s missing Price
ODI Rogue Bicycle Grip Bonus Pack (Black/Black) Lock-on grips with deep treads maximize friction and stay secure on the handlebar They aren’t ergonomically designed and have a medium thickness (you should try them to see if they fit your hands well) ~$25
RaceFace Half Nelson Locking Grips Thin, lock-on grips, like these, are comfortable for people with small hands. They’re also tacky. They aren’t ergonomically designed and the treads are thin. You have to rely on the tacky material for friction.  ~$27
Fifty-Fifty Double Lock-On Mountain Bike Grips Medium thickness, medium tread, lock on grips like these work well for most riders.  They aren’t optimized for ergonomics and they lack the thickness and deep treads. These would be average grips...not ideal.  ~$24
Ergon - GP1 Ergonomic Lock-on Bicycle Handlebar Grips Thick, ergonomic, lock on grips with rubber treads make it easy to hold on to the handlebar and reduce numbness The treads aren’t as deep as some other grips. You should try them out and see if they work for you. ~$80

You're also going to be interested in learning how to install your grips. Take a look at our step-by-step guide to mountain bike grip installation to figure it out. Additionally, if you find yourself with sweaty hands while you ride, be sure to take a look at our related article explaining how to choose a mountain bike grip for sweaty hands.

Choose Mountain Bike Grip Materials that Help with Insensitivity

Mountain bike grips are designed to provide cushioning and absorb bumps to keep the hands comfortable, even on long and rough rides. What material your grip is made of is a key element of choosing mountain bike grips for numbness. 

To reduce numbness, buy lock-on mountain bike grips made of silicone, soft rubber, or soft blends which maximize friction and absorb vibration. Do not buy slip on foam based mountain bike grips since they tend to slip off over time. 

Silicone Grips

Silicone grips are popular for cross-country riding and touring because they provide the most cushioning and they have a good amount of tackiness (friction). They offer a high level of shock absorption with minimal weight. They provide comfort for long and short rides. If the grips are made out of 100% silicone they will not fade, crumble, or spin. They are non-porous and stay tacky when wet. 

Foam-Based Mountain Bike Grips

Foam grips have excellent vibration damping properties and slightly conform to your hand shape, reducing numbness. Most of them are oval-shaped and come in different colors. They are very comfortable and easy on the hands and slide on the handlebar like a sleeve, making them easy to take on and off. They do not have any lock on collars or integrated bars at the end. They absorb moisture well and prevent your hands from slipping but once the grip starts slipping off the handlebar, they need to be replaced.

A major disadvantage of foam-based grips is that they wear out quicker. Thicker foam grips last longer than thinner ones, but you’ll have to buy new ones every couple of months.

Soft Rubber Grips

Most grips are made from rubber or a synthetic, rubber-like material. Synthetic materials generally manage moisture by repelling it. Softer rubber grips tend to grip better, even if you are not wearing gloves, but will wear out more quickly than a harder, less sticky rubber. Sticky rubber gives you more friction but is less durable than harder rubber. 

Soft rubber grips are generally more comfortable, deliver a better grip, and have great vibration absorption. 

Some of them come with deeper tread patterns, so they can also be good for wicking moisture and mud off your hand.

Grips with A Soft-Blend Of Materials

These kinds of grips are a blend of different materials, usually silicone and rubber. They are anti-slip and vary in size. They are a bit harder than silicone grips but still softer than rubber ones. Vibration absorption is excellent and they provide comfort for long and extreme rides.

Another type of soft blend grips is a combination of silicone and foam. The foam components ensure moisture absorption, conformity to hand shape, and comfort. The silicone components make the grips non-slippery. Buy lock-on versions of these grips, not slip-ons. 

Below is a summary of different mountain bike grip materials for numbness:

Mountain Bike Grip Material Why Does It Reduce Numbness? Amazon Product Example  Price
Silicone-Foam Lock-ons Ergonomic design with silicone for friction and foam for absorbing vibration. These are all-around great grips. Sila Eco-Friendly Silicone Foam ~$25
Silicone Lock-ons These silicone grips have deep treads and absorb vibrations because they’re thick. I wish they had more of an ergonomic design. Gustavo Honeycomb SIlicone Grips ~$15
Soft-Rubber Grips These rubber grips aren’t super soft, but they do have deep treads and absorb vibrations. They also have double lock on collars so they’re very secure.
The BV Bikes are tackier and softer but also not as durable.
Lermx Rubber Grips
Alternative: BV Bike Tacky Rubber Grips

Make sure to also take a look at how to fix a mountain bike grip that has fallen off in case it happens. And if you're still shopping for the perfect bike, make sure to read our mountain bike sizing chart to find the right size mountain bike for you.

How To Care For Numbness From Mountain Biking & Strengthen Muscles

Even though you possess the perfect grips for your bike, numbness might still occur. Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce numbness in your hands.

To prevent numbness from mountain biking and strengthen muscles, do hand exercises to strengthen your wrists, wrap your hands up with medical tape, and ensure proper hand placement when riding. 

Tip 1. Do Hand Exercises To Strengthen Your Wrists

One of the exercises you can do to strengthen your wrists is wrist curls. While sitting in a chair, hold a two-pound dumbbell in one hand. Rest your arm on your thigh, with your wrist slightly over your knee and your palm up. Let the wrist bend back naturally. Curl your arm up toward your body and then bring it down to the starting position. Do eight to ten reps. Then flip your arm so your palm is facing down and do another session. Switch arms.

Use wrist curls to strengthen your muscles and reduce numbness while riding a mountain bike
Wrist curls with a small load can help strengthen your wrists and prevent numbness. Image from Wikimedia.

You can also do wrist stretches. Hold one arm straight with your palm down. Drop your fingers towards the floor. Using your other hand, gently push the back of your flexed hand to assist the stretch. Hold it for 20 seconds. Extend your hand, with your fingertips pointing towards the ceiling. With the opposite hand, gently pull back on your fingers to assist the stretch. Hold for another 20 seconds. Repeat everything with your other hand.

Wrist stretches can also help make muscles more nimble and warm them up so they don’t get numb easily
Wrist stretches can strengthen your wrist muscles to prevent pain while riding. Source: Healthline.

Tip 2. Wrap Your Hand Up With Medical Tape

Medical tape can be very helpful when it comes to cycling hand injuries. It’s effective in reducing pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. When you put kinesiology tape on your hand, it gently lifts the skin and reduces pressure on the underlying structure. Since it is elastic and lightweight, it is easy to wear and will not get in the way of your rides.

Tip 3. Ensure Proper Hand Placement When Riding To Avoid Numbness

Proper hand placement while riding helps avoid numbness. If you hold your grips firmly your hand will soon get tired, especially on rough terrain. When on bulky terrain you should hold your grips lightly to keep yourself comfortable for the whole ride. The hospital for special surgery gives some great tips on strength and posture in their article. It's also very important to make sure your grips stay in place while you're riding. Make sure to take a look at our 5 tips to choose mountain bike grip adhesive.

A key element of hand placement is making sure you have a properly sized bike. Check out our article on mountain bike sizing tips and tricks to learn more.

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