How to Choose Mountain Bike Grips for Small Hands – Tips and Tricks
A good grip is essential when it comes to steering, balance, braking, and a good overall riding experience. Most standard-sized bike parts are too big for people with small hands, causing straining and uncomfortable rides. Fortunately, customization is available, but you need to know what type of bike grips you're looking for. In this article, we’ll discuss mountain bike grips for small hands and how to choose the right ones for your needs.
Mountain bike grips for small hands must have a smaller diameter and a soft but ergonomic grip. Silicone is one of the few materials that can offer these features. Try trimmable grips or bar tape as a budget-friendly option.
How To Tell If Your Mountain Bike Grips are the Wrong Size
It takes a few tries to really determine how comfortable mountain bike grips are. If your hands are more tired than your body by the end of the ride, you're dealing with unsuitable-sized grips.
Indications that mountain bike grips are the wrong size are numbness in the palms and fingers, neck and shoulder pain, and difficulty braking. Using an incorrect grip size requires excessive force, puts tension on the forearm, and may lead to an arm pump condition.
Just as your bike grips should be proportional to your hand size, the size of your mountain bike should be just right for you so we provide tips and tricks on how to use a mountain bike sizing chart because there's no one size fits all option.
Numbness and tingling in your hands can be scary, especially mid-ride and we go into more detail about finding a solution for this in our article about choosing a mountain bike grip for numbness. Reaching the brakes becomes more challenging, and your ride for the day may be cut short. What's even scarier is that you're risking a permanent injury with frequent exposure to unsuitable bike grips.
So what causes the numbness? There are two primary causes: handlebar palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome. These are two separate nerve conditions that cause pain and numbness in different parts of your hand.
Handlebar or cyclist's palsy affects the ulnar sensory nerve. This nerve stretches from your shoulder to the lower forearm and fingers. Prolonged pressure or pulling on the nerve results in injury. If you tend to ride often without longer breaks, the cyclist's palsy can last for more than 8 weeks.
You can feel the effect in your ring and small finger; they start to tingle and become numb. This condition affects experienced and beginner bike riders. This study by the National Library of Medicine shows that 24% of riders suffer a loss of sensory and motor functions while riding.
Carpal tunnel is equally dangerous but affects the thumb, index, and middle finger. This condition is a result of continuous pressure on the median nerve, passing through the carpal tunnel in your wrist. When you struggle to grasp the bike grip, you're putting all your weight on your wrists. Continuing to use too large bike grips causes semi-permanent injury that eventually requires surgery.
Arm pump as explained in this article by Professor Adam Watts is a common injury but is still not really recognized in the medical world. It occurs when prolonged pressure in the forearm disturbs regular blood circulation. When your grip size doesn't fit your palm, you pull your arms constantly to grasp them. Combine that with a downhill trek, and your forearms won’t have a chance to recover.
The anatomy of the forearm muscles is also a contributor. They have low flexibility due to being wrapped in solid connective tissue. As the pressure progresses, the muscle swells, restricting the blood flow. You start feeling tightness in the forearm, tingling, pain, numbness, cramping, and ultimately loss of control.
Arm pump pain stops when you rest and starts after a while during the ride. Ignoring it is easy, but it can lead to chronic exertional compartment syndrome, as explained by the Mayo Clinic.
How to fix mountain bike grip shifters
How to Choose Mountain Bike Grips for Small Hands
After experiencing discomfort and identifying your mountain bike grips as the cause, it's time to try a better fit. It's important to understand how each grip feature can benefit or hurt you.
Mountain bike grips for small hands must be thinner but soft and ergonomic, have a smaller diameter, and have excellent grip friction. When it comes to rubber compounds, silicone works better for small hands.
The factors to consider when choosing mountain bike grips for small hands are:
The diameter of the handlebar that is covered by the grip is roughly 22 mm. Mountain bike grips for small hands like these, need to have a smaller diameter but still need to fit like a glove over the handlebar. Grips with larger diameters can be fixed and locked even on a 22mm handlebar. But you don't need those since your hand needs to fit over the whole grip, and your fingers need to come as close as possible without overlapping. If you are interested in some useful tips to help you choose mountain grip sizes, this article could be a useful tool.
Why is diameter crucial? Despite the uncomfortable feeling, it's also about control. To maneuver the handlebar, you must have full control over the grips, and the brakes must be easily accessible. That's not possible for small hands trying to hold onto large diameter bike grips. Fortunately, we provide tips and tricks for choosing mountain bike grip diameter so that you can have a comfortable ride.
The degree of softness of a bike grip is mainly a matter of preference. As a rule of thumb, soft grips like these are better for small hands. They're stickier, which is essential for people with less hand surface for gripping.
Softer grips also provide more padding and dampen the road vibration, helping your hands suffer less discomfort. They help to make longer rides more pleasant, especially if you're not a fan of bike gloves. However, soft bike grips tend to wear faster, which can cost you more over time.
Having your hand sliding off the grip is unsafe, and can be prevented. When choosing bike grips for small hands, pay attention to the rubber compound and pattern. The friction between your hand and the bike grip can lead to blistering and pain because of unsuitable material.
Another thing to notice is how the grips are mounted on the handlebar. Are they slipped on and secured with mountain bike grip adhesive as discussed in our article, or fixed using locks? The first option is more common in bike grips for smaller hands as they tend to be thinner and lighter. Another factor to consider is that slip-on grips are prone to loosen with time and come off so check our article that explains how to fix a mountain bike grip that has come off.
However, some grips can twist and move around when not fixed with adhesive, especially in wet conditions. The best option to look for is thin and flexible bike grips like these, soft enough not to hurt your palms but not slippery.
The main purpose of bike handlebar rotation is to provide comfort for your arms. Different grips won't solve the problem if the hands are not in a comfortable position.
In the ideal position, your elbows won't be pushed back; the hands will rest on the bike grips and can reach the brakes without straining the fingers. This is the natural position where the arms are extended but slightly relaxed and not fully stretched out. A handlebar that's too far forward or back puts additional pressure on your arms.
But don't confuse this with stem adjustment. The stem allows you to move the handlebar higher, lower, closer, or further away from your body. The handlebar rotation changes the angle at which your hand rests on the grips. When rotating the bar, test your brake grip with each new position. We go into more detail about this in our article that discusses where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture.
Grip thickness helps dampen the vibration, which happens a lot while mountain biking. Prolonged exposure to road vibration keeps your forearm and hand muscles constantly active, increasing oxygen demand and blood flow, leading to a forearm pump, as mentioned before.
But when it comes to small hands, we can't choose extra thickness. It will provide comfort, but your hand will still be sore due to straining over the large diameter. Your best bet would be narrower, medium thickness, silicone, or rubber compound grips like these.
Ergonomic grips like these stop the nerves in your wrists and hands from being under pressure thereby alleviating any inflammation. Unlike round bike grips where the part of your hand closest to your wrist pushes on the grip, the ergonomic shape lets your palm take the pressure.
But it's still a matter of personal preference. If you've never tried ergonomic grips, you can start with more subtle shaped ones to see if they make a difference. They can be a great help in relieving pressure on the ulnar nerve.
Bike grip manufacturers use rubber, silicone, foam, and even leather. The bike grip material that is suitable for you depends on your personal needs and preferences. Generally, synthetic materials like these handle moisture better than natural ones. Natural materials absorb moisture like sweat, instead of repelling it. We offer useful tips and tricks on how to choose a mountain bike grip for sweaty hands, should you find that your hands become sweaty while you are out riding.
Natural rubber is harder with a higher grip and friction level. They're narrow, last really well, and often come without locks. As a result, your hands might become sore and tired.
Silicone grips are softer, providing more cushioning, and absorbing road vibration, but they're less durable. Silicone and foam grips are chunkier when compared to rubber compound grips which makes them unsuitable for small hands.
|Mountain Bike Grip||Diameter||Softness||Friction||Link to Amazon and Approx Price|
|DMR Deathgrips||1.23 inches||Soft Rubber||Knurl and waffle patterns for excellent grip||DMR Brendog Deathgrip Lock-On grips ~$20|
|ODI Elite Flow||1.22 inches||Soft Pro Compound||Half-waffle and ridged pattern for medium grip||Odi Elite Flow Grips ~$20|
|Ergon GE1 Slim Grips||1.18 inches||Thick Rubber||Subtle pattern, fixed non-slip grip||Ergon - GE1 Evo Ergonomic Lock-On Grips ~$45|
|ESI Chunky Grips||1.25 inches||Firm Silicone||No pattern, minimal friction||ESI Grips Chunky MTB Grip ~$25|
Alternative Strategies for Small Hands
Thin bike grips and bar rotation don't always provide the expected results. Slim grips can be uncomfortable, bar rotation can have no impact, and replacements are expensive. So what are bikers with small hands to do?
Common alternative grips for small hands include wrapping the handlebar with road bar tape, getting trimmable bike grips for personal adjustments, or remodeling a pair of DIY budget-friendly grips.
Using Road Bar Tape
Road bar tape is an easy way to upgrade your bike's looks and feel. It provides cushioning and protection at the most critical contact points between you and your bike - the grips. While it's often the choice for racing road bikes and their drip grips, mountain bikers can also benefit from this strategy.
How does it work? This handlebar tape is mostly self-adhesive, often with an eye-catching design, provides extra grip, and is hard-wearing. After purchasing the tape, check its strength by pulling a small piece to avoid breaking it while wrapping your handlebar.
Wrap the handlebar in the direction of the load; you don't want the tape to unwrap as your hand rotates during the ride. Since we tend to move our hands inwards, wrap the tape clockwise when looking from the side. It's important to overlap, maintain tension while wrapping and install the plug over the tape to keep it in place. This video tutorial by Park Tool shows how easy it is to wrap your handlebar.
Trimmable Bike Grips
Bike tape can get loose, unlike trimmable bike grips. They come in 90 to 70mm in length, but you can cut them to your preferred size.
What's excellent about these trimmable grips is their installation method and comfort. Unlike bar tape and rubber grips, the trimmable grips can be made of foam which is easy to slide on and off. The material helps with sweaty hands and absorbs road vibration better than bike tape. However, the trimmable grips are less durable.
DIY Bike Grips
DIY projects are fun and empowering, but how effective can DIY bike grips be? The most common DIY approach includes an inner bike tube like this and electrical tape like this. Cut the tube in the preferred size, fit it on the handlebar and wrap it with electrical tape to secure it in the right place.
While the size is ideal for small hands, this is a short-term, inexpensive solution. The grip is not great, and the durability is questionable, so we suggest sticking to proven, tried, and trusted solutions.
You might also be interested in learning how to choose mountain bike grip heaters. Check out our step-by-step guide for detailed information.
Mountain Bike Grips for Kids
Mountain bike grips for kids and adults with small hands are the same, right? Well, not exactly. Adults with small hands still have a bigger palm surface and thicker skin that can resist friction, than kids do.
Mountain bike grips for kids are softer, and shorter in length to correspond with the shorter handlebar of a kid’s bike. Kids' grips must have excellent grip and minimal slipping to keep them safe.
|Mountain Bike Grip||Diameter||Softness||Friction||Link to Amazon and Approx Price|
|ODI Ruffian Grips||1.16 inches||Average, Plastic||Waffle pattern, medium friction||ODI Lock-On MTB Bonus Pack Ruffian Grips$30|
|Velo Micro Diamond Mini Grips||1.96 inches||Soft, Rubber||Non-friction micro-diamond pattern||Velo Micro Diamond Mini Grips $5|
|Lizard Skin Mini Machine Grips||1.20 inches||Soft, Rubber||Gentle, great traction||Lizard Skin Mini Machine Grips $10|
|ODI Mini Grips||⅝ inches inner diameter||Very Soft||Half-waffle texture, minimal friction||ODI Mini Half Waffle Grips $15|