By Justin Steiner
If you’ve been riding mountain bikes long enough, you’ll surely remember just how popular and prolific Grip Shift was in the ‘90s. I certainly remember upgrading the Grip Shift shifters on my Barracuda with the blingy yellow grip option as a kid. Like many during the “Grip Shift years” I enjoyed using the twist shifters for their simplicity and functionality, Bassworm and all. However, Grip Shift seemed to be falling out of favor in the high-end mountain bike realm in recent years. SRAM stopped producing high-end Grip Shift with the transition to 10-speed drivetrains, that is, until now.
In the flesh
At this point we’ve all seen or heard that Grip Shift was coming to the 10-speed market—after all, Jaroslav Kulhavy won the 2011 XC World Championship on the new shifters—but SRAM has been very tight-lipped about the construction and execution until now.
Moving Grip Shift into the 10-speed realm necessitated a heightened level of precision. The twist grip now rolls on three rows of tiny little ball bearings, 120 bearings in all, which provide a nice light action and no play. Unlike the Grip Shift of old, which used metal-on-plastic shift detents, the new version relies on metal-on-metal shift detents for increased accuracy. According to SRAM, these shifters cannot be disassembled for maintenance, so they’re supposedly sealed well enough to go the long haul without an overhaul. Only time will tell.
The new Grip Shift can be used with any grip, but kudos to SRAM for developing a lock-on grip that interfaces with the shifter to create a single grip interface. Four teeth on the grip insert into recesses in the shifter to form an interlocking grip surface.
10-speed Grip Shift will be available as a 2013 product at XX and XO price points, with minor differences between the two. The XX shifters will retail for $295 with a carbon fiber cover, Gore’s Ride-on Sealed Cable System, and Lock-On grips. The XO shifters come in your choice of 2×10 or 3×10 with red or silver aluminum cover and Lock-On grips for $225. Both systems weigh an identical 207g with cables. XX and XO internals are identical. Look for these shifter to be available at the end of April.
On the trail
I had chance to ride these new twist shifters at a recent SRAM press launch, where I walked away extremely impressed with their performance. Despite being highly skeptical—after all these years my Grip Shift affinity had waned—I found the shift action and performance demanded my respect. The twist action is light and smooth, with closely spaced and very pronounced shift index points.
With the closely spaced ratios of 10-speed drivetrains, I found huge advantage in being able to dump four, six, or more cogs with a single shift. How many times have you crested a hill only to dump four gears with four separate presses of the lever? For me, far too many.
Another benefit I hadn’t considered was the cleanliness Grip Shift affords a modern handlebar. Without shifters hanging below the bar, you’re afforded more hand positions. The included Lock-On grips offer plenty of real estate off the shifter grip for gnarly sections of trail.
By the end of my ride aboard the new Grip Shift, I had come full circle. If I was to build up a SRAM bike I’d likely spec Grip Shift as I preferred the feel and action to the triggers. Maybe it’s a nostalgia for my childhood…
Available April 30,2012
- XX GRIP SHIFT with GORE Ride on cables: $295
- X0 GRIP SHIFT: $225
What do you think? Would you give Grip Shift another twist?