Shape My Grip: Quick Review- by Guitar Ted
Bicycle riding places certain demands on our bodies which vary from one discipline of cycling to another. Perhaps no other form of cycling causes so much vibration as gravel road riding. Those crushed rocks can really make for a painful experience, therefore, we gravitate to wider tires, lower air pressures, and other designs which mitigate those frequencies that cause us discomfort. There is a new product on the market now that claims to help provide more comfort and control called “Shape My Grip”. This product is unique in that it claims to reduce vibration, hand fatigue, and it provides a more secure grip either on the tops or in the drops. Let’s take a closer look and see how this works……
I received a set of the BARTOP and CURVE Shape My Grips product to test and review back in March and I have ridden them since then over several types of surfaces including fresh gravel all the way to broken up pavement, chip seal, and smooth pavement. I’ll talk about how these grips worked, but first, I need to cover the installation.
The installation process is a bit detailed, but not really all that difficult, with one minor exception. I’ll get to that later. The initial impressions of the SMG products were that they are well made and seemed to come with plenty of instruction and prompts to go to the SMG website to learn how they should be installed. Each grip is slotted, and you simply slip them over the bars and find a place where you might find them to be appropriate. Of course, this would be without bar tape, so perhaps you would want to wait until you are ready for some new tape.
Speaking of which, SMG recommends several handle bar tapes which are known to work well over their grips. Obviously, you want to have the tape conform and stretch over the surface of the grip and not have bunching up or gaps in the tape. I used an older version of Salsa Cycles bar tape I had on hand, but I would suggest that any gel synthetic cork tape, or any thinner, stretchy tape would do the trick here. I’d stay away from true cork tape, leather, or more thick, not very stretchy tapes like fizik or double thick tapes.
Now, getting back to the SMG CURVE and BARTOP: Once you’ve determined a place you might like these you clean off the bar and install a double sided tape which holds the SMG’s in place, so you want to really be sure about the placement. I could see where some folks might be apprehensive about placing these before riding, but having sat on my bike, I could tell where I wanted them. The BARTOP has a cable relief, which is nice if your cables are routed on the back side of the bar. Then once I had the SMG’s firmly in place, I wrapped the bars.
I should mention here that company founder, Lee Diallo, says that you can actually modify the grips by cutting down the “peaks” where the fingers fit, if you want less abrupt transitions or if your bar tape is being a bit fiddly over those ridges. Apparently there is plenty of material there to work with, but obviously, once modified you had better be prepared to like it because there is no going back!
Wrapping the bars might prove to be the most difficult stage of the installation process. It certainly is a different experience, and I can attest to that since I have been wrapping drop bars for about two decades as a shop mechanic. Patience is a virtue, they say, and you’ll need loads of it when doing the wrap job over the Shape My Grips.
Okay, But How Do They Feel When Riding?
Once I was satisfied with my install, I went for a ride. The immediate sensation was that I had somehow blended a mountain bike grip and drop bar tape, which, if you think about this, is exactly what SMG’s are. The grip fills the hand out and I thought they made the bike feel more secure in my hand. Okay, so out for some gravel to see about those other claims……
In rougher stuff, where the bike starts dancing and skittering around, it was nice to have that firm, secure grip in the drops to control the front end with. In fact, this is my favorite part about the SMG’s. The BARTOP is great when you are one-handing the bike and digging in a feedbag, for instance. That little bit of extra leverage and control is welcomed when you are doing that sort of thing. So, to my mind, the increased level of control is definitely notable. Vibration damping is tough for me to feel with the SMG’s. If indeed these grips damp vibrations at all, which, honestly, I cannot say that they do. Now it could be that some scientific measuring device might show that the Shape My Grips product does mitigate vibrations, but I can only go by my experiences with these grips and I cannot discern any benefit there. In my opinion, you can gain more by letting 5psi out of your tires when it comes to vibration damping effectiveness.
My favorite thing about this product is that I can relax my grip a bit in really loose gravel when I am in the drops on the CURVE grip, which allows me to control the bike with less fatigue and effort. I don’t have to squeeze quite so hard since those grips are filling out my hand a bit better and they give me a modicum of increased leverage. However; I find it odd that most of the material that makes up the CURVE grip is where your fingers wrap around the bar and not under your palms, where it would seem to me that more of the pressure on your hands is when riding in the drops. This seems a bit counter-intuitive in terms of giving a benefit to the rider in the area of comfort and possible vibration reduction.
So, does this product miss the mark? Maybe, to the extent that you may not get that vibration reduction you are hoping for, but there are benefits worth taking a look at here. The grip does provide more hand security. If I were in a muddy event, or a messy cyclo cross event, I can totally see these grips as being a good investment in something that provides the rider with more control. Do you use your drop bar bike in single track, or over really rough terrain? These grips might be the ticket to hanging on with less hand fatigue and better control. If you have large hands and have always thought drop bars felt puny, these grips might make you a happier rider. So, I think the SMG’s have a purpose, I’m just not sold on the vibration damping claims.
Shape My Grip products are available direct from their website at www.shapemygrip.com. Prices for the BAR TOP or CURVE grips are $24.95 each which gets you two grips for each side of your bars, adhesive tape, and instructions to install them. Adhesive tape is available as a separate item should you need to move the grips or put them on different bars. Shape My Grip products are made in North America.
Shape My Grip sent over the BAR TOP and CURVE grips at no charge to RidingGravel.com for test and review. We were not paid nor bribed for this review. We will strive to always give you our honest thoughts and opinions throughout our reviews.
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