When I first rode the new SRAM Grip Shift, it was on a test bike from Giant and mated to their new Type 2 X0 rear derailleur.
This combination didn’t provide the ideal opportunity to form an opinion. Yes, it worked great. And Giant’s Anthem 29er is a great bike and the derailleur seemed to work as promised. But, it wasn’t my bike with my handlebar and cockpit set up, and the Type 2 rear derailleur adds some resistance to the downshift (easier). In other words, it was a nice start, but putting it on my own bike lets the real test begin. And it’s begun.
First things first: Performance. I have the X0 model Grip Shift. The rest of my set up is XX with Magura MT8 brakes. The lockout is the X-Loc for a SID 29er fork. Grip Shift fans, which I count myself among, won’t be disappointed. Mated up to the XX rear derailleur, it’s quick, light and simple to shift. I suspect the action would be similar on any non-Type 2 rear derailleur. Normal first rides cable stretch aside, it’s shifted flawlessly. The action is lighter than the old-school models. Basically, if it proves durable over the long term, it should please fans and delight newbies.
However, there are a few things worth considering before making the horizontal upgrade from triggers to twisties. They surprised me once installed on my own bike, and depending on your set up, may make you rethink a few things.. The photo above shows my normal hand position with the outside of my palm at the edge of the grip…
This photo shows my palm lifted slightly. Basically, riding on the edge of the included JAWS grips means my hand is just barely on the shifter. Translation: I have to move my hand to shift, which wasn’t the case with the originals. Narrowing my grip temporarily to shift felt weird. Besides requiring non-forward-motion-making-effort, it reminded me too much of my super narrow handlebar from a decade ago.
My hands are on the large side of things…I wear an XXL Giro MTB glove or XL Jett (shown) and most others. Riders with smaller hands will have to move their hands even more to shift…IF you use their JAWS grips.
For a comparison of the width, here’s the Ergon grips I was riding. Ergon width: 5-1/8″ (133mm). SRAM Grip Shift width with JAWS grips: 6-3/4″ (172mm). Difference: 1-5/8″ (39mm) per side.
Another issue with the wide grips is brake reach. With the Magura MT8 levers, I’m barely reaching the outer edge of their lever.
For comparison, here’s where I typically grabbed the Magura lever when using the Ergons. Right in the sweet spot of the lever. To get the same reach, I have to dial in Magura’s lever quite a bit closer to the bar.
To be fair, SRAM is probably designing Grip Shift around their Avid brakes, which use a flatter lever blade with a pivot much closer to the bar. The design has lots of merit. Reach is more consistent across the width of the lever and it doesn’t slope in so much toward the bar the further in you pull it. Even with Avid levers, though, the blade is still much further inboard than it would be with traditional grips and trigger shifters. Just something to think about if your cockpit is a mash up of brands.
One last thing to consider: Depending on your handlebar, the new Grip Shift may push any remote levers so far inboard that they start hitting the curvature of riser bars or the expanding taper to the 31.8 OS clamping standard. This was the case with my Easton Monkey Lite XC riser, so I was very cautious to only lightly clamp the fork’s remote lockout. If I were running Avid brakes, I could use one of their various Matchmaker clamps to combine the lockout with the brake lever, which would eliminate the issue. As is, I would need about 8-3/4″ (224mm) of flat bar area to comfortably mount everything shown here.
So performance is great, but is the install a deal breaker?
No. Using other, shorter grips would solve the width problem since that would move the hand further onto the shifter barrel. Though the brake lever is always going to be a bit further inboard than with triggers, shorter grips would eliminate most of the brake lever reach issue, too. As nicely integrated as the JAWS grips are, I’m likely switching to something aftermarket that I can trim down. I think SRAM would be wise to offer a 1″ shorter JAWS grip as an option.
One more statement in fairness. The shifting action is very light. For a single shift, I could just rock my palm in a bit and twist and it shifted one gear just fine. It just wasn’t a very confident shifting movement, but that’s with only about 3/8″ of palm actually twisting the shifter. If I wanted to throw two or more gears at once, I had to grab more shifter. SRAM did a great job of balancing easy shift effort with enough “retention” to prevent mis-shifts.
One last thing I noticed: If you don’t get the inner clamp snugly against the alloy (or carbon for XX) barrel cover on the inboard side of the shifter, the cover will rattle. Bad. Make sure it’s tight.
Rear shifter weights with cable: X0 Grip Shift is 106g versus 118g for XX trigger. I included the clamp on the trigger because the clamp is built into the twister’s design. Apples to apples.