Are the new “ergo-grips” really bad for your wrists?

I’m still a bit banged up from my crash on Sunday but I wanted to get a post up about something I have been thinking about. Lately I have been seeing a lot of those new ergo-grips. You know the ones – they have the wings coming off of them and are meant to help with hand fatigue and forearm tendinitis.

I know a lot of riders who love them and swear that they help them. I don’t doubt that they help but I do have to wonder if it is a bit like wearing a weight belt for deadlifts. If this is the case I think that they may be causing more harm than good.

It seems to me that there is a weakness in the hands and wrists that is causing the pain in the first place. The ergo-grips just artificially strengthen them instead of forcing you to fix the problem. In my experience most riders also need some soft tissue work and stretching in that area. Put together, this may actually help more than the ergo-grips.

I also think that a lot of these riders have a poor cockpit set up. If your brake levers and shifter are set up so that you are leaning into the bars with bent wrists you are simply set up wrong. Your cockpit should allow a rider to have a straight and strong wrist most of the time as this will transfer more force through the bones and places far less stress on the wrist tendons.

To borrow an analogy from Mike Boyle, it’s like the smoke detector in a house is going off and the solution is to pull the batteries out so it will shut up. The pain has a real cause – bad cockpit set up, tight muscles and tendons, poor wrist and finger strength or a combination of these problems. Simply switching grips to silence the pain only delays the inevitable and makes it worse – you will end up hurting again.

Hey, I could be wrong. I’d be interested to hear what any of you think…

-James Wilson-

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  1. Karmen says:

    You raise a good point James. I have Ergon grips. I got them when I got my bike b/c one of the bikes I test rode had them on it and I thought they felt comfy so they switched out the grips for me. I had a thought somewhat similar to yours the other day when I was riding some gravel roads. I was experiencing some hand numbness . I looked at my wrist position and decided it wasn’t the best. My thought at that time was that it’s not going to matter what kind of grip I have in a prolonged position if they aren’t organized right.

    Reply • August 25 at 6:21 pm
  2. Ben says:

    I too have those grips; I recently bought them for a bike I’d bought used. The old grips were very thin, and the heels of my palms would start to hurt after a while. But, like you said, this probably has more to do with bike fit than my grips, as my new bike has a flat bar, and I can’t seem to stay comfortable on long(ish) rides. Maybe I just need to get a bar with some rise to it.

    Anyway, a post on the finer points of bike fit would be helpful, in case you’re taking suggestions.

    Reply • August 27 at 2:00 pm
  3. Pete says:

    I am glad you brought this subject up. I have always thought that the ergon grips would limit your actuall griping ability on the bar. I could see them being more useful for commuting or riding dirt roads but not for mountian biking. I wondered if they could actually lead to injury while riding burly terrian?? and I agree that they are more like a crutch then an aid.I think bar ends are a better idea if you really need more comfy hand placement while climbing.

    Reply • August 28 at 12:52 pm
  4. cody says:

    I have the ergo as well. I have also done the BG fit by a specialized dealer. The only problem I have is that they hurt my hands when I start long desent. other wise they help out a lot. Another problem is that the screws that come with many of the grips are cheap and will not work to hold the grips in position after a while. But overall they have helped me out so much becasue my hands would seize up when I rode a fast technical course. I would recomened a fit first and then if problems continue go with the ergo grips.

    Reply • August 30 at 9:35 pm
  5. neil says:

    Hia James
    I have come to this one rather late, but I agree with you about the Ergon grips, that they are masking weakness.
    any chance you might prescribe some wrist strengthening exercises please? I have a glass wrist and thumb from a crash years ago. I can massage it out, mainly up near my elbow on “top” of my forearm as I think it’s the extensors are damaged or weak, but it’s not a permanent fix.
    I saw the Xtensor online but the user feedback makes it seem a bit of a poor tool – what do yhou think.
    by the way, I LOVE that Tiger Tail.

    Reply • June 2 at 11:38 am
  6. neil says:

    Hey James,
    when I press “subscribe to comments feed” I get a page of this stuff
    ( I am using Google Chrome on a mac):

    <rss version="2.0"

    it goes on for quite a while!

    Reply • June 2 at 11:40 am
  7. Roger Godwin says:

    Not sure how delayed this comment is but here goes. Ergos came stock on my new bike. Still had some ulnar irritation and numbness in the corresponding fingers. Bike shop changed my stem and the numbness switched from ulnar to medium nerve. Sometimes bike setup is a work in progress I understand but the ergon grips felt like they were simply a faux support and not a fix at all. I have carpel tunnel syndrome that probably needs to be looked into further but I have found regular grips actually force me to change hand positions more and the numbness has decreased.

    Reply • December 3 at 11:16 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I have found the same thing with clients – those winged grips can actually make the situation worse. They definitely mess with your ability to push into the bars effectively for cornering and manualing. I advise that anyone I work with get rid of them and no one who has seems to miss them once they are gone.

      Reply • December 4 at 10:56 am

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