WTB Thinline PadLoc Grip
• Bar – Truvativ Jerome Clementz Blackbox
• Bike – Evil The Following
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Whitefish, MT
Days Tested: 5
WTB recently released their new PadLoc grip, which takes a very unique approach to the grip-to-bar interface. For those unfamiliar with the concept, PadLoc grips have a traditional clamp on the inside edge of the grip, but the outside edge has a diagonal wedge that interfaces with a cutout in the bar.
The idea here is that the diagonal wedge keeps the grip from rotating in the event that the clamp slips. That diagonal void in the bar is also filled with soft rubber to make the grips a bit more comfortable.
WTB is only making the grips, they’re not jumping into the handlebar business. Instead, they’ve licensed the design to a bunch of handlebar manufacturers to get them on board. WTB was also quick to point out that the licensing fee is nominal, so it shouldn’t affect the price of the bars. Regular bars can be cut to fit the grip system, and Park Tool is making a an inexpensive insert that attaches to their bar cutting guide for that purpose.
I rode the Thinline PadLoc grips, which, at 28mm, are the thinnest option of the PadLoc lineup. WTB also offers two other thicknesses (a 30mm and a 33mm, slightly larger than an Oury), as well as a bulged version (thicker in the middle), and a grip shift compatible length.
Thinline PadLoc vs. Lock-On Grips
So … are the Thinline PadLocs actually better than tried and true lock-on options?
As far as the twisting issue, yes, they are technically better. I ran them with the clamp a little loose for a bit and, as advertised, they stayed put just fine and didn’t rotate.
But honestly, this seems like a solution in search of a problem. The only time I’ve had a lock-on grip rotate on me was when I didn’t tighten it down properly. Personally, if I was having a problem with lock-on grips twisting, I think I’d be looking at buying a torque wrench rather than completely re-designing the grip / bar interface.
Comfort / Hand Fatigue
The comfort issue, on the other hand, is more compelling. I generally prefer fairly slim grips – ODI Ruffians or something comparable are normally on my bike. If I can run a similarly thin grip that also helps out with hand fatigue, that’s always welcome.
There are, of course, lots of grips of varying sizes, shapes, and materials that are designed to help out with hand fatigue, but not many of them are as thin as I prefer. Since hand fatigue isn’t super high on my list of problems, I haven’t gone out of my way to try all of the different options, but thus far I’ve yet to find a good, thin grip that made much of a difference.
This is where the PadLocs do well – the Thinlines that I was running actually do make a noticeable difference in hand fatigue.
While testing these grips I took my Thinline-shod Evil The Following up for some lift-served laps at the local bike park. Since it’s the end of a very dry summer, the trails are beat to shit and fairly rough. That, combined with the The Following’s short travel, makes for a pretty good testing ground for hand fatigue.
Lo and behold, after a couple laps, my hands were in noticeably better shape than they were after running the same trails on the same bike with my regular grips.
Was it a completely game-changing level of comfort for me? No. But it was definitely better, and it was a more dramatic difference than I’ve experienced with any other grips. And perhaps most importantly, I actually like the feel of the grips. The little opposing nubbins provide good grip, and while I haven’t ridden them in the wet yet, they seem like they’ll do well even when things are a little greasy.
First, and most obviously, you have to modify your bar. While the new Park Tool guide will be cheap, I imagine it’ll be a little while before it’s common to find that guide at shops. Furthermore, home mechanics who don’t have the guide are going to have a tough time free-handing the cut with any accuracy.
It’s also worth noting that, because the grip’s position on the bar is fixed, rotating the bar will also rotate the grip’s soft patch out of its ideal location. Realistically, most people aren’t rotating their bars more than a couple degrees, so it’s not super critical. But it’s at least something to think about when cutting the bar initially.
Once the bar’s modified, you’re stuck running PadLoc grips forever (or at least until you get a different bar). If you like the grips and your local shop carries them, this might not be such a bad thing, but a quick survey of my local shops uncovered not a single WTB grip. The PadLocs haven’t hit stores yet, but WTB has been making “regular” grips for a while, and none of my local shops carry the regular ones.
At $34.95, the PadLoc grips are one of the more expensive lock-on grips on the market. And another potential issue for penny pinchers out there is that you can’t rotate the grip to get a bit more life as it wears down.
I’ve heard some concerns that the tapered end of the bar might be a liability in a crash, but I think that concern is probably unfounded. There’s a plastic cap built into the grip that covers the end of the bar, and any crash that’s bad enough to blow through that plastic end cap is hard enough that it’s not really going to matter what kind of grip or bar you’re running.
It’s tough to justify jumping on board with another proprietary design, especially when it’s a wear item that needs to be replaced relatively frequently. I like the grips themselves, and the extra comfort they provide is both really nice and something that’s not easily found in similarly thin grips. But WTB is going to need to do a really, really good job of getting these grips out into the marketplace, to the point where I can walk into any shop and buy some replacement grips whenever necessary. At that point, then yes, I’d happily run them.
I consider hand fatigue to be an annoyance, but not something that gets so bad that it keeps me from riding. There are, however, plenty of people out there who spend a lot of time tweaking fitment, bar shape, and grip type to deal with pain in their hands and wrists. For those people, the PadLocs are certainly worth a look.