SRAM Grip Shift Review
The new 10-speed Grip Shift was introduced at Sea Otter this year, after extensive block box testing and some race appearances, including Jaroslav Kulhavy's 2011 XC World Championship win. The new system was reengineered from the inside out, with some excellent technology, such as their speed metal shift indexing, roller thunder ball bearings and jaws lock-on grips.
Grip Shift xx and X.0
The Grip Shift is currently available in the XX and X.0 groups, in 2x10 and 3x10 versions, and they come as a kit, which includes a shifter, grip, cable and housing. The XX model has a carbon fiber cable cover and Gore Ride-On housing and cables, and only comes in 2x10. The X.0 has an aluminum cover and standard housing and cables, and comes in 2x10 and 3x10. Otherwise, the rest of the shifter is exactly the same. The entire package minus the housing, weighs 280 grams (XX weighs a few grams less), while the grip themselves comes in at 80 grams/pair. In comparison, a trigger shifter system with the same sort of lock-on grips would weigh at least 75 grams more, so the weight weenie crowd can rejoice on a lighter total setup. The XX retails for $295, and the X.0 is $225, the latter coming in silver or red colors.
Speed Metal Shift Indexing
The Grip Shift uses all metal index shifting, and is comprised of a metal indent spring and ring, along with a coil spring, all of which work in synergy for precise, quick and snappy shifting. The front has two or three indents, depending on the version, while the rear has ten. The rear's up shifting is kept in control by the derailer's spring tension, while the shifter's coil spring counteracts downshifting, and both mechanisms prevent unwanted shifts and over rotation.
Rolling Thunder Ball Bearing
The shifters rotate on three rows of 120 bearings, which offer smooth and low friction movement, and require minimal force to operate. Although it's non-serviceable, the design and distributed pressure, will give long-term durability and performance.
JAWS Lock-On Grips
They come with the JAWS lock-on grips, which snap into the shifter with a keyed interface (a.k.a. jaws), and an outer lock ring, to keep them from slipping and rotating. The grips smoothly transition to the shift paddles, and acts as a secure single unit when tied together. Since they splice into the shifter, they don't place any pressure on internal mechanisms, including the bearings and moving parts. The design also helps prevents unwanted contaminants from entering the shifter, whether it's dirt of water, which would degrade performance and cause additional wear.
I have been using the new Grip Shift since their Sea Otter release, and I must say they are pretty amazing shifters. I used the original grip shift for many years, and found them light, rugged and trustworthy, though perhaps not the smoothest shifters, and they tended to get sloppy with wear, and needed occasional lubing for optimal usage. The new Grip Shift is light and has a silky smoothly operation, with quick and easy rolls through the gears. Some outstanding highlights are the short throw on the front shifter, which only takes a quick snap of the wrist to move the front derailer, for near effortless gear changes. The rear shifting is also pretty nice, requiring around 90º of total rotation, and it's simple to roll up and down through multiple gears at once, though I must say that dropping down one gear is easier on trigger shifters, which only require a slight flick of your finger. It was great to be able to roll through the cassette, making precise gear selections, and snapping up or down massive or minimal gear changes with ease. Just like the original Grip Shifts, you rotate the paddle forward for the harder gear, and backward for easier ones.
Installation was pretty simple, just slide the proper shifter on either side of the handlebar, and before passing the bar end, press the JAWS grip key's into the shifter's interface. Continuing sliding the shifter inward until it’s braced against the brake, and clamp down both the inner shifter and grip lock-on rings.
One annoying thing was that the alloy cable cover on the inner edge of the X.0 shifter sits loosely in position, and it likes to bounce around on the trail, giving a tinkly metallic noise. If your brakes allow it, the noise can be stopped by pressing the reservoir's body onto the cover, keeping it in place, and preventing the unwanted movement.
Cable changes were much easier than its predecessor and normal trigger shifters, including SRAMs. You loosen the inner lock ring, slide it over, and then do the same to the large alloy or carbon fiber cable cover, which exposes the cable hole. Rotate the shifter paddle and the cable head pops out, and you can also add a dollop of lube for the indent parts to keep things smoothly clicking. I used the Gore-Ride On housing with my X.0 shifters, and they provided a greater degree of smoothness compared to the standard housing.
The JAWS system for the integrated grips worked nicely, and made installation easy and secure, although I wish they offered a softer padding, since I found them tough on the hands during long rides. The grips interlocked tightly into the shifters, preventing any contaminants from creeping into the internal mechanism. To use a non system grip, they come with a special end cap that plugs into the shifter to seal them off. I assume some third party grip manufacturers will release something shortly for the system? I did switch out the grips with some squishier ESI Chunky, which worked fine when cut to length, though it did make swap outs more difficult. When the JAWS are tied together with the shifter, it created a solid one unit entity, and the grip smoothly transitioned to the shifter paddle.
The overall spacing of the combined grip and shifters are slightly wider than their predecessor, so the brake lever sits farther inward, meaning you have more of a reach to grab the brake lever. The reach and wider box for your hands take some getting used to, and although it occasionally felt awkward, the multiple hand placements have its benefits, including less fatigue, optional positioning and leveraging. Being able to use non system grips can help alter the default ergonomic setup, allowing one to change things for personal preference.
The shifting is smooth as silk, and has a nice quick tactile snap as you move through the indexing, with a distinctive, positive and solid SRAM like engagement. The smoothness is greatly aided by the three rows of 120 stainless steel bearings, while the quick and snappy shifting is helped by the coil return spring and the metal indexing/indention system. I never experienced any miss-shifts during my test period, nor and did it pop out of gear during extremely rough riding.
Measured Specs (X.0):
The new Grip Shift is an excellent system, offering smooth, crisp, distinct and solid shifting, without any miss-shifts or dropped gears. The front gives a decisive and short throw that almost feels effortless to move between the chainrings. The rear allows huge swaths of gears to be rolled through on the cassette, or just one at a time, making for precise and easy selections. The synergy of the three rows of thunder ball bearings and the metal shift indexing makes for an excellent tactile response, making for silky-smooth gear changes with distinctive indention's. The JAWS lock-on grip system worked well, and tied the grip and shifter together as one solid unit, and prevented unwanted contaminates from entering the internals, though I wish the grips were a tad softer. Switching out cables was simple, and only required removing the inner lock ring and cable cover. One minor gripe was that the cable cover sits loosely, and can cause a metallic noise (at least on the alloy version) unless it's braced by the brake reservoir.
The new Grip Shift is light-years ahead of its predecessor, and offers some amazing technology and features, and everything works together for precise shifting that operates in a smooth as silk manner.
SRAM Grip Shift Specs:
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