One of the coolest things about the cycling industry is its relatively small size. Behind nearly every product is a hand you can shake and companies that seem large in our industry are typically only family driven affairs kept productive and successful by the hard work of their owners. ESI Grips is one of those companies and one I am super proud to have the support of. Gary and Maria Stewart are a couple of problem-solving, forward thinking riders who saw a potential material application for improved control and comfort on a mountain bike and in 2003 the ESI grip was born. I cam in contact with these grips in the early 2000s working at a Trek dealer (Trek was the first distributor for ESI) and havent looked back since. The silicone in their grips meets the rider’s needs for all weather control and comfort in a stack of different thicknesses and now alternative shapes. ESI originally attracted me away from foam grips because of their low weight and comfort but having seen the combination of weight, durability, ease of install, and of colors color options its hard not to throw 20$ at a new pair for each bike in the stable. I find I usually add a new pair because im itching for a color change before they wear out!
In the 2015 edition of the Pisgah Stage Race I was running a brand new Pivot 429Sl with factory grips. Not bad at all, solid lock-on affairs with decent grip. But after 2 days of torrential rain and endless pisgah rocks and roots I took a quick trip down the road and bought a pair of blue ESI Chunky grips. I wont make it a secret that ESI supports me well enough that I could have gotten grips mailed but to me its a solid testament that I was more than willing to pay retail (I mean 20$ isnt a cross to bear any way you look at it) because the ESIs I put on were far and away a better contact point between me and my 429SL than the stockers. It was simply a matter of comfort and even safety in the endless spring rain we had that year.
Having run ESIs for years I was thrilled to see their newest Fit Grip come out in the winter of 2015. I was fortunate to be an early recipient of a pair of light blue FIT XC grips and have run them all season on my Pivot LES geared bike. The grips haven’t packed down, have kept that ext level gecko-like grip and due to their shape have provided even greater control and hand position for me on long or arduous technical rides. The Fit XC grip has a chamfered thumb pocket achieved with a lathe-like trimming of a silicone blank; putting the rider in a position of far greater control; thumbs rotated forward into the handlebar and hand canted down towards the stem of the bike. Ive been genuinely impressed by how much this small change has meant to riding position and look forward to seeing the FIT grip on more bikes in the future.
When I was at Interbike this year I was lucky enough to meet another small company Ive since become a huge fan of; Togs. These slick little add-ons have allowed me yet another hand position in a space which easily get crowded on a modern bicycle. Even with a handy bell, a dropper lever, shifters, brakes, and all that the Tog finds a perfect amount of space next to the grip to allow a rider to wrap their thumbs around and find the next level of handling performance. I picked up a pair of Togs to provide an alternate hand position on long climbs and found immediately that the position gave me a different kind of leverage in a lot of situations, even descending. The carbon fiber togs clamp in place and are easily rotated even during a ride to provide the most versatile and effective cockpit setup short of drop bars. I even installed flash Ti bolts on mine. 😉 Right now I am running my togs on two bikes, one with standard ESI chunkys and another with ESI Chunky grips custom milled 15mm shorter to accommodate a little extra room to install the togs. Both have been great for me; with the shorter grips actually being nice to keep the cockpit tidy. Riders with larger hands may appreciate a little more room afforded by a standard grip. ESI and Togs will make both available to the public next year.
Both of these companies have been a small part of the Quadsworth puzzle of success and Im stoked to share them with friends and fellow riders. Both are super cost effective, and absolutely worth the few bones to totally change your handlebar setup.