Long Live the King

SRAM Reintroduces Grip Shift for XX and X0

By Joe Parkin

Way back in 1990, Greg Herbold won the inaugural UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships on his Grip Shift-equipped Miyata mountain bike. Knowing that SRAM was going to give us media-types a chance to check out the 2012 version of Grip Shift at its recent Trail House media launch, I thought surely ‘HB’ would be on the scene. No dice. Luckily, though, the former world champ was there in spirit—the cooler was not lacking for cold Budweisers.

Photo: Adrian Marcoux

Before any of you nattering nabobs of Grip Shift negativism turn the channel or begin crafting your anti-twist comments, let’s cut to perhaps the number-one reason why you should reconsider your position: SRAM, with its remarkable marketing acumen, went and trademarked the term ‘Speed Metal’ as the technology name for the new Grip Shift’s all-metal indexing.

If that alone doesn’t make you want to get your twist on, then we strongly suggest you watch the following video—it’ll adjust your attitude:

Twisting a portion of your grip to shift gears on a mountain bike is incredibly intuitive. I would argue that Grip Shift allows for quicker shifting all around. Whether it’s shifting to a lower gear in order to keep riding after you’ve completely botched a downhill to uphill transition or dumping a handful of gears at the crest of a climb so that you can gap your buddy, this system pretty much allows you to be in the gear you want as quickly as you can think it.

We rode the new X0 2×10 shifters for just one day at the Trail House launch. It had been quite a while since I’d ridden a Grip Shift bike, and I was immediately re-impressed with how ditching the triggers tidies up a bike’s cockpit. Absent of extra clutter, the front end even looks lighter.

Photo: Adrian Marcoux

On the trail, rear-derailleur shifting was crisp, clean and silky smooth. It took very little effort to shift back and forth through the entire range of gears. The smooth feel can be attributed to three rows of ball bearings inside. SRAM calls this Rolling Thunder. Good name, but no Speed Metal. With only two chainrings up front, the wrist-action needed to shift is next to nothing—no need to worry about going blind or growing hair on your palms.

The grip and shifter lock together, forming somewhat of a dovetail joint, which provides a secure single-unit feel. SRAM calls this Jaws. Good, but the Speed Metal name has set the naming bar so high that nothing else can compare. Should the SRAM grip not quite meet your standard for comfort, Grip Shift converts to become compatible with any grip on the market.

One ride is in no way a true test of a product, but I am truly pleased that SRAM has brought back their cornerstone bicycle component. The new Grip Shift system looks good, feels solid and comfortable in my hands and worked flawlessly on my first test-ride. Grip Shift simply makes sense for XC, trail and all-mountain riding, and I’ll be interested to see if any top downhillers adopt it. Remembering the Half Pipe model of yesteryear, some riders will undoubtedly still swear that it’s possible to shift accidentally after a big hit, but given the overall layout of the new design, an accidental shift is going to take some serious accidental effort. No, this new model is the great idea of yesterday that’s all grown up. Should it continue to perform over the term of a proper test, Grip Shift will definitely find a spot at the top of my list for best product of the year.

Photo courtesy of SRAM

Just the facts:

XX Grip Shift 2×10 set
207 grams with cables and clamps
Ride-On cable system
Carbon cover
Ball-bearing movement
Lock-on grips (80 grams)
$295.00
Available April 30, 2012

X0 Grip Shift 2×10 or 3×10

207 grams with cables and clamps
Aluminum cover
Ball-bearing movement
Lock-on grips (80 grams)
$255.00
Available April 30, 2012

The author used to be pretty quick aboard a bike equipped with old-school Grip Shift.

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