Photo: Satchel Cronk
Hairspray, ladies and gentlemen. Hairspray. Back in the ’90s, our grips, perhaps the most intimate connection we have to our bikes, were still commonly secured by a scented personal-grooming product that even the rock stars of the day were abandoning en masse. Wire ties and glue were more secure, but they’re slow to cure and a pain to remove. And none truly held a grip down permanently and reliably.
Nobody was more aware of this than Dave Grimes, who was busy pounding the pop-up tents at mountain bike and BMX races after taking the helm at ODI in 1992. Grips were possibly the most troublesome of the parts frequently being swapped in the pits. Back before stems had faceplates and brake levers had hinges, our grips were the gatekeepers to the entire cockpit. Something had to be done.
ODI wasn’t alone in trying. Its competitors’ early attempts were never commercially viable but, to be fair, neither were ODI’s prototypes. The first was built around an expensive aluminum core. Later iterations were cheaper but didn’t live up to ODI’s safety standards. And all this prototyping was happening long before 3D printing, making the trial and error especially labor-intensive by today’s standards.
During development, the Southern California brand worked closely with the racing community that exposed the need for Lock-Ons in the first place. “The concept was almost instantly embraced by racers who needed to be able to make adjustments to their bikes or change equipment quickly between races,” recalls ODI bicycle brand manager, Colby Young. “Many of our sponsored riders and teams were involved in feedback and testing on early prototypes.”
Dave Grimes and in-house ODI engineers eventually refined Lock-On into the modular dual-clamp design that has remained essentially unchanged for over 20 years. Although the racers who first got their hands on them were onboard from the start, the first Lock-Ons had their share of naysayers when they were finally released in 1999. “There was quite a bit of skepticism initially,” explains Young. “The major magazines of the time felt that the cost was too high. A Bonus Pack was offered for $19.99 originally, (closer to $30 in 2018 dollars) but they believed consumers would never pay that much.”
That’s actually pretty impressive for a product that was—and still is—made in the USA. And if you were riding at the time, you probably remember what a game-changer Lock-Ons were. It was the kind of innovation we don’t see often in our industry. “At every event or show we went to, people would consider it a challenge to try to get the grips to spin on the handlebar, which typically ended up in them breaking our display rather than getting any movement in the grips.”
And today, the standard set by Lock-On has become the norm. There are infinite shapes and multiple clamping configurations. We take it for granted that our grips won’t slide off until we want them to. Also, that we can install them with a 2.5-millimeter Allen wrench instead of a bottle of Paul Mitchell Extra Hold.