Your grips are your main connection to your bike. Sure, there are other contact points, but your grips are your means of control and input. They provide tack for control and absorb vibrations and impacts. The best dirt bike grips do all of these things, continuing to function for as long as possible.
There are many facets to selecting the right grips and installing them. Riding style and motorcycle type dictate much, but there is also the matter of preference. The low cost of most grips allows for some experimentation, but it helps to know which grips are leading the industry. We’ll get into that, but first, let’s learn about grip types of grips and how to install them.
Dirt Bike Grip Sizes
Off-road motorcycles and most street bikes use 7/8-inch handle-bars. The larger, 1-inch size is almost exclusively for Harley-Davidsons (and some other cruiser motorcycles). There is no need to stress about the size of your bars or which grips you need. Even a 1 1/8-inch oversize bar will taper down to 7/8 of an inch at the grips.
Types of Dirt Bike Grips
Regular Dirt Bike Grips
Dirt bike grips are rubber tubes that go over the handle bar, providing a tacky surface for the rider to grasp. They reduce the vibrations that a running bike sends into the rider’s hands, but they don’t last forever. Grips wear out from use and from age (source).
Once a set of grips no longer provides tack, the rider’s hands will start to slip, which is dangerous. When grips get to this point, it is time to replace them. It’s best to renew the grips before they get to that point.
Lock-On Dirt Bike Grips
Lock-on grips do not look much different than regular dirt bike grips, but they are easier to remove and install. They consist of a plastic sleeve, around which a rubber grip is molded into place. The plastic tube slides over the bar. On the throttle side, the sleeve in the lock-on grip replaces and renews the throttle tube. There will also be a variety of bike-specific throttle-cable cams included, one of which should fit your motorcycle.
Lock-on grip have clamps located on the flanges on the grips’ inward side. The grip will rotate freely until the clamp is tightened, so there is no need to fret about alignment. Once the clamp is tightened, the grip is locked into place. Note that lock-on grips can cost twice as much as regular grips, but that investment pays dividends when it’s time to replace them.
How to Remove Dirt Bike Grips
Method 1: Removing Dirt Bike Grips the Peel it Method
Depending on if the grips were installed with glue, it may be possible to simply peel them from the handlebar. This method reduces damage to the bar and the throttle tube. However, it will require patience as you work the grip off of the bar.
Take hold of the grip at the flange and peel it outward. Work around the circumference of the bar, peeling it toward the bar end. Work the flat part of the grip back with your other hand. The clutch side of dirt bike handlebars is textured to keep the grip in place, so expect to use quite a bit of force to get the grip moving.
If there is glue present, acetone or a lubricating fluid such as WD-40 (available from Amazon here) can help break the adhesive bond (source). Once the grip is moving on the bar, simply twist and pull at the same time to gradually pull the grip off. This is where patience is important. Using too much force can cause blisters on your hands.
Method 2: Removing Dirt Bike Grips the Razor Knife Method
If the grip will not move with force alone, use a utility knife to slice it along its length. It is possible to damage the surface of the bar by cutting too deeply. A cut in this location won’t ruin the bar, but it’s best not to cause unnecessary damage.
Once the grip is sliced, it will be relatively simple to peel it from the bar. If you use a chemical to remove the old glue, be careful not to allow it to drip onto any painted surfaces. Whichever method you use, be sure to completely remove any glue residue from the previous grips.
How to Install Dirt Bike Grips
Method 1: Installing Dirt Bike Grips Using Compressed Air
The first method of grip installation involves the use of compressed air (like in the video below), which requires that you have an air compressor available. Be aware that a set of grips will have two different inside diameters. The larger size goes on the throttle tube.
First, place the grip on the bar and push it as far as it will go without forcing it. Place the tip of a nozzle under the flange and hold the other end with your hand. The compressed air will cause the grip to balloon out, making it simple to slide the grip over the bar.
Method 2: Installing Dirt Bike Grips the Wet Method
If you don’t have an air compressor, the wet method is the way to go. Many people use hair spray or some similar product for this, but the chemicals present may damage your new grips (source). Rubbing alcohol is better, as it leaves no residue behind. Grip glue will also work.
Hold the grip vertically but at a 45-degree angle and apply liquid you to the inside of the grip. It doesn’t need to coat the whole surface. It will spread out as you install the grip. Next, simply slide the grip over the handlebar. It may require a bit of force to slide the grip on, but with persistence it should go. Align the grip how you’d like it to be before allowing the liquid or glue to dry. Wait 12 to 24 hours before riding.
Best Dirt Bike Grips
Best Dirt Bike Grips for Comfort & Grip
The popularity of Pillow Top grips is owed to their ability to reduce felt vibrations. The grip surface is quite tacky, reducing the need to invoke a vice-like grip on the bars.
ProTaper is one of the most popular and well-known brands in motorcycling. The company’s grips have a reputation for comfort and durability that is hard to equal. Among ProTaper’s lineup, the Pillow Top grips have consistently been the most popular grips in the dirt bike world.
The popularity of Pillow Top grips is owed to their ability to reduce felt vibrations. The grip surface is quite tacky, reducing the need to invoke a vice-like grip on the bars. However, the compound of the inner core is much stiffer, which increases the bond between grip and bar. The ends on Pillow Tops are easy-to-remove, allowing for wrap-around hand protectors or the bar-end weights on older off-road bikes.
Of course, reducing vibrations is useless if the grips leave you hanging on for dear life. Pillow Tops incorporate ample spaces between their raised lugs to help provide better traction. The spaces also help the grips shed dirt and mud, much like a self-cleaning MX tire does. Available in a variety of colorways to match the Big Four’s schemes, Pro Taper Pillow Tops have earned their place as possibly the best dirt bike grips available.
- Soft, gel-like compound reduces felt vibrations
- Multiple colorways to match manufacturer schemes
- Provide unsurpassed traction to help lighten grip pressure
- Among the most comfortable grips available
- Shortish length can leave gap between grip and controls.
- Require replacement sooner than some other (harder) grips
Best Dirt Bike Grips for Arm Pump
Scott’s Diamond Grips are supremely popular in many off-road riding circles because of their ability to reduce the dreaded arm pump. The secret to their grip comes from the Diamond Grips’ three compound densities.
Scott Sports may have started with a revolutionary new ski pole in the 1950s, but its entrance in the dirt bike market in 1970 put it on the powersports map. Scott grips have consistently pushed the market forward since that time. Scott’s Diamond Grips are supremely popular in many off-road riding circles because of their ability to reduce the dreaded arm pump.
Among many other reasons, arm pump occurs because of riders taking a very firm grip on the bars. The strain backs up blood flow, causing painful swelling and a dangerous lack of grip strength. A common cure is to make sure that your grips provide enough, well, grip. Scott Diamond Grips have that is spades.
The secret to their grip comes from the Diamond Grips’ three compound densities. The full-diamond pattern is a soft compound to help absorb vibrations and provide a tacky base. The grips also incorporate a raised, medium-density, wraparound waffle pattern for added grip. The end caps are firmer still, providing durability and a tactile sense of the hands being on the bar end. It all combines to reduce the rider’s grip pressure, which then reduces fatigue.
- Designed to reduce arm fatigue and arm pump
- Provides superior tack
- Large flanges with included donuts to prevent blisters
- Thicker material on clutch side so left and right feel no different
- Can deteriorate quickly if left in hot sun too long
- Lose their tack (but not vibration dampening) quicker than some
Best Dirt Bike Grips for Enduro
Kevtek Enduro grips maintain their tack for nearly the life of the grip. There is very little of the slow drain in grip that can accompany similarly soft products.
The name of Tolrc1 Racing may not yet be a household word, but that’s changing fast. The company’s quick rise in popularity is thanks almost exclusively to the success of its Kevetec rubber compound. This multi-density ballistic material is earning a stellar reputation for its supreme tack and impressive longevity.
Kevtec grips have raised, squared-off knobs, similar in look and feel to the venerable ProTaper Pillow Top. The dual compound is soft to the touch, helping the grips absorb engine vibrations and the shock of impacts so that your hands don’t have to. The result is a grip that reduces arm pump and hand fatigue, making them perfect for those long and arduous enduro races.
Best of all, the Kevtek Enduro grips maintain their tack for nearly the life of the grip. There is very little of the slow drain in grip that can accompany similarly soft products. Users can expect their Torc1 grips to last throughout a full riding season, and often well into the next. With a channel in the flange for safety wiring and a wide assortment of colorways, these are grips made to satisfy the rigorous demands of the enduro community.
- Long-lasting, multi-season enduro grips
- Every set of grips comes with tube of grip glue
- Available in multiple colorways
- Consistently soft across color palette
- Glue also dries very quickly, so installer must work fast
- Included grip glue can deteriorate inner grip in extreme heat or cold
Best Lock On Dirt Bike Grips
ODI originated the lock-on grip, and the grip industry will not likely ever be the same again. Long-lasting, comfortable and easy to replace, the EMIG V2 may well be remembered as being as legendary as its namesake
After decades in the off-road market, ODI (oh-dee-eye) has developed a cult-like following. Its success comes from a dedication to R&D in rubber compound tack and longevity. The recent development of the EMIG sister brand (helmed by legendary MX racer Jeff Emig) and the V2 grip has only added to the ODI appeal.
These are the original EMIG V2 grips, which incorporate a diamond base with a medium-density half-waffle overlay. The waffle pattern stops where the thumb grasps the grip, providing relief from blisters. While there is a newer version of this grip, only the original has end caps that are easily removed for use with wraparound hand guards.
Another key feature of the grip is that it is a lock-on type. There is no need for safety wire and an little fuss during installation. ODI originated the lock-on grip, and the grip industry will not likely ever be the same again. Long-lasting, comfortable and easy to replace, the EMIG V2 may well be remembered as being as legendary as its namesake.
- Originated the lock-on grip revolution
- Soft diamond pattern makes these grips extremely comfortable
- Iconic EMIG name
- Half waffle design leaves space for thumb, prevents blisters
- Not the softest compound on the market
- Lock-Ons necessitate thinner rubber, so softness is further compromised
Best Dirt Bike Grips for Motocross
A classic in every sense of the word. These dual-compound grips utilize a half-waffle pattern to improve rider grip.
If you don’t know the Renthal name, you’ve been living under a rock instead of riding over them. Known more for their high-quality handlebars and sprockets, Renthal grips are nevertheless extremely popular in the MX world.
Renthal’s Tapered Half-Waffle grips don’t actually taper in size. Rather, it is the size of the diamonds in the texture pattern that gradually get smaller (larger at flange to smaller at bar end). The intention is to mimic the different ergonomics of a closed fist, and the improvement in grip can take some new users by surprise.
These dual-compound grips also utilize a half-waffle pattern to further improve rider grip. However, unlike some other dual-compound grips, there is no difference in density between the diamonds and the waffle pattern. Instead, the ends and underlying colored rubber are firmer to increase the lifespan of the grip. The gray rubber on top is softer for comfort.
- One of the most popular half-waffle grips
- Cushy and soft for a noticeable change when renewing grips
- Hard underlying layer prevents slippage on handlebar
- A classic design from a trusted Brand
- Light gray color shows dirt quickly
- Only Renthal glue will work with this compound
Without proper grip, you are likely to go flying off your dirt bike in no time. You could even argue that a decent set of grips are as important as your boots when it comes to staying safe.
As was mentioned at the start, grip choice is subjective. What works for one person may feel alien and just plain wrong to another. Still, the ProTaper Pillow Top takes our top spot as one of the best dirt bike grips because it does the most things well for the most riders. Soft, tacky and long lasting, it remains one of the most popular grips in dirt.
It also scores high marks for easy installation (wet or dry), even if it may leave a bit more bar exposed than some of its competitors. Yet, though they may compete in a few areas, not every grip represents the complete package that the Pillow Top does. It’s been the leader for a while, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.