Ergon green. That color stands for unique design and functional mountain bike products. They look a little different and the promise is that they work better for your body. Let’s put three of their products to the test.
The first product is the the Ergon GR2 grip. Now, I sought out this product out of necessity. About a month ago, I lost feeling in my left ring finger. This was then followed by pulsing pain down my forearm. After an x-ray and an EMG nerve test, it was determined that I pinched my ulnar nerve near my wrist. There was no accident but I suspect riding a rigid fork for over a year has a lot to do with this injury. The shock of the rigid fork traveled through my grips and compressed my ulnar nerve. It turns out this is a fairly common bike injury and is often called ‘handlebar palsy’.
So with that information, I figured out how to avoid the stress on my hands. Of course I put on a suspension fork on my 29er singlespeed bike. But I also found out about at Ergon Grip and glove system. The grips are made of soft rubber and flare out on the outside to distribute the load across a wider surface of the palm. Also, the GR2 model offers bar ends. Just when I thought the bar end was dead, it has resurfaced in a much leaner and more integrated form. The bar end on the Ergon grips seem perfectly shape with a curve on the outside following the curvature of the hand. Also the tips of the bar ends flatten out and make it natural to rest the thumb on it. Finally, at the bottom of the bar end are nice indentations where the tips of my fingers can rest and get a grip.
Ergonomic indeed but how does it ride? The first few rides are key since it is critical to get the angle of the grips right. These grips will force you to ride at the angle of the grips so you want them positioned at the natural angle of your hand. Once positioned, my hands felt very comfortable and I didn’t feel (or have the choice to roll my wrist up or down).
Riding on level terrain was a dream. My hands felt natural as the shock of the trail was muted as more of my palm was in contact with the bar. When climbing, it felt good as well. The bonus of the bar end was it gave me a couple of new positions. First was at the ends of the handlebars and then holding the bar ends themselves shifted my weight forward and gave me extra climbing leverage. In the singlespeeding world, it is often said that having bar ends is like having an extra gear. This is actually true as the extra reach allows you to pull on the bars a little easier and turn the pedals. In addition, just having different positions available allows you to distribute the load to different parts of your hand and prevent injury.
But how was it descending? Well here’s the compromise. Ergon grips don’t descend as well as normal grips. The biggest issue is you can’t wrap your hands around the whole grip. Thus, you get the feeling that your grip is not as secure. There is a bit of a learning curve as well and you should allow yourself a couple descents to get used to the new grip position. The bar ends actually help since they provided me more area to rest the ends of my hands and ensure I had a good grip on the handlebar. I think most XC riders will not have a problem descending with these grips at all. But downhillers and dirt jumpers will probably stick with standard grips.
So midway through my ulnar nerve recovery (4 weeks) I just had to attend a mountain bike trip to Oregon. This trip promised shuttle runs and 10 mile long descents. The great news is I never had an issue with my hands. In fact, it was interesting to see folks all around me wincing as they massaged their hands after long descents. The Ergon grips saved my hands and I felt safe and secure on the descents as well.
Ergon also had me try their gloves which are ‘optimized’ for their grips. It’s a very nice glove and fairly interesting with a full-finger glove and 3/4 finger on the rest. The glove also featured minimal padding, right at the ulnar area. The gloves mated quite well with the grips and I had a pretty secure feeling on it. However, it’s not required as my other thin gloves mated with grips quite well too.
4.75 out of 5 stars
(5 stars if you have an ulnar injury but not ideal if you’re a downhiller)
Ergon BD1 Backpack
This backpack is big and it’s meant to carry big loads. That is its strength and weakness. If you like to carry a 10 lb backpack with water, food and tools to rebuild a bottom bracket on the trail, then look no further. The biggest problem with big packs is they tire your shoulders and they interfere with your nimbleness and maneuverability.
Ergon tries to solve this in two ways. First, the BD1 takes the load off your shoulders and onto your hips. Second is they’ve integrated a pivot-ball shoulder mount so the pack stays straight even as your upper body goes through all kinds of singletrack-induced contortions. Fitment is critical so the pivot-ball can be adjusted up or down to ensure that the shoulder-straps are in the ideal position in relation to the waist straps.
The pack itself weighs 2.33 lbs when empty. It has a nylon frame and has an assortment of straps. There is stretchable sleeve inside that can take differerent sized water bladders. Also, there is a helmet retention cover on the outside that can be removed when not in use. It’s a nice feature but can get in the way of accessing the inside of the pack.
Does it work? Oh, yes. I’ve ridden with it and there was hardly any tension on my shoulder straps. When properly adjusted, the weight is really carried by the hips. And riding through twisty descents, the pack was not a bother at all. It just felt centered back there with none of the usual weight shifts and flopping around of a heavy pack. I was liberating. Another bonus seemed to be that the pack was lifted off my back a little bit by the pivot-ball mechanism. This allowed more ventilation on those hot days.
And who’s it not for? If you don’t carry a lot of stuff and prefer a 5 lb water carrier, then look elsewhere. Also, this can get rather pricey at $140 and that’s without a water reservoir. If you are bothered by a big waist strap, there is a possibility you might not like this pack. So load it up and test-ride it first to see how you like it.
Bottom line, if you carry a big pack, there’s no question you need to start saving up now for this one.
5 out of 5 stars
Handlebar Palsy – http://www.hughston.com/hha/a_15_3_2.htm
Ergon – http://ergon-bike.com/