When someone says ‘Grip Shift,’ most of us will think of tragic 90s lycra, anodised purple and accidental shifting thanks to plastic components.
The original Grip Shift owed its popularity to its capacity to quickly shift through multiple gears in either direction, the option Grip Shift gave of ‘trimming**’ the position of the front derailleur to prevent chain rub, its super-light weight and the fact that it its design allowed riders an uninterrupted grip on the bars.
A more recent incarnation, the SRAM X0 9 Speed Grip Shift, offered a firmer shift and a chunkier grip, which prevented accidental shifts, but it still had the plastic feel and sound of its predecessor.
Welcome the latest 10-speed X0 Grip Shift. SRAM started from the ground up on these and with three rows of bearings, solid metal indexing and a far easier yet just as crisp shift, the new Grip Shift certainly had us impressed.
At 208g with cables, compared to 232g for the equivalent trigger shifters, the X0 Grip Shift is still a light choice. Add in an extra 80g for the smartly integrated Jaws lock-on grips and the X0 Grip Shift is on par with a lightweight grip and a pair of trigger shifters combo (though not quite as light as the older Grip Shift).
The X0’s shift quality is perfect; each shift index was easily felt, yet the unit had a smooth action that remained consistent throughout our muddy testing.
Being able to rip through multiple gears is what Grip Shift is all about. Sure enough, we found ourselves making use of our gears more often because shifting was so easy – we didn’t need to lift a finger! This makes the X0 perfect for racing because it means you can shift while trying to gulp down some food or while you have a bottle in hand.
The straighter chain line of the 2×10 drivetrain has allowed SRAM to remove the front shifters ‘trim’ function, creating the simplest two-position front shifter we’ve used. There’s no chance of an accidental shift with the Jaws grip providing ample hand room. This handlebar grip provides a tacky feel and a secure hold, however those who prefer a softer, shock-absorbing grip may want a different grip – simple, provided your grip of choice can be cut to length.
We did encounter one totally unexpected obstacle, however, when we tried running the Grip Shift with 2012 Avid Elixir 9 brakes. The Elixir’s tool-free lever reach adjuster fouled on the shifter when we tried to clamp the brakes to the bar, so we were forced to run the brakes further in on the bars than we would have liked.
The overall long length of the grip/shifter combination is to blame and with a shorter grip, we’d be happier with the brake lever placement. Riders using other brakes that feature a short lever are likely to experience similar issues; we found 2012 Shimano XTs also sit a smidge inboard for our midsized mitts.
SRAM’s X0 Grip Shift has strong appeal, though it is definitely better suited to cross country racers and trail riders. We loved how easily we could run through the gears with the X0. Just watch out for that brake lever compatibility.
**Trim: Some bikes will suffer chain rub on the front derailleur in certain gear combinations, no matter how well they are adjusted. ‘Trim’ is a feature that allows you to finetune the position of the front derailleur through the use of a micro shift.
Straighter chain lines and improved derailleur design have made trim unnecessary on mountain bikes.