Do The Twist? SRAM 10SPD Grip Shift- by Grannygear

OK, let me first say that I am biased here.  Many moons ago I wrote a blog entry titled “An Open Love Letter to SRAM” in which I stated my fondness and gratitude for the alternative shifting system that is Grip Shift.  I was an early adopter and I still have all the old stuff sitting in a box somewhere, or most of it.  But when test bikes began to be the norm, no one spec’d Grip Shift on 9 speed bikes so I got used to it.  Then the 10 nails of 10 speed cassettes were hammered into the coffin of Grip Shift and it seemed like the end of any chance of seeing twist shifters again.  But now, here we are in a brave new world of 10 speed twist shifters.  What began as rumors is now a reality and I have been on a set since Sea Otter (Springtime of this year) so it seems like it is time to talk about how it has worked out.

There have been some significant refinements in the new 10 speed twisters compared to the previous 9 speed versions.  Here is a video laying out some of those details.

 

10spd Grip Shift comes in XX and XO flavors and as far as I can tell, the only real difference is the cable cover on XO is alu and XX is carbon, plus graphics to match the separate groups.  I weighed the set and compared it to the XX thumbies and bracketry that I removed from the brake levers of Project Go-’Fish and I saved 32g by converting over.  That is what…an ounce?  So, it is lighter.  I could only imagine the weight savings would be more if you were upgrading from a lower end set of SRAM paddle shifters.

Installation was dead easy and the cable install is very straight forward.  The brake levers end up being more in-board due to the physical size of the shifter.  Rolling through the gears in the work stand, it is obvious that the 10spd version is more precise in selecting gears and feels very ‘snicky’, less ‘snacky’.  There…how is THAT for techno-jargon?  It takes less effort to rotate the shifter as well.  I have to admire the clean look of it.  It streamlined the controls of the Spearfish and looked simple and uncluttered.  So, to the trail.

Now after having many hours on the new XO version of the 10 speed Grip Shift, what do I think?

  • If you liked/loved the old version and pined for a 10 speed capable model, you will not be disappointed.  Want to dump the whole cluster?  Sure.  Want to upshift as many gears as you can twist?  Yep.  All that goodness is still there.
  • It gets better the faster you go or at least the more that you really need to be grabbing fast gear shifts.  If I am just cruising along, then it is OK.  You can shift up or down without even moving your thumb from the top of the grip (assuming you are not wrapped around) in cruiser mode.  Nice for long climbs where I have my hands relaxed and draped over the top of the grips.  But, when it gets to dicing, like on twisty up and down single track, I think it shines where thumbies are clunky when you try and hurry them.
  • It seems like you get the rear derailleur moving toward downshifts quicker. My impression anyway.
  • It gives you more options as to where to be able to place your hands and still shift, nice on long days in the saddle.
Not as good stuff?
  • There is a rubber section (the end of the grip) around the largest part of the assembly, right where I want to rest my hands.  Awkward…like grabbing a big o-ring.  I wish that was flatter there.
  • The already short XX World Cup brake levers are really short now and to get two fingers on there I have to be riding right up onto the larger barrel of the shifter.  One finger is still OK, but two means I have to run inboard with my hands.
  • If you want to shift, you have to have at least 50%, to toss out a number, of your hand on the shift barrel or be able to release your hand on the non-rotating grip or you will not be able to get a smooth gear change, especially if you have tacky gloves.  So that means that it does effectively narrow your h-bars as I can no longer stay way out there and still shift.
  • It takes some practice to not grab more gears than I want.  The new bearings in there make for a very precise shift but the effort is reduced.  If I have been on other bikes then come back to the Grip Shift, it takes me a bit of riding to not over-rotate the shifter by one gear notch.  The more I ride it, the better I get, and it was not an issue at speed, etc.  I never got unintended shifts from just hanging onto the bars, but there is a ‘way’ or technique of letting the outer fingers and hand section do most of the grip gripping…if that makes sense.
But besides all that, and the negatives are hardly deal killers, it has been solid and precise and I am very happy to have at least ONE bike that twists instead of fiddle/paddles.  It was worth the wait.  The other day I was on a group ride with some guys and one person asked me how many gears I was running.  I said 2×10 and he pointed to his buddy and said, “hey…10 spd Grip Shift!”.  Said buddy was stoked and practically tripped to get to me and see.  He pedaled it around the parking area, running the gears up and down the cluster with gusto…brrrrrzzziiippp!!!  He was so excited as he had been staying 9 speed only because he would not go to paddles.  He was stoked.

JeffJ has a set as well, so I have his thoughts here.  He has been a long time ‘twister’ so he was excited to get on the new versions:

I recently got the chance to test SRAM’s latest iteration of Grip Shift, the X0 (2x)10 speed variety.  I have used several 9 speed grip shifters dating back to my first set that came stock on a 1999 Cannondale Super V.  I have always liked Grip Shift for a variety of reasons, though I find trigger shifters mostly quite serviceable.  However, I recently had some pain in my thumbs from having to move my portly digits far enough to access the downshift levers of the SLX and X5 triggers I have been using.

The set we received did not come with any documentation, but fortunately, installation was pretty straight forward and quick.  The only thing I had to figure out was that it was best to tighten the clamp on the grip at the far end of the handlebar, and then push the clamp on the shifter outward before tightening the clamp.  This prevents the metal shield on the actual shifter mechanism from being loose and rattling a bit.  

I admittedly had some reservation about SRAM deciding to omit the capability to trim the front derailleur like you can with 9 speed Grip Shift.  The good news here is that I can easily go through all 10 cogs in either chain ring without experiencing any chain rub on the front derailleur cage (Shimano SLX), although I rarely go past the first 8 cogs while using the small chain ring.  So, in retrospect, I can’t really see the need to have a trim function that isn’t needed (at least it isn’t needed in my case).  For rear shifting duties, I installed a SRAM XX 10 speed rear derailleur. 

One of the first things that I noticed about the latest version of Grip Shift is the unique profile of the included integrated grips.  Specifically, the way the grip tapers down toward the outer end of the grip.  Since I possess hands that require XXL or XXXL size gloves, this is not ideal.  Being that the grip’s diameter is smaller than the clamp at the outermost end of the grip.  From what I understand, production versions of the shifter set come with adapters that will allow the use of grips other than those supplied with the shifters, but these were not included in this set.  After several initial rides, it became clear that this would be an issue for me.  But, it is an issue I was able to solve with a bit of garage-tech and resolve by wrapping a layer of bar tape over the grip, and then covering that with a short length of road bike size inner tube.  

SRAM 10 speed grip shiftSRAM 10 speed grip shift

If you are someone that didn’t find previous Grip Shift to their liking because it required the brake levers to be mounted inward from the shifters (unlike SRAM’s trigger shifters), which meant that you had to place your hands more than an inch inward from the end of bars when you needed to use your brakes, then you may find yourself liking these shifters with their totally redesigned housing.  I no longer need to reposition my hands to access the brake levers and I can take advantage of all 720mm of bar width. You may find the SRAM X0 10 speed Grip Shift is now brake lever friendly with a few exceptions (those being the latest Elixir 7 and Elixir 9 brake levers with the tool-free reach adjusters that may get in the way of mounting the lever right next to the shifter).

With all of the preliminary details duly noted, it’s finally time to put the rubber to the trail and see if all the new sleek and shiny parts translated to into a better trail experience.  The first thing I felt was that the shifting action is noticeably more refined than any Grip Shift previously offered.  Smooth and precise are two more descriptors that come to mind.  The detents are not as ‘clunky’ and shifting becomes little more than a quick thought and a small purposeful twist of the wrist to advance the rear derailleur one cog at a time.  In the three months I have been using these shifters, I can’t recall a single blown shift or tossed chain.  

Knowing that Grip Shift may not be everybody’s cup of tea, I would suggest that if you liked earlier Grip Shift shifters, there is a good chance that you will love these.  And if you had some reservations about or issues with previous twisters, you may find these to be worth another look.  From my point of view, it’s nice to once again have an alternative to trigger shifters and aside from the grips not being ideal in girth for my oversize paws, these shifters get two pain free thumbs up from me.

Note: SRAM supplied the Grip Shift for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.