Sunday, August 19, 2012
SRAM X0 2X10 Grip Shift review
My Scott Scale Pro came from the factory with SRAM X9 2X10 trigger shifters installed. The shifting was significantly better than I remember from my last stint owning a mountain bike nearly 10 years ago. However, there were some ergonomic issues that I ran into. I saw the X0 grip shifters installed on a bike at my LBS and immediately thought that they might be the answer to my problem. I remember not caring that much for grip shifters back in the day, but when I was shown the short throw to upshift the front derailleur I was intrigued enough to buy a set.
Weight and installation
The X0 Grip Shifters have a claimed weight of 287g versus 232g for the X0 trigger shifters. 55 grams is a fair amount of weight so there really does need to be offsetting benefit to justify it. That being said, if you do not use the stock SRAM grips that come with the kit, you can shave about 45g off of the weight of the set.
I did not perform the installation of the shifters as I normally would do. Instead my LBS installed them. In speaking with them the installation was very straight forward and not any more difficult than with trigger shifters. When I swapped bars, there was an issue routing the new front derailleur cable, but this was taken care of by pulling the barrel adjuster off of the shifter.
Cable adjustment is the same and managed through the barrel adjuster on the shifter and there is no incremental maintenance required to keep the shifters operating correctly.
I purchased the Grip Shift set to correct an ergonomic issue I had with the X9 trigger shfiters. My hands tend to fatigue after 90 minutes of aggressive riding and upshifting became a problem. If the shifters were rolled downward, I had a very long reach with my thumb to downshift. If I had the downshift trigger up where I could easily get to it, I had to pull my thumb up and around the top trigger to up shift. Also, when my hands would tired, it took more and more effort to actuate the throw when upshifting. Another issue that I had was getting my brake lever angled the way I wanted it. Even with the shifters and levers touching each other I still needed the lever pushed downward, but there was no where for it to go.
The Grip Shifters address both of these issues. The obvious one being that I do not have separate triggers to adjust and shifting does not require me to move my thumb at all. While my hands still fatigue, the simple motion of rolling the grips forward or backwards has not been a problem. Since the brakes are now clamped alone, I can set the angle without having to worry about it throwing off my shifting.
The Grip Shift product does have it own set of challenges as it relates to ergonomics and bike setup. The first being that the shifters and grips are very long and take up a great deal of real estate on your bars. My LBS suggested cutting down a set of EFI grips (which I was already using) to shorten the length and dump some weight. The stock shifters and grip are made of a medium stiffness rubber that allows for good traction, but for me they are too hard and uncomfortable.
With the shortened grips, it is 15 cm from the end of the bar to the lip of the Grip Shift.
Another challenge when using the grip shifters is that the brake lever adjuster requires about 1 cm of gap between the shifter and brake clamp. This means it is difficult to brake with more than one finger. While some may argue that with modern brakes this is all that is needed, I don't think shifters should dictate your riding style and if you have used two fingers for a long time, you should not have to relearn braking. I'm not sure how the shfiters could be designed around this, but I think it would be relatively simple to redesign the brake levers so this would not be a problem.
Another issue that I ran into was my remote lock-out for my Rock Shox Sid fork. As you can see above, this had to be located several centimeters from where my hand would rest on the shifter. It was easier to move my hand off the grip and hit the lever with my palm than to try to shift from the grips. I should note, I wear XL size gloves so I have larger hands than the average person. Since I use my lock-out very frequently, this was a real problem for me that I was only able to solve with a hydraulic lock-out which is really cool, but stupid-expensive.
After about 40 hours on the shifters I can sum it up like this, they are better and worse than trigger shifters.
Let's start with the worse part first; down shifting is not as precise as with trigger shifters. It's not that one click on the shifter causes an under or over shift, it is that the vibration coming through the front end of the bike can cause you to shift two or more gears at a time. It is awesome to have the ability to do this, the problem is that it is easy to do so when you don't want it to shift. With trigger shifters there is very positive feedback when you down shift and you can immediately tell that the derailleur has moved to the next slot. With the grip shifter it is a little more delayed and you can move two gears instead of one. The more I use the shfiters the less this happens, but there was nowhere near this steep of a learning curve with the trigger shifters. I have also had several accidental shifts where I would have an unexpected impact on the front end of the bike that would roll my wrist forward causing a shift.
The better part - Up shifting is much easier and crisper with the Grip Shifters. The first thing I noticed was how little effort is required to move from the small to large chainring. While I will occasionally have some lag and have to hold the shifter, the throw is very short and the response is quick. With trigger shifters there is a very long throw and what seemed like a lot of slop at the top. Rear shifting is not significantly better than with trigger shifters, but it does seem to be crisper to me and I am confident that I have had fewer mis-shifts.
One thing I really like about the Grip Shift product is that I can change multiple gears in either direction. Where this really pays off is when you run into quick transitions from high-speed sections to very steep climbs. You can rapidly move up half of your cassette with a flick of your wrist while maintaining momentum that you would lose dumping gears one or two at a time with trigger shifters. It also works well as you are going over climbs as you can be in the proper gear much faster once you hit the descent.
So far I am relatively happy with the shifters. Performance-wise I think what you get from the shifters is more than you give-up when converting from trigger shifters. I think ergonomics are somewhat better at least compared to the other SRAM offering.
I can't speak to durability, but I do think that the nature of the design will make them less vulnerable to damage in crashes than trigger shifters would be.
If you have trigger shifters today and are happy with them, I'm not confident it would be worth the money to change. However, if you do have ergonomic issues or ride terrain that would allow you to really benefit from the ability to change multiple gear rapidly, the Grip Shift product from SRAM would be worth looking into.