Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Brompton M6R: Ergon GP1 Grips

Not many bike brands in the world can claim to be made in London or a major city. Brompton is one of the few brands that still makes its own frames and is assembled in a major city. As such, it commands a higher price than many other bikes, due to its manufacturing location and premium image.

Even though Brompton portrays itself as a premium bike, there are some components on the bike that are not premium at all. Earlier on, I upgraded the hinge clamps, due to the outdated clamp design and plastic knobs. The other component that I feel does not belong on the Brompton are the stock grips.

The stock grips are made of foam that are glued onto the handlebars. Although they are lightweight, they are not comfortable or ergonomic, and are difficult to remove and change. Credit to Brompton, they have already made the changes in their 2017 models, which are equipped with lock on type foam grips that are at least easy to upgrade.

As this is a pre-2017 Brompton, it is still using the glued on foam grips. I tried to get used to the grips, but it was just not comfortable to hold onto for longer rides. Therefore, I wanted to change to more ergonomic Ergon grips that provide support for the palm.

Similar to most Brompton parts, upgrading or modification is not straightforward. First, I had to select the correct type of Ergon grips to match the handlebar.

Ergon grips come in two different lengths, the standard length being 130mm, and the shorter 95mm type for Gripshift or Rohloff shifters. With the shorter type, part of the resting surface for the hand will be on the rubber grip of the Gripshift.

Comparing the length of the shorter Ergon grip with the stock foam grips. Shorter by about 10mm.

The length of the Brompton foam grips are about 100mm in length, and are only just sufficient for my hands to grip properly. If I change to shorter Ergon grips, without a Gripshifter, the gripping length will be too short for proper and comfortable gripping. As such, I cannot do a straightforward swap to the shorter type of Ergon grips.

On the other hand, I also cannot make a direct swap to the standard 130mm Ergon grips, as it is too long. There is not enough handlebar length to move the brake lever or shifters inwards, as they are already close to the bend of the M type handlebar. With a S type flat handlebar, a straightforward swap should be possible.

As many people have already done previously, one of the solutions is to cut the standard length Ergon grips to your preferred length. This is quite troublesome, which is why I stated earlier that upgrading the Brompton grips is not a straightforward matter. The Ergon grip that I will be using is the simple Ergon GP1 grips, without bar ends. Bar ends will complicate the folding and may touch the ground when the bike is folded.

After measurement and comparison, I need to cut about 20mm off the standard length Ergon grip, as shown by the cutting line marked on the grip above.

I used a sharp pen knife to cut the rubber along the cutting line, then peeled it off the plastic inner shell.

After that, a cutter is used to cut the plastic inner shell, enabling it to be broken off and removed.

Finally, some slight filing is done to give a relatively smooth cut edge. I think this method of cutting the Ergon grip is better than using a hand saw, which may tear the rubber.

Final length is about 111mm, quite close to my target of 110mm.

This new length is just nice for me to grip comfortably.

This new length is also about the same as the original foam grips.

The modified Ergon grips weigh about 152 grams per pair.

With the new pair of Ergon grips prepared, it is now time to remove the original foam grips from the handlebar. I did not remove it beforehand as I was not sure how the Ergon grips will turn out after cutting, so I left it on first.

It is not possible to remove the foam grips neatly, as they are glued on and so will definitely be damaged during removal. Therefore this is a non-reversible modification, so you need to be confident that you will like the new grips.

Cutting open the foam grips with a pen knife. Cut it at an angle so as to minimise any scratching of the handlebar.

Peeling off the foam grips. It is starting to get really messy here.

There is still a thick layer of glue on the handlebar, which need to be removed before the new grips can be installed.

I tried using a strong solvent to remove the glue, but it did not work. Using a sanding block also did not work as the glue was stuck on like glue onto the handlebar. Finally, I discovered that the fastest and cleanest method was to use a pen knife to scrape off the glue.

Using a pen knife to scrap off the thick layer of glue

Took quite a while to scrap the glue cleanly off the handlebar. Now to repeat this for the other side...

Finally, the stock foam grips have been removed. You can see that for the second grip, it is done more neatly as I had practice and experience from removing the first one.

The foam grips weigh only 12 grams! Best for weight weenies.

New Ergon grips installed! The brake levers had to be re-positioned a little bit to fit neatly against the grips.

Both the Ergon grips installed! It already looks more comfortable...

About 10mm of clearance with the ground when folded, helped by the larger Eazy wheels.

The Ergon GP1 grips are so much more comfortable than the stock foam grips, and it is an upgrade that is definitely worth the effort. Some shops may offer to install the grips onto the bike for you when you buy the grips from them, and you should take up that offer as it is quite a lot of work to remove the original foam grips and also cut the Ergon grips.

If you decide to buy the grips online and install it yourself, you can refer to the steps above as a guide for installing new grips.

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