Leather and cork-based grips (Brooks, Selle San Marco, and more)



Youtube video

2018-11-27: Video with the latest grips that I tested, this is not a replacement for reading the reviews below, but additional, e.g. to show how they fit in my hand and how that may be different for different size hands:
Bicycle grips, leather, cork, rubber, for touring.

On the thumbnail you see from left to right: 1. TAQ/Matrix G21 (cork), 2. Contec Mirage ergo (leather), 3. Ergotec Kyoto (cork), 4. Herrmans PrimErgo Jet (cork).

Summary: 2019-5-19

As I used lots of different types of grips over many years, from hard/solid grips on city bikes, to soft foam with leather, round, anatomic, cork based, here is an overview of my experiences. Note that I mentioned most of these points in my youtube video as well:

Perhaps interesting to try would be real cork (cork glued on a holder that is mounted on the handlebar) instead of cork+plastic mixture grips, but I've not yet found one in anatomic shape.

The best grips for touring of the ones I tested so far, all are different in feel but I like all of them about the same, so in order of testing:

For MTB perhaps Herrmans PrimErgo Jet, black-cork (cork+plastic, anatomic, clamp) are better than the above grips as the Herrmans grips are thinner, but I'd have to do some testing on rough terrain to confirm this. They don't feel as grippy as the others so that would be a negative point for them for such use.

Reviews of grips: Leather, cork based, anatomic, round

Voxom Gr22 real cork (anatomic)

voxom gr22 cork grips

2023-4-6: I ordered these to try out real cork as opposed to cork+plastic mixture. I like some of the cork+plastic mixtures grips such as the TAQ/Matrix G21 (no longer available) and the Ergotec Kyoto cork, but I didn't like the Ergotec Faro/Contec Tour pro cork which felt sticky in warm weather. What would grips with a real cork layer feel like in warm and cold weather?

I ordered these in width 138mm+95mm to use on my bike with Rohloff hub with rotating shifter. The grips on this bike are currently XLC GR-S29.

Review to come.

XLC GR-S29 leather (anatomic)

XLC grs29 leather grips

These grips came on the touring bike with Rohloff hub that I bought 2nd hand in June 2022. These are fine, a bit hard, soft only underneath the palm rest section, this may be a gel insert. The top is leather according to the specifications and they feel good, not plasticky as some fake leather grips.

In shape and feel of the surface they are fine, I didn't have any issues with them on hot days, on cold days, nor on rainy days.

Widek leather grips with a gel layer beneath the leather (anatomic)

I got these used (on a bicycle that I restored and on which I placed new grips) and they are pretty good, a bit softer than the ones that have a hard layer beneath them. The combination leather top + gel beneath it is one that also worked well in the San Marco Rolls ergo saddle that I used for many years before switching to a leather saddle as the saddle got damaged, the gel was leaking out. I suppose damage to the grips and these then becokming useless is a possibility at the edges, but less likely to be as severe as with the saddle as with the grips you get a protection from the handlebar+bar end plug from a deep scratch. With the saddle it was a fall caused by a ghost rider going the wrong way. The the edge of the saddle was damaged and there the edge was also where there was this gell layer and so the gel was being pushed out and the saddle's shape was becoming asymmetrical which didn't feel good at all...

These are fixed on the handle bars with an clamp that is part of the grip which goes into the handle bar end, which you fixate using a hex key. The downside to this method of fixing the grips is that you can't mount bar ends nor mirrors at the end of the handlebar...

Contec Mirage Ergo (leather on a plastic + soft gel base inside, clamp, anatomic)

Tested since 30-10-2018: These have closed ends so you need to do some DIY to use a bar-end mirror or bar-end. I've been using these since 30-10-2018, and I quite like the feel. The description says: Hard on the inside around the handlebar, and a bit softer where you grip with the fingers on the front. It still seems fairly hard there though it's no problem. And finally softest on the upper side where your palm lies on top of the grips, and it feels pretty good. It has the feel and smell of real leather, and a good shape. After using them about 2 weeks I would recommend them with reservations due to short term experience. Update 1: Jan. 2019: A month more use and my view is still the same. Update 2: May 2019: No change. These grips are with the Ergotec Kyoto and the Contec Mirage ergo my favourites.

TAQ pro G21 (= Matrix G21) (cork, clamp, anatomic)

Tested since 2018-10-3: These have open ends. I like the shape, feels a lot better than the Herrmans Primergo Jet. At home just taking it my hand it felt very grippy from the surface texture. During a ride this was confirmed, good for rough terrain, and the ribbles on top-bottom also give grip but the ribbles give the feel of gripping a course file or sandpaper. They are too grippy! I prefer the Ergotec Kyoto grips...
After some more use, the extreme grippyness from the start is gone and now I like them quite a bit more. They are still very grippy but not with the harshness as if your hands are being held by/on sandpaper as it felt in the beginning. There seems more cork in these grips than esp. the Hermanns Primergo jet and the Erotec Faro/Tour pro kork which could explain the better feel that the surface of the g21 grips gives (more grip but also the Faro and Primergo grips feel a bit plasticy). So far I recommend them, but bear in mind these are still short term experiences, with about a month of use. Update Jan. 2019: A month more use and my view is still the same. May 2019: No change. These grips are with the Ergotec Kyoto and the Contec Mirage ergo my favourites.

Ergotec Monaco leather grips (anatomic, clamp)

Tested since, some day in 2018, don't remember exactly when. These have open ends. They are too hard, the leather feels like PU leather (which means: A plastic layer over real leather, what is the f-ing point of that!?), rather than real leather (with perhaps some thin protective layer, as on Brooks saddles), it's too hard, but on the plus side it has no exposed metal. All in all these don't appeal to me at all.

Ergotec Kyoto cork

Tested since mid 2018: These have open ends. All grips that are made from cork (well, the ones I tried are a cork + somewhat soft plastic mixture) are fairly hard but the shape of these is good, not sticky in heat (30+ C). After riding a lot with them these grips were my favourites in 2018, better than the Herrmans primgergo jet and the Ergotec Faro/Contec Tour pro kork in shape, and unlike the "Tour pro kork" there is no sticky feeling in the heat (30+ C).

Herrmans PrimErgo Jet, black-cork (cork+plastic, anatomic, clamp)

2016-1-19: These are open-ended grips, with non-standard end-caps. I'm evaluating these, comparing them the anatomic leather covered anatomic shaped grips from Rose.

2016-11-13: I've used the Herrmans grips quite a lot and they are ok but the shape doesn't give me a relaxed feeling. it may be better than the grips from Rose and than the Tour pro kork grips that I used recently in being able to have more grip because of the shape. For comfort I like the Leather anatomic grips more, but most of all I like the Ergotec Faro/Tour pro kork grips (addition: but those have issues in the heat as I found out summer 2018). Good points of the Primergo jet: Clamps on the handlebar with a bolt, good grip, material feels good and no exposed (cold feeling) metal. Bad: Just never gave a feeling of being really comfortable and the end caps have a strange shape which means it looks odd if you don't use the caps.

Ergotec Faro = Contec/Rose Tour pro kork (available from various rebranders)

2016-11-7: This feels comfortable from the moment I installed them, the shape just feels right. More to come.

2018-7: They feel sticky in heat (30+ C) which I don't have with the Herrmans grips nor with the Ergotec Kyoto grips. The Kyoto grips feel the best of the cork grips that I tried so far.

Brooks leather grips

Brooks handvatten, 1 Brooks handvatten, 2


∅ 3.5 cm, width: 13.1 cm (can be made shorter to the desired length in ca. 5 mm steps)
Mass: Ca. 306 g. (for a pair)


Made from leather washers, bound with short spokes. The ends are from some sort of metal, it appears to be lighter than brass, but it does contain copper as I found out when I filed out the inside a little (see picture 2) to make it go smoothly over a black anodized handlebar (without scratching) as the handlebar was not quite round due to the use of bar-ends. It's definitely not made from aluminium which the instructions (only included in the retail version of the grips) claim:

Each grip is made with a stack of leather washers held together by: 3 bicycle spokes, 3 nipples, 1 inner aluminium ring, 1 outer aluminium ring, 2 allen bolts.


You can't use the grips with bar-ends, without modifying them, as there's a little ridge that keeps the leather endcap fixed. You can file that away if you want, which would allow the use of bar-ends. These grips are as I expected quite hard, and give a good grip. When the sun has shone on them for a while, they still feel cool. For a mountainbike they could be suitable regarding their firmness and grip, but they are a bit too thick for that I would think (see also the comment with the San Marco grips). After a while the leather rings are getting a bit loose. They are installed in the grips in pairs, rough side of the leather to rough side, which is not a good idea as cutting the rings from the leather will deform them (the edges). This means that they will be wider than real width of the leather, and by use, which gives repeated small sideways pressure and a little rotation of the rings, deformations from the cutting will be flattened and thus the rings will get loose, and you must tighten the grips. During use over a few 100 km I had to adjust the grip twice, and the grip (yes, 1 as I used 1 on one side, the San Marco grip on the other side so as to be able to properly compare the two) became a bit shorter, ca. 128 mm instead of 131 mm... If the leather washers had been placed so that a rough side touches a smooth side everywhere, this problem would likely have been negligible. (I will test this with the other grip).

Correction: It seems to depend on who has put the grips together. Another pair was put together will all the rough sides facing the smooth sides (no smooth-smooth/rough-rough).

The instructions also say:

Brooks leather grips shape to your hands and allow them to breathe while riding.

Leather saddles certainly deform, but that's by virtue of sitting on it with almost your entire weight (say 60 kg and more) and grips usually only get very light pressure. There isn't really room to deform either in contrast to a saddle, because if the leather would deform, it would need to go into the handlebar which the leather washers touch. So the claim that the grips shape to your hands is nonsense.


Interesting concept, and if you don't mind hard grips (note that most plastic grips are also pretty hard), a good but pricey choice for in particular city bikes.

BBB leather grips

BBB handvatten, 1


They are made from foam rubber (harder than the San Marco grips) around which is sewn a thin layer of leather.
∅ 3.35 cm, width: 12.8 cm (also available in a 90 mm variant for use with twist shifters).
Mass: Ca. 65 g. (for a pair)


When the sun has shone on it for a while the grips feel quite hot because the foam rubber insulates thermally... These grips are better suited to mountainbiking than the San Marco grips because they are a bit harder and slightly thinner. The light brown grips as shown are discoloured in an ugly way, but the grips have been used a few years and have been outside (rain) for long periods. I don't know if the light brown San Marco grips will discolour in the same way.

You can lay your arms on the grips while cycling to give an aerodynamic position, which is very good for when you've got a headwind or just want to cycle quickly, but doing so is a little less comfortable than with the San Marco grips.


For city/touring/travelling in the leather grips that I tried behind the Anatomic grips and the San Marco grips. For a mountainbike these are my 1st choice of the leather grips that I tried so far. Though anatomically shaped grips are probably better for an MTB too, as my experience in difficult riding conditions in snow showed (it's comparable to what you need to do to keep an MTB going the way you want it in rough terrain).

Anatomically formed leather grips (no name, from Rose Versand)

1st picture: San Marco grip on the left, Anatomic grip on the right. 2nd picture: Anatomic grips at the top.

San Marco & anatomic grip, 1 San Marco & anatomic grip, 2

135mm wide, also available with short 90mm right hand grip for use with a twist shifter. Mass for a pair of 135mm grips: 210 g.

I tried these grips that have a shape with rest for the palm of your hand for the first time on 20-12-2010 on a long ride of 20 km. It was esp. long because everything was snowed under, and no snow had seemingly been removed for days which resulted in lots of lumpy snow, sometimes frozen tracks in the snow from bicycles, etc. This results in very very heavy and slow going. You need to grip the handlebar pretty hard to keep control of the bicycle and you need to make continuous adjustments.

I had my old San Marco grips on the left hand side of the handlebar, and the new anatomic grips on the right. It was amazing how much better the anatomic grips were on that ride. With my left hand I got a cramp-like feeling after a few hundred metres, whereas with the anatomic grips I never had any problem at all! No cramp, no feeling of muscles in my arm/hand getting tired. It was just unbelievable how much better it was and from that moment on I decided I would only use anatomic grips.


Under difficult situations they are far better than standard round grips. You need to have used them in heavy riding situations to really appreciate them. For MTB use I therefore estimate that anatomical grips are also extremely good and relaxing for your hands compared to round grips... For long tours under normal situations where you don't need to continuously adjust the steering they are also a lot better than round grips, fairly quickly actually as I've tested. Of course under such circumstances (long rides on asphalt) the difference is not as extreme as on bad roads but the difference is noticeable fairly quickly. Therefore these grips are my 1st choice for a city- or touring bike. For an MTB this is probably one of the best grips as well as they're fairly hard and not too thick.

Possible improvements: These grips, which resemble grips from Gazelle, would be perfect for a tour- or city bike if you could fasten them on the handlebar with an inner hex bolt, as is done with the grips from Gazelle, and if the foam/rubber inside was softer (and lighter).

Update: The Contec Mirage ergo is a better option than these grips esp. in having a bolt to fix them.

Selle San Marco leather grips

1st picture: San Marco grip on the left, Anatomic grip on the right. 2nd picture: Anatomic grips at the top.

San Marco & anatomic grip, 1 San Marco & anatomic grip, 2


They are made from soft foam rubber around which is sewn a thin layer of leather.
∅ varies from 3.2 to 3.8 cm, width: 12.8 cm (also available in a 90 mm variant for use with twist shifters).
Mass: Ca. 65 g. (for a pair)


When the sun has shone on it for a while the grips feel quite hot because the foam rubber insulates thermally... These grips aren't particularly suited to mountainbiking because they are too soft for that and also a little too thick which makes it a bit harder to get to some gear shifters of which the levers come close to the handlebar (for a derailleur system).

You can lay your arms on the grips while cycling to give an aerodynamic position, very good for when you've got a headwind or just want to cycle quickly.


My 2nd choice for a city/touring/travelling bike (first place: Anatomically shaped grips). For a MTB I don't think these are good because they are too soft.

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