Despite what looks like a decent shape, on the road these budget Oxford Lock-On Grips have too much give in the palm section, not enough grip comfort round the front of the bar, and minor build imperfections.
I was trying to think about a suitable metaphor for Oxford's products. It had to be something workaday, non-flashy, but also with the potential to be a secret gem. Then it hit me: Primark. Its cut-price jeans might not wow anybody on a special night out, but when you need something familiar, reliable and comfy, sometimes Primark manages to make a garment that becomes a true personal favourite.
Oxford's massive range of cycling accessories is very much of the same ilk. They're never going to win bragging rights and some of its products do the job but little more, but sometimes it also manages to market something surprisingly impressive that becomes a staple part of your cycling life. It's fair to say, though, these lock-on grips are probably not one such product.
But let's start with the good. Fitting is a very straightforward affair – in truth, taking off my old rubber grips was far harder than fixing the new Oxfords in place. You simply slide the grip onto the end of your handlebar, then secure with two tiny bolted collars at either end. Because the grips are open-ended, two bar plugs are also provided, which you tap into the end of the bar.
During fitting the grips looked sturdy enough to supply good support, so I had high hopes for their performance. However, out on the road, with your full weight resting on the rear wings, it quickly becomes apparent there is too much give and the very back section of the palm rests have a tendency to bend over slightly. Meanwhile, the front section of the grips, where your fingers curl over the bars when they're not covering the brakes, remains rock solid when you would be quite happy for a bit of squidge.
There are also some minor construction blemishes to the Oxford grips' copybook. Aesthetically, there is no chance you could confuse these lock-ons with more premium products. The connection between the metal clamp ends and main rubber section of grip isn't particularly neat, with the rubber slightly overlapping the clamp bolt head. This means you have to peel the rubber back just a tad to access the tightening bolt.
Another small annoyance for fastidious cyclists is the orientation of those clamp bolt heads. If you lay both grips down side by side in the same way, all four bolt heads would point either up or down. But because one grip needs to be flipped to be a mirror image of the other when fitted to the bike, one grip's tightening bolt heads are pointing up, while the other's are pointing down. It's a small consideration, but I'd like the bolt heads on one grip to be reversed so they're all pointing the same way when fitted.
Maybe I'm being a bit picky with build issues – after all, what can you expect for £11.99? Essentially, I was expecting better than mediocre performance. Of course, other riders might put far less pressure on their handlebar then I do, in which case you could buy them without particularly high hopes and might find yourself pleasantly surprised. For commuting and leisure duties they might offer lighter riders, or those with smaller hands whose palms don't rest so far back, a more passable ride experience. But for riders with any kind of demanding expectations, I'd give them a miss.
Budget lock-on grips whose cheap price can't make up for less-than-sturdy palm rests and minor build imperfections
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Lock-On Ergonomic Handlebar Grips
Size tested: One
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
These are lock-on grips apparently suitable for mountain biking, although leisure and flat-bar commuting bikes would seem a more suitable fit. Oxford doesn't have much (read: anything) to say about them.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Dual alloy locking collars for quick and secure fit.
Ergonomic paddle-type design for comfortable grip.
Handlebar end-plugs included.
Collar to grip join is a tad messy. Clamp bolts are obscured slightly by grip rubber in places.
Rear of palm rest gives under weight. Lighter riders might fare better. Grip front isn't very comfy.
That 'floppy' nature suggests these are not long for this world under heavy use, though that's yet to be proven.
About right for cheap lock-on grips.
Not terribly uncomfortable but not enough support where it's needed.
You won't find many cheaper lock-on grips.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performance wasn't as good as I had hoped. The give in the palm rest was the most disappointing and at times slightly disconcerting aspect.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Cheap price, easy fitting.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Palm rests, finger grip.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Pretty good on the face of it, but not such great value when performance is found wanting. Pay more, buy better!
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
With a palm rest that gives under weight, minor build imperfections and not even a very comfortable finger section, these lock-on grips are a disappointment. Lighter riders and those with smaller hands, whose palms don't rest so far back, might get on with them better, so if that sounds like you, maybe you could think of them more as 'average' and give them a whirl.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure