SQlab adds a lot of hand comfort for long days on the MTB
Words and images - James Raison
One of my least favourite things about long days on the MTB is the chicken-winged hand and arm position. It drives me bonkers being locked in. I wanted diversity. I wanted comfort. I wanted freedom dammit! I’d heard tales of German touch-point experts SQlab developing just the gear I’d been looking for. So I dropped some cash on a set of their innerbarends and 710 grips ahead of a bikepacking trip and I’m very glad I did.
My test period for the innerbarends and 710 grips was the 900 km Mawson Trail. I spent nearly 50 hours completing the trail and thus hanging onto these grips and innerbarends. It’s quite the torture test for your hands as most of the trail is bumpy, and some of it is corrugated enough to shake out your fillings. Then there was the relentless headwinds.
The innerbarends are simple creatures; a forward-pointing hand grip for mounting between your brake lever and regular hand grip. They can be mounted closer to the stem, as I’ve seen someone do, but I put mine in the recommended spot.
While riding, you grip them with your index and middle finger while resting your palm on your regular grip. Your freely movable ring and pinky finger can be used for gentle braking while holding the innerbarends. Placing them between grip and shifter means they’re wide enough for basic steering and bike control.
Their biggest benefits are hand comfort and the different body position they facilitate. You can’t grip them too tightly because there’s only enough room for two fingers, which keeps your arms relaxed. When holding them, your hands are rotated into a much more natural position, reminiscent of holding the hoods on a road bike. It stretches you out a little and lets your elbows tuck in close to your body. Benefits are dramatic for big days on the bike; greater hand and upper body comfort plus the ability to narrow your body and cut through the air more efficiently.
A set of innerbarends will cost you $59.90 AUD - not exactly cheap for an alternate hand position, and more expensive than the 710 grips. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I was stoked with their performance on the Mawson. They’re not going anywhere from my bike and will accompany me on all future bikepacking trips. I’d urge anyone who takes their MTBs on long days, or bikepacking to consider them.
SQlab’s 710 grips offer up two hand positions; the flat-ish “relief wing” on the outer edge acts as a platform for your palm, and the rounded inner edge that’s also ergonomically shaped. They fit standard MTB bars and come in three different sizes that you choose using a sizing chart printed off from the SQlab website.
It took me a couple of days to properly dial in the grips when riding the Mawson. Initially I had the relief wing too close to parallel with the ground leading to an overly flat hand position. That caused me some discomfort to begin with and some tingling fingers. Some tweaking on day three led me to angle them down and allowed me to ride with an unlocked wrist and my fist rolled back. From then on, the comfort was excellent. It was a lesson in spending time tweaking before a massive ride. The second inward hand position, away from the wing, is also very pleasant and my hands spent plenty of time there.
My only problem with the 710s is the lack of texturing. The smooth and firm rubber has fine channels in them but they add little to no grip and I find sweat makes them quite slippery. Their surface is far smoother than the softer and bumpier surfaces found on most MTB grips and I’ll likely put my old grips back on for smashing the trails. The 710s are locked in for all of my upcoming endurance rides though.
SQlab’s innerbarends get a big recommendation from me. They’ve substantially improved my comfort on long MTB rides. All flat-bar endurance riders or bikepackers looking for more comfortable hand positions should put these on their short list. The 710 grips are ergonomically excellent, and solid value too at $49.95.