Cutting Grips

With help from Garrett Walden

Work on enough kids bikes and you come across the problem of short grips. Either you are dealing with grip-shifters, or with handlebars on tiny bikes lacking the room for normal grips. The photo below shows the problem on a 16-inch-wheel bicycle of the training-wheel variety. The grip area on the bar is not physically long enough to accommodate the new grip, much less the grip and the brake lever. What to do?

The new grip is far too long for the bar.

The new grip is far too long for the bar.

Twist-shift grips can be ordered, but selection is limited and the immediacy is lost. No child wants to wait a week. Kids want those shiny new grips today, and so do some of us adults!

Each year I buy a handful of giveaway grips, and I’ve a technique for cutting them down nicely when needed. Don’t laugh (too much), but my technique employs a tubing cutter, like so:

Employing a tubing cutter to shorten a grip.

Employing a tubing cutter to shorten a grip.

Carefully measure and mark where to cut. Pro tip: Add from one-half to three-quarters of an inch above the length of whatever short grip is stock on the bike. Short grips are always too short. Cut your replacements longer. Your young riders will love you for it.

Be sure to cut from the inside of the grip. I at first marked the wrong end of the grip while shooting the photos for this post. We almost cut off the end that receives the bar-end plug. That’d have been twelve dollars down the proverbial drain. So pay attention! Cut from the inside end.

Measure once, cut twice! Marking the wrong end of the grip.

Measure once, cut twice! Marking the wrong end of the grip.

Spritz some rubbing alcohol onto a 7/8-inch dowel rod, and slide the grip on far enough for the dowel to provide support for the tubing cutter. (The 7/8 inch diameter is the same as the 22.2 mm handlebar grip-area diameter). All you need is for the dowel to extend past the cut location by maybe a half-inch. 

Marked from the correct end this time. Ready to cut.

Marked from the correct end this time. Ready to cut.

Then cut. Work carefully! Grip material tends to flex and wiggle, so keep a close eye on the pipe cutter as you rotate it. Guide the cutter to keep it on track. Avoid closing the cutter too deeply at first, as doing so will stretch the rubber and throw off your cut. But you won’t cut at all if you don’t close the cutter enough, so some finesse and practice are needed.

Garrett Walden cutting a grip for the first time.

Garrett Walden cutting a grip for the first time.

You should get nice, clean and even cuts. Garrett’s first-ever effort came out well. His first use of a tubing cutter. His first-ever cut of a grip. A great job by a talented kid.

A clean and even cut is the result.

A clean and even cut is the result.

Cut both grips. Check your work. Mount the newly-cut grips. Enjoy the result!

Mount and enjoy the newly-cut grips.

Mount and enjoy the newly-cut grips.

The cut down grips from this post indeed look good on the bike. Look at the close-up view below. Doesn’t that inside edge look good? It'll look good up against a grip-shifter too.

The grip looks as if made to this length.

The grip looks as if made to this length.

Other approaches than using a tubing cutter are surely possible. The tubing cutter approach is something I tried one day in desperation after having ruined a couple of grips by uneven cutting with a razor knife. The tubing cutter approach worked, and I’ve stuck with it.


Jonathan Gennick is an enthusiast from the City of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Bikes are simple enough for him to grasp while being complex enough to remain interesting.

Garrett Walden is an up and coming cyclist who loves to ride and brings a true knack for the mechanical work. He lovingly maintains a Specialized Rockhopper several years older than himself.