By Gary Franks
Fitting the rear grab strap over the back of the seat – for a long time it’s been accepted as the way to go, especially for technical and extreme enduro riding. Indeed at the Roof, Romaniacs and other extreme events most of the top riders do have them on their bikes, so installing one would appear to be an obvious decision. But here’s why I believe you and I should not necessarily have one fitted permanently on our bikes –
Obviously the purpose of a grab strap at the back of the bike is because sometimes you will get stuck at a technical obstacle which you can’t ride up/ over, at which time the strap makes it easier to physically lift the rear of the bike up or over.
Just as obviously – it would be preferable to be able to ride up/ over the obstacle because you would save lots of time and energy … and you would not stress muscles which would probably cramp shortly after the tiring manhandling exercise.
However what I see happening far too much is riders getting to a difficult obstacle, giving it a half-hearted attempt, immediately getting off their bikes and doing the grab-strap-manhandling thing. It’s almost as if they are determined to get maximum value out of their investment in the grab strap and their gym membership.
What do Old Guys Know?
Certainly aging is not for sissies, but if there are two valuable things I have learned with ever increasing conviction it’s the importance of riding efficiently (because I have limited physical strength/ endurance), and the value of really good bike setup.
I last had a grab handle on one of my bikes many years ago because us older guys know if we get off our bikes and do that physical lifting stuff, we’re going to have very short rides or be sleeping in the mountains. So instead we do one of a few alternative options (and there are most often options), like committing properly the first time or rolling back a few inches/ feet/ metres (as the situation may require) and attacking the obstacle properly; or pivoting onto a better line. Of course there are times we do get stuck and have to get off our bikes, but it’s always a last resort because we appreciate how much it takes out of our tank!
The other thing I have seen is mates trying to help their stuck buddy and pulling them forward using the rear grab strap. What this does is to lift the back of the bike so it gets even less traction, making the whole ordeal even more of a mission.
So in my opinion I would recommend fitting a rear grab strap for specific events like The Roof and Romaniacs, but perhaps leave it off for training and fun rides. Or learn to think of using the grab strap as a last resort only. A front grab strap is also recommended for those events and can be left on.