Let’s be honest. There aren’t many things you can do in public that are as pleasurable as riding a motorcycle. The arousing sound of the engine, the titillating sensation of the wind against your skin and the inseparable bond between rider and machine. But like everything that’s fun, there are a handful of things that can ruin a good ride. One such thing is the cold.
During the colder months, extended time in the saddle can become rather uncomfortable. It should come as no surprise that there’s a lot of riding gear designed to tackle this issue. From thermal underlayers to lined riding gloves and jackets. But despite all the advancements in tech fabrics, windproof membranes and thermal liners, no fabric can keep the cold out indefinitely – especially when it’s being blasted by a 60mph icy cold wind.
This is where electronically heated gear makes all the difference.
One place where the cold can become really uncomfortable and potentially dangerous is on your hands. Along with being unpleasant, cold fingers tend to not function properly. In extreme cases, you may even experience a loss of feeling, which certainly isn’t something you want on a motorcycle. One way to remedy this is by installing a set of heated grips.
Choosing heated motorcycle grips
There are several factors to consider when choosing heated grips. These include the price, ease of installation, features and, of course, how they look. Initially, I had considered purchasing a set of OEM heated grips for my Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe, but after researching other riders experiences (and the price), I opted for an aftermarket alternative. After considering all the options I settled on a set of Premium Hot Grips from the Uk aftermarket manufacturer, Oxford.
My research revealed that the Oxford Premium Hot Grips satisfied my requirements, but the deciding factor came down to style. Unlike other brands, Oxford has created a range of heated grips that differ based on application. The range includes adventure, sports, touring, cruiser and (most importantly) retro. The differences between the models are in grip length and grip pattern, but it was the look of the Oxford Hot Grips Premium Retro that won me over.
First impression count and when the grips turned up I wasn’t disappointed. I was a little surprised at first by how few components were in the package, But everything looked high quality and well finished. The diamond pattern on the Retro Hot Grips tied in nicely with the styling of my Z900RS and the open end design meant I could use my Motogadget bar-end mirrors without having to modify anything.
Installing the Oxford heated hand grips
Installing the Oxford Premium Hot Grips couldn’t have been any simpler. In fact, the only challenging part of the entire process was deciding where to mount the controller unit.
The first step involves removing your old grips. To do this I first had to remove my bar-end weights and mirrors. I wasn’t precious about the old grips on my bike so I simply cut them off by slicing down the length of the grip. I then used a cleaning agent to remove any leftover residue and grip glue.
Next, I had to identify which grip went on which side. The cable location on each heated grips is a dead giveaway, but you’ll also find that the throttle side grip has a larger internal diameter to allow for the throttle sleeve. In some cases, you may find your throttle sleeve has ridges on it to secure the factory grips. It’s best to file these off before attempting to fit the heated grips. This wasn’t an issue for me on the Z900RS though.
I then did a quick mockup of how I wanted the cable on the grips positioned by holding them next to the handlebar. The cables should point down towards the underside of the handlebar and be clear from the levers. Using the superglue included in the box, I then ran a bead of glue along the inside of each grip and along the handlebar and throttle sleeve. The reason for the glue is that when the grips heat up they can melt standard grip glue. This would then allow them to slip around, which you definitely don’t want.
Next, I firmly slid each Hot Grip onto the bars. Once they were all the way on, I tested that the cable on each grip didn’t interfere with the operation of the clutch and brake levers. Once I was happy they were sitting in the right position I give the glue a couple of hours to dry.
Once the grips were glued firmly in place I pulled the fairing off the bike to determine where I wanted the cables to run. The most important thing here is to ensure they don’t catch or the wires get stretched when the handlebars are turned.
I then had to find a place to mount the controller.
Oxford provides a mounting plate designed to fit onto a standard lever clamp. Unfortunately, due to the stock mirror mounts on the Z900RS, it couldn’t be installed there. After much head-scratching, I discovered I could mount it using the lower fairing bracket just below where my left hand sits while I ride.
After test fitting everything I plugged the wires from the grips into the Hot Grips wiring harness and ran it back to where my bikes battery is located. To finish the install I simply connected the cables from the controller to the correct terminals on the battery. I then used the included cable ties to secure the cabling as neatly and inconspicuously as possible.
The direct battery connection used for these grips is one of their biggest benefits. By connecting straight to the battery you don’t need to tap into your bikes wiring harness or use any special adapters or plugs. Once they are connected the Premium Hot Grips are essentially ready to use.
But what if I forget to turn them off?
Oxford has solved this problem by integrating a smart function into the design. If you get off your bike and forget to turn the grips off the control unit will detect that the engine has stopped and will switch the grips off after 3 minutes. It will also switch off if it detects a drop in the battery charge and draws a mere 4 amps during operation.
Operating the Oxford Premium Hot Grips is also very simple. There are 2 buttons on the unit. The upper one increases the temperature the lower one decreases it. All up there are 5 heat settings.
Without gloves on the highest setting would be very uncomfortable. Even with gloves on it’s pretty darned hot. If you’re using these heated grips in conjunction with winter gloves this level of heat would definitely penetrate the extra layers. During my testing, I found the third setting (70%) was more than enough to deal with the conditions I was riding in, but I know that next winter I will likely be using a 4th or 5th setting regularly.
One thing I have discovered since installing the grips is that they expand when on. Not enough for you to feel, but enough to make the throttle stick if you haven’t left enough clearance between the grips and your bar end mirrors or weights.
As for the cons, my only gripes would be that the connectors for the wiring on my kit weren’t waterproof so I had to stash them inside the headlight bucket. I’ve also discovered that Oxford doesn’t offer replacement grips for the retro kit but they do for the other styles. There isn’t any sign of wear on the grips yet, but it’s inevitable that eventually, they will wear.
You’ll find a lot of mixed opinions regarding heated grips online. Most of the negative comments focus on the fact that they don’t warm the top of your hands. This would be a valid point if you’re riding around in the middle of winter wearing lightweight gloves. However, when you combine the extra insulation of winter riding gloves with heated grips like these the extra warmth radiating from below makes a huge difference.
At a touch under $150 USD, the Oxford Premium Hot Grips are a great investment for anyone riding in cooler conditions. The ease of installation and wide range of heat settings make them an attractive alternative to similar brands on the market and the different grip styles are a huge plus for the style-conscious.