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Heated Grips

Heated Grips in general

By Doug Grosjean

From: Doug Grosjean <>
Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2000 1:21 PM

I know, I don’t sell heated grips. But since I ride a LOT in cold temps, the following is my own experience with the various options. And since I don’t sell them, my own bias will be minimal. Though I do have a bias, based on sound engineering reason.

The BMW grips I haven’t used, however I did prototype a set of heated grips using the Gorix fabric and having the exact same resistance as the BMW grips, so I’ll consider that the same as using the BMW grips for the sake of this discussion.

Some people have chimed in about the heating elements / slugs inserted into the bar. BTDT. Thought that it would be a nice hidden way to go, and cheap. But you get what you pay for…. I found them to be quite ineffective. That heat has to make it through the handlebar, then through the grip before getting to your hand. Any thoughts on how effective a radiator / heat sink that handlebar is on a mild day, let alone a cold one? I could barely feel heat from them in the summer. And then removing them was a bi.., errrr, bear; since they were a snug tapped-in fit. If they weren’t a snug fit, even less heat would have made it out.

Kimpex grip heaters are simple and cheap, and allow a person to use whatever grips they want over the top of them. I’m told that you can get even heat output from them, left and right, by wrapping some electrical tape over the LH bar before installing the grip heater over the tape. I haven’t used these, but have heard good things from people who have. I’m skeptical, since the heat is still in close contact to the bar and you’re going to lose some that way long before the heat makes it to your hands. Heat travels to that which is colder than itself first, and so from the grip heater the heat has a choice – go through a layer of grip rubber that’s acting as insulation, or into the handlebar and into the air.

Another thing to consider on the Kimpex is that they were intended to be used on snowmobiles and ATV’s where neither grip turns, and so there’s no thought given to strain relief. People on the lists do have Kimpex failures, normally on the throttle side and it’s normally a broken wire.

BMW heated grips – the heating wires are wrapped around a plastic tube, then covered in something a bit between duct tape and masking tape, then the grip is put on over that. I base this on what was on my R11RS when I bought it used, but the grips had been gutted. That’s what I used to build my prototype heated grips on, was the BMW base. Worked Ok, not great but Ok.

Then come my favorites, HotGrips. The model that I use has internal ribs to put an insulating airspace between the grip and the handlebars, the heating wires are just under the grip surface so they have little insulating material to pass through before the heat is in your hands, and a LOT of insulating material to pass through before heat would escape to the handlebars. They also have an effective strain relief, a tapered shape where the external wires leave the grip itself. Can’t comment on long-term durability, as I’ve only put about 24k miles on mine on the Concours in the past 9 months, but all seems well. Now that I have access to a pyrometer, I’ve measured the temps at the grip, and on a 32F day the grips will run about 100F. On a warmer day, or sitting in the garage with no moving air to cool them, they run hotter than that. Measurement taken by pulling into a rest stop, reaching into tank-bag with one left hand for the pyrometer, and then with pyrometer in left hand removing right hand from grip and taking a reading *right then*.

Combined with a permanent Heat-Troller grip controller mounted in the fairing inner liner, I have a setup that goes from 20%-100% power, draws less amps than the BMW grips (I measured resistance before installation. BMW about 8 ohms, HG about 10 ohms), and seems to get hotter than the BMW-clone prototypes that I made. Hard comparison data on exact temps I don’t have, as I never thought to hit the BMW-clone grips with the meter before the bike was destroyed in that unfortunate meeting with a van. Sigh…. I still miss that bike.

Anyway, downside on the HotGrips is that they are rather firm, and a little bit bigger diameter than stock. So if you have a bike that buzzes such that you *must* have foam grips, they’re not the best way to go.

And then there’s the wrap-on grip heaters, that you can carry in a tank-bag and install when the need arrives temporarily. No direct experience with them, though based on the idea that you want the heating elements to be close to what you’re heating the wrap-ons should be quite effective. My older brother has used them on his HD Electra-Glide with pleasure on two rides to Bike Week from northern Ohio, and I’ve heard good things from others as well. My own take is that I’d rather just hit a switch for heat, since I can do that easily and the permanent mount elements are always there, ready and waiting. If I wanted to mess with hooking things up each time it got cold, I think that I’d sooner go for heated gloves.

On gloves versus grips: Grips heat the palms, gloves heat the outer face of your hands. If you use both, you’ll bask in pure luxury, and have some redundancy in event of a heating element failure in either system. Redundancy is good, means that you may not get into bad shape (or park the bike) in event of a itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny broken wire.

More thoughts on redundancy – I use Gerbings gloves, for one reason: they’re wired in parallel. Widders are wired in series. Implication – if a single Widder glove fails, both fail. If a single Gerbing glove fails, just a single glove loses heat. Same for the HotGrips, the model that I use is 2 parallel circuits. Remember, you’ll be using this stuff when it’s COLD out. Can you still make it home in event of a single failure, or will that one failure mean parking the bike? That’s what guides me as I make my choices on heated grips, gloves, and design. An entire trip should never hang on one delicate thread.


Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio

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