Gear Gear Reviews

Gear review: Oxford HotGrips Premium Heated Grips

Oxford HotGrips Premium Touring Heated Grips

EDIT: The switch on these grips failed after only a month of use. Replacing the switch cost £20.

Saint David, patron saint of Wales, famously said: “Gwnewch y pethau bychain.” Do the little things. 

Fond of spending several hours standing naked in cold water as a means of testing his faith, St. David was no doubt well acquainted with little things. Nonetheless, his advice remains sage in modern times –– especially for motorcyclists. Because one of the unhappy truths of of motorcycling is that it can be an exacerbating process; little things often become big problems very quickly.
That’s true in the case of both the machine and the rider. I am slowly learning that simple annoyances can have a huge affect on the quality and longevity of my riding. But I hadn’t realised just how much until I had a pair of Oxford HotGrips (badly) installed on my bike.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the shop I took my bike to dropped the ball somewhat in fitting the grips. They managed to make the sort of mistake I was afraid I might, which, of course, is why I had taken the job to them in the first place. The glue set before they got the grip on all the way. As a result, you can see about 3 mm of white throttle sleeve, and the grip hangs out just a bit over the bar end, making my right handle look like a penis.
Feel free to visualise that, along with the hand action of rolling on and off the throttle, and understand why I was so unhappy with the shop’s work. I will now forever feel as if I am giving my Honda a handjob. I thought I had left those days behind when I moved away from Reno…

To add to my pain, the shop chose to cover up the exposed throttle sleeve with electrical tape. Because, you know, that looks really good and will hold up for a super long time in a rainy country like Britain. But, quite probably through sheer luck, they did at least manage to ensure that the grips work properly. And when you’re riding through British winter, that’s really all that matters.

You need this in your life

And, wow, does it matter. I am inclined now to launch into something of an evangelical tome on the value of heated grips, but I’ll spare you and simply say this: you need heated grips. Unless you are one of those Minnesota only-in-the-best-weather sort-of riders (nice khakis, buddy), you need heated grips.

The day after having the grips installed, I rode out to one of my favourite cities, Bath, which is roughly 60 miles away. Back in November I had ridden more or less the same route on my way to Dyrham Park and back then the journey had required midway hand-warming stops. Additionally, I had found the ride to be quite wearying. Not so this time.

I’m pretty sure the weather this time was actually colder than it had been on my previous ride to the Avon Valley, but getting there was so much easier. I arrived in Bath alert and comfortable, perfectly able to deal with the challenges of its pedestrian-laden streets. My hands were warm and somehow that translated into my whole body feeling better.

The trip had been taken only for the sake of a bit of reconnaissance –– finding a place to park near the Raven in anticipation of an event there –– so I didn’t have anything to do in the town. After gulping down a tea I hopped on the bike and headed back home. So, at best, my break was just 15 minutes. I rode all the way back to Penarth without feeling the need to stop –– again my hands were warm and that resulted in the rest of me being able to suffer the elements for longer.

Ugly, good gear

Oxford are a motorcycle gear company based out of, you guessed it, Oxford, England. The have earned a reputation for producing affordable, good-quality motorcycle gear that has a tendency to be a bit ugly. My Oxford tank bag, for instance. Really useful, but ugly. The same could be said for the myriad other Oxford items I own –– from chains to balaclavas. They are all useful, but they lack a certain aesthetic finesse.

But then, how sexy can motorcycle grips be? I mean, mine have been fashioned into high-speed dildos; surely that’s enough. What matters with grips are their features.

The Oxford HotGrips premium range (I’ve noticed that major U.S. retailer RevZilla calls them “Heaterz,” but it’s the same product) is available in different types of grip to suit your style of bike: sport, adventure and touring. The workings of all three grips are exactly the same.

These three styles of premium grip help to differentiate them (slightly) from the older, fewer-featured versions that are also offered by Oxford. The variations on the heated grip theme can be confusing, so make sure you know what you’re getting. The premium grips cost a little more but I feel they’re worth it.

Oxford HotGrips Premium controller

Firstly, the premium grips allow you five different settings, whereas the standard version offers only two (“high” and “low”). In riding to Bath on a 4C day (39F), I found I only needed my grips set at 30 percent when moving through urban areas, and 50 percent when I was on the motorway. I was wearing my “winter” gloves but not the liners I would normally need in such a situation.

Secondly, the premium grips eliminate the installation challenge that had put me off trying things myself. Obviously, I did not learn this until after I read more about the grips for the sake of this review. I should have done that in the first place. Though, in my defence, I thought I had. It turns out I had been reading about the older versions, which required more of a derring-do attitude toward wiring than I possess.

To ensure the older versions of the grips didn’t kill your battery, you have to do a bit of wire splicing, marrying the grips to things like your tail light. You do this because otherwise the grips won’t shut off automatically when you turn off the engine. Were you to choose the non-splicing route and wire the grips directly to the engine you would risk forgetting to turn them off and thereby draining your battery.

Despite the assurances of numerous speaking-in-cliche blokes on internet forums (“Ya, mate, it’s a doddle! Splice the wire, bob’s your uncle. It’s the dog’s bollocks. My hands are roastin’ now…Though admittedly, the throttle sticks from time to time. No worries, though. Helps me stay ahead of the rozzers! LOL!”), the idea of wire splicing almost put me off heated grips entirely. Had my father not given them to me for Christmas, I may never have bought them on my own.

But it turns out that the premium grips have overcome the aforementioned wiring problem. Now, you can wire the grips directly to the battery, no splicing required, and the new Battery Saving Mode will shut them off if you forget.

Additionally, Oxford says more effort has been put into ensuring that the premium grips hold up against the elements.

Not perfect, but worth it

Because Oxford HotGrips are designed to work with every motorcycle, they’re not necessarily going to work as seamlessly as a product designed specifically for your machine. That means the wires may stick out at odd angles. If you’ve taken basic care in installation these wires won’t interfere with your access to the controls; it just may not look as sexy as you’d like. But then consider the price difference between Oxford heated grips and OEM heated grips. How much is sexy really worth?

My only minor complaint comes in the truth that Oxford HotGrips can’t bend the laws of thermodynamics. It’s a given that if you hold your hand up in 80-mph wind, the bits that get coldest fastest will be the fingers. This is because they have the most air swirling around them and the least amount of blood getting to them. Put on gloves and wrap your hands around a heated grip and the basic truth will remain the same. Without handguards to block the wind, heated grips can only do so much.

I found that I felt the warmth most obviously in my palms and that my fingertips could still be just a little chilly even when my palms were telling me to turn down the heat. As I say, though, the grips worked quite well overall. My chilly fingertips were by no means intolerable and my ability to tackle long distances increased exponentially.

I am now very much a heated grip guy. And with Oxford’s reputation for durability I look forward to riding through many more winter days. It’s amazing what an effect little things can have.