by Brandon Jackson for webBikeWorld.com
The Koso Apollo heated grips are simple and innovative.
The left grip has a built-in controller and on/off switch, which definitely streamlines the installation process.
These are the top-of-the-line Koso heated grips with a unique built-in controller.
They have five heat levels, controlled by a simple thumb button that has a lighted LED.
Different colors are displayed on the LED to indicate the heat level.
They perform similarly to other quality heated grips but have a simplified installation with discrete controller hardware.
The end result makes for a very clean installation.
I first came across the Koso Apollo heated trips at the 2015 AIMExpo show (report).
Koso North America makes a variety of motorcycle accessories, including a selection of different heated grips for 7/8" and 1" handlebar sizes.
They were all on display at the show and all connected to power.
The Apollo heated grips happened to be the first I laid my hands on. They were on "high" (red LED) and WOW! they were warm. I had to get a set for a webBikeWorld review.
It took a while, but here we are, just in time for another winter riding season; very appropriate.
As it turns out, the Koso Apollo heated grips not only put out the heat, they're easy to install...or easier, anyway, than most of the other heated grips we've reviewed.
They're more expensive than other heated grips at a $129.95 list price but the advanced features and ease of installation and factory look more than make up for it.
Here are all the details in Brandon's review.
There is short list of accessories, or “farkles”, that I put on each new motorcycle I have purchased over the past few years.
Items near the top of that list include driving and/or visibility lighting, along with a lead for a battery maintainer and also an accessory fuse panel.
But at the very top of the list is a set of heated grips.
Ever since I put a set on my Suzuki SV650 back in 2008, I have been sold on the idea of heated grips.
I try my best to keep riding throughout the winter months here in Tennessee and for that I prefer heated grips to heated gloves.
But it’s not just the colder months of winter when heated grips are useful; they are also great to have on a cool Spring or Fall morning, when the temperatures can easily dip down into the 50’s (F) and then rise considerably by the afternoon.
In those conditions, heated grips allow me to get away with medium- or light-weight gloves on cool mornings without having to carry an extra set.
For the past several years I have been using Oxford heated grips (review) on my motorcycles with very pleasing results.
After my recently departed Triumph Sprint was replaced by a Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (review) this year, our Editor asked if I was interested in reviewing a new set of heated grips.
I already had the Oxford heated grips on the Ninja, so I remembered Johnny, who just bought the new Yamaha XSR900 we reviewed recently. Surely he could use a set?
When I rang him up to ask, he didn't seem too enthusiastic. It was mid-summer and I think he wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of installing a set of heated grips, which can get complicated.
But then I sent him a link to the Koso North America website and suggested he have a look anyway. Soon after, I received a text with an enthusiastic “Yes please!”
So why the change of heart? Let’s see...
The Koso Apollo Heated grips represent an evolutionary change in heated grips for motorcycles and I'll explain why.
One of the pain points for typical heated grips is the installation. You not only have to install the grips on the handlebar, but also connect the power and route all the wiring.
On top of that, a space needs to be found for mounting the controller.
This may be a switch, a set of buttons, or even a dial and it needs to be placed where it is easily accessible. Of course this also means running wires to the controller.
By the end of a typical installation, there can be quite a few wires running around the bike and it can take time to route them all neatly.
Koso has mitigated some of this wiring hassle by eliminating the separate controller unit. What they have done is integrate the heat controller into the left side hand grip instead.
On the “hilt” of the grip is a button for powering the grips on and off and for adjusting the heat levels. That’s it -- no extra wiring, controllers or mounting of a separate control device.
I wondered how they could do this in such a small space, because I know even some of the smallest PWM (Pulse Width Modulator) devices I’ve seen would be difficult to fit in the space of the grip hilt, in addition to squeezing the button and an LED in there too.
But once I unpacked the Apollo grip kit I could see how; Koso has moved the PWM circuitry into a separate module that is inline with the grip wiring.
The module is still pretty small, which makes it easy to hide during installation, but at least the mystery of miniaturization is solved.
The button and LED are also what I consider to be a “just right” size for their purpose. The button is large enough to easily press with a gloved thumb, but still small enough that it doesn't take up too much space on the grip itself.
One press of the button is all it takes to fire up the grips and the LED will light, indicating the power is on while also indicating the level of heat that is currently set.
Pressing the button additional times will cycle through the five heat settings and then to off.
Each setting is indicated by a different color displayed on the LED, starting with Blue for the coolest setting followed by Green, Yellow, Orange and then finally Red indicating the hottest setting.
Pressing the button again at the high or Red setting will switch the grips off.
The button can also be held down for three seconds to turn the grips off from any setting, and this also adds another feature: the last heat setting level will be retained.
When the grips are turned on again they will come back on right where they were before being turned off -- a handy and useful feature.
One more thing: the Apollo heated grips can be installed using a relay so that they only receive power when the bike ignition is on.
But they don’t have to be installed this way, because the built-in controller monitors the voltage from the bike and will prevent them from staying on and running down the battery.
When the controller senses the voltage has dropped below 11.5 volts for more than five seconds, it will shut off the heat to the grips and a purple light will flash from the LED indicator, warning the rider about the low voltage.
The system will reset itself to normal operation after it senses a full 12.5 volts for several seconds.
Inadvertently, we tested this when getting ready for the temperature test I will describe in this review.
We turned on the ignition on the bike and then turned on the grips without starting the engine.
Then, after only a few seconds, the LED on the left hand grip flashed purple, warning us that the battery (unaided by the alternator because the engine hadn't been started yet) didn't have enough voltage to keep the grips switched on.
We then started the bike, which still had plenty of juice to start up, and after running for several seconds, the LED switched back to red and the grips started to become warm. Success!
The Apollo heated grips are designed for an easy installation (here's a .pdf version of the installation instructions).
Besides the grips, the installation kit includes the main wiring harness (which contains the power and ground leads), the PWM circuitry and the connectors for the grips.
Since the Yamaha XSR900 is an unfaired bike, access to wiring was very straightforward.
Removal of the seat reveals the battery and main wiring harness for the bike, so we removed the inline fuse on the Apollo Grips wiring harness and connected the power leads to the battery.
You'll want to hide the wiring harness that leads back to the battery, so this may mean lifting the fuel tank or removing one of the side panels on your bike.
Care should be taken with placement of the inline control circuitry on the provided harness because while the wiring sheath is durable, it should be placed where there is no chance of becoming kinked or otherwise subjected to stresses.
Fortunately, its small diameter made it easy to tuck it and the associated wiring out of view for installation on the XSR900.
Having removed the bar ends and the factory hand grips (Tip: use a compressor to blow air under the hand grips to help remove them), we proceeded to install each grip onto the tubular handlebar on the Yamaha.
Before installing the grips, however, we needed to check to make sure they were the correct length.
Sliding the grips in place revealed the need to trim them back in order to allow reinstallation of the bar ends.
This is has been typical for most all of the heated grip installations I’ve done in the past and some grips -- like the Oxford heated grips I've used before -- list a minimum length to which they can be cut.
The literature included with the Apollo grips, however, doesn’t call out a specific minimum length, so we assumed that they could be trimmed to length, since the handlebar and stock hand grips on the XSR 900 are a standard size.
This turned out to be correct, as we were able to trim the Koso grips as needed (to the groove at the outer edge of the grips, before the main body) without exposing or damaging any of the wiring inside the grip housing.
[UPDATE: Note that Koso warns against cutting the grips, but see photos above.]
Once they were trimmed, we finished the installation by using the included grip glue and then we slid the grips into place.
We then routed the wiring from each grip to the correct harness attachment point.
Since the left grip has the control buttons and LED, the cabling coming out of that grip is noticeably larger and the connector ends are different from left to right.
This makes it so that the grips can only be connected to their intended receptacle.
The left side cabling is wrapped with a sheath that is very similar to the type used by most motorcycle manufacturers, so the appearance of the cabling doesn’t look out of place on the handlebar.
The Apollo grips are sized in the standard 7/8" (22 mm) size (1" for the throttle tube) that most sport, standard, and adventure/dual sport motorcycles use.
Koso makes other types of heated grips in 1" sizes (1-1/8" for the throttle tube) for cruisers.
Koso also has other styles of heated grips at different prices for various motorcycles and heated grips for ATVs that have a thumb throttle.
The Apollo Heated grips get warm and they do so quickly.
No wattage specification is listed but they are provided with a 4 amp fuse.
The Apollo grips get very good reviews on Amazon.com and one owner claims to have measured the amperage at 0.6A on the lowest setting and 2.8A on high.
If this is correct, using the formula Watts = Amps x Volts means Watts = 2.8 x 14, which gives an estimate of about 39 Watts on high.
In order to test actual heat output, we fired up the XSR900 and turned the grips on the highest setting. After letting the grips heat for a couple of minutes we then brought the engine revs to about 3000 rpm.
Using a non-contact infrared temperature heat gun, we checked the temperature and the highest result was 111°F (44°C) on the left side grip at an ambient temperature of 71°F, while the right (throttle) side reached 109°F.
I would have expected the left side to be cooler as the grip is direct contact with the metal handlebar.
But maybe knowing that the throttle side is somewhat insulated due to the plastic throttle tube, Koso has compensated for this difference? Or, it could just be manufacturing tolerance.
Now while these temperatures may not seem very hot as they are only 10 degrees or so above normal body temperature, this doesn't take into account wrapping your hands around the grips while wearing gloves.
Without the ambient air dissipating the heat, the temperatures can get higher under your fingers and palms.
And that is exactly our experience, because when riding the XSR900 with the Apollo grips on the high setting, it took only about two minutes for the grips to feel too hot for comfort.
This was, of course, in 70 degree F weather, so further testing on colder days will be in order.
The Koso Apollo Heated grips work just fine delivering heat that can be felt through motorcycle gloves.
This in itself wouldn’t be that exciting, except for the fact that the design of the Apollo grips is both unique and simple.
They allow for significantly easier installation over other heated grips that require the installation of a separate control unit.
In addition, the low voltage sensing feature works well and and it potentially allows you to skip installing a relay in the circuit if desired.
The only concern that I see is that the button on the left hand grip could be pushed accidentally, as it is integrated into the grip itself.
But you'd certainly see the LED and feel the heat and since the grips have an automatic shut-off system, this isn't really an issue.
Finally, the grips look great and are perfect for use where mounting a controller unit is difficult or simply not desired.
I’m glad we installed these on the XSR900, as they fit perfectly into the simple and clean design of the bike and they do look like they could have been a factory installed option.
Master Listing of All wBW Motorcycle Product Reviews
From "R.Z." (February 2017): "I'm a little concerned that I will be accidentally turning on the grips when I reach for the turn signal button on my DR650SE.
Does the rider with the installed grips find this to be the case? Maybe Koso can reprogram these so you have to hold the button for 3 seconds to turn them on."
Editor's Reply: I asked the owner, he said he thought it might be a concern but that it hasn’t been a problem.
From "L.E." (October 2016): "After reading the glowing review of the Koso heated grips, I ordered a pair for installation on my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650LT.
I liked the fact the controls can be accessed without removing the left hand from the bar and the fact that the whole setup is so unobtrusive it looks to be OEM equipment.
Installation of the grip on the left side proved hugely difficult due to the fact it is a very snug fit on the Versys handle bar. In truth, I was unable to push it home with my hands.
I was able to install it only after I used the bolt for the bar end weight to draw the grip into position on the end of the handle bar with the aid of alcohol as a lubricant. That being a slow process, I could not use the super glue.
Another observation I would like to make is the gauge of the wiring harness. The wire that supplies power from the battery appears to be 22 gauge -- terribly small.
I've been a fan of the Oxford Heaterz for many years.
The materials used in those are substantial and I've proven their durability and reliability during many years of service. I have serious doubts about this aspect of the Koso (grips).
They may benefit from a slick new design, but for the premium price demanded, I feel they should be manufactured with more substantial materials."
Editor's Reply: We probably should have mentioned, it can be difficult to install new grips of any type on a motorcycle. There are some products to help lubricate the grips and then dry inside once the grips are on.
I've used a cheap tube of hair gel with success, it lubricates the inside of the grip and then dries hard.
Regarding the wiring, we have noticed here also that some recent electrical accessories have very narrow gauge wires. But, as long as it works, that hasn't been a problem.
From "B.P." (October 2016): "The Apollo heated grips, with the controller on the left grip itself, certainly seems like an ingenious product.
Brandon Jackson's review was very thorough, but I still have one question. I was so intrigued with the Apollos that I emailed Koso a few days ago.
I measured the stock grips on my 2008 Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec scooter at 115mm.
Leaving a smidgeon (that's a technical term) of room by the right switch housing, so the throttle won't bind on it, and going all the way out to the end of the throttle sleeve -- which is just at the end of the handlebar, right before the bar end weight -- I came up with a maximum length of about 120 mm (although I'd prefer something like 118 mm).
So I asked Koso if the Apollo could be trimmed back 10 mm.
Responding, Melanie Cossette had this to say: The length is 130 mm and the CANNOT be cutted. [sic].
Brandon noted, in the review:
'The literature included with the Apollo grips, however, doesn’t call out a specific minimum length, so we assumed that they could be trimmed to length, since the handlebar and stock hand grips on the XSR 900 are a standard size.
This turned out to be correct, as we were able to trim the Koso grips as needed without exposing or damaging any of the wiring inside the grip housing.'
So, who's an owner supposed to listen to, Brandon or Koso? And if we ignore Koso -- which may be in CYA mode, just on general principles -- just how much can be trimmed?
Could I get a final measurement from Brandon, so I (and the rest of your readers) would know just how much of the 130 mm length he trimmed without, apparently, damaging anything?"
Rick's Reply: I added some info on this and I added an arrow on the dimension illustration in the review above.
Although Koso warns against cutting the grips, Johnny cut them at the groove.
He said the wiring only goes to the edge of the main body of the grips and not past the groove. The grips are working fine so far.