Oxford Hot Grips "Heaterz" Review
by H.B.C. for webBikeWorld.com
Well known, well made and well tested, the Oxford HotGrips just plain work.
They may not be the most cutting edge heated grip on the market, but they are still one of the best in terms of reliability and performance - they sure do keep the hands warm.
Editor's Note: Oxford HotGrips can also be found as Oxford Hot Grips and they are also listed as Oxford Heaterz. The "Hot Grips" brand name is also used for other types of heated motorcycle grips.
It gets cool, we get heatÖ
After riding a great many years with cold hands, the original equipment heated handgrips on both the R1200GS Adventure and F800ST are very much appreciated, especially at this time of year.
Accordingly, a set of Oxford Hotgrips, the "Essential Heated Grips", have been fitted to the 22 mm (7/8 inch) bars on the Kawasaki Versys. All done in the name of research and warmth of courseÖ
The Oxford grips are sold off the shelf as a complete kit Ė everything needed for a complete and easy installation is included in the box. Despite the installation being somewhat intuitive, we actually did read the provided instructions, an activity we encourage everyone to do regardless of how simple a job you think it might be. As the instructions clearly state: Safety first.
The kit includes a left (22 mm inside diameter by 125 mm outside diameter) and a right (25.6 mm x 125 mm) grip assembly with individual wiring harnesses. These grips are slightly longer than the 120 mm stock grips that came on the bikes.
A converter insert tube, for ATV use, is also to be found hiding inside the right grip. The rest of the kit includes a variable heating switch harness, the power harness with a 5 amp mini-blade weather-proof fuse housing, five black cable ties and "grip glue".
As way of preparation the left hand trim panel and the left hand fairing panel were removed and, the negative terminal of the battery was disconnected. Then the power harness was run from the battery area, under the tank support bracket and up along the existing Garmin zumo power cable run, with the block power connector end being located in the space between the handlebars and the fairing.
The stock grips were quickly removed with a thin flat-head screwdriver and just a touch of WD40 (make sure you clean the newly exposed surfaces afterwards). The left and the right heated grip assemblies were mounted, with the power harness oriented down for this initial installation. The grips were very tight when they were being mounted, so the grip glue was not used.
One important point, clearly identified in the instructions, is to leave sufficient slack in the right hand assembly so that there is enough play in the connecting harness to allow unrestricted use of the throttle when the throttle is rotated.
Another observation is to make sure the leading edge of the power harness moulding clears the front brake assembly so it does not interfere with throttle rotation through its entire range. Failure to provide for this could result in interference between the moulding and the front brake lever movement Ė enough said?
This concern addressed, the main harness was connected, matching the RED and BLACK wired block connectors to the corresponding incoming power harness connection points. The remaining two dual-block connectors are for the left and right side harnesses, but there is no coding - just plug them in.
With the initial front end work done, the positive and then the negative ring terminals and the ground lead, previously removed, were connected to the respective battery posts and everything checked, in preparation for the first test.
The variable switch is spring loaded for on/off functions, and it also provides adjustable temperature control, rotating through a 160 degree arc with five settings (LO to HI) for heat adjustment. Pushing the switch brings the small red LED in the upper right of the housing to life, which indicates a good power connection: if it glows yellow, there is something wrong.
Rotating the adjustable control to the second position, it only took two minutes to feel the grips becoming warm. Although the motorcycle should be running to avoid undue drain on the battery and to allow full amperage to flow, this test was done without starting up the motorcycle. So, after five minutes of feeling the heat build, the grips were turned off.
Hiding the surplus front end wiring and finding a good spot for the clunky variable switch controller box takes a bit more time and thought.
To help out, Oxford provides two tailored base plates; one is curved to facilitate mounting on the handlebar using small double-side tape pads located on the inside edge. The other plate has a flat bottom for surface mounting using a double-sided tape pad from the kit.
To expedite things for the initial ride test, the housing was positioned up against the left hand control housing and turned upwards to allow the control knob to be accessed. Although access was still a bit tricky, largely due to the RAM mount and zumo assembly that is bolted on to the left hand control housing, we had no intentions of trying to make major adjustments while moving anyway.
Starting out the ambient air temperature was 2C (35.6F), so well below freezing with wind-chill. The temperature control was set to the second position, which was more than sufficient to keep the hands toasty through the Alpinestars or Olympia gloves, especially with the newly installed Zeta deflectors in place. Without deflectors mounted, the middle or 3rd position is more than adequate under the same riding conditions.
The technical data included in the instructions states that typical running voltage is between 13.5 and 14.3 volts.
Each grip requires 2.1 amps or 28 to 30 Watts, so practically speaking the total draw should be around 60 Watts.
Further tests will be conducted to see just what the current total draw of all accessories is, helpful in determining what further devices can be entertained, or not.
Before spring, the wiring harness will be cleaned up and hidden to the extent possible.
A relay kit for accessories has been procured as well, so the handgrips might get rewired to take advantage of the switched relay, negating the chance of the Oxford grips being left on to drain the battery.
While still debating on the best spot for the controller box, it will likely be mounted just in front of the left hand windshield mounting arm, or on the left hand side of the instrument pod, which is now occupied by a Powerlet BMW-style power plug (easily relocated). Having unobstructed (safe) access to the switch is the primary concern.
The Oxford HotGrips kit works as advertised and is a breeze to install. The components are well thought out, of high quality, and sturdy, all of which should lead to longevity.
Given the modularity of the system and not having glued the grips, they could be easily removed in the spring and reinstalled in the fall, with the main harness tucked away under the fairing shell
Only two observations detract from the system as a whole.
The grips, even at 125 mm in length, still feel short when wearing heavier gloves, particularly if one is used to long grips and small end mouldings like BMW uses.
Also, the obtrusive controller box which appears to be a poorly executed compromise between fit, form and function.
Note: there is an updated Heat Controller module featuring a touch control surface for turning the grips on and off, and controlling the heat.
It would appear that this module is packaged with the newer kits.
Oxford has been producing quality two-wheel oriented products since 1973 and their experience and pride is evident in all their products. The Oxford Hotgrips Kit is no exception.
Although pricey when compared to other similar products on the market, the Oxford kit is worth the investment.
All components are well finished and sturdy. Everything fits together as detailed. The adjustable temperature control provides a good range of heat adjustment and output is very good to the individual grips.
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|Manufacturer: Oxford Products||List Price: Approx. $109.95 CAD or £49.99 or $75.00 USD|
|Colours: Black.||Made In: China|
|Review Date: January 2008|
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From "D.R." (January 2013): "I have the Oxford grips on my Triumph Sprint (installed by original owner), and I would urge people to use the grip glue that comes with the kit, at least on the clutch side, despite how tight it feels.
When the grips are turned on for any length of time the grip will rotate easily on the bar, and I found myself constantly adjusting it so that the strain relief did not impede the clutch lever. There were, in fact, several times where I couldn't pull the clutch lever in because the strain relief was in the way.
I will also second the previous comment about leakage current. The Triumph had a terrible issue with charging and my battery was constantly going flat. The heated grips were not the ultimate cause, but I wound up pulling the fuse anyway and plugging it back in when I went for a ride. Hopefully the previous comment is correct and there is an auto shutoff on the new controller.
Those minor complaints aside, I loved having the grips and will be putting them on the new Kawaski Versys (review) I'm buying this weekend!"
From "P" (October 2011): "I have had a set of Oxford Heaterz on my BMW R1100GS for about 3 years. My GS must be one of the few BMWs built in the last 25 years that didn't come with heated grips from the factory and as I ride year-round it seemed like a worthwhile addition.
The Oxford grips were chosen after quite a bit of research based upon their combination of features including: Normal feel (as opposed to some which are rock hard); even heating, whereby the right and left grip get equally hot; digital controller; and robust wiring.
Installation was pretty easy although I had to file out the inside of the right grip slightly to get it to fit over the BMW throttle tube (Oxford mention this possibility in the installation instructions.) I noted that it was pretty easy to position the grips so that the block of rubber the cable exits from could get caught under the front brake lever - which would be bad.
On the throttle side, one has to account for throttle movement also. I wired the grips to the factory grip power plug under the tank so did not have to tie anything back to the battery and just popped a fuse in the open slot in the factory fuse box to provide power.
I cut off quite a bit of excess wiring, requiring me to re-solder the connection in the stock harness - although it would have been quite possible to just bundle the excess out of the way somewhere.
The BMW does not have a conventional clamp for the clutch lever so the supplied bracket was useless. The controller was therefore mounted inside the left hand guard, where I can reach it with my index finger without removing a hand from the bars. It's a bit tricky to see there but nicely hidden.
Performance-wise, the grips were everything I could have hoped for. The power is more than adequate and they easily get hotter than the stock grips on my airhead BMW. I have only ever used the full power setting a couple of times just to get grips and hands warmed up quickly
For rides of up to three or four hours in sub-zero temperatures, my hands have never got really cold, although you do get good at wrapping your entire hand onto the grip, especially the right thumb.
I wonder why no glove manufacturers have come up with gloves that are heavily insulated on the back side and finger tips but with un-insulated palms.
In three years or so of fairly heavy use, the grips have always worked just as expected. They are showing a little surface wear but nothing more than factory grips did at the same sort of mileage.
Do I like them? You bet! I have looked at numerous other heated grips both installed on bikes and on the shelf and non seem to have quite such a good set of features. In fact, I like them so much that there are another set of Oxford Heaterz sitting in my shop awaiting installation on my Yamaha GTS1000.
Forgot to mention - the Oxford Heaterz also work fine with the Throttlemeister on my GS and do not seem to expand much, binding the throttle as I had heard some heated grips can do."
From "K.O." (10/10): "One comment on the installation of heated grips like the Oxford model: I would always recommend NOT connecting the grips directly to the battery, but using a relay to ensure the grips are off, when the engine is off.
For the relay control you can use e. g. the headlight voltage, or (like I did, which is easier to reach at the Versys) the registration plate illumination.
Otherwise itís just a matter of time until you miss switching off the grips and the battery will be drained completely until the next ride. That would be a bad surprise on a sunny Sunday morningÖ! "
From "S.C." (11/09): "I recently bought a new V-Strom and, after reading your review, decided to install the Oxford heated grips. My previous bike had the Symtec grips, which worked great, and I was tempted to go with them again, but everyone said the Oxford product was a step up, so I went with them.
When I installed them and for the first week I used them the outside temperature was in the low 60ís and they worked fine. Then, one morning, with the temperature barely above freezing, I fired up the bike and turned on the grips. The light on the controller stayed on for a couple of seconds and went out, and the grips didnít warm up. After about 15 minutes on the road they finally stayed on.
This pattern has been repeating itself: when I donít need them, they work fine. When itís cold enough that they really need to work, they wonít fire up until Iíve ridden for 15-20 minutes.
This is hardly the performance you want from a premium product. The voltage to the grips isnít a problem: itís a brand new bike, and both my voltmeters say there are 14 volts reaching the controller. Iíve contacted Oxford but so far nothing in reply. My gut feeling is that the controller is perhaps a bit too finely tuned for motorcycle use. Anyone else out there have a similar problem?"
From "J.M." (7/09): "Just wanted to add a comment about the Oxford Hot Grips that are installed on my Versys.
I couldn't figure out why the battery in my Versys would be dead if I didn't ride for 3 weeks. I'd come back home, want to go for a ride, and the battery wouldn't even roll over the starter motor. A bit of research showed why. The Oxford grips have a duty-cycle controller that pulses a 3 Ampere current through the heaters. But even when the grips are turned off, the controller pulls a steady 10 mA load on the battery. After three weeks of idle time, the battery is drained.
The solution was to rewire the Oxford Hot Grips through the ignition circuit. The dealer did this for me at no charge, once they realized that their original installation wasn't up to snuff."
From "R.M.": "I used a set of these throughout the past winter. They were very easy to install and they generate plenty of heat. I also have had to turn them off because they became to warm. My only complaint is that even with my Tour Master Cold Front Carbon gloves on, riding in temperatures below 30 degrees still leaves the top of my hands uncomfortably cold while the palms of my hands are near sweating. Maybe I just chose the wrong winter gloves, but I'm thinking about moving to some kind of heated glove or claw shaped gloves.
From "J.W.": "Based on your article, I just installed a set of Oxford Heaterz. They work great and are a snap to install. I found the grips a tad longer than stock so I shaved them back and they fit and work perfectly. Thanks for a very informative review."
From "D.H.": "Excellent and timely review! I'd like to know the reviewer's opinion of the feel/grippinness of these grips, as some older heated grips used harder, almost plastic, compounds. I appears from the photographs in the review that the actual rubber grip components of the Oxford HoTGrips could be sourced from ProGrip; if so, I'd expect them to feel fairly "normal". "
H.B.C.'s Reply: The grips themselves use TPR rubber and have a good natural (normal) feel, and they stay flexible and comfortable at all temperatures. (By the way), U.S. pricing is far better than up here...typically the (Oxford) Heaterz kits list for 55 to 60 USD, with the new controller, our pricing is still at or over 100 CAD.
From "T.B.": "I received a set of the Oxford Heaterz as a Christmas gift from my wife. She was tiring of my cold commute hands, as was I.
The set I received had the new control pad which is also accompanied with a mounting bracket that can be attached to the aft side of the inboard metal control clamps. Longer bolts and optional spacers were provided by Oxford, nice touch. It is a tight fit with the left mirror post being very close on my ZR7, but it functions well.
The right side was not possible with the location of the brake reservoir. I had some reservations about the use of micro-switches, but even with my MotoGP Turn 4 winter gloves, it is intuitive and functional. The lights can be seen in my peripheral vision.
The Heaterz have been in constant use over the past few weeks with nothing but happy results. I concur that the grips feel narrower than stock, but are completely livable and safe with winter gloves. My guess is that the width of the power harness takes up a bit of real estate. To remedy this, I may try shaving down the outer end rib of the grip. I believe this will help or even be necessary with the future installation of a Thottlemeister unit.
Note that I oriented the grip with the power harness coming out the top. In this manner, slack is generally added when opening the throttle and it clears a bit of space for the knuckle of my thumb under the handlebar.
One further note is that I used the provided cyanoacrylate grip glue on the throttle side as it did not grip well without. I did not use any glue on the left side as it was very tight during installation. Although, when up to temp, which is perfect on the lowest setting in 25F weather, the grip will move around under deliberate pressure. I may add a small amount of glue to eliminate this.
As there is not a lot of places to hide wiring on my bike (you should what Kawasaki left in the headlight housing), I will be trimming back the excess wires and using some Posi-Locks to secure them.
I will also be testing this setup without the hand guards."
rom "A.B.": "Excellent Review. I like the fact that it's a complete kit, everything you need, even the glue, is included. I bought a set with the newer electronic controller, then installed them on my Kawasaki Ninja 250. The grips get nice and hot and seem to work pretty good. The new electronic controller will also auto-shut off if you forget to turn them off. The vendor that I bought mine from is Lockitt.com, their price was $54.95."
From "J.S.": "Just thought I would respond to your latest review on the Oxford "Hot Grips"... I installed on my 06 VFR (last year) and I have found them to be exactly as you have written. My grips were bought over EBay and they were the older version with the "old style" heat modulator (rheostat style). I am very satisfied with the heat they produce and overall quality...they have helped immensely on those long, early Spring or late Fall runs."