As fall time in the states is here I thought it was finally time I install some heat for my hands. I ride my V year round as I commute 8 minutes to work. Last year the only part of my body that would get cold on my rides was my hands... actually just three fingers on my right hand to be specific. On one morning when it was 5 degrees Fahrenheit my hands were so cold that I couldn't pull the clutch/brake levers and I laid down my bike in a parking lot. That made me change my driving habits to the V only coming out when it was above freezing. I live in Indiana so a rule like that can cut out a couple of months of riding.
I research the heck out of every purchase I make and based on my research I settled on the Oxford brand heated grips.
Today I will be reviewing the new version of the Oxford Grip Heaters. This new version (v.8) comes with many upgrades and fixes to all previous versions of these heaters. The heaters come in three varieties, sport, touring, and adventure. I will be reviewing the touring version as this was the only version I could find with the v.8 controller. The only difference between the versions is the grip texture and the adventure model grips are slightly longer.
Here is the back of the box explaining the features (notice this image is of the sport model, but the features are identical):
The Oxford heaters are not the cheapest grip warmer options out there, and they are not the most expensive. They come down just to the right of middle in the price range at $79. Finding the v.8 version is a bit of challenge in the states as the bigger retailers still have v.7a in stock. I called several and had them check their stock. I wound up buying mine from an ebay seller who had an image of the v.8 controller in his ad. Most of the European sellers have the newer model. How can you tell if the model you are buying is the newest version?... well for one there is a tiny v.8 located on the lower left corner of the controller, but also there are 5 heat settings which include a 50% option. Previous versions did not have this 50% setting.
Comparison to previous models:
If you read through reviews of previous versions of the Oxford heaters you will find a laundry list of things that were either minor annoyances or outright faults.
- Hard to see LED lights on controller.
- Battery saver option that didn't save batteries (auto-shut off).
- Long cables that had to be hidden.
- Not enough heat settings.
- Faulty controllers that would fail and need to be replaced (which oxford would do at no cost, but it was still a hassle).
- A separate controller/circuit board that must be hidden.
I'm happy to say that all of these issues have been corrected with the new version.
Installation proved remarkably simple and I'm very much a mechanical newb. I'm no wrench monkey.
- Controller (With bright easy to see LEDs in any light setting)
- Power supply wire with fuse.
- Left handguard with wiring.
- Right handguard with wiring.
- Controller bracket.
- Super Glue
- Removed left fairing and seat.
- Removed existing hand guards with a knife as I wouldn't be reusing them.
- Hooked power cable to battery and ran along left side of gas tank following existing wiring harness.
- Sanded glue off of handlebars, dry fit grips, then removed.
- Applied super glue to bars and installed new heated grips.
- Bent controller bracket flat and installed it to the handlebars using the back of an extra handguard bracket I had lying around.
- Attached controller to bracket using supplied screws and ran the wiring following the existing wires/cables.
- Plugged all the wires into their respective points behind left fairing.
- Installed the left fairing.
I was worried that the wires coming from the handguards would not be long enough, but they must have designed this thing for a Versys because they fit exactly. There was no excess, but the wires were not pulled taught.
The install went very smooth and easy. Total time was about 30 minutes, but that is an estimate. I kept stopping what I was doing to put repeated coats of black paint on my stock windshield (which turned out amazing).
Here is a pic of the controller in place:
Fit and finish of the grips and all components were of a very high quality. Wires were secure, plastic and rubber pieces were finished properly, all fittings were secure. You are getting quality for your $80.
Now to the actual review:
The new v.8 controller has a battery saving feature that is different than their previous models. Prior models would measure battery voltage/capacity and would attempt to shut off the grips at the point where your battery would have just enough juice to start your bike, in the event you had forgotten to turn them off. That didn't prove to be very effective and many users reported dead batteries. This drawback prompted many to install a switched relay into the power circuit. The new v.8 controller works differently, it measures "noise" in the power supply. This "noise" in the power line is from the engine running. If the controller senses that there is no noise in the power line for more than a couple of minutes it shuts off power to the grips and an LED begins flashing on the controller. This prevents your battery from dying and negates installing the grips with a switched relay. Go ahead and wire it right up to your battery. I tested this feature four times over three days. In all cases it shutdown power within a few moments of turning off the engine without any measurable drain on the battery (even at 100% power setting).
Testing was done over three days with temperatures in the 40s and 50s.
I tested the grips for one day without grip puppies and two days with grip puppies. All test were done using my normal leather riding gloves.
Without grip puppies:
-The grips provided balanced and even heat on both the left and right. There were no hot spots and the grips would get up to temperature very quickly (less than 1 minute). 50% power would get pretty warm and comfortable.
-Grip texture was comfortable and adequately grippy. The grips are slightly thicker than stock, but just barely.
-Grip length is actually shorter than stock by about 1/8 inch and it is noticeable.
With grip puppies installed:
-I cut my grip puppies slightly longer than the grips to make up for some of the 1/8th inch I lost.
-Installation of the grip puppies was pretty challenging over the slightly thicker grips. I used lots of soapy water and patience to complete installation. They do fit, but just barely.
-There were some performance differences with grip puppies installed.
-It took about 2-3 minutes longer for the grips to heat up. Not really unexpected given the thickness of the grip puppy foam.
-I would use a higher heat setting to get the grips warmed up all the way, then back the temperature back one setting for comfort.
-With the grip puppies in place you would lose some heat from the grips when traveling at faster speeds. It was as if the heat was getting blown from the foam from wind (yes I have handguards installed). I countered this by increasing the temperature one setting higher.
-An interesting "feature" of using the grip puppies is that if you need a momentary increase in heat to your hands you just squeeze the grip harder. This compresses the foam and increases the heat radiating into your hand.
This morning on my ride to work it was 40 degrees outside, but the temperature inside my gloves was comfy and warm.
I'm extremely happy with these grips so far and I'm pretty confident I'll be back to riding in 5 degree weather again. Of course this isn't a long term review of the reliability of the grips, but I will be sure to keep you guys posted.