Ever since crossing the Alps in January I swore I’d never go through a winter again without heated grips. The latest glitter impregnated waffle barrels from Japan might look cool on your favourite custom but all that effort will be undone when trying to wipe away frozen man tears with a frostbitten paw. I’ve been fitting Oxford Products Hot Grips on most of my bikes ever since that horrendous trip and although they’re not as perfect as a neatly integrated OEM set-up they sure make winter riding pleasurable rather than a painful chore.
Problem is they look a bit motorcycle courier and don’t really suit the new wave custom minimalist cockpits that everyone is striving for. OK, so my Street Twin is pretty much bone-stock but I still hesitated and couldn’t bring myself to install a set of the Sport version I had on the shelf.
Thankfully it seems that the design people from Oxford have been listening to the market and have released the Retro Hot Grip. The diamond pattern is similar to the Biltwell thruster and is free from overly obvious branding which is nice. The connectors are smaller than previous models and use a weatherproof locking type, much easier to feed through small spaces and hide away on bikes where everything is exposed. Even the control unit is well considered, it’s black and grey rather than the traditional blue logoed one and comes with a black mounting plate and screws. A small concession to style but it’s the small details that count.
Fitting couldn’t be simpler. A fused loom bolts straight to the battery and unlike the old systems the control unit monitors voltage input and shuts the grips down if it can’t detect flow to the battery, meaning you won’t need to find a switched live feed. Another bonus (if your battery is in good nick) is that you can start the grips warming while you faff around looking for your keys.
I decided against using the supplied bracket and instead used just the adhesive pad and stuck the controller to the Street’s headstock gusset. Easy to stab with a finger while on the move and all the wiring is out of the way under the fuel tank.
The only criticism I would have is that the chunky cables that protrude from each grip are a bit unsightly, but with correct fitting you can make sure this faces downward and out of the way. I like to mark the throttle tube and grip before removing it to ensure good alignment. I hate interference from the cable against my thumb knuckle or forefinger so I sit on the bike and assume a riding position rather than just guess.
You don’t have to remove the throttle tube but seeing as the grip is secured with super glue (supplied) you only get one chance. It’s easier to wrestle with a grip on a bench than tug and twist on the bike. Especially with potentially delicate ride-by-wire throttles, as fitted to the Street Twin. You’ll only get caught out by rapid setting glue and fuck up the fitting one time, learn from my previous mistakes and don’t rush. The inside of the Hotgrip is fairly rigid and unyielding so dry fitting is a must. The Street Twin’s throttle tube is brittle plastic and features tiny ridges which needed to be shaved off with a Stanley blade to achieve a snug, near interference fit.
Cosiness aside the set-up appears well constructed and built to last with quality connectors and hardware. The rubber of the actual grip itself isn’t the softest but should be very longlasting. And if you have grown-up sized hands you’ll appreciate the increased girth, OEM grips seem to be aimed at those with kid’s mitts.
Sure, you can just man-up and wear some glove liners but with a set of these fitted the excuses for not riding through the winter wear a bit thin. I tested this set over the weekend where Jack Frost had turned up and morning temperatures danced just above freezing. Wearing only summer gloves (Furygan James) I didn’t need more than a 50% heat setting. On full chat my palms were burning but thicker, lined gloves will need the extra power to penetrate.
We’ve got a bunch of Oxford gear in the Shed Shop – disc locks, chains, Rok Straps etc and I reckon these Retro Hot Grips are the best thing you’ll buy (for yourself or someone else – Christmas!) this winter. Thanks for thinking of us Oxford.
Pick up a pair at Bike Shed Shoreditch, EC1V 9LT. Opening times and contacts here.