Installing Motorcycle Heated Grips

motorcycle riding in cold weather

So, you are more than just a fair weather rider, or you ride in an area, such as Utah, where a days riding could send you from triple-digit heat to snow-on-the-side-of-the-road cold. Carrying multiple pairs of gloves is a pain, besides you have to stop to swap them out, and if it warms up, you have to stop and repeat the process all over again. I hate that. But I also hate cold hands. So unless you own a bike that came from the factory with heated grips you suffer through it, right? Wrong.

read the label to make sure read the label to make sure

Any bike can have heated grips fitted for less than a good pair of warm riding gloves. Plus, you can turn them on or off at whim. Adding heated grips is something that we CanyonChasers do to all of our bikes! Few things are as nice as riding along the coast or a mountain pass, the temperature drops and to combat it, simply reaching for a small toggle and choosing either high or low for your hands happiness. Surprisingly, having warm hands makes a much bigger difference on overall comfort than you would think.

But installing heated grips sounds hard, and you'll have to monkey with your bikes wiring. Well, never fear! We've assembled a step-by-step, with pictures to help walk you through the process.

We've already detailed the installation of in-bar heated grips, but they won't work on bikes with clip-on handlebars. So this is a much cheaper under-grip heated grip system that still allows you to use whatever hand-grips you prefer. The cost of this setup is roughly $25.00 and we purchased ours from Wrights Motorcycle Supply in Salt Lake City .

this is what it looks like

The kit comes in a couple variations. An ATV version that warns against installing on motorcycles and a motorcycle-specific version that costs a few dollars more. We've purchased both and have found the only difference to be throttle/clutch specific heating elements on the motorcycle-specific version. This is done to facilitate the fact that your throttle side handgrip is thinner than the clutch side handgrip because of the plastic throttle tube. Oodly, the motorcycle-specific version cost, in our case, $10 more than the ATV version. Additionally, unless you are really persnickety about both hands warming up at the same rate, we saw no advantage to the motorcycle-specific version. In fact the clutch side heating element appears to output less heat than the ATV version. So, in other words, just buy the ATV version and save your beans.

The kit contains all sorts of additional bits that you'll just throw out, including a yellow wire, some male/female wire clips and the largest three-way switch known to man. The three-way switch would be enough to discourage most aesthetic conscious motorcycle owners who do not want the look of their svelte bike marred by a huge switch. However, a quick trip to Radio-Shack (“ You've got questions, we've got blank stares” ) for a mini center-off toggle switch will solve that. The one's we've had good luck with comes with four colored switch sleeves and have a higher rating than the switch that comes with the grips. I also purchased some decently high grade red and black wire. In essence, after your trip to Radio-Shack the only part of the heated-grip kit that you'll keep will be the heating elements themselves. That's okay.

Before I start, I like to spend a fair bit of time with a cool beverage of choice looking at the cockpit of the bike that's getting the heated grips. This is to give me ample time to think of places to put the three-way switch. I put the switch on the speed triple in the bracket that holds the meters on the bike and Mikey put his switch inside his left switchgear housing (that's a lot of work for someone lazy like me). Eric actually purchased a handlebar-mount switch for his 919. Every bike will be different, and the fun part will be deciding where to put the switch.

Once you decide, you can start disassembling the bike as needed to gain access. Naked bikes are easy as very little has to be removed and the job can be done is about an hour. Full-faired bikes, like our donor-cycle GSX-R 750 required full bodywork removal. In fact, we spent more time removing all the body work than we did actually installing the grips.

clutch side throttle side

First, remove both handgrips. Compressed air makes this a lot easier as you can just burp them off the bike. The clutch side is really easy, but the throttle side will require a bit more finesse because the plastic throttle tube has nubs to hold the grip in place.

fitting the heating element sticking the heating element
installed heating element installed heating element

The heating elements have sticky backing. I like to install mine with the seam/gap just below where the heel of my hand will be during riding. Also, be very careful with the wire. They need to be towards the switch-gear, but too much manipulation could result in damaging the heated-grips. Again, the clutch side is easier because you do not need to worry about the grip needing to rotate. NOTE: If you have aluminum bars, you may want to put a few wraps of black electrical tape around the aluminum on the left side of the bar (non-throttle hand), then install the heating elements on top of the electrical tape. Aluminum is a very efficent conductor and will heat-synch a lot of the heat away. This is more important with tube-style handlebars.

After I affix the grips, I like to wrap the lead wires one-around the handlebar then secure them in place with a wrap or two of black electrical tape. This prevents any unnecessary movement and potential damage to the wire leads. I also like to leave the wire tail hanging straight down towards the ground.

where to mount the switch?

Once you have the heating elements in place, loosely route the wires where you'd want them to be. I try to run mine along existing wires/cables. If you are careful and thoughtful, you'll never notice the wires are even there. Also, be sure that you have plenty of slack on the throttle side to allow for full throttle movement. Check and double check by twisting the throttle and releasing with the handlebars tuned full lock to the left and the right to ensure there is no binding!

wiring the switch

Then the wiring part; each grip has three wires going to it. Typically there will be a white, a blue and a red wire. Because you have already loosely routed your wires, you'll know how much wire you'll need. I like to try to keep both wires a close to the same length as is reasonably possible. Then connect the two sides together; white to white, blue to blue and red to red.

Then take out the switch, and since you know where its going to be located, you'll know how much wire you'll need there too. This is also a good time to make any modifications to the bike for you to install the switch. On our GSX-R, we found a great location in the center of the fairing stay that allowed for subtle wire routing and easy access to the switch.

A quick note on how the switch works. The center position is off, and if the switch is toggled to the left, it will connect to the lead on right. Conversely, if it is in the right position, it activates the left lead. This is good information so you'll know which way will be high and which way will be low-heat and will be able to install the switch how you want. I tend to prefer switching the left for low and to the right for high.

Solder three wires to the leads of the switch. The center post of the switch will be the positive connection. This is why I like to use my own red wire. In this picture you can even see how my red wire is of a thicker gauge than the two side wires. Once all three wires are soldered in place, I like to use liquid tape to really goop up and somewhat weather seal the bottom of the switch as much as I can, as well as prevent accidental shorts.

Back to the wires on the bike; the red center wire becomes the negative or ground wire. This is where I like to use my black wire to avoid all confusion. The two red wires become one solid black wire.

connect the colors the red becomes black?
all together now...

From here, wiring gets easier. Connect the blue wire to the blue, the white wire to the white. I like to use copious amounts of solder and then heat-shrink all of my connections to prevent accidental shorts or moisture from getting into my connection. Besides, it looks a lot cleaner than electrical tape.

WARNING: Some people have thought it to be a good idea to connect the high and low circuits of grips together, so that when they are set to high, both heating elements are active. In every case, this has been met with disaster! Either the wire leads get too hot and melt, or they build up so much heat they melt the handgrips and have even burned hands. I can assure you, the high setting is plenty hot and in most cases, the high-setting is too hot for most riding conditions. Wire your grips appropriately for best results.

all thats left is one red and one black wire - guess where they go... wrapping with electical tape for a cleaner look

Once all the wires are soldered and sealed, I like to take black tape and wrap the whole thing into single lines. This makes things cleaner and easier to keep track of. I also like to route my black and red wire underneath the gas tank towards the battery.

Optimally, a relay is the best way to go for accessories. That way when you turn off the key, the accessories turn off. Connecting directly to the battery can result in accidentally leaving the accessory on and coming back to your bike to find a dead battery. If you do not have a relay, or don't want to mess with a relay, you can connect your red wire to just about any wire that is live when the key is on, and dead when the key is off, such as the license plate running light. Just be warned that you may overwhelm the fuse for whatever you hook up to; which is why a relay and distribution block is the best option.

However, I would advise at hooking up the black wire to the negative battery terminal for best results. I would also advise against hooking up the red wire to any major component like your ECU/Brain-box or Fuel Injection system.

NOTE: A relay/distribution-block allows the rider to hook up multiple items at one place and have the all the accessories turn off with the key. A relay/distribution block typically runs directly off the battery with the relay getting its power from a running light or other switched source. Because the relay has virtually no draw, there is very little risk of overwhelming fuses. And because the distribution-block, and all the accessories, gets power directly from the battery there is very little chance for damage to other electrical components.

Also, most bikes generate far more electricity than the bike needs; enough to have the ability to run two heated vests and a set of heated grips without putting any undue strain on the electrical system. However, every bike is different and you should check to be sure your bike can handle the added electrical workload. We've yet to find any bike that did not have a strong enough alternator to handle heated grips. On almost all of the CanyonChasers bikes, we run heated grips, up to two heated vests, GPS devices, MP3 players and radar detectors – all at once – and have never had any problems. Mikey has even set up a way to charge camera and phone batteries and has never run into any problems.

can you see the heated grips? how about now?

Once everything is done, you get to button things back up and take the bike out for a ride. If you took your time and were thoughtful about component placement, you and more importantly your riding cadre will have a hard time finding any evidence of your upgrade. But your hands will know!

Again, special thanks to Tim at Wrights Motorcycle Supply. I imagine if you would like to do this project to your bike, Tim would be happy to hook you up.