It is nearing the end of November and it is starting to get cold here in Texas. That would be any temperatures below 60 F! After several lengthy rides to Dallas from Huntsville on the bikes in sub 50 F temps, I finally decided that something had to be done to keep our hands warmer. So I started asking around and looking at all the options.
The options I considered are as follows: thicker gloves, electric gloves, electric liners, under grip heat strips and heated grips. Thicker gloves don't really help much after about twenty minutes. Your hands still get cold but now you have the problem that it is more difficult to manipulate the controls of the bike due to the bulk of the gloves. Using non-electric liners achieves the same results. Electric gloves are great, but you have to remember to have them with you, and you have to be wired to the bike, too inconvenient for me. Electric liners are similar to the electric gloves in performance, but again not real convenient depsite their effectivenss. Under grip heated strips like Kimpex heaters are inexpensive, allow you to use what ever grips you want and are easy to install. However, I had received mixed reviews about their effectiveness from fellow VFR listers. Heated grips are wired directly to the bike and are there all the time. There is no need to remember to bring them or to plug yourself into the bike. So, even though they are more expensive than the undergrip strips, $89.99 for the set, and they are not any worse than gloves price wise, I chose to go with the Hot Grips.
The Hot Grips are complete new grips that replace the grips you are currently using. They come with just about everything you need to install them. They are generic in that they fit standard bar diameters and grip lengths, both of which you specify when you order them. For the VFR 800, it is a 7/8" diameter and 4-3/4" length. The instructions are adequate but nothing exceptional. The grips come with an off/lo/hi switch, extra wire and a heat dissipating resistor. I opt for the Variable Heat Controller. It is another $40 but it gives you much more flexibility in controlling the level of heat. It is also easier to install in my opinion. Fortunately, I have a minimal understanding of basic circuit theory. So dangerously armed with some knowledge and the new grips, I set about figuring out how I am going to install the grips.The Process
The first thing is to decide how I want to tie into the bike's existing electrical system. The Hot Grip website recommends tying into the headlight circuit because it is a 20 Amp line, it is switched like the headlights so there is no need to remember to turn the grips off to save the battery, and that line can handle the additional load from the grips. So, I remove the left side fairing, ponder the wiring schematic in the back of my shop manual and look around the bike to find a convenient place to tie into the headlight circuit.
Let me state right here that without some serious effort, I don't think there is any good place to tie into the headlight circuit. Honda did such a great job of wrapping all the wires, that getting to them and having enough slack to pull them out for splicing and such is near impossible. So I think about using one of the lines leading to the tail light assembly. They are easy to get to and are also switched to the ignition. After digging around in the back of the bike, I figure the license plate light wires will be the easiest to get at. But, they are only on a 10 amp line. I do not want to run the grips off of a low current line.
The solution is the use of a 30A 12V generic auto relay. I use the license plate line to power the relay. A relay is simply an electrically operated switch. Typically a low powered line is used to operate the relay, which in turn switches a high power circuit on and off. When I turn the key to the "on" position, the relay is energized and the grip circuit is activated. The relay only draws about 180 milliamps when energized. Thus it is only consuming a little over 2 watts. The license plate light circuit should easily handle this additional load. The grip circuit is an independent fused circuit separate from the rest of the bike's electrics. I use the extra wire that comes with the grips to go from the license plate light circuit to the relay.
Testing the connections as you go along is very important. You don't want to get everything wired together and then find out that there is a break in the circuit somewhere. I started with the license plate tie in first. I use small fold over wire clips to attach my new lines to the existing lines. They look like small binoculars. The color corresponds to the wire guage size they fit. I use the baby blue clips which are for 14-18 guage wire. They slip over the existing line and you insert the new line into the other side. Then there is a metal blade that gets pushed down like a guilotine blade, cutting through the plastic coating of each line and making the conection. Very clean, simple and neat.
Once the wires are tied into the license plate circuit, I turn the ignition to the "on" position and then use a voltmeter to check for 12 volts at the ends of the new wires. After seeing that I have the 12 volts, I turn the ignition "off" and hook the new wires to the relay. Then I hold the relay while turning the ignition back to the "on" position. I hear an audible click and I can feel the switch in the relay closing. At this point, using the voltmeter to check the "in" and "out" terminals of the switched side of the relay for 12 volts is a good idea. This will confirm the proper functioning of the relay. Then turn off the ignition.
Using 16 guage wire, I run my hot line directly off the positive terminal of the battery. The instructions call for a fuse even though there isn't one provided with the kit. I install an inline 5 amp blade fuse between the battery and the relay. This particular style gives quick and easy access to the fuse and also gives it some moderate weather protection.
The line from the fuse is then run to the "In" side of the switched terminals on the relay. The lines from the tie in to the license plate light circuit are run to the "in" and "out" terminals for the switching side of the relay. I purchased the relay at Radio Shack for about four bucks. It has a simple diagram on the back of the package showing the layout of the terminals. The "out" side of the switched terminals is run down next to the bike's main wiring harness behind the frame on the left side of the bike. It comes out of the front of the frame just above the left radiator. I find it easier to do this with the gas tank propped up on its back hinge. This will power the variable heat controller.
I zip tie the wires from the battery and license plate circuit to the frame on the left side. Then I zip tie the relay to the circular cross tube that runs from side to side of the frame just in front of the tool kit. Then I put zip ties along the length of my hot wire bewteen the relay and the variable heat controller. The inventor of zip ties should have received the Nobel Piece Prize! Bags of 25-50 can be had for a dollar or two at your local auto parts store or Wal-Mart. Get a lot of them, even if you don't use them all, it never hurts having them laying around. They should be at least 4" in length for this project.
The next step is to verify the integrity of the hot line and to find a suitable grounding point for the grip circuit. I turn on the bike's ignition again, attach the voltmeter to the end of my hot wire and to the negative terminal on the battery. You must have the ignition on so that the relay is powered, otherwise you have an open circuit. At this point, you should be reading around 12 volts on the meter. This confirms that the grip circuit is properly powered. To find a ground point, simply remove the meter probe from the negative terminal and start touching different points on the front of the bike. When you get a reading of 12 volts or so, you have found a good ground. I use the top rear mounting bolt of the left side radiator because it is easy to get too. This is also easier than running a line all the way back to the battery.
Now that I have the power delivery installed, it is time to install the grips and the controller. Removing the current grips is pretty easy. Remove the bar end weights. Then insert at least a 5" long phillips screwdriver under the grips. Pull the screwdriver away from the bar about 3/4". Then spray some hair spray under the grip and begin moving the shaft of the screw driver around the bar to break the grip loose. At this point it will simply slide right off the end of the bar. At least mine does ;-) With the stock grips removed, I test fit the Hot Grips. The one with the smaller inside diameter goes on the left bar and the larger inside diameter grip goes on the throttle side.
I set up my grips so that the wires come off the bottom of the grip. DO NOT GLUE them yet. I run my wires down along the existing wiring from the switch housings on each bar, then under the inner fairing just behind the left headlight. The goal is to get them to the area just under the flat horizontal black dash on the left side of the bike. This is where all of the wires come together for final assembly.
The controller has two wires coming out of it. Mine are only about 2" long. Therefore, I decide to attach about 4" of additional wire to the end of these wires. I will use the extension pieces to attach the grip wires to the controller. I connect the hot line from the relay to the hot wire of the controller. Once again I use the small blue clips, this time to attach one wire from each grip to the controller ground wire. Then I use the clips to attach the remaining two grip wires to the ground wire bolted to the radiator.
At this point everything is wired together but nothing is permanently installed. Now I turn on the ignition to see if I start getting heat in the grips. It should take less than a minute to start feeling heat through the grips if they are set on high. Once you have confirmed that you are getting heat, shut everything off. You are now ready to glue the grips to the bars.
I do the throttle side first. I orient the grip so that the place where the wire comes out of the grip is at about 7:00 if you are looking into the end of the grip. When the grip is rotated to the full throttle position, the wire should be at about the 4:00 position. This keeps the wire under the grip at all times and out of your way. Make sure you have enough slack on the wire that it can move freely when you rotate the grip. This will prevent the wire from suffering fatigue failure from repeated bending.
I ordered my grips with a tube of glue. It is basically like JB Weld. I use sand paper to rough up the surface of the throttle tube and the left side bar. Then, very carefully, I apply the glue to the throttle tube. I run a bead on the top and bottom of the tube. My glue drips on the body work!! Don't forget to put something over your upper fairing to prevent the same from happening to you. It wipe if off without too much trouble. This stuff gets everywhere without you even realizing it. Be careful! Then I use the popsicle stick contained in the glue kit to spread the glue around the throttle tube. Very slowy, I slide the grip onto the throttle tube. If you go to fast, the glue builds up on the end of the grip instead of going up inside it between the ribs. Right before I get the grip almost completely on the bar, I wipe off the excess glue and then push the grip on the rest of the way.
The procedure for the left side is basically the same. However, you don't have to worry about the grip being able to rotate. I just orient the grip so that the wire comes out directly at 6:00 (straight down). Once I have the grips positioned like I want them, I use zip ties to secure the wiring and remove excess slack. All of the excess slack winds up inside the left fairing under the dash. I turn the handle bars from side to side to ensure that I have full range of motion without putting any of the wiring in a bind. While the glue is setting, I use electrical tape to wrap all of my connection points. You could use shrink wrap for that top notch professional look, but the tape is easier. It helps protect them from the weather and general grime.
The final install of the controller is actually simple. I decide to mount it on the horizontal dash piece just ahead of the clutch lever. This allows me to simply hang my hand over the clutch lever and fiddle with the knob using my fingers. It is set back a few inches from the point where the side fairing screw holes are located and is centered side to side. I use my dremel to drill a small pilot hole in the plastic. Then I use a 7/16" drill bit to drill the final hole. That makes the hole a bit smaller than it needs to be but I wanted the controller shaft to fit snug. I use and exacto knife to ream out the hole the exact size needed to allow the controller shaft the come through. I removed the controller knob, slide the shaft through the hole, put the washer and nut on and tighten it down. Then I put the knob back on and I'm done. Looks nice if I do say so myself! The last thing to do is to zip tie all of the excess wire length into tidy little bundles to keep it from flopping around inside the fairing.
The instructions say that you can cycle the heat on the grips to speed up the curing of the glue. I turn mine on until they are hot, then shut them off and let them cool, and then repeat for an hour or so. They are dry enough to work the throttle without slipping within about an hour and a half. I put the fairing back on and I am done! All told, it took me all day. I did it while I was at work and I was constantly being interrupted. So I am not sure exactly how long it should take. I did my wife's Suzuki SV 650 S a few days later and it only takes about three hours without interruptions. Of course, I had everything figured out when I did her bike, so that cuts down on the time a lot.Impressions
Hot! I recently had the opportunity to ride about 150 miles on a sub 50 F day. Everyone else had freezing hands. I rode with my winter gloves, which are not real heavy and bulky, and had to turn the grips down to about 60-70% of max power. My hands were quite warm the entire time, even after several hours of high speed riding. Some people have complained that the grips are very hard. They are harder than my stock grips, but I put very little weight on my hands anyway so it has not been a problem for me. However, the grips are significantly larger in diameter than the stock grips. It is not a problem, however it does take a bit of getting used to. At this point, I like them. We'll see if I still feel the same way after a winter of riding. One last point, I had to remove my Vista Cruise Throttle lock as it will not fit the Hot Grips beacuse of where the wires come out of the grip flange. That will be sorely missed until I can figure out what to do about it.
The quality of the grips is nice. The installation process was relatively pain free. Having warm hands is fantastic. I would happily recommend these grips to anyone else. Now I just have to figure out what to do with my tush and my toes!