Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Resistance is Futile (if < 1 ohm)

I have been huddled away in the garage playing electrical engineer the past couple of weeks. Although the Tiger came with many an aftermarket farkle it did not come with heated grips and of course, we all know that once you have heated grips that this would not do. It started with a discussion on the forum regarding heated grips, what works what doesn't. I have Hot Grips on the America, which heat well enough but they lack any sort of grip, padding or comfort. These are very hard plastic, ugly and expensive; I was up to $150 for the grips, the relay and switch. I would not recommend these nor buy again.

I installed the SPI heated elements on Trobairitz's TU250. These came highly recommended, most Google searches for anything remotely related to motorcycle electrics leads you to Tbolt's page. Don't believe me? Try it, and if you're going to steal photos from online you may as well take hers.

I personally haven't ridden the TU since installing these but I understand they do work well. The element kit is quite inexpensive, although I replaced the big old switch for the Radio Shack micro switch, I still came in under $40. We even mounted a set on Rick's bike.

Knowing I'd be riding off road and wanted better grip and padding than the stock grips could offer, discussion on the forum got heated and I was reluctant to dish out another small fortune for the crappy Hot Grips I put on the America.

Amongst our group we all value and respect Daren's opinion and several of us heeded his recommendation of the Oxford Sport Grips he installed on his beloved Misty.

I think there are four of us that bought and installed these grips including Josh and Erik on either side of Daren in the photo above, myself and Bluekat.

What sold me was the aggressive grip...

(online photo)

and the control module, all for just under $80.

(online photo)

Install is easy peasy, hook them directly up to the battery and you're good to go, the rest is plug and play. Unless you're me, then you have to make things difficult.
The Tiger has an accessory plug behind the fairing for heated grips, I'll just hook them up to that and I won't have to fish the wires under the tank to the battery. Easy enough, there are three wires to the plug: ground, constant power and switched power. Although the module will shut off if the battery drops below 11.4 volts I thought it'd still be nice to have them wired to the switched power. A Sunday afternoon later I was all wired, or so I thought. My Monday morning commute to work had the grips shutting off at idle whenever I was stopped at an intersection. This can't be right.

I was back in the garage taking off the fairing and dragging out the multi-meter. Now I know just enough about electricity not to shock myself and as long as I stand upstream it all flows downhill, right? Hmmm, ohms, amps, volts, resistance...can't be that hard.

I discovered that the switched power I hooked into was also stepped down, a resistor perhaps, probably the low power wire for the factory grips, but I figured it out only after I went roundy round consulting forums and Google trying to see if it was the battery, stator or regulator/rectifier causing the problem. An evening shot, I wired into the constant power and called it a night still fretting over the charging system.

I Googled motorcycle voltage monitor and who's site should appear? It's scary, I swear she owns Google stock.

Blatantly stolen from Bolty.net

Now I had another electrical farkle on order...this can't be good.

That night I was thinking, the previous owner only put 1000 miles on the bike in 3 years, maybe the battery is shot? Rolling the bike out of the garage the next morning confirmed my suspicions, good thing I had another bike to ride.

That evening we ran up to Salem and I bought a new battery with a lifetime warranty, if I was going to cook a $90 battery due to a bad charging system I was going to protect my investment.

The next day the bike seemed to run better and with a new battery, the grips worked, I was happy.

I should have left it at that....but noooooo, the voltage monitor arrived and I still had to hook it up to be sure that everything on the bike is doing what its supposed to be doing at any given moment.

Back to the garage again, off comes the fairing, a tap into power and a tap into ground, test, all is good, the new battery is in and another evening is shot.

Did you know that when a brake light is not lit, it makes a fantastic ground? However, when you leave for work the next morning and touch the brakes it causes the voltage monitor to dance all pretty colors. This will drive a person completely bonkers after a 13 mile commute.

Another evening of removing and reinstalling the fairing I had it hooked up, solid ground, ready to go...

I did mention I knew just enough about electricity to get myself in trouble and the next morning the voltage monitor was dancing pretty colors again. I pulled over and pulled a piece of electrical tape from my visor (makes a great sun visor) and taped over the light, I'll fix it when I get home.

I took inventory of my leftover electrical supplies then went to Radio Shack and bought a 30 amp relay, a distribution block, some wire then used a 20 amp inline fuse and a jumper strip I had at home to wire everything correctly.. I used Canyon Chasers website as a reference guide to wire everything up, but if you prefer, Google "motorcycle distribution block", evidently Tbolt has a pretty good write up.

In the end, the grips work, the monitor light stays green above 2k rpm, turns red at idle, flashes red at idle if the heated grips are on and then back to green at speed. The glare from the little LED light is terribly distracting but a fresh piece of electrical tape solved that problem. Sometimes I'd just rather not know, besides, I have AMA roadside assistance if need be.

Note to self: If I ever need to wire an electrical farkle again, call Stacy first.



  1. Troubadour: I see you have learned the hard way. The easy way is just to have Stacy do the install in the first place. Saves a lot of frustration.

    My oxford grips are wired directly to the battery. On the Strom there is an accessory plug behind the radiator under the gas tank where I will eventually change when Stacy shows me how to remove the gas tank. We were supposed to go to her garage last July, but she disappeared that morning and we never saw her again. (and I still didn't get the hint)

    enjoy the heat . . .

    Wet Coast Scootin

  2. I installed heated grips (Oxford) and am over he moon with them. Now I wouldnt be with out them, even in summer you can get hit with cool tempertures and they are a god send. Mind you I had my mate install, all to complicated for me!

  3. Clearly, my Google-fu is very strong. (Want to hire me as a web marketing consultant? I'll work for farkles and gas!)

    Brad, how did you manage to get that voltmeter's LED into the tiny black clip? I never got the hang of it and broke things badly -- ended up with an entirely different LED with a little diffuser lens that isn't so eye-melting...

  4. I like the grips so far, haven't had an opportunity to really test them but they look good.
    @Stacy - I drilled a 1/4" hole in my dash and popped the clip in, then came in from behind with the light and it stayed. I read about your dilemma before installing and was expecting trouble, I didn't hear or feel a click, it just worked. The only thing I can think of was the thickness of your bracket was greater than the thickness of my dash.
    I actually considered putting a switch on the light but I had had enough by then and black tape worked.

  5. The Daytona heated grips on my old Blackbird were hard on the hands and not particularly good either. Thanks for the tip about Oxfords.

    BTW, don't feel bad about the mysteries of electricity. I got through my electrical paper during the first year of university by thinking of water in pipes!!

  6. I remember back when anyone owning any vehicle with a name like Triumph always carried plenty of spares & tools (and knew how to use them along the side of the road) and this really applied to the electrical system. Especially if it had Lucas stamped on it. I hear that things are much better these days....


  7. So are you recommended against the voltmeter? I thought about adding one (as in Ron will have to add one for me), but maybe not knowing is better. One less thing to fret over. :)

    You had quite an adventure getting it all wired up. I would've been a basket case.

    I ran my grips at 100% this morning and they were quite warm.

    That sounds like another brand I know....volkswagen. :)

  8. Lucas, the Prince of Darkness

    The fallibility of Lucas electrical components is a perennial source of both consternation and humour for the nutty, sometimes erudite enthusiasts of British sports cars and motorcycles.

    Lucas, the Prince of Darkness.

    Lucas is an acronym for Loose Unsoldered Connections and Splices.

    The Prince's last words to his son: "don't go riding after dark"
    The Lucas motto: "Get home before dark."

    Lucas denies having invented darkness. But they still claim "sudden, unexpected darkness"

    Lucas--inventor of the first intermittent wiper.

    Lucas--inventor of the self-dimming headlamp.

    The three-position Lucas switch--DIM, FLICKER and OFF.

    The other three switch settings--SMOKE, SMOLDER and IGNITE.

    Lucas dip-switch positions: HIGH and BLOW

    The original anti-theft devices--Lucas Electric products.

    "I've had a Lucas pacemaker for years and have never experienced any prob...

    If Lucas made guns, wars would not start either.

    Did you hear about the Lucas powered torpedo? It sank.

    It's not true that Lucas, in 1947, tried to get Parliament to repeal Ohms Law. They withdrew their efforts when they met too much resistance.

    To owner of a Land Rover: "How can you tell one switch from another at night, since they all look the same?" Owner: "It doesn't matter which one you use, nothing happens!"

    During the 1970's, Lucas diversified its product line and began manufacturing vacuum cleaners. It was the only product Lucas ever offered which didn't suck.

    Lucas Quality Control often advised the engineering department that their designs had problems with shorting out. Engineering always made the wires a little longer.

    Why do the English drink warm beer? Lucas made their refrigerators, too.

    Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, and Joseph Lucas invented the short circuit.

    Lucas systems actually use AC current; it just has a random frequency.

    How to make AIDS disappear? Give it a Lucas parts number.

    Lucas won over Bosch to supply electrics for the new Volkswagens so cars from the Black Forest have electric systems made by the Prince of Darkness.


  9. @Bluekat - It is nice to have a voltage monitor, it just took a bit getting used to. The LED is very bright and distracting so it should be placed somewhere accessible but not in your direct line of sight or replace the light with a diffused light covered one like Stacy did. I positioned a piece of electrical tape over it leaving a sliver of light visible and it is much better; I may mask and paint the bulb for a cleaner look. I do appreciate knowing what my charging system is doing while I'm riding.
    Bottom line: I recommend the Head's Up Voltage Monitor for it's intended purpose but it loses points for design.

  10. I'm putting my hands over my eyes. Admittedly, makes it hard to read the post. All this talk of electrics and warmth?

    Am I the last of the Spartans? You notice I didn't let Elvira get close enough to see the Tiger the other day. It's getting harder every winter to resist!

  11. My instructor at the Advance Rider Training course mentioned something about being comfortable while riding. He rattled on about cold weather and bulk clothing impairing a rider's ability.
    I won't mention any names but the instructor's initials are Dan Bateman. Buy some heated gear already :)


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