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Monday, 18 April 2011

Motrax is no more ...

Two winters ago, I invested (in the Gordon Brown sense of 'spent some money') in a pair of Motrax heated handlebar grips. I fitted them to the XT at the beginning of what turned out to be a very cold winter, and they were a boon and a blessing. With the tasteful lilac handguards keeping the worst of the wind off, and the heated grips providing a modicum of warmth to the palms of the hands, it made riding in ~zero temperatures quite bearable. I'd recommend heated grips of some kind to any rider that rides through the year.

The Motrax grips were easy to fit and not too cumbersome. They increase the diameter of the bars by a little, but it's barely noticeable:

The grips come with a controller which allows two heat settings. One press of the button gives full heat (the red LED on the right) and another press gives half heat (the green LED on the left). Pressing a third time turns them off. Full heat was warm, no more than that, and I never used half heat, but it made a big difference to general comfort and control. (By contrast, the heated grips on the Honda had four settings, and anything above two was like gripping a Fukushima fuel rod.) In all, feeble but better then nothing. Mounting the controller on the Renthal bars was a challenge, because the brace got in the way, but I managed something that worked:

The Yamahaha's electrics aren't the strongest at the best of times, and I was concerned that using the grips (and in winter the lights would be on too) would test the charging system to the limit, but in fact they only draw a couple of amps and there was never a problem. A couple of weeks ago, they stopped working. A little investigation revealed that the controller was at fault: with the ignition on (they are wired to a switched live on the igniter box) the red LED was flickering and the box was buzzing like there was a wasp in there. I took it off and dismantled it, but there was nothing in there but a circuit board and two miniature square boxes that might have been relays. 'No User-Serviceable Parts Inside'. I put it all back, to find that it was working fine.

This often happens.

I emailed Motrax in case they were able to supply a new controller, and got this reply:
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your email.

We are affraid that MOTRAX no longer exsists as a brand. Oxford bought the name, however it will not be distributed. This means that there is no longer a warranty on the MOTRAX products.

As a gesture of good will, if you would like to return the hotgrips to us, we would offer you some Oxford Hotgrips at 50% of the RRP.

We are sorry for any inconvinience caused by this.

Thank you,

Helen Gessey
Customer Services
DD: 01993 862 335
Oh dear. Motrax is no more. Purveyors of miniature indicators and aftermarket tat to the discerning sportsbike owner, their catalogue provided many hours of harmless fun while attending to other matters in the smallest room.

It's a shame, but not a disaster. I won't be taking them up on the offer of a pair of Hotgrips, as the present ones are pretty much Araldited to the bars, and I only wanted a new switch, so removing and replacing them would be a little 'inconvinient', and returning them impossible. But since they have worked faultlessly for the last week, I think I will just leave them as they are. Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing the race cans, and I won't be needing them for a few months. If and when I ever get round to renovating and refurbishing the XT, new bars in a slightly less garish shade are a top priority, so I think I will cross that bridge when I come to it.


  1. "With the tasteful lilac handguards ...."

    I realise Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a Lilac / Pink / Turquoise colour scheme could be a candidate for a Turner Prize!

    (No offence Richard)

  2. 'No User-Serviceable Parts Inside' - doesn't exist in my vocabulary.... If it was buzzing it's very likely those 2 small boxes were relays, and should be replaceable.

    Care to post a close up picture (or 2) of the innards? I can probably advise you better with a good look.

  3. @Joe: it's pink, lilac and *green*, for goodness' sake! I think it was pretty old-fashioned in 1994 when it was built. Those bikes with snazzy lurid colour schemes were very late-80s/early-90s. United colors of Benetton and all that. I ignored the colour when I bought it (drudge bike) but now I quite like it. When I give it a bit of TLC I am half-inclined to repaint it as factory, just for a laugh.

    @MD - anthing electronic is non-serviceable in my book. Too much smoke inside! I think they were relays, in fact, although very small ones. The RH one (hot) was buzzing when it had current. They were soldered in, rather than a push-fit, but I think I must have firmed something up, as there has been no repetition of the problem. That suggests the relays themselves are OK. If get a minute to take it apart again, I'll take some pics, and thanks for the offer. I suspect a dry joint or something.

  4. Whilst attending to other matters in the smallest room I have the choice of the 1000 page Polo catalogue or the more modest Hein Gericke publication - both in German but very nice and stuffed full of goodies. Makes the Motrax job look like a Sunday school fact sheet!

  5. The Polo catalogue is a new one on me. I have the HG for the last few years (why do I keep them?) but not the 2011 one. I shall have to remedy that. I've never bought anything from them, but the photography is first class. Motrax was definitely from the other end of the market - fish and chips compared to lobster thermidor. Or something.

  6. Find a local dealer that sells bits from Hi Level (a motorcycle shop parts supplier) as they do a set of 'pattern' heated grips that are very like the Honda heated grips, come with a superior switch controller and don't cost a bomb.

  7. Thanks Voyager - I will look out for those. I have to say the Honda grips were incredibly effective, almost too good, so anything of that quality would be good to have.

  8. Relays come in a bewildering range of shapes, sizes & ratings. You can even get miniature ones in transistor sized cans...

    I'm guessing yours are similar to this:
    They are designed for direct soldering to a PCB - plug in bases are more the preserve of industrial equipment.

    If it was hot and buzzing it's quite possible the contacts have become badly worn and were arcing. To give two heat settings it probably works by connecting the 2 grips either in parallel or in series, with one relay for each configuration.

  9. That looks very like it. (When I said it was soldered rather than plugged in, I was thinking more of the large relays for lights, indicators etc.) Disturbing it looks like it has jiggled something back into position. At least I know what to do next time it fails! And even I understand the parallel/series thing. Thanks for the information.

  10. R&G do some reasonably-priced but effective heated grips, too - about half the price of the Oxfords. Plus you get some lovely R&G Racing stickers with them.

    Bit of a blow about Motrax, I thought. Where on earth does one go now for that set of ultra-low-tensile cheesy purple anodised engine bolts? Problem solved, though: Demon Tweeks are still going and giving away a huge catalogue of aftermarket nastiness free with this month's Performance Bikes.


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