Grip Buddies LITE!
A while back, I reviewed a popular product called Grip Puppies in my quest to reduce the buzzing at my F 800 GT’s handlebars (see “Operation Buzzkill: Part One”). Those were essentially rubbery sleeves that slipped (with considerable effort) over the stock grips and provided a cushy layer of insulation to thwart transmission of vibration from bar to hand. While they succeeded at that mission to a respectable degree, I found the associated increase in grip girth problematic. Maybe it’s because I have smallish hands (size M/8-9 gloves), but the Puppies made operation of the clutch and brake levers feel awkward, clumsy, and ultimately unsafe for me. I ended up removing them after a long afternoon trying – and failing – to acclimate. Eventually, I replaced the stock grips with thicker, grippier, and comfier aftermarket versions, though it was quite an ordeal to maintain the heating function of the stockers during that process (see “Operation Buzzkill: Part Four”).
Vibration is not an issue on my R 1250 RS, but I still find the OEM grips sub-optimal. They’re thin (31.5mm in diameter), hard, and not particularly grippy. Normally, grip replacement is one of the first things I do to a new bike; it’s the best bang-for-the-buck of any ergonomic upgrade. However, I’m definitely in no hurry to repeat the frustrating and involved project of swapping aftermarket parts for BMW heated grips! Hence, I was intrigued by the US-made Grip Buddies “Lite” offering, which promised even easier installation than the Grip Puppies, with less added girth. (There is a thicker “Original” version for those who want to maximize the insulating cushion effect.) You may know Grip Buddies by their previous name, “Beemer Buddies;” it seems this company recognized the shortcomings of BMW grips long ago.
Unlike the Puppies, which are seamless tubes, the Buddies are rectangular neoprene panels that wrap around each grip. One edge has a strip of adhesive backing; this is pressed along the grip’s length where your fingers don’t typically reach. Placing it there makes it unlikely you’ll feel the subtle irregularity where the edges of the panel will meet. With the initial edge thus anchored, you stretch the panel around the grip and fasten the opposite edge to the first via low-profile hook-and-loop strips. Although an overlap exists, you don’t feel it. There’s a tiny gap at the juncture, but it’s invisible to eyes and fingers during use. Installation is quick and easy, and the Buddies can be relocated several times before their adhesive loses its effectiveness, according to the instructions (I didn’t test this claim). You get with a rubbery layer substantially softer and grippier than the stock interface. It’s also quite a bit larger in diameter (38.5mm) – not quite as big as the Puppies (41mm), but still a lot thicker than most aftermarket grips (my favorites are 34.5mm). The adhesive prevents rotation of the Buddies over time.
Grip Buddies are made with “SmartSkin technology,” touted as improving durability, comfort, and safety, while preserving the transmission of warmth from grip-heating elements (confirmed in my experience, albeit after a short lag). Their textured surface and non-absorbent character deliver good traction for gloved hands in wet or dry conditions (tackier than the Puppies). While I had no complaints about handlebar vibration on my RS prior to installation, the Buddies provided a noticeable increase in comfort due to their softness and buffering of sensations coming from the motor and road. However, the latter feature won’t be entirely to everyone’s liking (including mine), as some enjoyable and informative feedback is lost. As for the extra girth, I found it less problematic than on the Puppies, but still not ideal. This is a matter of personal preference and individual hand size, not a product flaw.
At $24.95 for either the Original or Lite version, Grip Puppies are inexpensive and simple enough to try without risking much money, time, or effort. If you have worn heated grips, or just don’t like BMW’s OEM design, the Puppies are a small fraction of the cost and hassle of grip replacement. They’re a clever solution with excellent performance for those who have large enough hands and don’t mind sacrificing some feedback sensitivity for a plush feel.