In making the transition from car to bike as my vehicle, I found that many of the things that applied to my car now apply to my bike.
My car had a good windshield so I purchased a good set of Oakley Goggles. My car had studded tires for the winter, so my bike does too. A music player lets me enjoy some good music while on the trail.
And now my bike has a heater: A’ME MTB Heated 1.3 Tri Grips that add a whole new level of comfort to my winter commute!
Made in the USA & Good for the Environment
I was excited when my heated grips arrived. I picked up my package at the post office and rode my bike home eager to get the grips set up on my bike.
When I opened the box I noticed that the protective packaging was specifically biodegradable. Usually I don't care about packaging, but this tells me the company is concerned about our environment and is making an effort towards something other than just purely profit. The grips use a rechargeable battery, which cuts back on waste. This product is made in the USA, and I like supporting American companies.
Black Rubber Cupcakes
Once I got home, I set about getting the grips installed. The first step to getting these heated grips set up on my bike was to remove my original handlebar grips.
That sounds easy enough, but removing rubber handle bar grips from my bike was no easy task. I used two pairs of pliers, pinching the end of the grips, and bracing myself, feet against my bike. But all this effort just stretched the rubber thin at the bar end and didn't budge the grips.
"Oh wow!" I thought, "Why didn't I just take my bike and package over to the shop to have a qualified mechanic do this job?" Well, I'm happy to say, after a great amount of effort I finally peeled the grips off. The result was a set of what looked like black rubber cupcakes!
After removing the old grips, installing the A’ME grips was simple. The instructions were very well written and easy to follow. While charging up the battery I stoked up the fire and heated some bath water (with my backcountry shower) — because even though I am an Alaskan-Woman-Cabin-Dweller, I actually shower every night
Then I went to bed with my hot rock, eagerly looking forward to the morning ride all set up with heated hand grips.
Comfort that is Fair to the Thumbs
I woke up excited to ride my bike outfitted with the new heated hand grips. In front of a crackling fire, I got all geared-up, stepped outside and checked the temperature. It read -32°F. The air was crisp, the sky clear, and no wicked wind! It doesn't get much better than this, I thought to myself.
I got on my bike, slipped my hands into my pogies and wrapped my fingers around my handle bars. Immediately I felt the heat"¦. real heat.
I couldn't help but smile underneath my full face balaclava. Smiling just happens when something feels this good.
There are six heat settings that range from 90 °F to 130 °F on the grips and I was using the third setting.
I was surprised at how intense the heat was and how great the grips felt. This kind of heat brings my winter ride to a whole new level of comfort!
When I use Hot Hands packets inside my mittens, my thumbs were always left out in the cold but these heated grips don't leave anyone out — and l like to be fair.
Now, my setup includes: a set of homemade pogies over my heated grips, with glove liners on my hands instead of mittens.
This gives me better control of the break and shifters and I get all the benefit of the heated handle grips inside down-filled pogies.
This is quite cozy and warm. If I have to stop for some reason, like to adjust my clothes layers or take a bite of chocolate, my fingers work well because they are so warm. It's easier to work with zippers and chocolate wrappers with gloved fingers rather than mittens.
When I return my hands to the nice warm handle bar grips I get immediate relief from the cold. Handlebar heaters help me enjoy the beautiful winter commuting days even more while pedaling along under the bright stars, moon, and huge white birch trees.
On days that are difficult; when I have to walk and push my bike through mounds of snow, my hands are treated to some super heat.
Better Than Jelly Toast
Here in the Mat Su Valley, there are two seasons: Get Ready for Winter (June, July, August) and Winter (September through May).
Because I love to have warm hands and toes, I have gone through a lot of Hot Hand packages.
Over time this is expensive and creates quite a lot of trash. So having rechargeable heated grips is wonderful and fits perfectly into my goal of eliminating waste.
In 2012, I was quite happy when I reduced my electric usage down to $1.11. That small amount of electricity will amazingly power my refrigerator, power tools, lights, computer, radio and charge up batteries.
But I love jelly toast and since I started commuting by bike, I have developed a habit of eating two loaves of oat nut bread and a package of English muffins with jelly each pay period. This toaster-oven-loaf-eating-indulgence caused my electric usage to skyrocket to around $5!
I try not to allow my usage to go over that, but I so enjoy the heated grips, I am quite willing to give up say, a loaf of jelly toast just to be able to charge the grips’ battery.
The good news is this nice little gadget should not even make a dent in my electric bill. Compared to buying Hot Hands by the box (at $29.99 for 40 pairs) a rechargeable heater is a huge savings over time. And once I install a solar panel system my heated hand grips will be powered by the sun and that will be really sweet!
Excellent Technical Support
(and an Accidental Left-Hand Verses Right-Hand Study)
One day, as I pedaled along, my super heater stopped working. I called the phone number listed on the forms. Bob, the technical support person went through the steps with me to trouble shoot the problem. He said to try and recharge the battery again. Perhaps the battery just needs to "wake up". I charged up the battery again.
I did another test run after speaking with Bob and the next thing that happened was the left handle bar stopped working but the right handle bar worked fine. I was able to do a comparison of how it feels to ride with the heat and without the heat all at the same time. My right hand was much happier than my left hand without any question. After that, the left hand grip wouldn't shut off.
After speaking to the A’ME again, I sent this unit back and they promptly replaced the whole thing.
While I was waiting for the replacement to come, I changed out my metal handle bars for carbon fiber handle bars. In extreme cold, like -32°F, metal will draw heat from the unit and may drain the battery faster.
This company has great customer service. In addition, they offer a warranty on the product.
Since receiving the replacement grips, I have had no problems with them. I was out doing my shopping and laundry and ran them for four hours with no problems. Having the heated grips was wonderful because the wind was blowing, so the super-heat added some great comfort and relief.
One disadvantage to the battery is that it is very specialized. When I encountered the problem mentioned above, I took the unit to the local battery store and they could not get a battery for me. There was nowhere local to purchase anything like it. The battery is made by TENERGY, specifically for, and can only be obtained through A’ME.
However, I don't see this as a major problem because I was able to use the Hot Hands while waiting for items to be replaced.
Now I have my bike set up with the new heated grips on the carbon fiber handle bars. Today, as I pedaled my bike down the path, I thought about life. In Alaska there are some things that are just too good to do without (if at all possible): a wood stove stoked up with crackling spruce logs, a big cup of hot cocoa, head socks, and hot rocks.
Now I would add to that list of winter-must-haves"¦ A'ME Heated MTB Grips for the winter commute!!!
(But I still carry a packet of Hot Hands for an emergency.)
A'ME MTB Heated 1.3 Tri Grips sell for $199 US, including grips, battery pack, battery charger, and mounting system.
Shanna Ladd is a car-free bike commuter in Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley (a.k.a. "The Mat-Su"), north of Anchorage.