There’s nothing quite like the feel of that handgrip in your hand while pushing against the force of your front wheel, counter-steering your way through a curve.
And there’s nothing like a sticky handgrip to sour that sweet sensation.
I live in Texas, where the sun shines even when it thunderstorms; it’s not uncommon for riders to ask just how to fix sticky handlebar grips on a motorcycle.
Table of Contents
Here’s How to Fix Sticky Grips on Motorcycles:
Rubbing alcohol, lighter fluid, or any decent degreaser product does a great job of removing the stickiness, oils, and grime from rubber grips while also freshening the grip’s appearance. If they’re melted past this point, replace your grips.
Should Handlebars on Motorcycles be Sticky?
How sticky grips should be is a matter of personal preference.
Some riders prefer sticky grips because they wear gloves, so they don’t have to squeeze so hard. Riders who grasp hard while riding often choose drier handgrips.
Some riders like their grips so sticky that they actually spray Golf Tac on their gloves (NOT on the grips themselves!)
What Is the Easiest Way to Fix It?
Using a degreaser or rubbing alcohol to clean the oils off your motorcycle grips is the first step. If that doesn’t fix the problem, consider replacing your grips.
Some riders suggest installing leather grips on your bike, but even those grips will get sticky over time.
Below is a list of other things you can do to solve this problem:
Just about any decent degreaser product can remove grease, oils, and grime that are sticking up your grips.
Here are a few examples:
- Leather conditioners and leather cleaners (for leather grips)
- Simple Green
- Diluted Dish Soup
If you have vintage grips, try hitting them with an old toothbrush you’ve dipped into gentle dish detergent and warm water.
That’s a straightforward way to brush off some of the grime that’s causing that stickiness.
Lighter Fluid vs Silicone Spray
A moto-maniac I once knew suggested lighter fluid to get the sticky off, and not only did it work alright for me, it made them look like brand new.
Other riders claim that silicone spray lube works the best. I encountered a guy who claims he applies silicone spray about once a year, and it keeps them like new and makes the rubber on even his heated grips shiny black.
So which is better, lighter fluid or silicone spray?
I’d say it depends on the grips themselves and preference for gumminess; trying both is the only way to know which you like more.
If the elements melted your hand grips past a certain point, though, the easiest option is to replace them.
Please also read our article about why your motorcycle vibrates when braking.
How to Replace Sticky Motorcycle Hand Grips
Here is a short how-to guide for replacing sticky motorcycle hand grips:
Remove Old Grips
Some bikes require the removal of the weight at the end of the handlebar. Unscrew the fastener that keeps the weight in place, loosen the bolt at the end of the bars only for a few spins, then pop it off.
If you have a rubber expansion style, then the bar-end will pop right off, so don’t loosen the bolt all the way, or you’ll be hunting down hardware.
If you want to save your grips, try sticking the gun of your air compressor underneath them and blow those puppies off. I’ve never done this, though.
If I’m changing my grips, it’s because they’re goners. If their salvageable, I’d have cleaned them with rubbing alcohol and kept riding.
You can cut most rubber grips off; unless you’re trying to save them for some reason, slice them open with a razor blade and peel them straight off.
If you’re taking off throttle-tube grips, however, you’ll have to slack your throttle cables with an adjustment. This is a bike-specific step, and you’ll need to consult your service manual.
Spill open your switch housings, another bike-specific step, and then split it into two halves. After you’ve separated the clamshells, you should be able to pull the grips right off.
Note: This can be pretty involved depending on the type of bike you have. Consult the service manual before dissembling your switch housings and adjusting your throttle cables.
Once the old grips are off, put the shells back on the bars and get ready to put on the new grips.
Install New Grips
Treat the inside of the grip with isopropyl alcohol to make it easier to slide onto the bars, and do your best to keep the grip straight as you install it to keep its pattern straight.
Avoid puncturing the grips with the handlebar hands by slowing down as you near completion. If applicable, now’s the time to bolt those bar-end weights back on.
To ensure the sticky rubber isn’t hindering the throttle operation by catching, twist the throttle back and forth and make sure it snaps back on its own.
Make sure to also read our article about how to fix a faulty motorcycle switch.
What Can I Use to Clean My Handlebars?
Goo Gone adhesive remover, or a similar product, is the most efficient way to clean stale glue left on your handlebars after removing your old grips.
If the leftover adhesive is hard and tough, hit it with a heat gun or blow dryer until you’ve reactivated the glue. Once you’ve wiped away as much of the freshly activated bonding agent as you can, remove the rest of the residue with Goo Gone, or a similar product.
Goo Gone adhesive remover is citrus-based, and although it’s not sensitive, it’s not particularly severe either, meaning it won’t cause damage.
Petro solvent work too. Although it can be less desirable to smell and work with, it performs the same trick. Both Goo Gone and Petro solvent brands offer spray gels now, so that makes it easier on your hands.
Methanol is another product that’s a suitable gunk-killer that doesn’t damage the paint.
Either product and some good scrubbing will get those handlebars spic and span in no time. Still, be sure to wipe off all the residue before installing your new grips.
Also read our article about how to tell if motorcycles have bad brakes.
Why Do Handlebars Get Sticky?
Handlebars are made sticky by a combination of sun, heat, sweat, grime, grease, dirt, and the chemicals present in mosquito repellent and sunblock.
Parking your bike in the sun is a sure-fire way to wear those grips down to their melting point.
Some moto-rippers sweat more than others, maybe because they grip harder-perhaps they ride in hotter climates that cause harder sweating.
Rubber grips, in particular, absorb oils off our skin. Dust and road grime mix with the sweat and form a resin-type layer to make the grips sticky or slick.
Another factor is the rubber material used to make the rubber grips. It’s a natural progression for some rubbers to age with time and use, especially if the rubber is forged from a high percentage rubber compound.
These compounds are more susceptible to wear and tear, whether from sitting in the sun or from oil and grime absorption.
Grips made from certain compounds degrade over time on their own. Newer grips tend to have more integrity and can be cleaned off with a degreaser and behave like new. Whereas the old and cheap “soft” kind of rubber degrades fast in a way that you can’t clean since the grip itself is what’s melting into goo.
If you’re like me and you live in a hotter climate, you need to be careful. Also, if you clean your bike with chemicals, you’re more likely to see sticky grips.
While on the subject of chemical compounds, be wary of spraying Deet-based insect repellent by your motorcycle or riding with it on your hands. Deet has compounds that melt plastics.
Particular sunscreens can have this effect also, so try your best to keep your hands clear of chemicals when you’re ripping roads and gripping grips.
Should I Use Grip Glue on My Handlebars?
If you want to use adhesive, various types of “grip glue” are on the moto-market.
Ensure you slid the grip on before the adhesive dries, though, and be aware that the adhesive will make it more difficult to remove the grips in the future.
Adhesive can also clog stuff up, though, which is why many mechanics suggest alcohol.
Whether you used alcohol, soup, or grip glue, however, let the grips sit; don’t mess with them and don’t go for a ride until you’re sure they’re dried in place. If they slide around after they’ve sat overnight, you probably used too much of whatever you settled on using.