How To Fix Sticky Handlebar Grips On Motorcycles

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Key Takeaways

  • Exposure to the elements and use can contribute to the handlebars getting sticky.
  • An essential degreaser or diluted dish soap is an inexpensive cleaning method.
  • Lighter fluid works to clean sticky grips, but it can smell. 
  • If the grips cannot be cleaned effectively, they will need to be replaced.

You want to ride your bike this summer, but you must fix the handlebars before you do anything. Let’s discuss how to fix sticky handlebar grips on motorcycles.

A sticky handlebar is a common problem for motorcycle owners. As the rubber grips are used and exposed to the elements, the polymers in the rubber compound break down. Solutions to this situation are rubbing alcohol, silicone spray, a degreaser, and thorough washing.

Even though some riders use gloves and find that stickiness helps with their grip, many riders hate it. The primary cause of sticky handlebars is your bike’s exposure to the elements (especially sunlight) and from daily use by operators. While riding, your hands sweat and perspire, creating moisture that transfers to the handlebar’s rubber surface. The grips tend to absorb the dirt, grime, and sweat your body releases, and when combined with road dust, rain, or even heat from the sun, the grips become susceptible to damage. What is the best way to get your grips back to normal? Do you have to buy new handlebar grips every summer, or do they make a product that can clean sticky bike grips? The last thing you want to do is mess up the handlebar grips (Who has the money or the time to replace them every few months). So let’s discuss how to work on your sticky motorcycle grips to keep you riding down the road with ease.

In this article...


What Causes Sticky Handlebar Grips?

Even everyday use can create the issue of sticky motorcycle grips. Exposure to the sun and constant pressure from your hands contribute to the breakdown of the compound used to make the grips. While companies are constantly tweaking their formulas by mixing them with new polymers and synthetic rubbers, they simply haven’t found a way to keep handlebars from getting sticky.

The more exposure your bike has to the sun and harmful UV rays, the more the handlebar grips will break down. (The same principle applies to your bike’s tires). To help keep your grips in as good of shape as possible, regular cleaning and maintenance are needed.

Every time your hands grip the handlebars of your bike, they transfer all kinds of body sweat and oils to the rubber. Since most rubber compounds are porous, they tend to absorb the items they come in contact with. That means your handlebar grips are like environmental magnets, pulling grease and dust from the road, sweat from your hands, and UV rays from the sun, and every one of these things acts to break down the rubber even further.

Many motorcycles have heated grips (shiny black) that lend themselves to absorbing heat. The grime is usually worse on this style of biker grips. The residue on heated handlebars just hardens the debris and oils, making cleaning motorcycle grips much harder. Regular sprucing with cleaning wipes can help keep the sticky rubber from becoming a mess later on.

Some motorcycle owners wear gloves, so they don’t have to deal with sticky bike grips. (Stick grips can help glove wearers enhance the firmness of their grip strength). Some owners cover their gloves with a sticky spray to improve their grip. If you use this spray, use it on the gloves, not the grips, and never on your skin.

How To Fix Sticky Handlebar Grips

Assuming you are a motorcycle owner who doesn’t care for sticky grips, there are various cleaning methods to use on your handlebars.

Thoroughly Clean Your Bike Grips

The first thing that you should do is give your bike a thorough cleaning with a pressure washer. A simple soap solution with warm water can help remove much of the grime and sweat buildup over months of storage or use. A light scrubbing of the handlebar grips can help loosen any stubborn residue that might linger. Allow the bike grips to dry completely and test them to see if they are still sticky.

Use a Degreaser or Rubbing Alcohol

Many motorcycle owners review their handlebar grips with alcohol cleaning wipes or a basic degreaser. The degreaser has chemical compounds that work on stubborn grime and can be easily applied and rinsed. Rubbing alcohol can be applied easily, and since it absorbs water, it tends to bond with any sweat molecules. Most alcohol residue quickly evaporates. Rubbing alcohol doesn’t damage chrome or glass and can be wiped on without streaking anything.

(Note that if you have leather grips, you will want to use a leather cleaner specifically made for the material. It is never a good idea to use rubbing alcohol or household degreasers/cleansers as they tend to dry out the leather).

Use Diluted Dish Soap

An inexpensive solution to sticky bike grips is to dilute household dish soap and apply it liberally to the handlebars. Many dish soaps have degreasers built into their formulas (some work better than others). Be sure to rinse thoroughly after allowing the dish soap to sit for a moment because a lot of them can leave a filmy residue that will transfer to your hands.

Use Lighter Fluid or Silicone Spray

An old trick for restoring sticky rubber grips is to wipe them down with lighter fluid or spray silicone spray on them. While debate is on the value of both lighter fluids and silicone sprays, both have their advocates in the motorcycle community. If you plan to use either, use some caution. Lighter fluid can damage the rubber, and silicone sprays can leave a slippery residue behind.

Use Baking Soda

Use a baking soda slurry and a toothbrush to remove stubborn stains and particularly nasty grime spots. Use a baking soda slurry solution and a toothbrush. The baking soda has an abrasive quality, which, combined with the bristles of the brush, can help loosen the particles of dirt and debris that have found a way to stick to the motorcycle grips. Be sure to wipe off any baking soda product after use, and don’t scrub too hard. (You don’t want to damage the rubber compound).

How Should You Replace Your Handlebar Grips?

Assuming that you have tried all the above remedies and none of them work, you might just need to replace your sticky bike grips. Motorcycle grips can vary in price, shape and color, so you must research before buying a pair. (The easiest solution is to replace them with OEM parts. Prices vary from less than $100 to over $250, depending on the bike).

Remove the Old Grips

Some grips have a weighted mounting screw that must be loosened a couple of turns before allowing the grips to pop off the handlebars. Loosen the screw at the end of the handlebars a few turns and remove the grips.

If any residual glue is left on the metal of the handlebars, you will need to remove it with a product like Goo-Gone adhesive remover before installing the new grips.

Spray the Inside of the New Grips

Many owners find that spraying the inside of the new grips with silicone spray or coating them with rubbing alcohol can help them slide them onto the handlebars. Once installed, ensure there are no issues with the new grips. Test the throttle a few times.

Use Grip Glue if Needed

A product on the market can keep new handlebars from getting loose and should be applied to the inside of the new handlebars before installation. The glue has a short lifespan and works quickly if you use it.