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Sometimes, tweaking your motorcycle means installing parts like steering dampers and slipper clutches. But some modifications follow the ‘less is more’ mantra. Adjusting your handlebars, for example, isn’t necessarily flashy, but it can noticeably improve riding comfort and confidence. And there’s another mod that falls into this category: adding tank grips.

What are motorcycle tank grips and tank pads for?

The right side of a red 2012 Triumph Street Triple R with black tank grips installed
2012 Triumph Street Triple R with tank grips right side | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Motorcycle tank grips are sometimes mentioned together with tank pads. And some products use the terms interchangeably, or lump them into the general ‘tank protector’ category, Motorcycle News says. However, while the two have some commonalities, they’re not necessarily synonyms.

Typically, a singular motorcycle tank pad only covers the top part of a bike’s fuel tank, roughly around the filler cap. Its purpose is to protect your tank’s paint from getting scratched by your belt, zippers, and helmet when you’re leaning over, Cycle World explains. And, as with aftermarket mirrors, tank pads also serve as aesthetic enhancers.

An overhead left-side view of a red 2012 Triumph Street Triple R with black tank grips installed
2012 Triumph Street Triple R with tank grips left side overhead | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Tank grips, being pads of material, also protect your bike’s paint and change up its look. However, they’re found on the side of the fuel tank, not the top, though some grip sets have a third piece that goes on top. Also, their main job isn’t protection. While motorcycle tank pads are often smooth, tank grips feature raised bumps, blunt ‘spikes,’ or similar textures. That’s because their purpose is, well, to be grippy, Motorcyclist explains.

The slippery sides of a fuel tank often cause riders to slide around in their seats under both acceleration and braking. This messes with their body positions, which affects handling. It also means they can’t trust their knees to hold on, creating confidence issues on and off the racetrack. Plus, it means they put more strain on their arms because they can’t use their knees and legs to guide the bike, RideApart says.

Theoretically, putting tank grips on your motorcycle solves these problems, or at least addresses them. But that’s the idea on paper—what about in the real world?

How much do they cost to put on?

The rider's view of a red 2012 Triumph Street Triple R with black tank grips installed
2012 Triumph Street Triple R with tank grips rider view | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Recently, I’ve been noticing the same issues noted above while riding my 2012 Triumph Street Triple R, especially the seat-sliding and arm strain ones. I’ve also noticed some right-hand numbness and tingling after long rides. Adjusting my handlebars helped somewhat with the arm strain, but not with the numbness. Neither did changing out my gloves.

But after doing some research, I figured installing tank grips on my bike could help. Reading through reviews and forum posts, I settled on a set of TechSpec SnakeSkin Tank Grips that cost me $70 before shipping and tax. There are some grip sets that cost closer to $50-$60, but the TechSpec one came with a top pad, too. And while you can save some money by buying sheets of grip material, that also means you have to cut out the shapes yourself.

Putting a set of tank grips on your motorcycle is fairly easy and usually takes no more than 30 minutes. First, clean your tank of any dust, grime, or other residue using rubbing alcohol or a household cleaning spray. Second, make sure the fuel tank is warm by either leaving it in the sunshine for a while or using a heat gun or hairdryer. While that’s going on, put your knees up in your normal riding position to determine where you want the tank grips to go.

After the prep-work is done, gently peel off a corner of the backing paper off the tank grip and press it firmly to the tank. Once it’s adhered, slowly peel off more backing paper and repeat the process until the grip is securely attached. Make sure that the edges stick, too.

Do motorcycle tank grips work?

A proper set of tank grips can be “transformative” to say the least, RideApart says. And after riding my grip-equipped Street Triple R on the street and highway, I’m inclined to agree.

With more grip at my knees, the pressure is off my arms and wrists, making the steering feel lighter and more responsive. The whole bike feels more responsive, actually, as well as easier to control and lean. Countersteering has also become easier to perform and adjust. I simply feel more connected to the Triumph than before.

Also, the arm strain and hand numbness are gone, as is some foot discomfort I didn’t realize was there until it was gone. Plus, I feel more confident riding at highway speeds due to the extra grip. And I do feel more secure leaning over with that grippy tank pad.

So, are motorcycle tank grips worth getting for your bike? Absolutely yes. To be sure, the SnakeSkin grips aren’t even TechSpec’s grippiest option, CycleWorld reports. But even street-only riders will benefit from putting grips on their motorcycles. For relatively little money, they make riding noticeably more enjoyable.

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