Thanks go to Hakim Driouche at online gear-heaven retailer Revzilla, who answered my questions about brand and feature comparison.
Wearing heated gear from neck to ankles extends my safe and enjoyable riding season significantly. In fact, it’s unsafe road conditions, not the cold that pulls me off my bike in winter.
Going 100 kph/60 mph on a motorcycle in 4-degree (C)/40-degree (F) temperatures makes it feel about 20 degrees cooler outside. That’s significant if you’re riding all day and can cause fatigue, impairment and reduce your enjoyment.
Gerbing, First Gear, Tourmaster and Powerlet have the market share on heated gear. It’s important to get it right because except for gloves, it goes on under just about everything else so it’s hard to adjust once you’re underway. It’s also a significant investment that can make or break a ride.
How much “coverage” you get depends on how much cold weather riding you do – and how cold it will be. I started with a vest and gradually progressed to gloves, jacket and pants. Socks are next.
10 Qualities to Look for in Heated Motorcycle Gear
- Fit. Heated gear is worn over a thin layer of clothing, like a t-shirt, and under your outer gear. As such, you want it to be snug without being too tight, and follow the guidelines for outer gear sleeve and leg length described in 10 Functions to Look for in Motorcycle Jacketsand 10 Functions to Look for in Motorcycle Pants. Some manufacturers have leg and sleeve lengths in regular or tall. Get the one that works best for you.
- Interior wiring. Design ranges from heated panels that are integrated into the lining, to microwire and Carbon Nanotube technology, which heats evenly and quickly without hot spots. You’ll pay more for quality but it’s worth it. My jacket developed a hot spot and burned me. It was repaired under warranty but the problem has since re-developed.
- Versatility. Particularly applicable to the jacket liner, it’s convenient to be able to take off your outer jacket when going into a restaurant and using your liner as a lightweight jacket without cords visible.
- Flexibility. Apparently, all systems use the same connectors so it’s mentioned here more for awareness. You can mix and match brands and interconnect them successfully. However, check the warranty; some manufacturers will not stand behind their product if you’ve hooked it up to another. It’s difficult for them to prove but worth keeping in mind.
- Electrical Draw. Make sure your motorcycle can handle the extra draw on the battery. Powerlet has a convenient feature that tells you the excess electrical capacity on your specific motorcycle and what it will support.
- Warranty. Each manufacturer warranties products for different terms and it varies between electrical, non-electrical and the controller. Check around.
- Service location. Some manufacturers will work directly with consumers; others ask you to go through their retailers. Almost certainly it will be done in the US and be inconvenient. If it happens at the beginning of cold weather season (as it did to me twice), your article is gone for a few weeks when you need it most. Canadians can expect extra cost and delays for cross-border shipping.
- Customer Reviews. Revzilla has customer reviews and star ratings on all its products. It’s an excellent resource.
- Controller. Your choices are wired and wireless. Mine is hard-wired and were I purchasing now, I’d go wireless. Not only do you not have to be concerned with routing the wiring harness, but most importantly, is the ease of access. Donning rain gear on top of your riding gear means a controller attached to your waist or in a pocket is hard to get at. When you’re riding in the rain, fully geared, including heated winter gloves, and you need to reach under your rain gear to either increase or decrease the temperature, it can get very awkward and frustrating.
- Circuits. The controller can be single or double zoned, depending on how many articles you’re wearing. I have the double, which allows me the versatility to use one or multiple garments. My jacket is on one circuit; gloves and pants on another. This may vary with manufacturers. The amperage drawn is cumulative; the more pieces you’ve got turned on, the higher the fuse rating you’ll need. Most come with a variety of fuses and instructions on how to use them.
Wiring is very simple to install. Like any other accessories, gear should be turned on only AFTER you’ve started your bike.
Revzilla has excellent, easy-to-follow videos on it’s website about Gerbing gear, including sizing guides and connection instructions. Their customer service team is also knowledgeable and helpful. Make sure to check out their website.
If you do much riding at all, heated gear is well worth the investment. It takes the chill off even mildly cool days, which helps you stay focused and comfortable on your ride. Give it a try. Who knows? You may discover a new love for cold-weather riding.