Ask RideApart: What’s The Best Heated Motorcycle Gear?

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heated motorcycle gear

You ask, the community answers, it’s Ask RideApart. This week: What is the best heated motorcycle gear?

Photo: Hubert Kriegel

Reader Jesse writes: “I’m looking to get some heated gear to extend the riding season here in New England. There are only so many layers I can put under my leather jacket and overpants. Looks like I’m going to be in for $600+ bucks to do this right, do you have any suggestions?”

We live in sunny SoCal, so our experience with heated gear is a little limited. Do any of our more northerly readers have experience with heated gear and, if so, can they share their expertise?

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  • susannaschick

    Even though I sold all my electric gear when I left NYC, I bought it again soon after. I have no tolerance for cold. I used to use Widder, but then switched to Gerbing, because the connectors were stronger. I always ran the vest and on really cold days, the gloves. But having a bike with fairings that deflect wind off the handgrips helps, so I never need the gloves in LA. But now that I read about it here, I dream of a Venture Heated vest. http://rideapart.com/2013/10/the-best-of-aimexpo-2013/13/ I love the idea of not having to add a stupid cable to my battery and having to plug/unplug every time I ride. I’d be happy to test one out, now that EMT’s did this to my Gerbing vest:

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      That’ll buff out.
      (damn!)

    • Jeffery Boaz

      Susannaschick contact us. Our 12v and battery powered products work well and we would love to get you to try one out. Give us a ring. Wes knows how to get me.

      • susannaschick

        Awesome, thanks so much Jeffery!

    • texmawby

      Susanna,

      Email me at: michael.mawby@gerbing.com and let me see what we can do to help you. Damn EMTs are always so scissor happy!

      Cheers,

      Tex

      • susannaschick

        thanks Tex, but Jeffery’s got me covered! I’m picking up a vest next week, and I’ll do a full test and review here on RideApart as soon as it gets cold enough to really need it. It’s been in the low 70′s, dropping to high 60′s at night. ;-) I may just have to head for Bear Mountain… OMG. I am so excited about not having to unplug!!! I’ll be able to walk around all warm and toasty off the bike, too!

        • texmawby

          No worries! If you ever want to test ride a 12V Jacket, Vest, or Pant Liner that is made in America, let me know. Enjoy the ride!

  • Brian

    I’ve had Warm N Safe heated gear for a few years now, and it has treated me very well. I got the 90 Watt gear, when in actuality the 65 Watt gear was probably perfectly sufficient. Make sure you check your bike for the rated wattage output before heading into this realm of course. -> http://www.warmnsafe.com/ I am probably going to upgrade my wired heat-troller for their newer Remote Controlled Heat-troller , but they as a company are on point. I had 1 issue where towards the end of a season, the one side wasn’t getting as warm as the other and they repaired it with it only having cost me shipping charges and the time to get an RMA up front.

    I will say though, most heated gloves heat just the back of your hand, so you might still want heated grips and some wind deflectors if you don’t already have them.

  • Justin McClintock

    Dual-star heated grips. Mine work amazingly well, and the best part about installing heated grips is, they’re always there. You can’t accidentally forget them or get caught out in the weather without them.

    • Deeds

      Oxford is also a good option

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    Righteous. Thanks guys.

  • Tony Thayer

    The Warm N Safe/FirstGear classic gloves work pretty damn well and are waterproof. They’re easy to put on if your hands are damp and they heat up quickly.

  • Miles Prower

    I’m a happy Warm & Safe customer myself. The following two essays from their website are worth reading:

    http://www.warmnsafe.com/we-invent-they-copy-why/
    http://www.warmnsafe.com/heated-gear-101/

    BTW, Warm & Safe is also sold under the Firstgear and Powerlet brandnames. The products are identical except for the logos and tags. I actually own products from all three brandnames — and when I contacted Warm & Safe with a customer service issue last year, the president of Warm & Safe replied back immediately (during the wee hours of the morning) and verified that he and his company support all three brands.

    The current Warm & Safe jacket liner I own is the Generation WaterProof (Gen WP), having upgraded it from a previous generation non-waterproof liner. I would NOT recommend the Gen WP version. Why? Because the Gen WP is pretty much non-breathable. Therefore, it’s comfortable in a far smaller range of temps. The non-WP jacket I had previously could be worn even as the temperature climbed into the 70s with the heating elements off. Not so with the WP; I start to sweat in it if the temps are any higher than about 65 deg F.

    Therefore, if I start a ride in the morning at say, 45 deg F, I’ll have the WP’s heat on. Then as the temp goes up, I turn the heat down. By about 60 deg, I’ll have the heat off. At 65, I’ll have to pull over and take the WP liner off and stuff it into my topcase.

    The gloves I have are the Carbon. They’re great heat-wise, and with the 2-channel Heat-Troller, I can adjust the temperature of the gloves separately from the temp of the jacket liner. I pretty much never turn on the heated grips on my MTS 1200, especially because the MTS 1200′s grips, even on the lowest setting, are infernally hot. The only issue I have with the Carbon gloves is that a hard wire passes along the inside of my thumb, right where I’m holding onto my grip. After five or six hours of riding, that hard wire puts a pretty uncomfortable dent into the flap of skin between thumb and forefinger.

    I don’t have (or ever felt I needed) heated pants.

    I do very much recommend the wireless 2-channel Heat-Troller if you have more than one motorcycle. My Heat-Troller Velcros to whichever motorcycle I’m riding (and I loop the Heat-Troller’s wrist-band around the bars so if the Velcro ever gave out, the Heat-Troller won’t be lost).

    Also, I recommend getting the Gerbing coiled extension cable to go from your motorcycle to your jacket. (It fits the Warm & Safe kit just fine.) That way, you can stand up without the jacket unplugging from the bike. Also, you won’t forget to unplug it when you’re dismounting, because you’ll feel it pull on you as you step off your bike.

    • motoguru.

      Powerlet does indeed have their wireless controllers made by Warm & Safe, but their garments have nothing to do with them.

  • dinoSnake

    Also, you do NOT have to spend a lot to get great heated gear.

    I have TourMaster – yes, TourMaster – heated vest. Holy crap does it get hot!! Cost for the vest with heated collar, and with controller included? All of $165, one of the best kept secrets in heated gear around.

    I would also recommend heated grips over heated gloves. Heated gloves are extremely effective but only if you remember to both wear them and plug them in, while heated grips are always there whenever you need them. The secret with heated grips is to simply wear racing gloves when you ride – racing gloves, for example gauntlets, have padded hand backs for protection (and therefore also insulation) but single-layer palms for control feel (and therefore letting the heat in). A brilliant combo with heated grips!

    • susannaschick

      I never tried grips because I keep 2 fingers hovered over the brake lever, especially in the city, so I figured they wouldn’t help. Does the heat radiate to your fingers if you do this, or do they just heat your palms?

      • BillW

        I think heated grips are great, but they are not a replacement for heated gloves. They’re for when you get caught without your heated gloves, or don’t want to hassle with wiring up the heated gear. They’re nice for a brisk morning on what will turn into a reasonably warm day.

        I have the same two-fingered problem with them. If my hands are really getting cold, I find I have to give up covering the brake (when I think it’s safe to do so) to get some heat into my first two fingers.

  • Scott

    Simple, lifetime warranty = Gerbings.

    • Jeffery Boaz

      You might want to check that:

      http://www.gerbing.com/support

      • Scott

        So they seem to have recently did some site changes and it does miss references to the lifetime warranty. But I called to verify and they still do give a lifetime warranty on the wiring components of the jackets. A year ago I sent back gloves and received a new set due to failure. I think with the new branding the site is a work in progress.

        • Jeffery Boaz

          I was told that it was lifetime on the product sold with that intact and going forward it would not be. I think as the company continues its transition things will get sorted. Change is never easy and for “Gerbing’s” to go from family business to investment group and “Gerbing” will help in the long run but there will be bumps along the way.

          • grindz145

            That’s too bad that they will discontinue their unlimited warranty. It was honestly the reason I bought their gloves in the first place.The products are great quality though, the only issue I seem to have is the connectors themselves rust out (it’s salty in the winter here, what can you do?) and the wires tend to get yanked and get disconnected.

            • Scott

              Yeah I hope not, that is also the reason I paid more to go Gerbing.

      • grindz145

        I just sent a pair of gloves I’ve had for 5 years back , this past summer. They told me that they were unrepairable… and sent me a BRAND new pair at no cost at all. Gerbing’s warranty should not be second guessed. It’s fantastic.

        • Jeffery Boaz

          That is good customer service, at another company I worked for people would send me helmets that were crashed in. I even had one that was “warped” from sitting on the shelf according to the user. In most every case we replaced them at no cost even the warped one. We wanted damaged ones off the market and its a great way to insure loyalty. Most modern companies realize this. I now work with Venture and have historically sold Gerbing in my stores when in retail. I think side by side our line is a bit more suited for riders in ease of use, materials, construction and fit. But it comes down to fit and what your needs are. Maybe a comparison on Ride Apart would help.

  • jonoabq

    You first need to find out how many free watts your motorcycle generates. If you are on an old KLR you don’t have much, a Goldwing…gobs. Once you get that value you can plan how you want to use those watts to best effect. Fairing or no fairing? Handguards?
    I put heated grips on everything. If you can’t manipulate controls because of cold hands you’ll miss out on a big part of a riding season.

    There are plenty of choices to keep your core warm, but if you have a tighter fitting jacket fitting a full on vest is not always an option. Aerostich makes an electric bib that draws about 1/2 the watts as a vest and will fit in the tightest of jackets (it also works quite well).
    If you can’t get your hands on factory electric grips, Oxford makes a good set. They also will auto shut off if you forget and leave them on when you park your motorcycle, though its always a good idea to run all electrical accessories through a relayed/fused accessory block.

  • BillW

    Pretty much all the touring riders I know (including me) wear Gerbings jackets (not vests). Make sure you get a controller so you can dial down to the heat you need while also saving power. Most wear the jacket because they also wear heated gloves, which plug into the jacket. They’re really nice when it gets cold out.

    That being said, I suspect the Aerostich Kanetsu Airvantage is the most effective (and most expensive?) heated garment out there. It has an inflatable bladder that lets you vary the amount of insulation and the closeness of the fit for optimum heat transfer and retention. Those Minnesotans know a thing or two about dealing with cold. But I don’t know anybody who has one.

    • susannaschick

      the gloves can plug into the vest too, you just have these long wires running down the sleeves of your jacket. Which is just two more things to plug in, so another argument for rechargeable battery packs in gear. My NYC riding buddies told me (before I bought mine, back in ’96) that the sleeves weren’t really necessary, and I never missed them. The most important thing is to keep your core warm, then your extremities. The time I rode to Philly to watch a Knicks game I learned why fashion boots aren’t really a good idea at < 30 degrees.

    • grindz145

      +1 I’m a huge fan of Gerbing. Their warranty policy is amazing! I had a pair of gloves for 5 years and pretty much destroyed them. Sent them in for repair. They called me up to ask if it was OK if they sent me brand new gloves! I have the gerbing jacket as well. Gerbing is the series option if you ask me, and it really doesn’t cost that much. Gloves and a jacket liner will set you back around $350. But it’s an investment that will last you virtually forever.

  • Regder

    I’ve bought way too much heated gear in the past month. A W&S Gen 4 jacket liner, W&S wireless dual controller, Gerbing wired dual controller, Gerbing jacker liner, Gerbing T5 gloves, and Firstgear socks.

    Unfortunately bike troubles have kept me from testing any of it out except the Gerbing jacket. I only rode it for one ride and realized the Gerbing wired controller was not for me. Too many wires to plug/unplug, you don’t have easy access to change the temperature, just a plain pain. The W&S wireless controller is a huge improvement on paper (have yet to test it, but reviews seem to back that up). Leave the receiver in the jacket, plugged in, so there’s only the main battery wire that you need to plug/unplug when getting on/off the bike. The controller can live anywhere you want, with easy access. I’ll probably zip tie it to my handlebar.

  • thepierced

    Any insight into the pros/cons between battery-powered and bike-powered gear?