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RidingGearApparel Heated Gear... What do you use/like?

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I have frozen for the last time and need to get some good heated gear.  I rode with a heated vest once and it was heaven.  I've heard of Gerbings but don't know much about them or other brands.

 

Zach uses Tour Master Synergy 2.0 vest and likes it.  Any other recommendations?

 

I ride in SoCal where it's only cold in the winter and by cold I mean between about freezing and 50.

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I recently got the new Atomic Skin stuff from Powerlet. I've been running their heated gear for about a decade now. The first gen stuff was good, had wire heating elements much like Gerbing still uses, and a wired  controller.  The second gen stuff went over to the FAR Infrared heating technology, which is frickin' awesome. The remote I had for that kit was a rebadged warm n safe wireless controller. You still have to plug into the bike, but the remote talks to the receiver wirelessly, so you get rid of a lot of annoying wires and connections. The third gen, now called Atomic Skin, uses the same infrared technology for heating, but they made bunch of small tweaks to make it quite a bit nicer.  For example, the jacket now has a pass through for the main connection as opposed to having to leave the trap door zipper opened a bit to let the wire pass through. The big news is the new controller unit. Their official name for it is "Microclimate G1 remote and garment controller". It has a small "brain" that plugs into the garment, and a receiver you strap to your wrist (or on the bike like I do). I've only worn the jacket liner a couple times now, and the glove liners once, but I already love it. Instead of having a knob to control the temp on the jacket liner and another knob to control the temp on the gloves, it has one button for + and one button for -. You set your base lines on how much heat you want where, then just use the + and - to add more or less heat. It's pretty neat! 

 

I could write about 10 pages on this stuff, but I am already rambling... Powerlet's website doesn't really have much info on the controller yet. You have to go to heated clothing, click on jacket liners, then images to even see a picture of it. I got to touch and feel it at one of the Parts Unlimited showcases a couple months ago and was immediately sold. 

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The Gerbing EX series work really well. I ride year round in north georgia. Yesterday was 38f and I was actually a too warm with the jacket and gloves running at 40% capacity.

The gear being waterproof was a huge selling point since I can keep pushing on when travelling no matter the conditions.

The heated liners are also removable so they can be used with other top layers.

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Eric, as you know I've just ended a career in the motorcycle industry.  My last position was as Director of Sales and Marketing for Gerbing's, which is the largest selling brand by a substantial margin.  And while you would expect that might bias my perspective, read on and see for yourself.

 

To be blunt, there is no "bad" heated gear.  Gerbing's, Warm 'N Safe, First Gear, Venture Heat, Powerelet, et al.  Essentially, it's just gear with different construction and features, from which you'll have to choose those which suit your needs best.  

 

Basically, all heated gear is "wired."  That means either Stainless, Copper or Carbon Fiber wires are routed through the product in "heat panels or heat areas,"  When electricity is shorted through these circuits, the wires heat.  The heat panels are not intended primarily just to heat you directly.  If they did, you would only get warm where the heat panels are.  Instead, it is intended as an undergarment, fitting a little bit on the snug side, but not tightly.  Having a little air between you and the garment is important.  The heat panels can't help but heat you directly, but more importantly they heat the air that surrounds you, which then heats you more evenly.  This is why it is important to use heated gear as an underlayer, beneath a sealed motorcycle jacket, using the thickness of the heated liner to replace the thickness of the jacket's quilted liner, which should be removed.  This way, everything fits "normally."  The liner creates the heat and the jacket traps the heat.  Motorcycle gear that uses Gore-Tex (Aerostich, Klim, etc) is a little bit less effective at holding in the heat because Gore-Tex breathes slightly, and that allows a little bit of cold outside air into the mixture.  Usually you just turn up the controller a bit and it compensates for the slight introduction of colder air.

 

Heating elements are generally where much of the controversy and hoopla exist surrounding heated gear.  Stainless, Copper or Carbon Fiber.  Which is best?  Which provides the best heat?  Etc. Etc.  My opinion is that it doesn't matter.  Heat is heat.  Warm is warm.  Now, having said that, there are different delivery protocols.  Again, IMO, multi-strand stainless wire delivers the quickest heat.  A simple .025 gauge wire can have up to 200 strands of stainless in it, each about 1/4th the thickness of a human hair.  Since heat emanates from the circumferential surface of the wire, multi-strand wires have more circumferential area than solid wires or wires with fewer/larger strands.  Thus, multi-strand heating wires heat you more quickly.   Note that carbon fiber wires are also small multi-strand wires, and they also heat quickly.   Multi-strand wires also respond more rapidly to input from the controller.  So when you drop into an ice-cold valley and turn up the heat, it's more immediate.  Stainless multi-strand, and to a slightly lesser extent (based on my personal experience) carbon-fiber multi-strand, deliver heat more quickly.  Now, we're talking about 10 seconds vs. 30 seconds for copper wire.  So you have to decide for yourself if this is important.

 

The wires themselves vary in thickness.  Stainless wires are thinnest.  However, some manufacturers run Carbon Fiber wiring without its insulation coating, preferring to wrap it in a folded insulating sheet that sticks to itself, kind of like sticking the wires in a thin plastic taco and sealing the edge.  Since the purpose of the insulation is to prevent shorting, as long as the wiring patterns are designed to not let the wire cross over itself, it should be fine.  Carbon Fiber is actually less expensive by quite a bit than Stainless wrapped in a Teflon-based insulation coating, so expect to pay less for a Carbon Fiber heated liner (and gloves) all else being equal.  By that I mean check the other features.  A manufacturer may, or may not, have decided to put the savings into other features in the garment.  Again, you have to decide what you want in a garment and which of its features are important to you.

 

Wiring circuits within the jackets are also becoming more standardized.  Most heated jacket liners are wired with two circuits.  One circuit is for the jacket itself (chest, back and sleeves).  While the second circuit bypasses the jacket and goes straight to the glove plugs at the end of the sleeves.  This way, when using a dual controller, you have one circuit that controls the heat for your torso, and another circuit that controls the heat to your hands.  Since your hands are usually out in the air flow, while your torso at least has a little protection from a short windshield (or on a sport-touring bike or a cruiser, often a larger windshield), being able to set the temperature of your torso and your hands independently means much greater comfort.  Be aware that the "glove" circuit is usually where the connection point is for heated pants and socks.  Therefore, your torso will be on one circuit and all your appendages will be on the other.  Makes sense.  Like your hands, your legs and feet are also more likely to be "in the wind" and wanting of a heat setting different than that needed for your upper body.

 

Controllers are interesting.  A lot of people think of them as rheostats.  They're not.  Virtually every controller out there is actually a pulse-width modulator.  Typically with a PWM controller, the duty cycle is usually about one second.  During that second, the controller is set to send power to the wires for a percentage of that second, and then shut itself off for the remainder of that second.  So at 50% power, the controller would send power through for half a second and be off for half a second.  At 20% power, it would be on for .2 seconds and off for .8 seconds.  I think you get the picture.  And this happens for every tick of the clock.  The duty cycle repeats.  I've always been a strong proponent of dual controllers for the reasons in the paragraph above.  Having that dual-zone control is just so much easier to be comfortable.

 

More recently, wireless controllers have come onto the market.  But wireless isn't completely wireless.  The signal from the controller to a receiver in the jacket is wireless, but the power from the motorcycle's electrical system must still be connected to you and the jacket by means of a wire.  The advantages of a wireless controller is that there's just one power wire to connect/disconnect as opposed to two circuit wires (from a dual controller to a dual-circuit jacket), and that the wireless feature lets you place the controller pretty much anywhere on your motorcycle.  With a wired controller, you need to have the controller attached to your outer jacket, or to something that's close to you when you're in the riding position, such as a tankbag.  With a wireless controller, you can position it near the left handgrip for easy access, on your touring bike's dashboard, or anywhere you find it convenient.

 

Amp draw.  This is the amount of load that the heated garments pull out of your electrical system.  They are rated at full power, such that if I tell you that a Jacket Liner has an amp draw of 70 watts, that's on High.  At 50% power, it's on a 50% duty cycle, so the load draw averages 70W x .5 = 35W.  At 20% power it would be 70W x .2 = 14W.  At 80% power, 70W x .8 = 56W.  You need to know the amp draw of your jacket liner, gloves and any other heated garment you're going to be wearing.  And also that of any passenger.  Then you need to make sure that your motorcycle's alternator can handle the load.  A good rule of thumb is to reduce your bike's maximum alternator output by 20% when calculating, just to provide yourself a cushion.  Alternators don't make full power all the time.  They make more power at more engine rpm, usually up to about 2000 - 2500rpm, by which time they're making full power.  So, if you're riding around town at lower rpm, or you have a torquey cruiser that spends some time below max alternator output, reducing the max output by 20% when making calculations gives you a safe cushion.  With most BMW's, alternator output is not a problem.  Most of the boxers have at least 700W.  But what about bikes with lower outputs?  Let's take a look at a hypothetical bike with a 400W alternator.

 

First, you have to figure out what it takes to run the motorcycle.  For a carbureted bike, figuring ignition system, headlight, taillight, brake light and the occasional turn signal, about 190-200W is about right.  For a fuel-injected bike, about 260-275W is about right.  Now come the accessories.  Got driving lights?  About 55W each, or 110W.  Very often less if they're HID or LED.  Heated grips?  20W (on High).  Heated seat? 40W (on High).  These are general estimates.  So, on a cold day, your fuel-injected bike, with a 400-W alternator (factored down to 320 just to be safe), has about 45-60W to play with.  Heated jacket at 50% draws about 35W.  Gloves at 50% draw about 15W.  You're probably safe.  But don't turn on your accessory driving lights, or your draw will exceed the alternator's output and you'll slowly drain your battery.  On bikes with questionable alternator limits, it's always a good idea to hook a volt meter up to the battery (Datel makes awesome DVM's).  If the battery voltage starts to decline, you can tell and may have to turn some things down, or off, until the voltage builds again.  I have this on my V-strom 650.  Driving lights plus heated liner, gloves and socks, and I am past my limit.  The voltage drains from 14.4V to about 12.5 in 45 minutes.  So I have to shut off the extra lights (actually, I added an Eastern Beaver headlight switch and am able to turn off one of the two headlights, saving 55W and barely "balancing" the input/output).  Each rider and bike will be different, so you just have to do some basic math and then keep an eye on things the first couple of times you're out in the cold.  If it works, you should be OK for the winter.  But be careful.  Nothing worse than stopping to go to the bathroom and coming out to a bike without enough battery power left to turn over the engine.  The bike will still run, IF you can get it started.  And in the cold, that's no fun.

 

Anyway, that's a basic summary of things to look for and consider when buying heated gear.  As for me, when I'm on my Beemer, I've got all the heat I need.  When on the Wee-strom, I'm usually good, but if it's really cold I have to turn off one headlight in order to turn up the heat.  As for what I wear, naturally it's Gerbing since when I retired I had a full set of gear and two extra jacket liners and gloves.  So I'm set.  But I've tested and can recommend just about every major brand.  They all keep you warm.  It's just a matter of personal preference.  However, when it comes to a controller, I do run my gear through a Warm 'n Safe wireless controller for its small size and convenience.  But I carry a wired dual controller as a backup just in case.  Haven't needed it in 3 years.  

 

Hope this helps.

Edited by EffBee
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Used mine for the first time yesterday riding to the Touratech in house rally in 40 degrees and torrential rain, potentially the greatest thing ever! I'm thinking this will be mandatory under 60 degrees from here on out! Not to say it'll be on, but the option is priceless.

 

*Please excuse my excitement, but it was awesome. 

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Dude!  I just went to heated gear school!

 

thanks, EffBee!

 

Will have to beg Gerbings for some product to test ;)

Glad to be of help, Eric.  I've had to good fortune to accumulate a lot of knowledge and information over the years.  I sometimes make a recommendation as to products.  But most of the time I prefer to just present the information I have, note where I'm adding personal opinion, and let the reader come to his/her own conclusion.  I have to laugh a little, though, at Raineer Runner's comment above.  That is very typical of first-time users.  Usually the comment we got was, "WHY THE HELL did I wait so long?"

 

Ride Warm, Raineer Runner.  Ride Warm.

Edited by EffBee
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Eric, I'm familiar with the cold snaps of winter riding in the SoCal area where we would meet at the trail heads in the early mornings or often times getting caught riding home after dark. I found a heated vest to be a great solution. It's compact and provides great warmth. I chose the vest because it also allowed me to fit it under my chest protector. Layering is important and being able to stash it when it warmed up without too much bulk in the tank or tail bag is easy. It is an old generation Gerbings vest with single controller. I've had it for 4 years and has not failed me once. However just recently it quit on me. I found a place in NC that has taken it in and will do the repairs for a fee. Oh and it is also great to use around the camp fire. One more thing, I chose the vest too because I have popeye arms and with the adventure jacket and elbow pads it fits just right.

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Thanks, Arwi.  I just took the plunge and got a jacket and controller.  I have an SAE dongle sticking out of the bike for a battery tender but I don't have the cable to connect to that thing so I'm just going to wire it up myself.  Should be ready to go for my Copper Canyon trip on Feb 11.

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