February 17, 2015 - San Diego, CA
Heated Motorcycle Gear Buyer's Guide
When it dips down near freezing and you still want to ride, heated gear is the only way to go. But what do you really need to know when making the investment? We break it all down for you in this buyer's guide. Once you try it, you'll never go back!
With heated gear, you can ride while your buddies sip cocoa and complain about the weather at home!
If you ride your motorcycle at any time in the winter, you should seriously consider adding heated gear to your gear essentials. As we’ll show you here, there are numerous benefits and many uses for heated gear, and it will help you extend your riding season comfortably like never before!
Why Do I Need Heated Gear?
While ambient temperature might not be terribly low, on a motorcycle you are facing 60-70 MPH of wind chill, and temperatures that fluctuate as you ride across different terrain. Remember that exposure is cumulative, and what you can deal with at the beginning of a ride might force you off the road in search of a hot cup of coffee a couple hours later. You might be able to tough it out, but riding is about having fun while out on your bike - not suffering through it!
But heated gear has a lot more to do with than just comfort; at colder temperatures, it can actually be essential to your survival. Cold severely inhibits your ability to manipulate your bike controls, especially with the most crucial of body parts – your hands. In addition, winter weather can be unpredictable, and the last place you want to be stuck without a heat source is on a bike in a storm. If you were caught in bad weather, heated gear could greatly improve your ability to keep your core warm and survive while you wait for help.
Heated gear isn't just about comfort; its about survival. You never know what will happen out on the road.
While some riders are put off by the cost of heated gear, those who use it often offset the costs by using their gear for many other outdoor activities, like snowmobiling, hunting, or working outdoors. The investment really justifies itself by allowing you to extend your riding season several more months than usual, riding while most people’s bikes are winterized in the garage. And the best part about riding in winter – no bugs!
What To Consider When Choosing Heated Gear
When considering what kind of heated gear to invest in, there are a few key questions to ask yourself:
Answering these questions will help narrow down your search to the products that are right for you.
- What kind of weather do you plan on riding in (and what kind of weather might you get caught in?)
- Would you prefer heated gear you wear, or gear installed on the bike (i.e. heated grips and seat?)
- Do you want a system that plugs into the bike’s power, or an independent battery powered system?
There are many different directions you can take when starting out with heated gear, but there is some generally accepted advice that is useful when making the jump into this market. First is the order in which gear should be purchased; heated gloves like the Alpinestars Tech Heated Motorcycle Gloves are strongly recommended because your hands are so crucial to operating a bike, and they catch the brunt of the wind chill. They are also a great way to familiarize yourself with heated gear without spending too much money initially. A jacket liner such as the Tour Master Synergy 2.0 Jacket Liner is also a crucial part of a heated gear system, as it keeps your core temperature warm and can actually aid in your survival. These two items are the most important parts of a heated gear system by far. A heated vest is an alternative, but remember that your arms will feel colder compared to your heated torso and hands. Your next purchase after this should be a heated pant liner, and for extreme cold, heated insoles or socks.
You cant use your throttle or brakes with frozen hands! Try gloves as your first heated gear purchase.
A common alternative to heated liners is heated gear installed on the bike, like heated grips and seats. While these are hassle-free and can make a ride more comfortable, they only provide heat to small isolated areas and don’t elevate your core temperature much. Heated grips warm your palms but leave the top of your hand – the part facing the cold wind – exposed. Heated gloves and liners are more versatile and much more helpful in fending off cold temperatures for long periods of time.
Another important consideration is whether you prefer gear that plugs into the bike, or runs off rechargeable batteries. They both have their merits; plug-in gear is powerful and runs hot as long as the bike is running, but you will have to be wired to your bike or your bike’s battery, and you’ll have to make sure your electrical system can handle the load (most bikes have more than adequate capacity.) Battery powered gear is cord-free and can be worn off the bike for many other activities, but it must be charged regularly. Plug-in gear should be used with an adjustable thermostat to regulate the temperature, so that cost should be factored in as well; battery-powered products have built-in thermostats.
This diagram shows how the Tourmaster Synergy 2.0 heating layers work as a system.
Building Your Heated Gear System
Again, the order in which a heated gear system should be purchased is:
- Heated Jacket Liner OR Gloves
- Heated Jacket Liner OR Gloves (whichever you don't have)
- Heated Pants Liner
- Heated Insoles/Socks
- Balaclava/Neck Gaiter as needed!
Heated gear should be snug, to prevent any air circulation between it and your body. A layer should also be worn between the heated layer and your skin to regulate hot spots; synthetic garments like Under Armour are good for this as they wick away sweat, and wool will stay warm even when wet (cotton is not recommended as it retains moisture and is useless when wet.) Outerwear should be windproof and waterproof, as these two elements can severely inhibit heated gear’s ability to keep you warm; textile all-weather gear is the best for this purpose, as leather doesn’t retain much warmth and soaks water like a sponge. Ideally, heated gear will be the middle layer of a total system, on top of a long-sleeve wool or synthetic layer, and underneath armored textile wind- and water-proof outer wear.
Heated gear should be used with waterproof/windproof outerwear to work well, like this FirstGear jacket.
Another crucial component to a heated gear system is a thermostat, such as the First-Gear Heat-troller. A thermostat will allow fine tuning of heat delivery across multiple garments for hours of comfort. This may not seem important at first, but heated gear can get VERY hot in full-on operation, and can be very uncomfortable without a way to adjust it on the fly. The Heat-troller also allows for separate adjustment of multiple devices; a common setting is higher heat on gloves which directly face the cold wind, and lower heat on a jacket liner, nestled underneath a thick outer layer.
Tips: Getting The Most From Your Heated Gear
- Heated gear should be snug, but not tight; gear that is too tight can actually burn skin, especially when not regulated by a thermostat
- Bring backup fuses and the tools needed to replace them while riding; losing your heat source in severe cold can cause you to become hypothermic
- Pack disposable chemical heaters as a backup heat source if you get caught in severe cold
- Turn off gear before killing engine, and turn it back on after engine is running (this decreases load on the bike’s electrical system)
- Don’t be fooled by the sense of warmth your body feels; the roads are still icy and dangerous, so continue to exercise caution
- Ride as far as you can with the warming layers off, then activate them when you feel truly cold; the warming sensation will feel amazing and will extend your ride that much further!
Some guy called them pansies for using heated gear. He's now at home with the heater on, reading a motorycle magazine.
Where have you gone that you couldn't have without heated gear? Let us know in the comments below!