(Updated: Feb/2018) 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!
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!
With heated gear, you can ride longer, safer, lighter, and more comfortably in the cold than you ever could with traditional insulated layers!
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, or you can use it to help someone else who becomes injured in the event of an emergency as well.
While heated gear can be a bit pricey, 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!
Building Your Heated Gear 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.
This diagram from Tour Master, featuring their Synergy line of heated gear, shows how the system works to gether to cover your body in adjustable warmth using your bike as a power source.
First is the order in which gear should be purchased; heated gloves are strongly recommended as a first step into heated gear, 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 heated 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.
When using heated gear, you also want to make sure you are using waterproof and windproof outer layers, to keep moisture and wind from damaging your system and robbing you of the heat your gear generates.
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.
Choices In Heated Gear
At BikeBandit, the majority of our heated gear is offered by four key brands, each of which has it’s own strengths and characteristics. Check them out below to see which one fits your needs best.
Tour Master Synergy
Tour Master, of course, is a brand that specializes in motorcycle gear, but the Synergy line they have developed is their exclusive heated gear line made just for motorcycle riders and their needs. Previously only available as plug-in powered, they’ve switched to a 7.4v battery pack for greater mobility and rider comfort. Their heated gear is top quality, very well reviewed and we think you’ll be hard-pressed to top Tour Masters excellent Synergy 7.4v line of products!
Tour Master Synergy 7.4V Battery Heated Jacket
Tour Master Synergy 7.4V Battery Heated Vest
Gears is a Canadian company (so you know they know all about cold!) and they have grown very quickly in the powersports industry in the last several years due to their great combination of performance and value in their products.
One key characteristic about Gears warming gear that makes it unique is that, while it is designed as plug-in gear, they also offer a separate battery pack that you can plug your gear into when you’re on the move. This means you can power your gear straight off your bike for worry-free heating while riding, but also plug your gear into the rechargeable battery pack for continuous heating while hiking, backpacking, and so on. This is a great middle ground between plug-in and heated gear!
The Gears Gen X-3 Warm Tek Heated Jacket Liner
Gears’ Portable Battery Kit For Gen X-3 Heated Clothing
When it comes to motorcycle apparel, Firstgear has been a longtime trusted brand and their heated offerings are some of the best in the business. Their heated liners are perfect to compliment your wet weather riding gear to keep you warm in the coldest of conditions. From heated socks, gloves, pant and jacket liners, you can practically say that Firstgear has you covered from head to toe. Be sure to check out their complete lineup of heated products.
Firstgear Heated 90 Watt Jacket Liner
Firstgear Heated Socks
Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Heated Gear
- 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 (but 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)
- 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.
- Use a thermostat or heat controller with your heated gear system, which will allow fine tuning of heat delivery across multiple garments for hours of comfort. Heated gear can get VERY hot in full-on operation, and can be very uncomfortable without a way to adjust it on the fly.
- 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!