Motorsports Network
Product Evaluation

Electric Heated Riding Gear - Introduction

Summary Chart | Eclipse | Gerbing's | Widder | Heat-Troller

Electric Riding Gear:
What other product can enable you to ride longer, safer and in far more comfort? This story is now a bit dated - but the information (and products) are still valid. We use many of these products daily.

If you haven't experienced electric riding apparel, your missing out. Like an electric blanket, these garments have wires strategically placed throughout their interior. When electric current from your bikes battery flows through the wires, they heat up. These garments can turn a cold ride into a perfectly comfortable one, make a long trip far more enjoyable, let you ride much longer in cold conditions or extend your riding season.

There are numerous companies making electric garments. As you'll learn, it's difficult to find a substandard product offered by any of these manufacturers. Knowing what to buy for your particular use, however, is a completely different story all together. If you want to know what's going on in the world of electrically heated clothing, read on.

Our testing was done in the real world. That's to say, endless hours of saddle time in elements that can only be described as uncomfortable to painful! You won't find any thermometer readings here, as we know actual testing is the only way to get the lowdown on each of these products. If the garment doesn't fit correctly no amount of heat is going to make it work well in actual use.

It's important to note that comfortable, or survivable, temperatures vary widely for each rider and the type of bike being ridden. Riding in 29 degrees Fahrenheit around town or for short distances is very different from riding continuous highway miles, and different yet from riding in the mountains at lower speeds and RPM. At highway speeds, your electrical system receives maximum charge helping your battery to keep up with the demands placed on it. When riding around town or at lower speeds and RPM, your battery will be receiving less charge making it easier for your electric clothing to drain the battery. We often face this situation, as much of our riding is done in the mountains at night.

For comparison sake, our testing was done partially on the highway and partially on mountain roads at night. This created both excellent and poor charging scenarios. Our target temperatures were approximately 29 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

After endless testing the results are in. Select a company below to view reviews of their products. To view a useful summary and information page for all products reviewed here, just click on the summary link below. For additional information on selecting and using electric riding gear, read on.

Summary Chart | Eclipse | Gerbing's | Widder | Heat-Troller | Home

How do they hookup to my motorcycle?
All the products here use a similar fused battery cord which simply attaches to each of the battery terminals. The process just takes a few minutes and can be performed by anyone. It helps to clip the ends of the round battery connector, making it much easier to attach. This will allow you to attach the wires without removing the terminal bolt completely, and you won't break the battery connection when it's powering a clock or other device. Widder utilizes a 10 amp fuse while Gerbing's power cord uses a 15 amp fuse. (Gerbing's power cord shown to the right)

How do I turn the garment on or off?
There are three ways to connect. First you can directly plug the garment into the power cord if your wires are long enough. This means you must manually plug and unplug the power cord to control the heat output. In very cold conditions this is usually not a problem, you just leave the garment on at all times.

Second, you can connect an on/off switch (highly recommended) and control your comfort by flipping the switch. This is the most common way to regulate the garments heat.

Third, you can purchase a thermostat control which plugs in like an on/off switch. Adjust the thermostat to the desired setting and it will regulate the electric current to the garment and retain the heat range you select.

Are the garments safe in the rain?
For the most part yes. We recently rode our test VTR1000 for 5 hours while getting totally and completely soaked. The Eclipse chaps and Gerbing's sleeved vest never failed through this and additional downpours.

What's the difference between purchasing a vest with or without heated sleeves?
Vest are great, but they don't act as a complete garment for layering in colder conditions. When temperatures really drop, you'll feel the lack of added insulation over your arms which are more exposed to oncoming air. When the heat is turned on, heated sleeves help keep your hands warm or even help warm chilled hands. This is simply not possible with a sleeveless vest.

What pieces should I buy first?
The answer to this question is simple, start with a heated vest or jacket. This is the item you'll need most as it keeps you body core warm. A warm core means more blood flow to your extremities. Secondly, you'll want to go with a heated pant, preferably worn under some type of insulated riding pant.

Next, for extreme conditions or extended rides, you might want to go with a pair of heated gloves. If you've ridden in cold conditions much, you know that when your hands get really cold - the ride is over.

Last comes heated socks. These are very difficult to use due their wires and the discomfort they can cause. I would rule these out for most riders, leaving them for those who dare to venture out in truly cruel conditions.

Do I need to buy a thermostat?
No, on/off switches work very well - especially when it's really cold. Adding a thermostat just makes things a little easier, especially in warmer temperatures when you need less heat. It's interesting, however, how often you'll find yourself wishing you had a thermostat when you don't.

Although thermostats work well, they haven't reached the level of user friendliness we'd like to see. All thermostats need a true off position like the Gerbing's and Widder units. The two things we'd like to see most, which shouldn't be a problem for the manufacturers, is a much better attachment / mounting setup and a heat adjustment knob which has distinct clicks as you turn the knob. This would allow the rider to turn the control to a known level, say 5 clicks, without having to look down or wonder where the unit is actually set. When one or all of the manufacturers solves these problems, they'll have a great accessory.

Summary Chart | Eclipse | Gerbing's | Widder | Heat-Troller | Home

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