Although the UK doesn’t see quite as extreme a winter as those in America or other parts of Europe, we still have to face our fair share of cold snaps.
When that happens, riding a motorcycle can become a rather unpleasant experience which is why many people opt to invest in heated clothing. Well, we spoke to Ian Wilson, heated clothing expert and UK distributor of Gerbing, to find out exactly what you need to know before buying a heated motorcycle jacket.
ABR: Are there any dangers when wearing heated clothing? Has it ever been known for them to catch fire?
Ian Wilson: There are two issues here regarding danger. Firstly, in terms of the heated clothing itself, it is very safe. Built-in fuses protect the rider should any shorts occur caused by damage to the heating elements.
Secondly, the use of heating clothing only enhances the safety of riding a motorcycle. The biggest danger caused by getting cold on a bike is that your reaction times slow considerably. By using heated kit and staying warm your reaction times are increased and the increase in comfort and enjoyment is considerable.
In regards to catching fire – the short answer is no. Although, as a cautionary tale, we did have a customer around 10 years ago that burnt his t-shirt. The reason? He was touring Norway at the time and had an ‘old’ copper wired Gerbing jacket. A fuse blew, he replaced it with an old bent nail he found on the road and carried on using his jacket… say no more!
ABR: What impact does heated gear have on the battery of a motorcycle? Especially if using in conjunction with a SatNav etc.
IW: Every Gerbing item comes with a battery harness. Supplied with this is a chart listing all Gerbing products and their amp usage and you can usually find the same details for different manufacturers. This makes it easy for users to determine how much power their kit will use when attached to their motorcycle.
For example, our most popular seller, the XR12 gloves, use 2.4 amps or around 30 watts. That’s less power than the low beam on a motorcycle. This will have no detrimental effect on the life of a battery.
ABR: Do brands differ in their energy efficiency?
IW: Yes. The MicroWire we use is the most efficient heating system available. Carbon fibre is not as efficient. MicroWire warms up quicker, usually in around 10 seconds, whereas carbon fibre takes around 30-40 seconds. The other and more serious issue with using carbon fibre is that it will wear out. Therefore, after a few years it will not be as warm as the first day you buy it.
ABR: Do you recommend a certain standard of electrical equipment on a bike? If so, what battery or alternator upgrades are there out there?
IW: Most medium to large engined modern motorcycles need no modifications. They tend to charge at about 300watts which is more than enough to run heated clothing without causing a flat battery.
ABR: Do all manufacturers use the same connectors? For example, if I have a Gerbing jacket, but I see some Keis gloves on special offer, will they fit/work with my Gerbing jacket?
IW: Officially we say no. This is because there might small differences between plug manufacturers and this can cause power supply failure to the garment. However, 90% of companies use a 5,5*2.5 DC coax plug so you should be OK.
Ian Wilson after a day on the bike
ABR: I need to wash/clean my heated jacket, am I OK to put it in the washing machine?
IW: We do not recommend using a washing machine. The coax plugs might damage the machine. Hand wash is best and hung out to dry.
ABR: Is heated gear safe to wear in the rain? Electricity and water doesn’t sound like a good mix.
IW: Heated gear is completely safe to wear in the rain – it is DC power. Water and DC power can mix. Remember the Lotus coming out of the sea in Octopussy ? His hazards were on!
ABR: Can you get heated socks? If not, why not?
IW: Gerbing does make heated socks and these are far better than heated insoles as the heat is on the top as well as the bottom. Our latest socks have a new patented laminated heating system as used by the Dutch winter Olympic team last year and they won more medals than ever. Warm muscles mean more instant power and reaction times!
ABR: What can you do if the wires break?
IW: One of the advantages of using Gerbing kit is the heating elements are covered by our lifetime warranty. If you do get a breakage, it won’t be a wire but more likely if anything a solder joint. Simply send the garment back to us and we will repair or replace under warranty. The length of warranty on other heated gear will vary but usually the damage is the same and can be replaced.
ABR: Is there any particular way I should store my heated jacket over the summer? If I store it in a particular way can I end up damaging it?
IW: Most heated jackets require no special storage. However, it is sensible to squirt a little AFC/WD40, or similar, in the connections to stop any moisture build-up which may cause corrosion if you leave your kit unused for a long time. The same advice goes for the battery harness. If you leave it on your bike or under the seat during summer, a squirt of water displacement spray and replacing the cap works wonders…