I love to ride, people who know me think I am crazy, have for years. I ride in most weather. The only thing that will keep me from riding is ice. I don’t play there. I am fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest. The weather is generally pretty temperate, seldom extremely hot, seldom extremely cold. The other side of that though is the weather is also fickle. One March day last year, it was 65 when I stopped for dinner with friends. I left the restaurant two hours later and it was snowing and starting to accumulate. I rode home in wind driven snow. Till that day I said I didn’t ride in snow or ice. Now it’s just ice. I kept getting stuck in snow, so I guess I will ride in snow now. I ride pretty often in the 20s (It's cold mornings and sunny afternoons here for two seasons) and once down to 12.
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To facilitate that you have to have gear, lots of gear. I was carrying the thermal liner for my coat, gloves that were good for 45-70, gloves that were good for cold weather, gloves that were waterproof, and gloves that were good for hot weather. I bought at least a dozen hoodies when I got caught in cold weather. One trip over Mt. Hood, I stopped and bought a Columbia Sportswear polar fleece jacket to put under my motorcycle gear. That was a cold ride in mixed rain and snow for a couple of hours.
I always carry rain gear. I also carried heavy overpants that had a thermal liner. It was getting to be too much. Thing is, I was still pretty cold some days. I also bundled up so tight that it was hard to move fluidly on the bike. I looked like the Michelin Man or Ralphy’s brother from A Christmas Story; not a comfortable way to ride. Plus when you arrive, you have to take most of it off.
This year everything changed. At the end of summer last year, after a very cold trip home over the cascades from a Garth Brooks concert, I bought my wife a battery-operated heated vest. She doesn’t usually ride in the cold with me. She is a fair-weather girl and this trip pushed her way past comfortable. This was my peace offering. When I checked it out I knew I was buying heated gear for myself too.
I didn’t want her to be tethered to the bike but I bought myself a plug-in heated jacket liner and heated gloves. It changed everything. I don’t carry extra layers anymore. I haven’t had to stop and buy a layer since last summer (After riding in 100-degree weather for a couple of hours I stopped and bought a long sleeve t at Owens HD in Yakima). I rode in 35 – 45 degree weather for five hours and I was toasty, not cold. That’s the big takeaway. I stopped being cold and now I am toasty, even with a light jacket. I have about 5,000 miles on my heated gear and feel like maybe I am finally able to give a good review.
Bottom line, I love this jacket liner. It is primarily available through Cycle Gear, Revzilla and JP Cycles (It appears to be exclusive to the businesses owned by Comoto Holdings). The details though are necessary for you to make your own decision.
The liner is a wind-blocking and water-resistant light nylon liner. It is not set up to be worn externally. It has a plush lining on the inside of the stand-up collar that is soft against the neck when zipped all the way up. The controller is built in and drops under a waist-length jacket and sits at the front of the hip on the left side. There are heating elements in the arms, each side of the chest, and the back. It can get quite warm. The elements are pliable and do not restrict movement at all. There is a male plug in the waist of the jacket that plugs into the female end of the included battery harness. Male plugs tucked into pockets near the cuffs are there to connect to heated gloves.
The jacket is a nice layer even without it being turned on. It packs up tight and is easy to keep on the bike. It blocks the wind and insulates you well. The built in controller provides a high, medium, low setting scheme that is pretty good. Most of the time, low is good enough with extended trips or extreme cold bumping up to medium or high. High is very warm. I haven’t been able to use it there for more than a few minutes. A long press turns it on then a single press cycles to the next level starting at high then medium, and finally low. One more press returns it to high. A long press turns it off.
The liner works best with a light undershirt. The heat has to get through the layers to your skin and it will be muted going through the layers. A t-shirt works great, the “tech” fabrics are great but cotton does just fine. If you put it over a sweatshirt or a flannel you'll find it still effective, but you'll use a higher setting and it will be a very different, still warm, feeling. The cloth heats up and then you are warmed by the cloth. Kind of like putting on a hoodie straight out of the dryer.
There are two downsides I see. One is where the controller falls. When the jacket is fully zipped it is on the front of the jacket putting it in the front left at the belt line. It is in an awkward place that requires me to put my foot out on my highway peg to access it. Instead, I generally leave it unzipped so that the controller falls more to the side where it is easily accessible. The second downside is I think I might be getting soft. I don’t want to be cold anymore.
Paired with the jacket liner the gloves kind of complete the package. Let's get this out of the way first. While the gloves will provide some abrasion resistance they are not CE rated and have no real protection for a crash. That’s not why I wear them though, so I am ok with that. These aren’t for a track day, they are for touring or riding in extreme weather. I’ve gotta think if you are taking long trips in sub 40 degree weather you have already accepted a risk level that allows for the wearing of gloves like these. They have a Cordura outside, an undefined waterproof liner and a brushed fabric liner. They are pretty comfortable and add some insulation for riding even unplugged.
I was pretty skeptical of the waterproof liner. No mention of what type of liner it is anywhere in the literature. I carried my waterproof gloves with me for the winter, just in case. Turns out, I could have put them in my glove drawer. That’s right! I have a whole drawer full of gloves. Many of them promised waterproof. Few delivered! These gloves did. I rode over three hours in rain recently. It started to drizzle and hit everything from hail to a sideways coastal gale (literally, a gale warning). Not only did the Cordura exterior not load up, but the brushed lining remained dry as well. Not even a little bit of moisture got through. The waterproof was good.
The heating elements run on the back of the hand and down the sides of the fingers. The palms are thin with a leather layer. There is no heat on the palms. It makes me happy as I have heated grips. Dexterity and feel is very good. Built into the back of each hand is a controller. The controller uses the same scheme as the jacket liner with a high medium low cycle. Each glove has its own controller. They are 100% independent of each other. They also come with a long Y adapter to use without the heated liner. It sits in my glove drawer unused. It is kind of weird, riding at night with the controller illuminated in your peripheral vision. They are bright enough that you aren't going to forget they are there and on.
I’d call these gloves pretty fantastic. The downsides are pretty nit-picky. The velcro straps on the back of the hand are a little undersized. They could use another half inch to allow the gloves to be put on without pulling the strap out of the D-ring it reverses through. The other issue I have is that the gauntlet is very narrow. It is not wide enough to put most jackets under and is too bulky to put under many jacket sleeves. I would have liked to see a larger gauntlet with a bungee scheme on the end of the gauntlet to take up the excess.
I haven’t tried the heated pants liner or heated insoles but feel confident in recommending them. The pants liner is just a product I can’t see myself using, and I just haven’t gotten around to the insoles. I’d love to try some heated overpants. That would match my riding style much better. The manufacturer appears to have good quality control and has designed a product that works well. It’s price is very competitive, especially when you consider you don’t have to buy a separate controller. Nor do you have to have something strapped on to control the units. This is the opposite of the problem caused by the location of the jacket controller. I highly recommend this gear. My only regret is that I waited so long.
Ride safe. Ride often.