It's one of those motorcycling truisms most long-time enthusiasts know well: The only folks who pooh-pooh electric clothing are those who've never had their shivering, freezer-burned butts saved by the stuff.
Motorcycles can be rolling Frigidaires. Combine cold and/or wet conditions with a 70-mph windblast and you've got a first-class frostbite generator. But a simple flick of a switch can transform a frigid flog into...if not a summer day's ride, at least a tolerable trek.
Trust us: Once you experience the cocoonlike warmth of electric clothing, you'll never leave home without it. Here are a few of the latest offerings...
Firstgear Warm & Safe Gloves
Heated grips are all the rage these days, but lost in all the gum-flapping is the venerable heated glove, which is literally and figuratively a more flexible item. (Hard to swap grips from bike to bike, eh?) Firstgear's new electric clothing line includes two gloves: a standard top-grain leather pair ($129.95) with a waterproof-yet-breathable Porelle liner, Thinsulate insulation, pre-curved fingers and an elastic wrist mated to a hook-and-loop closure system, and a second, sportier pair ($169.95) featuring carbon-fiber armor on the knuckles and wrist. Both versions come in men's sizes S-2XL, and the standard version comes in women's sizes S-L. Special passenger versions with heated palms will also soon be available.
Eclipse offers only one piece of electric gear, the Nordic Liner. Which is a touch ironic, as the company offered several different well-known heated products years ago. Still, the $189 Nordic is a relatively new design, first available in '05. It features a lightweight nylon shell uncoated for breathability, a fleece-lined collar and specially located heating panels for even warmth on the torso and arms. Stretch panels offer improved comfort and wired glove connectors are designed into each sleeve. The Nordic can also be folded up and zippered into its own pouch for easy totability, and it's good-looking enough to wear on its own.http://www.eclipseluggage.com
Widder's roots go back to 1944, when at the age of 24 company founder George Widder found himself at the controls of an Army Air Corps B25, flying hops over the Himalayas and northern China. Knowing he and his crew wouldn't have survived the freezing temperatures without the heated flight suits they wore, the aeronautical engineer eventually put his knowledge to good use, opening Widder Enterprises in the early '70s. Today Widder offers five Lectric products: two vests-the collarless System 1 and collared System 2-plus gloves, chaps and arm chaps with integral gloves. The $137.25 System 2 vest we sampled is a well-made, solid piece, featuring a heated, ultra-suede-lined collar, Thinsulate insulation, a dual-slide zipper that operates both ways, and two non-zip front pockets. Electronics and wiring are easy to use even with gloved hands, and the company's arm chaps attach easily to either vest via a Velcro/snap flap behind each arm hole.