Nothing sours a tour faster than being too hot or too cold. There's not so much you can do to beat the heat, but modern electric motorcycle gear can extend your tolerance for chilly weather, improve your on-the-road endurance, and make you safer. Are you a sharp rider while shivering uncontrollably? Didn't think so. We used these four garments on our recent 2200-mile sport tour-and used extensively, as in every day and for nearly every mile. Here's what we think.
Aerostich Kanetsu TLTec Wind Blocker Electric Vest
WORDS: Aaron Frank
Just call me the anti-Cook. While our techno-geek EiC loves feature-rich farkles, I’m more minimalist. My mountain bike has one gear. I use a push mower on my lawn. And my preferred electric vest, Aerostich’s Kanetsu, with its Spartan design and idiot-proof, on/off operation, is in my opinion the best heated garment on the market.
“If you’re cold, turn it on,” says Aerostich owner—and Kanetsu designer—Andy Goldfine. “If you’re warm, turn it off. It’s that simple.”
Made in America from TLTec wind-blocker fleece and incorporating a full coverage electric grid that extends into the compact collar for maximum heating efficiency, the Kanetsu is everything you need and nothing more. There are just two pockets—one to hold the coiled cord and another that the vest folds into for storage. The 45-watt/3.3-amp draw is compatible with most power systems, including BMWs, and the vest is available with QuiConnect, SAE, or BMW connectors.
The Kanetsu puts out enough heat to quickly overcome even sub-freezing temps, and operation couldn’t be easier. While Cook fussed at each bike stop to stash six feet of extra cable and a thermostat, I just plugged in the correct adaptor and toggled the on-off switch—oversized, so it’s easy to operate even in thick gloves and illuminated to indicate whether the vest is on or off—as my core temperature dictated. Easy and effective, and when it’s cold and dark and you’re many miles from home, you don’t need any more than that.
|VERDICT: 5 out of 5 stars
|Simple, foolproof, and effective. The Roadcrafter of electric vests.
Gerbing's Heated Jacket Liner
WORDS: Marc Cook
I take exception to Aaron's characterization of my gadget fetish. All I wanted to do was stay warm-exactly as warm as I wanted to be. Because of the specificity of that desire, I was forced to jury-rig the Gerbing's Portable Temp Controller every time we switched bikes, and that only applies to ride-hopping journalists.
Andy Goldfine’s exhortations that an on/off switch is all you need aside, fact is the Gerbing’s jacket liner is simply too powerful to leave on high. Indeed, it delivers enough heat that despite temps at or near freezing I rarely ran the controller above halfway to maintain a comfortable core temperature.
Gerbing’s liner benefits from Thinsulate insulation as well as the company’s Microwire heating system, which uses bundles of “microscopic stainless steel strands...12 microns thick” whose composition can be tailored to manage heat output. That way the front of the garment can have Microwire ribbons that produce more heat than those on the back. Gerbing’s jacket liner also has a heated collar, a small cord pocket, and a pair of outside pockets.
No question the Gerbing’s garment is superbly effective, but it’s not cheap. The liner itself is $219.95 but you’ll definitely want a controller—a single-circuit portable controller is $69.95, a dual-zone (liner and gloves or pants) unit runs $99.95, while permanent mount versions cost $99.95 and $129.95, respectively. The issue of where to put the controller and how to string the wires becomes moot on your own bike. The Gerbing’s gear is money well spent, in my gadget-addled opinion.
|Price: $219.95 (liner);
|VERDICT: 5 out of 5 stars
|Powerful, comfortable, sophisticated...and incredibly warm.