Firstgear Heated Liner Jacket
WORDS: Thomas Kinzer
My usual choice in machinery involves charging systems that require rationing how much I use the headlight, so operating heated gear has always been out of the question. But now I'm converted. My "come to Jesus" moment was facilitated by Firstgear's Heated Liner Jacket. The liner has a black nylon shell with stretch panels on the side and sleeves allowing a more snug fit, which is important for heat transfer. The heat output is nearly instantaneous and almost uncomfortably high when run wide open. The liner has a heated, fleece-lined collar plus two exterior pockets and small wrist pockets containing outlets to plug-in glove liners.
Firstgear's Heated Liner Jacket costs $199.95 in either 65W or 90W, but you'll want to fork out additional cash for Firstgear's not so cleverly named Heat-Troller, which is available with bike-mounted, portable, or remote-control connection configurations. The most affordable single-circuit portable setup will set you back $69.95, while the dual-circuit portable unit I was using costs $99.95. A newly installed modern alternator on my vintage ride means I'll be indulging in this smart-guy approach on all of my future cold-weather tours.
|Price: $199.95 (liner);
|VERDICT: 5 out of 5 stars
|Smart > tough. Spread the good word.
Mobile Warming Softshell Heated Vest
WORDS: Zack Courts
Bottom line, my coworkers are wussies. Every kid from Vermont knows when the mercury drops you just layer up!
Rather than being tethered to the bike with a figurative umbilical cord, the Softshell Heated Vest from Mobile Warming conveniently gets its energy from a rechargeable 7-volt lithium-ion battery pack that tucks neatly into a pouch in the left pocket. The battery is about the size of three AAs, weighs 0.24 pounds, and delivers heat to two sets of steel-alloy elements in the chest and one long one across the back.
When I did switch on the vest’s electricity I typically had it cranked to the maximum surface temp, listed at 135 degrees. I used the lower settings at dinner mostly, in a drafty restaurant or simply chilled to the bone amid one of many questionable culinary decisions we made on the tour.
The battery pack includes four LEDs to show which setting is selected—25, 50, 75, or 100 percent—or to show how much battery life remains.
Problems include being at the mercy of a battery pack that only lasts about half a day (4 or 5 hours) on the two higher settings, and getting blasted with heat at gas stops.
If you’re a true four-seasons rider, plugging in is the ticket. But to keep the chill away when the weather catches you out, the Mobile Warming vest is a suitable option.
|Contact: Mobile Warming
|VERDICT: 5 of 5 stars
|Not as warm as plug-in options, but cheaper and hugely convenient.
Made from wind-proof and water-resistant laminate, FREEZE-OUT's line includes everything from full body suits and neck warmers to glove and boot liners. Prices vary, but warmth is priceless. Check your options at www.cyclegear.com.
Heat Factory Hand Warmers
When exposed to air these hand warmers react exothermically to create lasting natural heat. Average temperature is claimed to be 124 degrees, and each pack is said to last 10 hours. $16.80 buys 20 pair at www.heatfactory.com.
Aerostich Warm Wraps Grips
Hook-'n-loop these wraps to your bike for $45 and enjoy warm hands all winter. Not as slick as full heated grips, but quite a bit cheaper and Aerostich claims they pack up neatly when you don't need them. Available at www.aerostich.com.
Still not warm enough? There is a whole world of electric gear available, like heated booties and heated pant liners. In addition to checking your favorite brand's catalog, ask Google about Aerostich, Firstgear, Gerbing's, Mobile Warming, Tourmaster, and Venture Heat.