Keep warm. Anywhere.

Why you need heated clothing for motorcycle riding.

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Heated clothing using rechargeable battery powered heating—heated vests, heated jackets at ActiVHeat.com


www.ridersrally.com  a GL1800 Owners Group






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Body core temperature plays an important role in keeping us alert on the bike and only a few degrees either way can spell disaster. Being too cold causes longer reaction times, loss of vision, poor judgment and poor balance, all of which could end up with nasty fall on a bike. When a body is overly cold, reflexes are slowed and physical responses are jerky. It's hard to use the controls properly if your hands and feet are numb. If you are going to be riding in cold temperatures  you really need to take a look at heated clothing and accessories.

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Biking: Heated Clothing for Bikers — Buying Guide. What you need to know.

Heated apparel for motorcycling isn't a new concept. In 1971, Norton of England offered electrically heated clothing in the form or electric vests as an incentive with their new models. Nowadays, heated clothing can turn a cold ride into a perfectly comfortable one, make a long trip far more enjoyable, allow you to ride much longer in colder conditions or extend your riding season.

Vests are a traditional heated clothing item because heating your torso changes your entire body temperature.  When your core organs are cozy, your body allows a greater amount of warming blood to reach the extremities. Your hands and feet suffer most when you're riding in the cold, but not simply because they're so exposed to the wind. Your body's set up to starve them of heat in order to maintain the necessary temperature for vital organs to function. Another advantage of heated clothing such as a heated vest is that it's less bulky than layers of clothing and requires less luggage space when not being worn. If luggage space is not a problem then heated clothing with sleeves such as a heated jacket can add extra insulation and thus warmth down your arms.

Is it safe? The most common concern about heated clothing seems to be a misconception about electrocution, particularly when it rains. It's virtually impossible to be electrocuted via heated clothing.  Since all the heated clothing systems run on low voltages less than 12V, you could ride into a river and the worst that could happen is you'd feel a mild buzz. 

What about that High Frequency EMF radiation?  All direct current (DC) powered electric heated clothing is also safe from high frequency EMF. The voltage operating any battery operated heated clothing is DC, and the frequency is 0 Hz so there is no EMF.

Some people scoff at electrically heated clothing because they feel it's an acknowledgement of weakness. Forget it. You can still be a tough biker, just a warm tough biker. The only concern in the macho debate is that if you ride long enough with heated clothing that you will become hooked. Then, if you get stuck in the cold without them you may become a whiner!

Putting aside that a heated vest or heated jacket makes a cold ride more enjoyable, it also keeps you safer. Hypothermia is the number one killer of outdoor enthusiasts during winter, and you are rarely aware of it when it's happening. Your energy reserves become exhausted and your core body temperature drops below normal. When the chill reaches vital organs such as the brain (following  aggregated shivering) your judgment becomes flawed. You may first be aware something is wrong when you lose control of your hands. When your core temperature reaches 90 degrees you lose consciousness.

To get the most out of heated clothing, it should be worn as close to the skin as possible without contacting it. A long-sleeve cotton shirt is the best choice under a heated vest or heated jacket liner. A thicker additional insulating layer worn over the heated clothing and under your jacket will assist in retaining the heat. Ideally, it should be a sweater or a soft zip-up jacket that will be gathered enough at the wrists, neck and hips to slow heat from dissipating and cold air from leaking in. On the outside you need your normal weather- and asphalt-resistant riding jacket for protection. If you're still chilled, a wind resistant rainsuit over the top will further trap the heat.

Many heated clothing has traditionally wired directly into the bike’s power supply such as those made by Widder.  Although for long rides in extreme cold temperatures this is the best solution, a portable self contained battery solution like the UK’s EXO product or the USA’s ActiVHeat can be a better option. You’ll like not having to be plugged into the bike, free yourself from the worries of loading the bikes' electrical systems, and having the ability to walk away from the bike and leave the vest or jacket on. You also don’t have to worry about being an amateur electrician, with wires and mounting issues on your bike of the cables. These cordless or portable heated clothing systems can be more versatile, for example, you can eat lunch outside and keep the portable battery heated clothing set to low during lunch, as it may be windy and cool at that time or use it on your boat, or around the house or at the game.

For riders who are thinking of buying heated clothing such as a heated vest that connects to your bike’s battery, you also need to consider the power of your bike’s alternator output.  Although the larger touring bikes have plenty of battery power, some smaller or older models can be a problem. Imagine what can happen if you run your battery down by having both your heated grips and heated vest switched on or forgetting to turn off the heat several minutes before shutting off the bike. You won’t enjoy having to bump start your bike out on the road.

Having a variable heat setting is also important. Most likely you will find that you want to vary the heat level up and down to find the optimal comfort level which will change during the day.

An extra battery pack may be well worth the expense as the extra battery pack can double your heating time between recharging.  This is especially relevant  for longer rides. Watch out for the portable battery technology offered. Most likely it will be Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) such as offered by Gerbing or the newer lithium ion or the latest lithium polymer technology.  The NiMH batteries are cheapest but heaviest and can suffer from a “memory effect” and are becoming less prevalent. The lithium technologies are becoming more popular as they are lighter and more compact.  However, the lithium ion technology is somewhat unstable for portable applications as it can be a little delicate and unstable.  Lithium ion batteries are used in most of the world’s laptop computers and hundreds of thousands of them have been recalled because they can self ignite, catch fire and explode. This would not be a good feeling when you’re actually wearing the incendiary battery on your person.  Sony Corporation announced in August 2007 that they are building a new lithium polymer battery factory to replace the lithium ion technology they currently use . The bottom line on the battery type is if you want to go for a lighter and smaller option, go with a manufacturer that offers the lithium polymer battery type.

Different heating technologies are now employed by the various manufacturers and it seems the latest versions employ the use of carbon fiber heating, which is a technology developed for NASA’s space program in the 1980’s. The carbon fibers emit radiant heat in the far infrared light spectrum which give a deeper more penetrating heat.

Hopefully this review of heated clothing will help you make a more educated shopping decision.


Find out more about portable rechargeable heated clothing for bikers…







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