Winter riding in Southern California is only chilly in the morning and evening. I delayed getting myself some heated gear because the need just did not seem so vital. But I’m sure that anyone who owns heated riding clothing would attest that once you’ve ventured down the road of warmer, lighter and more comfortable motorcycle apparel, you can never go back.
I find that I wear my heated vest more than I originally envisioned. In our neck of the woods, it just makes the lower temperatures moot.
In most of the world where winter environments feature real cold — heated motorcycle clothing will extend your season’s riding beyond what you might enjoy otherwise.
Gerbing and Widder are the most established manufacturers of heated clothing. Widder has been making electric vests since 1971 and has expanded their selection considerably since then. Gerbing’s Heated Clothing was founded in 1976. Aerostich has been manufacturing their own heated clothing since 1997.
In addition to a heated vest, you can consider heated gloves, socks, pants and added warmth along your arms. (Socks are not available from all the manufacturers).
I’ve been using the Widder System 1 Lectric-Vest and coiled electronic heat controller for several years and I would not leave home without it (stored in my side bags when not being worn) in the cooler months. Also, because it is so compact and lightweight, I also stow it on the bike for long-distance tours even in the warmer months. It especially comes in quite handy for long, late-summer, night rides through damp weather: knocking off hundreds of miles through cool evenings has never been easier.
I highly recommend the heated vest and especially the heat controller which allows you to fine-tune your heating preferences in the same way you can adjust the thermostat in your own home.
By the way, a common question is “What happens if you ride in the rain with electric gear?” The answer is simple, “You get wet.” All the wiring is coated and there is no risk of shock.
Of course if you wear good rain gear, you don’t even have to be concerned with getting wet….
[UPDATE: Widder is out of business in 2009]