Motorcycles offer a fun and exhilarating method of transportation, though they, unfortunately, afford very little protection from the elements. When the sun is shining, this lack of protection isn’t much of a problem, though when the winter months roll around, frigid temperatures become a major dilemma. So much so in fact, that even many daily commuter riders opt to hang up their helmets and leathers throughout the duration of year’s final season.
There are, however, some potential remedies that can keep you on the road when the mercury starts to dip. For example, you can dress in layer upon layer to keep yourself toasty warm. There is, unfortunately, a pretty major downside to this particular method — each subsequent layer further limits the rider’s range of motion. And with too many layers, riding can actually become far more dangerous. Thankfully, technology has helped to mitigate this issue. You see, with heated motorcycle gear, you can still supply your body with plenty enough warmth for cold-weather riding without compromising your ability to move and react. And we’ve put together the following guide to ensure you’ve gotten your hands on the best heated motorcycle gear available.
How To Best Utilize Heated Gear
While heated motorcycle gear provides a tremendous advantage when trying to beat the cold, the stuff works best when paired with additional base layers and/or exterior garments. Typically, the warmest heated gear setup is comprised of a solid cold-weather motorcycle jacket and set of riding pants supplemented by a kit of heated base layers. This arrangement simultaneously uses the heating power of the underlying base layers while at the same time utilizing the core heat retention capabilities of a winter riding coat.
It’s also crucial to use an outer-layer with full wind-blocking protection, as the windchill experienced on a motorcycle will really exacerbate the frigid temperatures while riding. For less severe winter climates, riders can still comfortably withstand the conditions just by using a robust heated exterior jacket (and pants). And, while these heated garments are more costly than their non-heated counterparts, they can still be worn during the less nippy parts of the year sans the heating function, giving them a better overall value.
Advice From A Seasoned Cold-Weather Rider
In theory, even the coldest, most otherworldly climates can be survived on two-wheels with the right gear and layers. Having said that, the world’s toughest and most extreme (and arguably craziest) cold-weather riders — such as Canada’s Oliver Solaro who routinely rides around the ice roads of the country’s northern territories on multi-week motorcycle touring trips — typically opt to forgo the use of heated gear simply for the reason that if said gear should for whatever reason malfunction or fail, it will almost certainly result in death. And though most heated gear is reliable and well made — putting the odds in your favor — most riders don’t want to take that chance.
This however only applies to the most extreme of cold weather riding — temperatures into dipping into or past the minus 40-50 degree F range. For normal riders (aka damn-near everyone else) just looking to tackle a daily commute during the winter months, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution to beating the cold than heated gear.
Different Types Of Heated Gear
The two main types of heated gear are tethered and non-tethered. The former sees the garments linked via a cord to a battery or the bike’s electrical system itself, either of which will power the heating elements. Untethered (or “wireless”) gear utilizes an integrated battery built into the garment itself. There are also heated gear offerings that use a basic on/off switch, as well as more precisely-controlled adjustable pieces.
As previously mentioned above, there are obviously heated base layers (including pants, shirts, socks, gloves, etc) and heated exterior jackets and pants. And in addition to heated clothing, several motorcycle helmet companies also offer snow-spec versions of their respective helmets with these items typically using the exact same construction as the regular-weather-variant, but also getting a breath box, dual-pane, or electric visor. On top of heated wearables, several aftermarket motorcycle outfits produce heated components for the motorcycle itself such as heated grips and seats.
What To Consider When Shopping For Heated Gear
Just like buying any piece of motorcycle gear, the materials and construction used are crucial areas to take into account. This rings even more true with cold-weather garments that not only have to protect the rider from a crash but also the outside elements. Battery life is very important, too, as is recharge time (depending on one’s needs). And, while many riders aren’t bothered by the use of tethered heated gear, some prefer paying the premium for items with integrated batteries.
If money is no object when shopping for heated gear, we always recommend buying the latest and greatest pieces on the market. If you don’t fall into that category, however, then a great place to start when in the market for heated gear is to consider the pieces of riding gear that you already own. If you already possess a quality outer-layer or hardshell jacket, then chances are your best bet will be to invest in heated base layers. Many riders will also purchase winter-specific gear that is only worn during the colder months. A great trick when taking this route is to buy pieces that are one size up from your regular fit, as it will allow for room to squeeze a heated base layer under your gloves, jacket, pants, etc.
Symmetric Heat Demon Seat Warmer Pad
The vast majority of aftermarket heated seats are year/model specific, so a great alternative is to purchase a universal motorcycle heat pad like this item from Symtec. Measuring 10″ W X 9″ L, this ultra-thin heating device was designed to be slipped beneath a bike’s existing seat cover. And with a maximum wattage of 30W (at 14V), this surprisingly potent offering can very much be felt through even a thick leather cover. A two-foot disconnect cable and an on/off rocker switch make using this item remarkably easy, too.
Hotwire 12V Heated Inner Sole
If you already own a nice pair of motorcycle boots, a great route to take is investing in heated inner soles. These particular items use an ergonomically-shaped bed and an injection-molded sole with a wicking surface fabric. Sold with a two-year warranty, these heated insoles feature an automatic temperature cutoff and have been designed to be used in conjunction with Hotwired’s heated pant liner. Precise sizing makes proper fitment a breeze, and best of all, they only require 17.2 watts (1.5 amps) to power.
First Gear 12V Heated Over Socks
Sold with a two-year warranty, the First gear 12V Heated Over Socks boast a nylon (85%) and spandex (15%) outer shell covering a polyester (92%) and spandex (8%) liner. This foot-warming, moisture-wicking base layer features a fitted cup instead of a typical tube sock shape, and carbon fiber heating elements with 12V / 4.1 watts per sock. Despite heated footwear often being an afterthought, it’s the body’s extremities that lose heat fastest, making these a more crucial component to a solid winter riding getup than most bikers realize.
Koso Apollo Heated Grips
When it comes to heated grips, it’s hard to do better than the Apollo Heated Grips from high-end aftermarket motorcycle gear brand, Koso. These easy-to-install, plug-and-play items fit standard 7/8″ diameter bars and feature a five-color LED indicator as well as a thumb-operated controller that allows the device to be adjusted without removing your hands from the bars. They also feature a low-battery warning light, plus If the bike’s voltage drops below a certain amount (11.5V for 5 seconds or more), the grips automatically shut themselves off, too.
Olympia 12V North Bay Heated Jacket Liner
Designed to keep you looking stylish while off the bike and warm while on it, this item from Olympia includes a three-level temperature control on the left chest, plus an included battery harness. The 44-Watt layer uses a 12V quad-zone heating module paired with four strategically-placed heating pads. Fully machine washable, this jacket boasts a nylon ripstop shell and 100% polyester dual-layer bonded fleece interior. Olympia also sells a matching pair of pants.
Gerbing 12V EX Pro Pants
One of the most robust and rugged pairs of exterior heated riding pants, Gerbing’s EX Pro is constructed from genuine 500D Cordura and is backed by a waterproof yet breathable Aquatex G-Liner membrane with a DWR finish. The pants also get a removable insulated liner, Knox CE-approved armor, Superfabric knee panels, and YKK zippers. Boasting a max temperature of 135 degrees F, the EX Pro are without a doubt some of the best heated pants on the market, though unfortunately their heat controller and batteries are sold separately. Gerbing also offers a matching jacket.
FXR Transfer Heated Gloves
The Transfer Heated Gloves are the latest heated offering from FXR and feature a nylon laminated shell reinforced by full-grain leather areas on the thumbs and palms. These motorcycle gloves feature a rechargeable 7.4V Lithium-polymer battery that affords up to five hours of heat, and a three-stage heat settings arrangement regulates the warming elements on each finger and on the back of the hands — which also get 150g Thinsulate insulation while the palms get their own 200g insulation. Further protection from the elements comes in the form of a breathable and waterproof Hipora membrane, adjustable wrist straps, and a cozy polar fleece lining.
Racer Forge Urban Heated Gloves (7V Wireless) Whiskey
While many untethered heated gloves are rather bulky and generally focus more on the function aspect than the form (aka they’re typically on the ugly side), the Racer Forge Urban Gloves are a different story. Constructed from premium goat leather, the Velco-sealed cuffs on these gloves each hide a 7.4V 2,200mAh battery that powers the heating elements which run across the back of the hands down to the finger tips. They also utilize a waterproof Polymax membrane and a Primaloft insulated fleece liner. These CE-certified, touch-screen-compatible gloves also feature battery and heat-level lights, and a temperature system with ten primary levels, plus a boosted level. In other words, these gloves go to 11.
HJC DS-X1 Tactic Snow Helmet (Electric Shield)
This snow-spec helmet from HJC features a polycarbonate shell and the company’s Advanced Channeling Ventilation System, plus an integrated breath deflector, a removable, and washable, anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking SuperCool interior. Its large eye-ports are shielded via the brand’s HJ-27 electric visor which will help the shield remain clear and fog-free. The icing on the cake is the DS-X1’s stylish and aggressive-looking adventure motorcycle-style silhouette which comes adorned in one of three unique color schemes.
Bell Revolver EVO Snow Helmet (Electric Shield)
The Revolver EVO has long been a staple amongst Bell’s lineup, though the company now offer the popular modular item in a special snow version. The lid features a lightweight polycarbonate and ABS hybrid shell, contoured cheek pads, drop-down sun visor, and a removable and washable interior. What earns the Revolver EVO Snow a spot on this list is its ClickRelease snow face shield and hinge plates, a Magnefusion quick change breath box, Bell’s adjustable Velocity Flow Ventilation system, and a UV protected, anti-fog, anti-scratch, distortion-free, NutraFog II electrically-heated visor.
H-D Men’s Heated BTC 12V Waterproof Riding Overpant
Part of Harley-Davidson’s Genuine Motorclothes Collection, the BTC 12V Waterproof Overpants pull juice from the bike’s electrical system and feature a built-in temperature controller on the left thigh that offers a trio of settings for the pants’ three-panel carbon Nanocore heating system. Pre-sized to fit over a regular pair of motorcycle riding jeans, these pants get a nylon and polyester lining, 3M reflective Scotchlite piping, embroidered H-D logos and branding, removable knee armor, and a variety of zippered and cargo pockets
Aerostich Kanetsu AIRVANTAGE Electric Liner
As one of the most trusted names in the motorcycle gear industry, it really is hard to go wrong with any Aerostich item, and this very much extends to the Duluth outfit’s Kanetsu AIRVANTAGE Electric Liner. Backed by a lifetime warranty, this 75 watt / 5 amp item packs a WINDSTOPPER outer layer covering its heated core. As the name implies, the Kanetsu AIRVANTAGE works as a heated base layer, but can also be used as an exterior layer on days that don’t require the heated element.
Cold Rider: 12 Best Winter Motorcycle Gloves
Still on the prowl for more cold-weather motorcycle gear? Our guide to the 12 best winter motorcycles gloves is packed with robust mitts to keep your paws warm while on two-wheels.