When I first started riding, I thought that heated gear was for sissies and wimps. I layered up until I looked like a famous tire manufacturer’s mascot, and had all of the mobility of…well a guy wearing three too many layers trying to ride a motorbike. I found nothing wrong with this, and figured that was what I had to do if I wanted to ride year round. That was until I started working for Cycle Gear and got to be a “Test Dummy” (we will leave the crashing to the plastic guys) for a variety of things.
One of the first pieces of gear that I got to test out was the Firstgear Warm and Safe 90 Watt Heated Jacket Liner.
The liner is made out of a lightweight, soft nylon designed to not bunch up inside your jacket. With the power off the liner is “temperature neutral”, allowing you to continue to wear the liner once the weather warms up to the point where you no longer need the heat on. This lets you stay riding instead of pulling over to remove layers. I have found that no matter what jacket I have worn it with, the liner keeps me about as warm as a long sleeved t-shirt, that is until I turn the power up.
How Do You Power it Up?
The liner, along with the rest of the Firstgear Warm and Safe apparel needs to be plugged into a Firstgear Heat Troller to work. The Heat Troller as you might have guessed from the name allows you to control the amount of heat that the apparel produces. It connects directly to the battery and is available in a variety of styles including portable, semi permanent and permanent mounts. Depending on which Heat Troller control you get, you might have the ability to control two Warm and Safe items independently. The Firstgear Warm and Safe Heated Jacket Liner can be configured to work with a dual zone Heat Troller a couple of different ways. You can control the temperature of the arms independently of the torso, or you can run the second zone through the jacket liner and out to a pant liner or as I have done, to heated gloves.
Is it Warm?
Can Jorge Lorenzo highside a motorcycle? (That would be a resounding yes) The first weekend I tested the liner I rode a naked Suzuki SV650 235 miles one way over the Sierras. I only knew it was cold out from watching the condensation from the valley fog turn to ice. I should mention that I had the Heat Troller at about half power. I was hooked. Since then I have used the same Firstgear Warm and Safe Jacket liner for three winters without any issues. I keep it in the side-case of my bike pretty much year round, just in case the warm summer day turns into a cool foggy night. I use it in place of the liner of most of my jackets even on days that I don’t turn the heat on. It breathes really well and has a really good feel compared to some of the other heated liners I have tried.
Is it Perfect?
If it isn’t, it is as close as I have seen. The only fault that I can see is that due to the amount of power that the jacket/gloves combo can draw, you will find out in a hurry if your electrical system is working correctly. I would strongly suggest that you test your battery and charging system prior to running the jacket and gloves at full power for a couple hours. Bumpstarting a bike on a cold winter day is not much fun.
The Bottom Line
The Firstgear Warm and Safe Heated Jacket Liner allows you to ride more and stay warm doing it. Firstgear says that the liner is designed to be worn over a t-shirt, and that does seem to work best for maximum efficiency. Make sure that when you buy one that it fits a little on the snug side, as that helps with the heat transfer.
You also should prepare for the onslaught of people telling you that you are a sissy. My friends give me a hard time, complete strangers tell me to be “real biker” and ride without my heated gear. These same friends are heard complaining about how they can’t wait until the summer so they can start riding again, and those strangers are usually shivering and trying to get the feeling back in their fingers. I just smile, plug my jacket in, and tell them that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.