Some riders swear by it, some swear at it, but there’s no doubt heated clothing can extend your riding season massively.
Buy wisely and it can be a much more cost-effective option than upgrading your riding gear, saves having to pile on the layers before you head out in the morning, and – if you use it right – gives you controllable heat delivered when and where you need it.
Like with all riding gear, you have to choose and use heated kit wisely though, or you could end up getting your fingers burned – in some cases, literally.
We asked David Gath of KEiS heated clothing, how to buy, fit and use it:
What are the different types of heated clothing and the advantages/disadvantages?
The main differences come in the heating elements. There are two basic structures: polymer elements and wire-like elements. By far the most reliable and flexible of these are spun from short conductive alloy and carbon fibres, similar to the way cotton is spun. This is what you should be looking for; it’s highly flexible, reliable and proven.
Some people are put off by the thickness of heated undergarments. How do they compare to a normal base/mid layer set up?
Largely they are thicker, but the heating means that the layers you wear on top can be much lighter/thinner – and there can be less of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall effect will be lighter riding kit, but it should certainly not be heavier overall, and the result should be a much warmer ride.
What should riders look for when buying: targeting specific areas they find get cold; just a vest to keep the core warm; or a combination of both?
If a rider has a particular problem like Reynaud’s Syndrome affecting their hands, then gloves are the answer. However, there’s a lot to be said for keeping the core warm, as this in turn helps keep the extremities warmer. A vest is a good starting point. If the rider feels they need further heating then certainly KEiS allows for the easy attachment and running of extra garments like gloves, insoles etc. from the one connection.
What should riders look for in terms of spec: minimum output; element types; waterproof fittings etc?
My main piece of advice is not to buy generic brands, go for one that specialises in heated apparel. It’s also worth checking the range of connection and control options, and whether it’s possible to interconnect the garments without the need for new battery connections. It’s essential to buy 12v with the option of running the system from the bike or lithium batteries; not all kit has this option.
How difficult is it to wire heated clothing into your bike?
The wiring of the interface cable is quite straightforward, on most bikes and scooters – depending on where your battery is. Where the battery may be inaccessible or the rider would simply prefer not to get involved with it, you can usually connect through battery charger/optimiser leads or accessory sockets.
Is wiring in the best option for riders who want to use multiple heated products at once, or is this possible with battery packs now?
I would say wiring to the bike is the only option. The lithium battery packs can supply enough current to run multiple garments, but the length of time they will stay warm/on for could be as little as 20 minutes, depending on how many it’s being asked to run.
Do you need to upgrade your battery or charging system?
I’ve never heard of anyone having to upgrade their battery. However, if you are running every accessory under the sun, then you do need to be sensible. It’s just a matter of ensuring that the generator is pushing out enough to power it all. If not then something has to go and I would recommend it’s not your heated kit!
What are the advantages/disadvantages of wiring in vs a battery pack?
Cost is the main factor. Lithium batteries of any size that are suitable for powering heated kit can get very pricey. That said, they do offer the advantage of not having to unplug when you get off the bike and still keeping you warm without having to be connected. It’s important to check how long your chosen battery pack will last to avoid disappointment.
How long do heated garments take to warm up?
In the case of KEiS, within seconds, the issue is how long it takes for the heat to be felt by the wearer, and that is down to what you wear under your heated kit. We recommend that you do wear something, but the thicker that something is the longer it will take for you to feel the heat.
How hot do they get?
Again I can only speak for KEiS, and it all depends on ambient temperature and the individual set up, but we aim for around 50 degrees centigrade.
How do you get the best results – keep switching them on and off, or turn down the heat and leave them on through the whole journey?
You definitely shouldn’t leave them on for long journeys when you are fixed in one position. If you slap on some heated gloves in Bristol, turn them up to full power and don’t switch them off until you arrive at Heathrow, don’t be surprised if the elements in the glove have left some nice red marks on your fingers. You’re much better off turning off and on as you need them.
Still confused? We gave David three types of rider to kit out, to see what sort of set up you should be looking at:
Control is the most important part of any set up, so a device to adjust/turn on and off the heat, is essential. After all a commute is not a matter of choice, you’re going to be on the road regardless of what the weather throws at you, and you need to be able to respond accordingly.
In this case I would recommend a waistcoat and heat controller. Heated gloves would also be a sensible buy, to help keep fingers functioning and in control of the bike in commuter traffic.
Again control is key, so you can react to changing temperatures, and because for this kind of riding you’re going to need a more powerful and flexible set up. A vest or jacket, trousers and gloves would a great set-up for this. If you wanted to go the whole hog then add some heated insoles for the really cold days.
Just a waistcoat would do for the odd, chilly weekend ride. I wouldn’t be looking to spend too much on a garment, a high specification, or go for multiple kit set ups, for this kind of use. Control is less important here too, as you’re not running a complex setup or a high output. And because when you’re riding for pleasure, you can choose when you are out and when to call it a day.
See the KEiS range at: https://www.keisapparel.co.uk/