How does Heated Clothing work on a motorcycle or atv?
A distinction needs to be made between heated gear, powered by the vehicle's 12 volt electrical system, and portable-battery operated products.
For motorcycle use, under extreme cold temperatures (wind-chill while riding), most portable battery operated garments produce insufficient heat output. This is due to the fact that wattage needs to be restricted in order to make the batteries last. For instance, many battery operated gloves produce about 7.5 watts of heat (each) for about 2 hours. In comparison, 12 volt vehicle operated gloves will easily produce unlimited 11 to 14 watts each. Those battery operated gloves are okay at low speeds (small scooter) or non motorcycle related use like walking, wheelchair or working outside.
However, new battery technology and improvements in heating elements are now narrowing the gap. Heat Demon's new portable 11.1 volt Li-Ion battery can run heated motorcycle gloves or heated socks well for several hours.
12 volt motorcycle / ATV heated clothing is connected to the vehicle's electrical system. Larger and modern touring bikes usually have enough on-board capacity to power a 90 watt heated liner with pants, gloves and socks all connected. Keep in mind that such a full outfit can easily put you over 12 amps draw. On sport bikes and smaller or older motorcycles, it is advisable to keep the amperage draw down as much as you can. We have 35 and 65 watt (respectively about 2.6 or 4.8 amp at 13.4v) liners and vests available.
Using a Heat-Troller controller is crucial. Not only are you controlling heat output to your body but by turning the controller down you are actually keeping power draw on the bike's system down as well. Modern controllers like Warm & Safe's Heat-Troller are true pulse-width modulators, not old fashioned rheostats (rheostats are essentially variable resistors)
First step: A battery cord is installed on the vehicle's battery with a COAX receiver plug left somewhere convenient to the side of the bike (on the left side, behind a panel or under seat). This connector can also be used, in reverse, to keep the battery charged. (check your manual if your bike has a CAN-BUS system) Many motorcycles already have a battery lead installed, usually an SAE plug from a battery charger like Battery Tender or Yuasa. You can use this connector but be careful as many battery charger harnesses are not rated high enough to operate high draw heated clothing. Our SAE replacement battery leads use 16AWG wire and a 15 amp fuse.
Another solution is to install a permanent Powerlet (BMW-Hella) accessory outlet on your bike. It is like a cigarette lighter/accessory outlet in a car but smaller and designed to power heated clothing. (most cigarette lighter outlets are not designed for high draw heated clothing). Many modern touring bikes have such an accessory outlet factory installed.
Second step: A controller is connected
between the battery cord and the heated garment. This can be a simple on/off switch or a
electronic controller. For short trips (20 minute commute) a
simple on/off switch can be used but be warned! The garment will receive
constant full power, not the ideal setup. With a 100 watt liner or 14
watt glove, you will burn yourself if you do not use a quality variable
Third step: That's it. Enjoy a comfortable ride.
More on Controllers: With a single controller you can control the vest or jacket liner and any other item you connect to the vest (gloves, pants, socks) as one single zone. If you have multiple heated garments it may be better to control, for instance jacket/vest and gloves, as two separate zones with a dual electronic controller. You may want to turn the vest off while still directing power to your hands.
A dual controller is designed to control two heat zones for one person. It is not intended to control two separate garments for two people. Besides the obvious safety aspect of two people, on a motorcycle entangled with wires, heated gear for two people could easily exceed maximum power draw for one controller (10 to 15 amp maximum depending on the controller)
How do Heated Gloves work on a motorcycle?
Most of the time, heated gloves are connected to a heated liner or vest (see above on heated clothing). If this is the case, you don't need any extra connectors. The gloves are simply connected to the plugs available on each sleeve.
However, you can run Heated Gloves separate, without use of a heated vest or liner, by use of a Y-cord and controller. The Y cord is connected to the on/off switch or electronic controller (on/off switch is never recommended but can be used at your own risk). The Y-cord runs up underneath your jacket and through the sleeves to connect the gloves. (never power heated gloves from the controller direct to your handlebar !)
New are ultra thin heated glove liners with 3 major advantages over traditional heated gloves.
Large touring and cruiser bikes often have enough electrical power to accommodate full liners, pants, gloves, grips etc. However if your ride is smaller, you may consider going for a vest rather than a full liner. Heated arms are not always necessary and the amp savings are considerable.
What is the difference between all the different brands?
Some heated clothing is sold under different brand names which makes it
all more confusing. Warm & Safe, some Powerlet and FirstGear heated
clothing are all made by Warm & Safe. W&S is considered top of the line
and is used by many hardcore riders.
As far as I know, there are only a few dedicated heated clothing
brands like Warm & Safe, Powerlet and Gerbings. This means they
control the entire design and manufacturing process of their
If you are going to invest in heated gear, buy for the long run. Cheap is not always better value and this certainly applies to heated motorcycle gear.
Personally I trust gear, made by riders for riders, over gear made by some far-east heated blanket manufacturer and sold under a snazzy marketing brand. Hence my support to W&S, Powerlet and Symtec - Heat Demon. This certainly does not mean that all other brands are bad but .... you get my point
We stock a variety of 12V Heated Jacket & Pants Liners, Vests and Gloves as well as controllers and adapters - hookups for power sport use.
Warm & Safe Heated Clothing, from the company that brought us the famous Heat-Troller, is made for bikers by bikers. Mike Coan, Warm & Safe's owner, is a true globetrotting hard-core rider who knows a thing or two about riding under harsh conditions. Warm&Safe has an impressive offering. Both Men's and Women's sizing, low draw products for older bikes and high heat output (higher than any other brand) for most modern bikes. You can combine their Heated Gear with a variety of high quality Heat-Troller electronic controllers.
Powerlet, famous for pioneering luggage electrix, has become the industry leader for all electrical components and connectors. Well known for their quality control and useful products they now offer a line of very well made heated jacket liners and heated glove liners. And of course the wide variety of Powerlet cords, connectors and adapters.
All our Heated Clothing will connect with standard 2.5mm Coax connectors. This has become the industry standard and therefore most clothing and controllers are interchangeable. Warm & Safe, Powerlet, Gerbings, First Gear, Synergy and OEM clothing like Harley Davidson all use coax connectors. Some brands like GenX use SAE connectors. SAE is another industry standard widely used on battery chargers like Battery Tender and Yuasa.
Widder heated clothing (the company closed it's doors at the end of 2008) used a proprietary 2 prong Widder plug. We no longer have adapters available to connect Widder heated gear. If you own a Widder garment, adapting it to the coax or SAE standard would be the better way to go.
About Plugs and Connectors
The views and opinions, expressed by the author, are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of employees or owners of any of the above mentioned companies. All above mentioned brand names, marks and company names are owned by their respective companies and/or owners.