BMW HeatUp Heated Vest ReviewFor those of us who enjoy riding in the cold months, often even the heaviest and highest tech clothing isn’t enough to stave off a real chill or frostbite.
Having heated grips and seat is helpful but I’ve found nothing beats an electrically heated garment. Keeping the core warm is the key and that heat will radiate somewhat throughout the body. I’ve worn various brands for over 10 years and extol the virtues often – yet I’m surprised that many riders either don’t want to be bothered or try to convince themselves, and me, that their suit does the job. Nonsense.Temperatures recently descended into the 30s here in California, and I had an opportunity to ride fully electrified in BMW’s HeatUp heated vest. This piece of apparel isn’t unique, but it is of the highest quality.The polyester material is breathable, moisture-wicking, windproof and soft with a mesh lining. It is slim cut and nicely proportioned, well made and looks good. There are five heating elements located in the chest, back and kidney areas.The front zipper curves an inch to the right at the top so that when zipped up, it doesn’t chafe your neck or get in the way. There is only one inside pocket for storing the cable or small items. The vest is minimalist in design and should fit under anything but the tightest gear. I can even wear it under my race leathers for cold track days.The HeatUp is a 12 volt vest with a coaxial connector leading to a separate spiral cable (included) that ends in a BMW/Powerlet style plug. You will want to purchase the optional controller (off/low/medium/high). Without it, your only control would be to plug in and get high temperature or unplug.This is not really a viable option as unplugging at speed is not safe and high temperature is usually too hot. The controller, which connects between the vest cable and power cable, gives you a nifty little fob that glows green, yellow or red, telling the operator at a glance whether the vest is on and at what temperature.The generic 5.5mm x 2.5mm coaxial cable power connector, used here, seems to be gaining in popularity and many brands utilize this style. This will allow easy transitions to other style plugs you might find on bikes like cigarette lighter or SAE. Not only will this give access to power ports on other bikes but it can be an easy way to introduce portable battery power for on or off the bike.BMW does not sell apparel batteries nor do they mention using anything in its instructions other than a direct connection to the motorcycle. We found that the vest was plug compatible with Gerbing’s 12v batteries as well as many lithium-ion batteries available on eBay and elsewhere. As long as the battery has decent capacity (figure 5 amp hours (aH) or more), is 12v and has a female 2.5 coaxial connector, you’re in business. Adapters can be purchased or made to allow for a non-coaxial connector interchange.I rode last weekend and it was cold. My HeatUp keep me cozy connected to the bike while riding. When we stopped for coffee, and to hang around the Rock Store parking lot, I pressed the connector into a 5.2 aH Li-Ion battery I had in my pocket and the vest continued to serve me while off the bike. Priceless.The HeatUp is BMW’s only item of heated apparel. I have found that in temperatures closing in on freezing, or below, a heated jacket that includes heated sleeves is preferred. While this offering doesn’t have sleeves it does have the benefit of being light and unobtrusive, thus offering the advantage of having something on those transitional days and being able to fit under the tightest outfits. For this I am delighted and I can plug the vest directly into multiple power sources as may be required.Remember, if you experiment with other batteries and vendors you should make sure you are dealing with a 12-volt (not 7 volts, or other, as are available elsewhere) product – and know your positive from your negative.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.