I recently moved from Southern California to northern Oregon or, more specifically, I moved from a 12-month riding season to a six-month riding season. I enjoy riding too much to winterize my 2007 Yamaha Venture and park it for six months.For eight months of the year, morning and evening temperatures are below 50 degrees, and down into the 20s some days.As FirstGear has revamped its heated gear lineup, we tested every piece FirstGear makes for a 12-volt plug-in: heated jacket liner, heated pants liner, heated over socks, heated glove liners, and heated gloves.
You can buy each piece separately, depending on your riding requirements and what other gear you already own. Only the over socks must be connected through the pants—everything else can be run alone or grouped. I also got the FirstGear heated Puffer Vest that uses a battery for power, rather than the motorcycle. Heated gear should have been on my must-have list a long time ago. This stuff is great!Each piece (except the over socks) has a simple lighted push button to control on/off, low, medium, and high heat settings—no more extra wires and external variable dial controller units. FirstGear has simplified the heat control with each garment having its own, easily accessible—with your gloved hand—light-up button.To power the 12-volt heated gear, you should have a direct connection to your motorcycle’s battery unless your traditional 12-volt power port has a 15-amp fuse. If it does, you can use FirstGear’s Heated 12V Car Adapter. My Venture doesn’t, so I pulled off the seat and attached the supplied 15-amp fuse protected battery harness to the positive and negative terminals of my bike battery.I then ran the single coaxial power cable out the left side of the battery compartment in such a way that I can feed it back in, and out of the way, when not using the heated gear. The coax power cable is about 36 inches long when fed outside my battery compartment. That is 24 inches longer than I found necessary in the seated riding position, though the length is helpful for mounting and dismounting.When seated in the saddle, I doubled the extra length over and crammed it between the front of my seat and the gas tank. That provided just enough tension to keep it from slipping down to touch the hot parts of the engine, though not enough tension to slow me when dismounting. I will work on a more elegant solution to the power cord slack than doubling and cramming.The FirstGear heated jacket liner’s outer surface is slick, so it is easy to slide the arms into your protective riding jacket. The 2.5-inch microfiber-lined collar has heating elements in it. In addition to the heated collar, there are three-quarter length heated panels for your chest on either side of the full-length front zipper, a heated full back panel.There are also heated panels from the top of each arm, down to and over the elbow. In the normal position on either side of the jacket liner are non-closing handwarmer pockets that angle down steeply. I wouldn’t trust them for my wallet or keys, but a folded map or bag of nuts should be safe.Each sleeve, just above the elastic wristband, has a small zipper closure compartment holding the coax power cable to connect the optional heated gloves or optional heated glove liners. Running from the waistband at each hip, all the way to the armpit, are four-inch-wide elastic stretch comfort panels.The sleeves and body have ample room for a few layers of undergarments. However, a primary reason for using heated gear is to avoid bulking up with heavy layers.FirstGear has also incorporated a kangaroo pouch in the lower back so you can fold the jacket into it for easy packing or safekeeping. I packed the over socks in there, too, but that is all the space available. The material around the pouch zipper is single-layer nylon. Each time I opened and closed the zipper, I had to do it very carefully. Otherwise, I would snag material into the zipper teeth. Just zip slowly and it isn’t an issue.At just the right place on the lower-left waistband of the jacket liner is the 3 x 2.5-inch flap with a light-up power button. It lays on top of the pants liner flap on the outside of all the clothing. The lighted push-button controllers are all rain-safe.The FirstGear heated pants liner is very comfy. I just might lay around the house on a cold winter day in them. They look like pants, rather than long johns. The inside has a microfiber feel, while the outside front is smooth and has a windproof feel and appearance. There is a full-length jeans-style zipper and a single button-snap elastic waistband.Attached to the left side of the waistband on the FirstGear heated pants liner is a flap that measures 9 x 2.5-inch, with the light-up power button at the end. On the left side hip is a jeans-size zipper pocket to house the coax power wire, when not being used. There is plenty of space in the pocket to accommodate the 2-into-1 splitter, so you don’t lose it.At the inside bottom of each leg is a six-inch zipper to widen the opening. I didn’t initially see a need for a wider foot opening until I noticed the two tiny hideaway Velcro closure pockets—one inside each leg at the ankle—that hold the coax power cables for connecting the optional heated over socks.If you put the pants on and later decide to open the Velcro pockets to expose the coax cables, it is much easier to access those little pockets if you open the zippers. The heated panels run the full length of the front of the legs, from the top of the thigh to the ankle.The FirstGear heated glove liners pulled on effortlessly, and fit as expected. They have a lighted push-button controller on the top of each wrist.FirstGear’s Heated Outrider gloves needed some real sizing work. Try on the heated gloves before purchase, or make sure you can exchange them if ordering online. I wear a Large in most summer and winter gloves. The Large size heated gloves were so tight I almost couldn’t get my hand into them, and my fingers felt uncomfortably constricted. I ordered XL, and they were only slightly larger.I again had a hard time getting my hands inside, and my fingers continued to feel constricted. I then ordered the XXL, and they fit great. Since I had all three sizes to compare before sending back the L and the XL, I tried them all on again with the same results. L and XL were simply too small for my usually L-sized hands.There is a Velcro strap to tighten the FirstGear Heated Outrider glove to your wrist—a safety feature to keep the gloves from coming off in a crash. The gloves are waterproof, thanks to an inner membrane, and provide protection such as sliders on the palms and knuckle armor.There is a visor wiper blade built into the left index finger, and the fingers are supposed to allow you to manipulate your phone touch screen. Unfortunately, the fingertips are too bulky to be accurate on my iPhone 7.FirstGear put a small open pocket atop of the Heated Outrider glove between the knuckle and the wrist. I have used that for holding money, a credit card, or parking pass. It comes in handy when you expect to pay a toll or entrance fee at a National Park. I don’t want to hold up traffic while I take off my gloves and unzip a few layers to reach an inner jacket or pants pocket. FirstGear did an excellent job of covering all the bases with these gloves.Getting dressed in all this FirstGear heated motorcycle apparel was a lot simpler than I had imagined. Top to bottom, every piece of clothing single-wire connects to the next. The over socks connect to each leg of the pants liner with push in coax connectors.The jacket liner and pants liner cables both push into a 2-into-1 coax splitter at the left waist, which hangs over the edge of my riding jean’s waistband. The 2-into-1 splitter connects to the single wire coax cable coming from the battery or power outlet.The jacket and pants liner lighted power button flaps lay precisely on top of each other when seated. There is no fumbling around to change heat settings or wondering which one you are changing as they are stacked neatly and readily accessible with your left gloved hand.If you happen to lose track of which of the three settings each is on, a quick glance will show the respective color—red, white, or blue—even in bright sunlight. The over socks are controlled by the pants liner controller. Sitting on the motorcycle, there is only one wire to work with—from the 2-into 1-splitter, from my jacket and pants to the battery feed. Every other cable is an interconnect that is hidden. FirstGear has put together an immaculate setup.I was hoping for a 28-degree test ride, but it rained the evening before. Around here, that means black ice, so I opted for the next dry day, which was 37 degrees. I wanted to get the full heated gear experience, so I only wore a t-shirt under the jacket liner and wore my Kevlar-reinforced denim jeans to make sure the heated pant liner got no protection from the freeway speed windchill. I wore my summer riding, cowboy-style work boots, and my three-season riding jacket. I switched between the heated glove liners and the heated gloves.I set the FirstGear jacket liner, pants liner and glove liner all to low—blue color showing and 73.4W. I wasn’t able to determine precisely how much free wattage I have available on my 2007 Royal Star Venture, so I opted for caution. The best info I could gather was having somewhere between 80W and 120W. I plugged an LED voltmeter into my trickle charger SAE connector to monitor my battery, cramming it between the seat and the tank.As I rode away from my house toward the local freeway, I felt very warm immediately, rather than in the process of warming up as on a usual cold-weather ride. This was a new and welcome experience—simply warm on a cold day.As I headed about two miles to the freeway onramp at 40 mph, I could really feel the 37-degree air hitting the little gap between my jacket neck collar and the bottom of my helmet. I scrunched down a bit, like a turtle retracting its neck into its shell. I immediately felt the warm air from inside my jacket rising up my neck and warming my chin. That heated air rising felt good.Even before I got to the freeway, I was recognizing that a full complement of the FirstGear heated gear can turn a dreaded cold ride into a very comfortable outing. There is something nice about being warm on a cold day.I was feeling like this 37-degree ride is going to be a lot more enjoyable than my last one without any heated gear. I have ridden several 400-mile days where the temp never got over 40, and it wasn’t pleasant. It was a test of will power, even with layers of specialized cold-weather gear to make the ride bearable.As I accelerated up to 65 mph, I again noticed the neck-to-helmet air leaks that should be filled by a scarf or a balaclava. I put on my cruise control and started evaluating the different heating elements.Boots with the FirstGear over socks felt like normal house temperature—maybe too soon to get a full evaluation, so I will check on my feet later in the ride. My legs are definitely warm. I can feel the heating elements warming the entire tops of my legs, from ankle to thigh, and I notice that the heated air seems to be enveloping the back of my legs that are exposed to about 20-degree wind chill with only denim in the way.I used my left gloved hand to grasp the pants liner control button and pressed it once to change the heat to high. They all start on high, press once for medium, once more for low, then once more for high.The rise in temperature sensation was almost instantaneous and way too hot directly next to my skin. I pressed the button again to get the medium temp and felt the whole heating element lessen, but it still uncomfortably warm directly against my skin. I set it back to low and decided that was the correct setting for the current conditions.The convenience of the location of the controller button, along with the instant sensation change, allowed me to keep my eyes and attention on the road. Even though this was my first heat change using the FirstGear heated gear, I felt the distraction was no greater than reaching for a turn signal.I moved my gloved hand from the pants liner button to the jacket liner button and pressed it once. It was only moments before it was uncomfortably hot. Remember, for this test I am only wearing a cotton t-shirt, so the heating elements are really close to my skin. I pressed again, and at medium it was noticeably less hot, though still warmer than comfortable. One more press and back to low. Unlike Goldilocks, who prefers medium, the low setting was just right for me.Cruising along at 65 mph, the neck leaks let me know that the outside temperature was 37, but in my FirstGear cocoon of heated gear, I was reminded of the feeling of sitting in front of a living room fireplace with a hot cup of cocoa.Turning my attention to my hands, which were feeling pretty cold on the low setting, I pressed the button on each FirstGear glove liner one time to high and waited. There is no instant temperature jump in the glove liners like there is with the pants and jacket. So, I waited for a few minutes.I definitely felt warming on my knuckles, but none of the intense heat of the pants and jacket liners. I rode for about 15 minutes with the glove liners on high inside my winter gauntlet gloves. I could tell there was some warmth in there, but I was hoping for serious heat.My standard hand-warming procedure at 37 degrees is this—lean over and put my left hand on the engine for a while and then switch sides and put my right hand on the engine for a while. However, it is not ideal riding practice, and impossible in traffic. The glove liners at 37 degrees did feel a little warmer than no added heat, or a chemical hand warmer pack, because there is some warmth down the fingers, though not much.As I was riding down an off-ramp to find a safe place to change to the FirstGear Heated Outrider gloves, I was making a mental note about being disappointed in the heated glove liners at 37 degrees. These glove liners, although about as thin as can be made with heating elements incorporated, are still thick enough that getting them into my regular size gloves was difficult and felt overstuffed. If you use the heated glove liners, you will probably have to buy the next size up in glove.As I dismounted and planted my left foot on the pavement, I noticed my toes were comfortable. By this time, at this temperature on the freeway, my toes would have started down the path to uncomfortably cold in these boots. Although I couldn’t feel the heat, like the pants or jacket, the FirstGear over socks were doing their job.The FirstGear Heated Outrider gauntlet gloves had been in my trunk, so when I put them on, they were uncomfortably cold inside. The difference in temperature from my hand to the gauntlet showed me that the heated glove liners were, in fact, working—just not as much as I had hoped. I took the gloves off to connect the coax cables, pressed the button on the top of each wrist for two seconds to turn them on, and then put them back on. Again, all the heated gear comes on in the high temp setting.The cold feeling disappeared after about 30 seconds, and they began to feel like gloves I slipped on when the temperature is 70 degrees—just neutral. I would rather ride than stare at my gloved hands, so I mounted back up and headed back to the freeway for more testing. The FirstGear Heated Outrider gauntlet gloves did a better job of keeping my fingers warm than the FirstGear’s heated liners in my own gloves.I rode for about 40 minutes back the way I came, so I was riding through the same temperature. My fingers were cool, but not cold. I definitely didn’t feel the need to put my hands on the engine to warm them up. The FirstGear Heated Outrider gloves kept my fingers from becoming uncomfortably cold at 37 degrees at freeway wind speed.When I exited the freeway and onto a 40 mph road, my fingers warmed up from cool to comfortable. The FirstGear Heated Outrider gloves are far better than non-heated, though their effectiveness is dependent on your speed and ambient temperature conditions. Because the liners and gloves are the same price ($170/pair), I would recommend buying the gloves over the liners.To make sure I wasn’t missing anything with the glove heat, I spent time on my driveway trying the heated gloves and the heated glove liners again. Still at 37 degrees, I used my lips to test the temp of the glove liners.The warmest area was the knuckles, and I could feel some warmth the length of the fingers, but not much with my lip test. I tried using the heated glove liners inside the Heated Outrider gloves, but it was simply too much material; I couldn’t close my hand around the throttle.The FirstGear Heated Outrider gloves certainly kept my hands comfortable from the outside air, though they don’t offer the warmth of heat I was hoping for in a heated glove. The most glove heat was on the back of my hand, and I could just barely feel heat down the tops of my fingers.The FirstGear heated gloves and glove liners were definitely warmer than unheated gloves, and everyone has a different sensitivity to cold—what may be adequate heat for one set of hands doesn’t get the job done for another.I had gotten FirstGear’s remote control for the jacket liner, so I tested it out. Setup was as simple—press and hold the only button on the remote and the only button on jacket liner at the same time. That’s it, besides mounting the included handlebar bracket.During my test rides, I did use it, and it did what a remote is supposed to do—change heat settings. I can see where a remote might be helpful if you are on a sportbike, when reaching to your hip area or looking at the color of the lighted button could be unsafe. I didn’t find it useful in my touring seating position, though it certainly worked as advertised.I love the FirstGear Heated puffer vest. I wear it all the time indoors and out. At 28 degrees when my dog wants to have a Frisbee session, I just set the vest to high and go outside in shirt sleeves. The power button on the puffer vest is on the upper left chest. The heat is so intense that I don’t feel the need to put on a jacket.The puffer vest, as well as all the FirstGear heated gear, has new-technology, superfine, flexible, and durable wires that heat up practically instantly—FirstGear calls them Micro Alloy heating elements. The Puffer Vest has a heat panel covering most of the back and mid-chest on either side of the front zipper.The handwarmer zippered pockets are enormous, and feel heated even though they are below the chest panels. There are three zippered pockets on the inside with two on the left, one for the external battery and USB connection, and the other slightly smaller that will fit sunglasses. The zippered pocket inside on the right is cavernous—a 10-inch zipper opening, and it’s deep. I can’t imagine what someone would use a pocket that size for in a vest that is so lightweight.Using my five-volt 10,000 mAh travel charger battery, I ran the vest on medium for six continuous hours before it ran out of juice. Puffer vests are current street fashion, and it is warm even without the heating aspect. Just by itself, the battery-powered puffer vest is an excellent addition to your cold-weather gear layering for riding or walking your dog in the snow.Using this FirstGear Puffer Vest will eliminate several layers under my protective motorcycle jacket, and it packs down nicely. It makes for more-comfortable short, cold-temp rides or a way to stay warm when the ride home got a lot colder than you planned. But it no substitute for plug-in gear for long rides.I am very impressed with the build quality of the FirstGear heated motorcycle apparel. I examined and tried on each piece of gear before road testing. Everything is well made, and all seams and zippers look like they will last a long time. FirstGear makes quality products that last a long time—I still use my FirstGear Kilimanjaro jacket that I purchased in 2008. Also, most of the FirstGear heated apparel also comes in female versions.For those on a limited budget, I suggest buying the FirstGear jacket liner first, Heated Outrider gloves next, and the pants liner with over socks after that. But budget or no budget, I would buy the puffer vest for myself and anyone else that I want to keep warm, whether they ride or not. Keeping your core body temperature up makes for a safer and more enjoyable ride. FirstGear’s heated gear extends your riding season and in a very comfortable way.For more, visit FirstGear.
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This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena gives us his impression of the outrageously cool-looking new Indian Scout Rogue. The Rogue features a larger front wheel among several other changes, and the bobbed-looks and excellent 100 horsepower motor make the Scout Rogue an interesting—and very real—competitor to the offerings from Milwaukee.
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From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!