As the temperature drops across the northern hemisphere, many motorcyclists are putting their bikes away for the season. I would have been one of them in the past few weeks if it weren’t for two things. Firstly, I don’t live here, so stopping and putting my bike away wasn’t an option. And secondly, I had a goal to make it to NYC for the first week of November.
Having suffered through countless freezing cold, wet days on the road during my RTW adventure through Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, I knew I wouldn’t make it across North America without a way to keep warm. After reading through many reviews, I decided on First Gear heated liners.
Being adverse to the cold, I went the whole hog and got the pants, jacket, and gloves combination. I have never experienced cold feet in my Gore-Tex boots, so I didn’t bother with heated socks. The sizing is the first thing of note. As per comments from other riders, it does run small, however, I believe the need to have a tight fit is a function of the garments. Air will quickly dissipate heat, so having space between your body and the liners is counterproductive.
Having quite small hands, the lady’s small gloves were still too large for me. An extra small in this range would be a welcome addition. The jacket and pant liners were a perfect fit. Installation was a relatively quick and painless process with wiring for the battery supplied in the troller kit. The outlet is best placed towards the front of the seat, so it can be easily accessed.
Although the box stated that the dual heat troller (required to regulate the temperature), was already paired with the battery connection, I found I needed to pair them manually following a simple set of instructions in the pack. Paired and plugged in, it was time to test out the gear.
Heading out of Vancouver towards the mountains of Canada which had just experienced an early season snow storm, the timing was perfect to fire them up. I mounted the heat troller onto my handlebars using two zip ties for easy access, which worked perfectly. I switched on the controls and within seconds I felt a rush of warmth. Pure heaven after so many miserable, freezing days ‘toughing’ it out.
Wearing a winter weight riding jacket to keep out the rain and wind paired with the First Gear liners I was warm and comfortable. The jacket liner has no real cold spots, although other riders have commented that under the arms is an issue for them, I personally didn’t find that. The pant liners do have a large section down the outside of the thigh that was noticeable on very cold days. This is an area that I felt needs improvement.
The gloves, despite being too large, provided good warmth and comfort on long cold rides. The cuff is an area that lets these gloves down, it is too short and quickly becomes cumbersome to tuck in to the jacket to ensure no wind gaps. Their Fargo and Explorer gloves, with the longer cuff and pull closure would make these a much more user-friendly product. The built-in wiper blade on the left thumb was a welcome addition during many hours of rain. Once fully soaked through, the gloves did feel damp inside and took several days to dry out completely.
The heat provided to all components was incredibly quick and at times, too hot. I rarely had it set above half way, however on a couple of snow days I did increase the heat to a point where I had red marks on both arms and my chest. I would be wary of that and always wear a full sleeve base layer underneath the jacket. The pant liners were sometimes uncomfortably hot on the knees as my knee protectors pushed them in closer than is required, but not to a point of being a major problem.
I did encounter an issue with the heat troller after a month of use. It started with intermittent failure where it turned itself off and on, causing all power and heat to be lost. After online discussion with the team at First Gear it was quickly assessed, and a replacement troller was sent out on my route within 2 working days. Whilst it was unfortunate to experience an issue with the product, it did provide insight into their customer service, which was first rate.
After more than two months of riding through torrential rain, snow and below zero conditions these products have been put through their paces. They have allowed me to continue riding on days I would normally have stayed inside to be warm and comfortable.
Depending on your needs, this type of gear is by no means a cheap solution with a full set, including the heat troller, retailing up to $750.00 USD. However, if you are on a long journey that includes cold climates or just want to extend your riding season at home, heated liners are an excellent way of keeping warm and enjoying the ride.