Heated cold-weather gear

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Revision as of 22:05, 25 March 2008 by Payne (Talk | contribs) (Widder)

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Gerbing's carries a complete line of heated gear for motorcyclists. They have everything from socks and pants to gloves and jackets, along with the controllers and accessories needed to make them work.


Note: Widder is closing shop after many years; their website indicates that all warranties end on December 31, 2008, so bear this in mind if considering purchasing their products.

Widder electric gloves and vests are recommended by many club members. They can extend your riding season a full month at both the beginning and the end of the season.

The Competition Accessories and Twisted Throttle catalogs have them listed. Your local shop should have them, too.

The electric thermostat is the recommended one, as the old style cycles on and off, so you get cool periods. The new one is constant and reduces flow from the battery as you adjust it down.

Widder products come with a harness, with a connector lead to the battery. You can snake the lead under the seat from the battery out to the tank, then plug it in or out when you get on or off the bike. The battery connector lead can also be used to attach to a trickle charger.

If you get a vest, fit it snugly so you feel the warmth directly on the body. You want to wear it close to the skin, over a turtle neck and under a fleece. The vest with the collar can be bulky at the Aerostich (or jacket) collar closure. The new collarless vest has a higher neck than the old one had.

Mounting a plug for Widder gloves

The Widder gloves use a proprietary BMW connector, so you'll have to visit your local Bimmer Boutique to buy a plug. They're about $21. You can use the stock accessory connectors by cutting off the leads and soldering in some longer wires to go to the plug. Then, drill a hole in the side fairing to mount the plug. It comes with a nice looking weatherproof cap, so it looks good installed.


The plug is below thigh level, so the knee is further forward and there's no problem with the cord hitting the rider. The connector is waterproof, and the gloves work well.


Heated grips or gloves?

We try to keep opinion to a minimum here in the FAQ, but when it comes to comfort, it's always opinion. Here's the gloves vs. grips opinion of one experienced club member:

  • I had a set of Widder gloves, but I just sold them on eBay. I now have Kimpex grip heaters on both of my bikes and am much happier. For me, the gloves are a big hassle; they're quite bulky, and connecting/disconnecting the wires every time you stop, plus dealing with the wires running through your jacket, are a big pain.
The grip heaters are always transparently there. They get quite warm; however, they obviously heat only the palms of your hands, but I find that works well enough for the convenience. They cost only about $30, and they aren't too difficult to install, though you should allow a couple of hours for a clean install with neat wiring.

Here is the copy from Kimpex on their grip heaters:

  • Kimpex Grip Heater Kit
This kit is for placing heater strips under your grips and wiring into your bike. It has a three position switch for low, high and off.

Kimpex grip heaters.jpg

To find these, go to your local dealer or run an online search. The Kimpex online catalog is nearly impossible to use.

Places to buy winter gear

One can always Google for what you want. Here are a couple places to start:

CozyWinters is a good place to look for winter clothing for motorcycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Forest City Surplus has discounted cold-weather gear.

Campmor is one of the most popular places for outdoor gear.

A word about the charging system

If you're looking to buy a complete set of heated gear, be aware that you probably won't be able to ride all day with everything turned on. Leon: "Vest alone - no problem. Vest, gloves and socks - I ran the battery completely dead once in about 5 hours while riding. Everything just got dim (and cool) and when I braked for a corner everything went completely dead. I was able to disconnect the gear and get the engine restarted by coasting down a hill."

"For rides of a couple of hours or less, there shouldn't be any issue with a normal set of electric gear. Just connect the battery tender when you get back home."

A voltmeter is a good tool to have if you're doing much riding with your heated clothing on.

Installing heated grips

"Heated grips are the BEST modification anyone can do to their bike." Well, some may vote for the 15T sprocket, and others will go for 'non-stock tires', but we'll grant a little leeway to our enthusiastic clubber, considering that these grips can add some real time to each end of the riding season. "They are soooooo cozy and warm. I did not want to get off my bike when I was testing them out!" (In all fairness, he seldom wants to get off his bike. We like that in a fellow rider.)

They are fairly simple to put on, but do require some electrical know-how. The switch was provided, but a female crimp connector and some heat shrink tubing needed to be bought. You also need to know how to solder and have a decent iron to help you out. Here are the directions as provided by Aerostich. (Really! The dog ate my homework!)

IMG 0748-1.jpg

There are two joints to solder. You can see them and the rest of the wiring in this photo.

IMG 0744.jpg

Here is a close up of the soldering points covered in shrink tubing and electrical tape.

IMG 0741.jpg

Here is a picture of the female end you need to attach to the switch. These are just standard crimp connectors, available at any hardware store.

IMG 0742.jpg IMG 0747.jpg IMG 0743.jpg

These are the accessory wires (yes, the ones that everyone writes in and asks about). The stock wiring on the bike is 18 AWG. If you're using these accessory wires, then there's no use in using any bigger wire than that for this modification. If you're running the hot and ground wire back to the battery, however, you might want to use something a little heavier for this heat-producing application. Ring connectors (not shown) were used to plug into the accessory connections. Obviously, each one is only connected to one wire.

IMG 0740.jpg

One important thing to remember: The aux/accessory wires get power ALL of the time, even when there is no key in the ignition. This page on Canyon Chasers has good ideas on how to use relays so you can turn off the accessories when the key goes off. This bike has the high/off/low switch mounted on the right side fairing. Just consider how easy it would be to forget to shut off the switch when it is cold out and you want to be in.

Some manufacturers say to glue the grips to the heaters, but that's not necessary. They stay put just fine. Just mount them in the usual way.


After running the battery dry by forgetting to turn off the switch, our man decided to put a warning light into his system. If you don't want to add a relay (above), then you can install an LED light. Buy a 12v red (or other bright color) LED, a 330 ohm resistor, and an LED holder. Solder the resistor to the LED in the holder, because that way the current is regulated by it and cannot peak and destroy the LED. The LED must be in parallel with the heated grips and not in series, otherwise the current drawn by the grips will destroy the LED.

This is a picture of the circuit. For your own mental health, pay no attention to the -- and + signs on this diagram. Just know that, like all bike/auto applications, power flows from the + (red) pole on the battery to the -- (ground). Wire it so that the switch receives power before the heated grips. This ensures that power will have to go through the 330 ohm resistor before reaching the LED.


If there were no resistor, then the current spikes might destroy the LED. The resistor is just playing it safe, which this club thinks is a good idea. Attach the light to the ignition column. So now, whenever there is power to the grips, there is also power to the LED. Whenever you go to take the keys out, you are FORCED to look at the LED (which is fairly bright.)

There is another good article on mounting heated grips on the Canyon Chasers.net website.