Winter can be a miserable time for a rider. It’s cold, it’s wet and utterly uncomfortable if you don’t have the right gear. It’s enough for some to pack up the bike all together until spring. But get the right kit, and you can toss the battery trickle charger in your tool box.

Heated apparel, particularly, does wonders when the weather turns. And there’s options across the spectrum. Jackets, gloves, pants, soles, socks, liners, vests, most available in either plug or battery-powered configurations.

We’re breaking down the basics as far as your apparel options, showing you how to operate some of the different types of systems and giving you tips on how to select the perfect heated motorcycle riding gear for your needs.

Tourmaster Gloves
Heated gloves are particularly nice, since they’re usually a complete piece of kit with weather, impact and abrasion protection built-in.

Apparel Options

Gloves are one of the most commonly utilized pieces of heated gear, and for good reason. Frozen hands are downright dangerous on a motorcycle. Plus, gloves are most often a complete piece, meaning they’re built with all the other protective features you’d want. Impact protection, water-resistance or waterproofing, abrasion resistance.

There are jackets and pants designed in the same fashion as standard riding apparel with heated elements incorporated, but oftentimes jackets and pants come as liners, worn underneath your normal wear. It goes without saying that socks and soles need to be worn inside the boot, and a heated vest without a jacket over the top isn’t going to do much if you’re trying to keep cozy in the cold.

Battery-Powered Gear
Battery-powered gear will have an exterior button or other mechanism to adjust temperature levels.

As with any riding gear, fit is important. For gloves, find a set that is snug but not restrictive, and since these are designed for cold weather, not so bulky as to impede your ability to work the controls. Liners should complement the fit of your exterior layer, not bunching up in places. You’ll want fit to be loose enough to comfortably accommodate a base layer also since many pieces warm up to 150 degrees, which can be a tad too hot on bare skin.

Powering Your Gear

Heated gear works by way of an independent battery or by connecting to your motorcycle’s power supply. Both methods have pros and cons.

Battery for Heated Gear
Battery-powered heated gear is a convenient choice for quick trips and commutes.

Independent 7.4 volt battery-powered pieces are a convenient choice. No need to wire in to your motorcycle’s power source, no cords to route. The downside to battery-powered is the limited heat time, the need to recharge the battery pack and the smaller heat panels in items like jackets and pant.

Since life and power are less than with 12 volt wired set-ups, battery-powered items are better suited for quick-trips, commutes, things like that. Batteries can be large or small.

Hard-wired gear, which draws power from your motorcycle’s battery, provides unlimited heating as long as the motorcycle is running. The drawback to wired gear is the initial set-up requires a bit of work, and it only works while on the bike, so if you’re hoping to stay heated during a stop you’re out of luck. Typically the heating elements are larger on wired gear though, since there’s ample power available to keep the bigger pieces at the desired temperature.

Connecting Gear
Multiple garments can be connected together and powered by a single controller when you wire gear to your bike.

Wired set-ups are definitely the heavy-duty choice you want to make if you take longer rides and plan on touring for extended periods in the cold.

If you want the best of both worlds, there are dual power options on the market too, which can be powered by either a battery or wired to the bike.

Battery-powered items will include a storage pouch and connection to house the battery.

Gloves with Batteries
Simply plug in the power source and tuck it away in the included compartment and you’re ready to go.

For wired gear, you’ll need to install a lead line from your motorcycle’s battery. Simply connect the terminal rings to your battery and run the opposite end of the line to a position where it can easily reach your gear.

You’ll also need to know the excess electrical capacity of your bike to make sure it can handle the additional wattage of you heated garments. That means you’ll need to know the charging output of your machine and it’s operating load. Subtract the first from the last and you’ll get your excess. Don’t forget to add in loads from any additional items that you’ve installed, auxiliary lights, GPS units, things like that.

Wired Gear Controller
A controller for wired gear makes it possible to regulate temperature.

Adjustability

Battery-powered gear will typically offer a selection of preset temperature levels, selectable by a button on the exterior of the garment.

Hard-wired options will need to be connected to some type of controller. A single controller works much the same as a battery-powered piece of apparel, with preset temperature levels applied to each connected garment. There also dual-controllers which allow for different garments to be heated to different levels, and Bluetooth options that provide the same functionality with adjustability accessible on a smartphone.

With so many different configurations of gear available, there’s sure to be a heated piece out there to suit your needs. If you have any questions about heated gear, please leave us a comment below.