Do you like being happy? Of course you do. Gerbing (not to be confused, strangely, with Gerbing) has delivered the product to help you achieve that state when riding a motorcycle in winter: the self-explanatorily named Heated Jacket Liner.
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You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with things like food, water, rest and warmth being necessary before you can get around to attaining psychological things like happiness. We’re focusing on that last one here; you cannot be happy if you are cold. This is fact. Ever watched figure skating? Those poor girls are not happy. Forced to do flit about in skimpy outfits on fields of ice for their Eastern European masters, their only solace comes when they leave the ice, wrapping themselves in the awkwardly outdated styling of a nationally branded jacket and cuddling a teddy bear for emotional if not physical warmth. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle in the dead of winter without heated clothing, you know the hollow-soul ache of Bradie Tennell.
Sure, things like fairing, a Givi AirFlow, and a sturdy jacket can help, but ultimately the wicked fingers of Jack Frost will wrap around your heart and squeeze if you don’t have something more powerful at your disposal. Over the past few years I’ve been relying on the Keis V501 heated vest, which I’ve liked but not absolutely loved. Some of that is down to the vest’s construction (plug-in ports for additional items dig into my underarms) and some of it is down to the fact I ordered a vest that is too large, not fully processing that heated gear needs to be as close to the body as possible (without contacting bare skin).
That latter aspect of heated gear was stressed to me a while back, when Gerbing got in touch and offered to send one of its Heated Jacket Liners for me to try. In working out what size to send, they took the time to explain how to benefit most from their product: get one that fits. I’m pretty sure, however, that even if I had bought a closer-fitting Keis vest I would love this Gerbing jacket more. Made in Vietnam (No. 139 on the Democracy Index) the jacket retails for $249.99 and has become one of my favorite pieces of kit.
The look of the Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner is probably its weakest point. It is designed to be worn underneath your riding gear and as such it seems Gerbing has invested little effort in developing the aesthetics of something most people won’t see. Off the bike and on its own it looks like the sort of Walmart-bought warm-up jacket your grandfather would wear, pairing nicely with his elastic-waistband trousers and Velcro shoes.
Arm cuffs are elastic, and there are no hand pockets. An internal chest pocket is large enough to hold a phone (though I doubt you’d want to keep one pressed against such a heat source), but otherwise it is pretty no-frills.
It’s probably easiest to think of the Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner as a jacket made of heating pads, of the sort your grandma used to plug in on winter evenings. It’s more complicated than that, of course. There are seven of those pads, which Gerbing refers to as “Microwire heating zones.” Located in the collar, chest, sleeves and back, the pads are thinner, more durable and more high-tech than old-lady heating pads.
The jacket connects to a controller at the waist, with additional wiring at the cuffs and waist to allow you to connect myriad additional heated kit such as gloves, trousers, and even socks. You’ll want to make sure your bike’s electrical system is plenty robust if planning to run all that stuff at once, though.
On its own, the jacket’s drain should be well within the tolerances of most modern motorcycles. The easiest way to draw that power is by connecting a battery harness (annoyingly sold separately) to your bike’s battery. However, you can also use a 12V plug to connect via the port that’s found on most larger motorcycles these days, whether it’s via the weird DIN socket used on BMWs and Triumphs or the cigarette lighter style found on most other bikes. If you’re concerned about drawing from your bike’s battery, or want to be able to walk around with the heat cranked up, you can also get a (rather expensive) rechargeable battery set-up.
Using the jacket is simple enough: connect the temperature controller (also annoyingly sold separately) to the battery harness and watch as the controller quickly cycles through the heating levels, then you’re ready to ride. There are four heating levels, indicated by the colors blue, green, orange and red – blue being the coolest. You simply push the big round button on the controller to get to your desired setting.
The heat produced is incredibly effective, providing a level of warmth that surpassed my expectations. To my surprise and amazement, I’ve found I don’t really need to wear anything other than a long-sleeve T-shirt beneath the jacket, and I have never clicked beyond the second heat setting (green) – even when riding in 2°C temperatures (35°F). Remember that I ride a Bonneville T120, sans windscreen, on my daily commute, which is 16 miles each way on roads that see me travelling at 50-70 mph. On the coldest days, that means a windchill of -8°C (or 17°F). And remember, too, that I am from Texas; I hate being cold. Normally I am to be found wearing all the sweaters. That I’ve thus far not felt the need to explore the jacket’s full heating capacity is, as I say, surprising and amazing.
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Part of the reason the jacket is so warm is that it’s a pretty effective wind jacket in and of itself, helping to keep body warmth in and block out drafts. Worn beneath with my trusty Aerostich R3 Roadcrafter, I’ve found I can ride in 10°C weather without needing to plug in the jacket.
I’ve been using the Gerbing Heated Jacket pretty regularly since October and so far everything has held up well, save a largely unnecessary bit of plastic on the battery harness. Living in Wales is the source of my only other complaint: a jacket filled with wires connected to a motorcycle battery isn’t the sort of thing you want to be wearing in the rain. My Roadcrafter has always kept my upper body dry, but if I know I’m going to be riding in heavy rain I’ll usually leave the jacket liner at home, just in case.
Beyond that I highly recommend the product, even though it is expensive – more so than you might initially realize. The $250 price tag jumps closer to $312 when you purchase the harness and controller necessary to make it work. That’s a hell of a lot of money – there’s no getting around that – but when you’re riding along on a winter day feeling perfectly happy and warm you will feel it’s money well spent. I wish the jacket liner was a little more aesthetically engaging, I wish it were made in a country further up the Democracy Index, but I’d still have no issues forking over all that money for a product this good.