by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Gerbing Hybrid Gloves are powered by a battery pack or the motorcycle's electrical system.
Either way, they provide evenly distributed warmth using Gerbing "Microwire" technology.
This has been a winter for the record books in the Mid-Atlantic (and the North and the South and the Mid-West -- and don't forget the UK...).
So it's only fitting that this is our (could it be the 11th?) winter motorcycle glove review for the 2008-2009 season. That's more winter gloves than I think we've reviewed in 10 years!
Too bad we didn't have Gerbing Hybrid Gloves when we started this season's winter glove review process, because I believe they would have taken the top spot, no question.
The Hybrid Gloves are new to the Gerbing lineup, which consists of about a dozen or so different types of heated clothing.
These range from glove liners to heated fleece gloves and other heated products, such as vests, jackets and pants.
Gerbing markets the heated gear to a wide range of customers including motorcyclists, the military, industry and for general consumer use.
The Hybrid Gloves are revolutionary, for a couple of reasons. Most important to me is that these are the first battery powered heated motorcycle gloves I've tried that provide about the same amount of heat as gloves connected to the motorcycle's electrical system.
The heat is also very evenly distributed, probably due to Gerbing "Microwire" system, a patented technology that uses "micro-sized stainless steel fibers that are intertwined and encased in a waterproof coating".
According to Gerbing, the Microwire "is then woven into a heating matrix that is then placed in the garment", which, they say, "is the most durable and efficient heating technology ever developed".
Although I can't speak to its durability (but Gerbing provides a lifetime guarantee on the Microwire system), having only used the gloves for a couple of weeks, I can say that the heat is evenly distributed and the Microwire technology apparently is very flexible, because the gloves are very comfortable.
Unlike most other electrically heated gloves and garments, you'd never know that the Hybrid Gloves have wires or a wiring harness inside because no wires or wiring harness can be felt.
The leather used on the outside of the Hybrid Gloves is very soft -- softer and more pliable than any of the other gloves we've reviewed this winter and probably as supple as any glove leather in my experience.
This suppleness gives flexibility, which then helps make the gloves fit and feel more comfortable. The absence of hard armor helps also, although the gloves do have soft padding sewn into areas over the knuckles, in the palm and the back of the hand. The material used over the first knuckle appears to be the type of Kevlar reflective fabric we've seen used in other motorcycle gloves and jackets, but I haven't confirmed this.
The palms of the gloves feature a strip of some type of rubbery-feeling material that provides good grip, which helps when the gloves get wet.
The stitching and the construction of the Hybrid Gloves is excellent, with flex panels between each knuckle. These are becoming standard fare on leather winter motorcycle gloves and I'm always surprised at this level of detail for this seemingly very complex but subtle feature.
Since the gloves are claimed to be waterproof, with an Aqua-Tex waterproof and breathable membrane, we put them through the standard "bucket test", and they passed with no problems. To pass the bucket test, the gloves must remain completely dry inside while being worn and submerged in a bucket of cold water for 3 minutes.
And that supple leather doesn't absorb very much water either. I was surprised at how little water they absorbed during the bucket test, compared to some of the other gloves we reviewed, which seemed noticeably waterlogged and took several hours to dry.
Gerbing supplies the Hybrid Gloves with a Y-connector wiring assembly, which is a plus, as this was a $14.95 extra accessory for the Firstgear Carbon heated (wired) gloves we reviewed a few weeks ago.
Gerbing also supplies a heavy-duty motorcycle battery harness with a built-in fuse and extra fuses, for owners who might want to connect the gloves directly to the motorcycle's electrical system (like we did in the Firstgear Carbon gloves article).
To control the heat, an optional lighted on/off switch is also available for purchase at $14.95, which, at a minimum, is all you'd need to be on your way to blissful heat.
Most owners will probably want to spring for the variable controller, with a list price of (ouch!) $69.95.
Gerbing offers several controllers, including a dual controller, and all of them are compatible with all of the other Gerbing gear -- and, we discovered, with Tourmaster and probably most other motorcycle heated garments that use compatible connectors.
The Hybrid Gloves also come with two lithium batteries, which are slightly bulky as these things go at 80 mm tall, 20 mm thick and 55 mm wide (3-1/8" by 7/8" by 2-1/8"). Each weighs 128 grams (4.5 oz.) with the built-in wire (18 cm - 7" long).
So to summarize, the Hybrid Gloves come with two rechargeable 12V lithium battery packs; a recharger; a Y-connector; and a battery harness with built-in fuse (and extra fuses) for the motorcycle.
The Gerbing BATLI121 batteries are a huge 11.1 Volts at 1.2 Amp hours (1,200 mAh). Each lithium battery pack has a membrane button switch to turn the power on and to cycle through the high/med/low/off settings with a nice indicator along the side.
Membrane switches can sometimes be difficult to operate but these work very well with a solid feel, making it easy to cycle through the settings.
A wall charger is also provided; it has dual outlets and what looks like about two-meter long wire; I didn't measure the exact length because I haven't uncoiled the wire from its wrapping; it works fine as is. The LED on the battery turns red while charging and green when complete.
Gerbing lists the battery life as approximately one hour on high; 2.5 hours on medium and about 4 hours on low. Note that battery life can vary and will probably be less when riding in cold weather. We found the battery life to be about as claimed.
The Gerbing BATLI121 batteries used in the Hybrid Gloves are now available for purchase via this link to RevZilla (update). Gerbing does sell accessory batteries for some of their other battery heated garments.
[UPDATE: October 18, 2010 - Gerbing does have a dual battery pack and charger set for sale for $99.95.
I may have to buy a set; after storing the gloves through the Spring and Summer, I pulled them out today to recharge the batteries and apparently one of the batteries is dead.
A careful read of the instructions mentions keeping the batteries at least 25% charged to avoid problems. This is an issue during long-term storage and means that the owner may have to recharge the batteries during the warmer months].
Each battery pack has a built-in wire connector. The battery pack is carried in a pocket on the back of the glove, located at the back of the wrist, on the gauntlet (see photos). This section of the glove is textile.
The pocket has a mesh window that allows a somewhat obscured view of the membrane switch on the battery and the high/medium/low and LED indicators.
This is a nice feature that allows the wearer to check on the battery and heat settings.
The pocket is closed with a zipper, and if the batteries are being used to power the gloves, the wire can be fed through a rubber semi-waterproof grommet inside the pocket, where it's connected to the main (thicker) wire inside the gloves.
Our gloves did not come with printed instructions, although there are two .pdf files on the Gerbing website that describe the operation, recharging and care of the batteries.
One of the evaluators discovered the grommet inside after he had been using the gloves with the battery wire coming through the zippered opening, as you can see in our photos.
The built-in wire inside the gloves can be stored inside a pocket with zipper, located towards the outer side of the hand.
With the batteries connected and with the wire threaded through the inside of the pocket, it's hard to guess these are heated gloves.
The gauntlet is well-proportioned and allows a tight but manageable fit over all of the heavy 3/4-length motorcycle jackets I wore during the trials.
The gloves can be connected to any of the Gerbing heated garments, or connected directly to the motorcycle's electrical system using the supplied harness.
I've been using the Tourmaster harness I installed on the Multistrada and since the connectors are standard, it works for the Gerbing gloves, the Firstgear Carbon gloves and the Tourmaster Synergy heated vest (and Tourmaster heated gloves).
Note in our Firstgear Carbon gloves review some of the issues involved with routing the harness if the gloves are not connected to a compatible garment but instead connected directly to the electrical system.
When connected directly to the electrical system, the gloves provide almost instantaneous heat that I'd estimate is about 25% greater than that provided by the battery.
But too much isn't always a good thing -- we've also learned this winter that as long as the gloves are windproof and have a bit of insulation, only a minimal amount of heat is needed to remain comfortable.
One suggestion I would offer is to have the battery inside an external patch pocket sewn on the outside of the gauntlet, with an accordion or elastic attachment to the body of the glove, rather than in the internal pocket in the current design.
This would, I think, allow more flexibility to the gauntlet, which can feel snug when it's pulled over a jacket sleeve, even though it has a wide diameter.
With the relatively thick battery stowed inside the flush pocket in the current design, the bulk of the battery pushes in, taking up room and putting some pressure on the rider's wrist or back of the arm.
It would be better to relieve this by storing the battery in an external patch pocket. This would also allow full use of the volume of the gauntlet.
Placing the battery inside the gauntlet does allow the glove to appear like pretty much any other standard winter motorcycle glove.
Also, the batteries cannot be charged while riding when not in use.
I was confused about this point at first -- I thought they could be charged while riding. I think this would be another very useful feature for Gerbing to think about for the next generation.
The ability to recharge the batteries, either in a separate pouch perhaps stored in a tank bag or luggage, could be useful while on a motorcycle tour.
As it now stands, the batteries can only be recharged by plugging the recharger into a wall outlet.
A strap across the back of the wrist that holds the gloves securely on the hand, and the gauntlets feature a built-in cord to keep them tight on the jacket sleeve.
The cord runs through a padded channel just inside the top edge of the gauntlet, and this seems to help seal the glove, helping to keep out water.
The gloves feature 100 grams of Thinsulate thermal lining and a soft fleece-like lining in addition to the Aqua-Tex membrane.
The internal fabric liner feels very loose though, and the package came with a printed reminder to be careful when taking off the gloves.
I had to fight with the liner at first to get my fingers in the gloves, and the trick is to remove the gloves very slowly, one finger at a time, pinching the tips with the opposite hand to keep the liner in place.
This is a problem with just about every waterproof winter glove we've tried, because the inner liner can't be sewn to the waterproof membrane, or the holes would compromise the ability to keep out water.
Sweaty hands compound the problem, but the liner on the Hybrid Gloves seems especially loose, so just be careful when you pull them off your fingers.
The gloves are in the bulky category, and they seem to have enough insulation to keep me warm without turning on the heat to about 45 degrees F (7 C), which is a sort of tipping point where external heat sources are usually needed to stay comfortable for more than an hour or so.
The rather expensive controller works well; it must be plumbed into the system by connecting it to the Y-harness. The other end of the Y-harness is then connected to the gloves.
The controller has a smooth but solid on/off click and some resistance as it's turned up, but I still think these controllers should have a tactile "click" feel across the range, which I think would make them easier to use when wearing heavy gloves.
The controller has a red LED which apparently blinks at low settings and turns full red at higher settings.
Gerbing also sells a nice leather pouch for the controller, which has a friction belt clip on the back side and a magnetic holder for the flap.
It fits nicely on most 3/4-length motorcycle jacket adjustment belts, and I think it's a worthwhile option (list price is $10.95).
The gloves shown here are actually a size medium, and they still feel slightly large in the fingers. I normally take a size large, so apparently the Hybrid Gloves are running at least one size larger than expected.
This means that prospective customers should try on a pair before a purchase to make sure the correct size is ordered.
The Gerbing Hybrid Gloves do it all: warmth even when not connected to a power source; comfort; and the option of using either battery power or the wiring harness, which is the real bonus.
There are a variety of ways one could take advantage of the hybrid capability; if you're not wearing other heated gear and don't feel like fussing with the wiring harness, use the batteries.
Or connect the gloves to a heated jacket or directly to the motorcycle.
The gloves provide a very warm, even heat that is especially noticed in the lower part of the hands and the fingers.
I had to dial down the temperature with both the battery and electrical controller to the low setting, which is fine to keep warm for the coldest temperatures in which I care to ride.
Total up the bill for the gloves and the accessories and you may be in for a bit of a shock, but the quality and Gerbing reputation and the lifetime warranty on the Microwire should mean that these will be around for a long, long time.