It’s so hard to believe that almost exactly one year has passed.
It seems like we just finished writing articles about how to keep cool in the blistering D.C. summer and here we are worrying about how we’re going to stay warm this winter — and it’s shaping up to be a real chiller.
So how has technology treated us in the interim? Well, we have some super news to report on the heated clothing front, but first, some background.
The Gerbing and Chilli products didn’t quite do it for us last year.
Our complaints revolved mostly around their poor performance when used with low energy charging systems, like the wimpy 250 Watt alternator on the BMW R65.
We also weren’t thrilled with the “hot spots” in the Gerbing jacket, due to the internal wiring that distributes the heat. And the frou-frou taffeta outer fabric was definitely not our cup of tea.
Our experience with heated clothing prior to those reviews was nil, but we expected more from two of the biggest names in the business. How could they be improved?
Well, if we were asked to put together a list of the features for the “perfect” heated vest, it might look something like this:
First on the list would be some type of heated fabric that spreads its warmth evenly but has no internal wiring. Who wants to ride around with the guts of a toaster wrapped around your back?
Besides the hot spots, there’s always the worry about breaking a wire.
Next, as long as our dream heated vest works without internal wiring, we could have fabric that could be folded, washed or generally mishandled with no problems.
Then the vest would be made from a soft, comfortable and heavy-duty external fabric without the dreaded “taffeta” Nylon windbreaker material on the outside. And while we’re at it, how about a nice, comfy liner?
The perfect heated vest would also have to work well at low Voltages so that any bike, old or new, large or small, could power it.
Bonus points would go for a breathable membrane to let the moisture escape.
Also, a stretchy fabric that helped the vest cling to the rider’s body, thereby keeping the heat where it will do the most good; and a robust wiring system and controller for connection to the bike.
The Bronze Filigree with Gold Oak Leaf Cluster (thanks Jean Shepherd!) would be awarded for some real out-of-the-box thinking, like maybe if the vest could run on a rechargeable battery pack that fit in the pocket, or how about solar power?
And last but not least, what if the fabric was self-regulating; that is, if our wireless heated fabric maintained a constant temperature, with or without a controller, never burning the rider? Sound like a fantasy?
Well, guess what – I’ve just described the new EXO2 StormRider heated vest!
This vest is so far beyond anything else we’ve tried that it’s no contest. From its quality design and construction to its warm, even flow of heat around the rider’s body, the StormRider is wonderful.
The Fabroc material is some new type of wireless “self regulating” heating fabric that’s supposed to be incredibly efficient and transmitting heat at very low Voltage.
Like many of these high-tech products, it was developed for the aerospace industry and is used in things like dry suits for divers, back supports and even in flooring and walls to provide warmth.
The stuff is light in weight also — the entire vest in size large only weighs 1.5 lbs. (680 grams).
I’ll admit that I had my doubts about it when we ordered it directly from EXO2 in the UK, but using it during the last week of mid-30’s (F) weather, it has proven to be a phenomenal piece of equipment.
For example, I was saddling up in the garage today when the UPS delivery person drove up and she couldn’t believe I was about to go for a ride on a motorcycle. The thermometer read 37 degrees (F) and the wind has been blowing all day with 30 mph gusts.
But as tight as I am, I’m going to say that I think it’s worth it. It doesn’t show in the photos, but the quality of the StormRider’s construction is first-rate; it really does seem like it will last for a long, long time.
A a few bucks could probably be saved by not getting the controller, but it’s hard to imagine using any heated vest or garment without being able to control the temperature. Without the controller, the vest works on a simple off/on switch.
The StormRider comes with a nicely made wiring harness that can be fitted to the motorcycle. It is well made and easy to install.
The basic vest includes an on/off switch, and the heat to the vest is controlled by turning the power on and off. This seems like a crude solution, so I purchased the optional digital controller.
Installing the wiring harness is easy — attach the positive and negative terminals to the motorcycle’s battery ( the positive (power) cable includes a 10 amp fuse), route the cables for the controller and that’s it.
The vest connects to the wiring harness via a cable with a round connector in the right-hand pocket.
I routed the corresponding connector from the wiring harness so that it hangs out the right-hand side of the Tiger with about 24″ of cable.
The right-hand pocket also includes two smaller cables that are used to connect the vest to the portable battery pack, which I did not purchase.
The controller is a small waterproof box with an on/off switch on top and a digital readout on the front. It has a flush membrane-type button to push, and it cycles from 0 (off) to 9 (full power).
The only problem is that if you’re at, say, setting number 7 and want to to to 5, you have to push the button all the way around through 9, then 0 then up to 5. But this isn’t really a big deal, to be honest.
The controller comes with a metal L-shaped bracket, and I found a convenient spot for it on the Tiger.
I loosened a handlebar mounting bolt and mounted it there. I did have to drill out the roughly 1/4″ hole to 5/16″ to fit the bolt, but otherwise it went very smoothly.
The StormRider heated vest does have all the other capabilities I mentioned above. A separate rechargeable battery pack is available for £66.49 ($115.00).
The instructions say that the battery pack will last for a continuous 3 hours, but it’s recommended that the vest is switched on and off only when heat is required.
The hot tip (pun intended) with any heated clothing is to wear a relatively stretchy jersey over it to keep the heated fabric close to your body for best results.
The size large StormRider fits about like a U.S. men’s size 43, which means that it is just snug enough on my size 44 chest to keep the heat where I need it.
From “G.L.”: “After using the vest for a few weeks now, I think I’m about ready to add some comments.
I was pretty sold on this vest after having read this very thorough review.
Nonetheless, I had some details I thought I would mention for anyone else interested in the vest, especially since you probably won’t be able to try one on at a local store near you (in the US).
Out of the box, one thing I noticed was that it seemed to fit a bit large. I normally wear size 42, but ordered the medium (size 38-40) because I figured a tight fit would be better than a loose one.
Well, it seems like the vest fits me just fine — it’s snug, but not tight, so I’d say it fits more like a 42 than a 40.
Another thing I noticed was that the reviewer said his jacket had an on/off switch; I found no such switch on mine.
There was a 1.3 mm plug and socket though. Initially I was confused because there’s little mention of this in the manual. That plug is to connect the kidney area heater to the main power cord.
So, normally, you just connect the two little ones together, and plug the large connector to the bike. If you get the battery pack however, you use one of the small connectors so you’re not sucking down your battery by trying to heat the whole vest.
One last comment about the connectors is that the main one is the same size as what Gerbing’s uses, so I imagine you could use Gerbings accessories with the Stormrider.
Don’t quote me on that; though the connector would fit, the electrical requirements could be different. I estimate it uses about 5 amps at 12V, maybe more at the 14V the alternator runs at.
Don’t quote me on that either — that’s just an estimate I made off some rough measurements.
I actually found another use for this- the vest is nice and uniformly warm, however the small of my back tends to get hotter than the rest of my body because my backpack is pressing the vest against me.
So, I leave the two little connectors disconnected, and I’m quite comfortable this way.
About the heat – it doesn’t take long to start feeling the warmth. Usually by the time my bike is warmed up and ready to go I can also feel significant warmth from the vest. I also didn’t buy the little controller, but so far I’ve been doing okay without it.
I haven’t been doing long rides lately, but there’s only been once when I felt I was getting too warm. The vest is very warm, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortably warm to me.
Anyway, I’ve been really pleased with the Stormrider. The fact that I don’t have to worry about shivering makes it so much easier to concentrate on the road, and I no longer have any inhibitions about going out riding when it’s cold.
Oh — one last comment – if you want to save some dough, I asked Motohaus (their UK distributor) and they do sell to the US without charging VAT. exo2’s website doesn’t seem to allow you the option of not paying the VAT.”