My Heated Riding Gear Experience

Motorcycle riding in the Chicago area can get rather challenging in the winter. The commute to and from my office location downtown can get pretty cold when the temps drop below freezing. Up to this year, I’ve managed to get by with extra layers of clothing, and thicker socks, gloves, etc.

powerlet-rapidfire-glove-liner-kitI was recently visiting my local Triumph dealer and saw a product on display by Powerlet called the RapidFIRe Heated Glove Liner Kit. I was familiar with Powerlet as I had previously installed their accessory power outlet kit for the Triumph Bonneville. The Powerlet packaging said it was for gloves/socks. The dealer didn’t have any socks, so I figured I’d pick those up online. I purchased the kit. When I got it home and opened up the package, I discovered that it contained two glove liners, and one controller (as shown). I couldn’t see how a set of socks could be added to this kit as I had expected it could based upon the packaging. Somewhat disappointed, I went online to see what I could find to supplement this setup with sock liners. I could not find a Powerlet sock liner product anywhere!

I contacted Powerlet about this via their website contact form and received a reply that they do not currently offer a sock liner product, but that they may come out with a kit in 2013. They also admitted knowledge of the “labeling confusion” on their current packaging. They also said that other brands of sock liners would work with their controller and gear.

So, I went online and found FirstGear heated riding gear products and ordered a pair of sock liners, and a single portable controller. When these arrived, I realized that I also needed a Y-cable to connect the socks to their controller. This was again disappointing because I couldn’t understand why the manufacturer wouldn’t have made this more clear. So, I ordered the missing Y cable as well and waited for it to arrive.

IMG_1839When I finally had the completed FirstGear setup for heated socks (see photo), I installed the FirstGear battery harness on top of the existing Powerlet harness. It looked almost identical to the Powerlet battery harness. This gave me two coaxial pigtails hanging down off the battery… one for my heated Powerlet gloves, and one for my heated FirstGear socks. Next, I put on the sock liners, Y-cable, and heat controller, then my heated glove liners, cables and controller. I plugged the Powerlet gloves into the Powerlet controller, and the FirstGear sock liners into the FirstGear controller. I started up the Bonneville and left my garage for a test ride.

y-cable heat-controller sock-liners glove-linersAt first, everything seemed to go fine. I could feel the heat building in my hand and feet. This continued until about 8 to 10 blocks away from my home. My Bonnie started missing, coughing, and losing power. At first I thought it was the carburation, and adjusted the choke. When this did not solve the problem, I turned around and headed back to my garage. The Bonnie finally died about a block from home, and I could not get it started. It acted like the battery was dead. After getting it home and hooking up the trickle charger, the battery was reading 100% within an hour.

I sent emails to bother Powerlet and FirstGear, asking what could have caused this loss of power to happen. I thought maybe their two systems were incompatible in some way that causes extreme battery drain.

Powerlet responded first and asked me additional setup questions and to try different combinations of setup to see what happened.They claimed the two products should be compatible, and could not explain my symptoms other than a possible bad battery.

FirstGear responded also with regrets that I was having a problem and asked for additional information regarding my setup. After supplying them with the additional information about the age of my battery, particular setup, etc. they asked if they could inspect their products that I had purchased. They offered to send me a prepaid shipping label to send the FirstGear products back to them for inspection, and offered to send me new products with a completes setup including glove liners, sock liners, Y-cables and a dual controller!

I am happy to report that when I removed the Powerlet battery harness and gear, and installed the FirstGear products, they worked flawlessly. I took the Bonnie on a test ride in 20 degree sunny Chicago weather and both my hands and feet remained comfortable. My battery worked fine and I’ve had no recurring power drain issues.

The lessons I learned are:

  • When you make your heated gear purchase, make sure you understand what is included and not included… don’t trust the packaging!
  • Don’t mix heated gear manufacturers and products or you are asking for trouble.
  • Contact the manufacturers directly when you have a problem and allow them to help you troubleshoot the issues.
  • Manufacturers are generally concerned about your customer experience and will repsond quickly when you call or email them. Both Powerlet and FirstGear responded in this way.
  • I know that Powerlet and FirstGear make quality products, but in this case, FirstGear really took care of me!