Extreme cold weather riding – how cold is too cold with an e-vest?

Gerber electric vest with modified plug for use on OEM Honda 12v aux receptacle

How cold is too cold to ride a motorcycle?

Here in Western Canada, motorcycling means having to face cold weather, even in the middle of summer. It’s not uncommon in mid-July for the early morning temperature to be a bracing 7 degrees Celsius.

But by Canadian standards, 7 C isn’t impossibly cold.

Recently, on one of my last rides of the 2021 season, my friends organized a ride to Alliance for Japanese-style cuisine in the town’s tiny eatery run by a Korean couple.

With my ’19 Gold Wing’s heated grips and saddle set to ‘Max’, I was prepared for the cold start, modestly layered up in a long sleeve mock neck t-shirt, longjohns, a 10-year old pair of Joe Rocket overpants, Joe Rocket thinly insulated ‘waterproof’ gauntlet gloves, and an Olympia touring jacket with its typical quilted liner.

Bolstering my ‘mildly’ cold-weather garb was what I’d hoped would be my primary defence against the cold, a Gerbings heated vest.

At 9:00 AM, the temperature was 0 C, but when I met up with Robyn, the temperature had dropped to a frigid -2 C. Definitely cold. Later in the ride, the air temperature would rise to a more than comfortable 10-11 C.

My cold weather learnings from that day ride:

Too cold: Air temperature -2 to 0 degrees Celsius, Gerber heated vest on ‘Max’, Gold Wing heated grips and saddle on ‘Max’, after 2 hours, it’s still cold. My finger tips and toes are cold, and honestly, I can’t tell if the Gerber vest is on. I keep checking the light on the rheostat, and it’s glowing, so it must be on, but I’m cold. It’s not fun.

Tolerable: Air temperature 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, all heated gear set to ‘Max’, I’m ok. I can feel the heat from the Gerber vest, my hands and butt are sufficiently warm, and my comfort level is ‘tolerable.’ I could ride at this temperature for a long time, if I had to.

Acceptably comfortable: When the air temperature reaches 6 to 8 degrees Celsius, it feels comparatively balmy. I’m able to turn down the heat levels of the grips, saddle and Gerber vest to half power or so.

Despite these observations, I’ve ridden in much colder weather with all the above-mentioned gear plus a fleece pullover and aboard my previous ’14 BMW R1200RT, which has slightly better cold weather protection from it’s larger windshield a wider lower fairing than the Gold Wing.

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One Comment

  1. David Graham says:

    I found that a heated liner with heated long sleeves worked better than a vest only. Cranked up to keep my centre warm resulted in burning my neck on the collar.

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