As a kid growing up in Northern Minnesota, I remember snowmobiling in temperatures far below zero degrees Fahrenheit. We never thought about how cold it was. We were too busy enjoying the ride.
The winter months in the Pacific Northwest offer a completely different winter motoring experience. Snowmobiles have been replaced with year-round motorcycling.
Hypothermia is a real risk when riding motorcycles in the winter. Even with temperatures hovering around freezing, windchill and its friend hypothermia quickly become an issue with winter riding. The Mayo Clinic defines hypothermia as a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature drops below 95 F (35 C). The Mayo Clinic also says that when your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs are affected.
It is the nervous system that we are most concerned about as motorcyclists. Hypothermia has similar effects on the brain as a night on the town with too much to drink. The first thing that is impaired is your judgment. The brain is the key organ that we use to process information and keep the bike rubber side down.
Riding motorcycles in the winter requires layers of clothing to fight hypothermia and keep us warm. These layers can build up under a riding suit and inhibit movement. It can get to the point that they make you feel like the kid from A Christmas Story and have you complaining that you can’t put your arms down.
Just like little Randy Parker couldn’t move, layers can impede life-saving movements on a motorcycle. For me, this is the impetus to buy and use electrically heated gear while riding motorcycles in the cold of winter.
The layer affect is what led me to get the new Aerostich Warmbib. Many companies offer heated vests or jackets, but I want something that packs small for easy storage and doesn’t add bulk under my riding suit. The Warmbib is tiny when folded into its self-contained storage pocket. Since it doesn’t take up much storage room, I just keep it in the topcase of my bike and pull it out when the temperature dips. The lack of fabric on the back and arms allows full body movement.
A concern with electrically heated gear is the draw that it has on often weak motorcycle electical systems. The electronic gadgets that riders enjoy can add up and begin pulling more wattage than the alternator on the bike provides. This results in drained batteries and ticked off riders. A big advantage of the Warmbib for me is that it doesn’t have as much surface to heat and thus only pulls 30 watts — about half that of many jackets. The low draw on power will actually allow me to run two bibs on my Suzuki V-Strom. That allows my #1 pillion to extend her riding season with me. SHaring the winter riding experience with her is a huge bonus — even if it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.
An obvious question is, does less heated surface lead to non-sufficient warmth for the rider? I haven’t found this to be the case with the Warmbib. It heats the core of the body and the circulatory system spreads that warmth to the extremities. At least that is the best non-scientific answer I can offer.
With the limited heating surface, it is important that the Warmbib stays put to maximize the transfer of heat to the body. Aerostich says that the Windstopper outer surface is slippery and the inner fleece layer is “grabby” keeping the bib in place under your riding suit. I have found this to be true. The bib doesn’t bunch up under my Roadcrafter suit. It is comfortable, stays put and keeps me toasty warm.
The fused cord attaches to the bike with a standard SAE plug. The lighted switch is handy for reaching down to turn the bib on and off. The coiled cord is nice for when I forget that I’m plugged into the bike and inadvertently get off without unplugging (i.e. it stretches to allow me to complete my bird-brained dismount before unplugging).
The warmbib is a unique, simple product that keeps motorcyclists warm. It sells for $67.00 on Aerostich’s Website. It is truly an affordable means of extending the riding season.
Sidenote: There are several companies offering heated gear including, Gerbings, Aerostich, Tourmaster and others. I’ve heard good things about Gerbings and their new micro-wire technology. I decided on the Aerostich Warmbib because I have bought from them many times before and trust them. They have a good reputation for solid products and great customer service.