Heated Gear - it really works!

710KM to Paris - pre-knackered - the night from hell

Posted: 25 August 2007
by Bill@Mission

This article was originally supposed to be a joyous confirmation that mototrain is a better option to cross france in a hurry than riding it - but because of business reasons I missed the train by an hour and had to ride up to deliver the bike to customers in a hurry. So now it's about a long (480 mile) night ride on the motorway and all the sh*t that goes with it. It's also confirmation that your kit absolutely effects your motorcycling experience.

So for the second time in a year I was faced with the prospect of riding up to Paris " but this time overnight after a hard day in the office.

Warning and disclaimer:

This article is written from a user's perspective.

But Mission Motos does sell the heated gear in question and also has the rights to sell PACSAFE products in France. As this article is written for a UK audience primarily - there will be reference to the PACSAFE brand and the features of the products used on the ride (which will inform a UK audience which we won't be selling to). The brand name of the heated gear we sell will not be mentioned in this article - which is essentially about the first time experience of heated gear - but clearly some of the features and effects of the gear probably apply only to that which was used and not other products. Specific features of the heated gear will not be mentioned - but the effects (hopefully as generic as possible will be.

Other products such as the author's Aerostich Roadcrafter cannot be bought from anywhere other than the manufacturer - so specific comments about the design and performance of this product will be unrestrained.

Mission Motos also rents motorcycles - so there is reference to this also.

So as such it is not an attempt to stealth advertise - I have added this disclaimer to discourage anyone liable to complain about stealth advertising from doing so - any anyone who dislikes the idea of stealth advertising or plugging to stop reading ... NOW!

At 9:30 p.m. the French customer who had thrown an utter paddy at being charged extra for KM and being late (both in our contracts) had abandoned his sit-in at the shop and I had just about got used to the idea that the 35 euros I had charged him for lateness by no means compensated me for the 250 euros I had just lost in an irreclaimable mototrain ticket I had booked the night before. The Police weren't interested when I called to say that the man had refused to leave the shop but because I had the distinct impression my chain was being seriously pulled (as I had told him to be on time as I had a train to catch), and he was a local " I elected to not relent and miss the train rather than getting a reputation for being a pushover -probably far more expensive in the long run than the ticket. We always try our best " but about one in a hundred contracts just seem to end in arguments and tears " and it's always a French customer " go figure....

No sympathy for me tho', please " I figured I knew what we were getting into when I started the business.

Anyway I had missed the train and now I had exactly 12 hours to ride the R1200GS the 710 Km to Paris to meet the customer. The bike is being used for the Press Bike ad I put onto the site " and the lucky winner was a buddy of the photographer in question. He just felt more comfortable with someone he knew.

I repacked the stuff my wife put into a suitcase into a Pacsafe Tankbag " put the customer's lids and contracts into the cases on the GS and started looking around for earplugs and my riding gear in the shop. As I was doing this I came across the samples of heated gear we have bought as samples for distribution and rental " and I thought why not? So I grabbed the long sleeved vest and the gloves (the vest is curiously my size " the gloves are the largest so anyone can get their hands in). Stuffed them in the tankbag, grabbed my Pacsafe 'tuffsafe' and chucked that in too and with no further thought got into my 'tich pushed the bike out the shop, locked up and left the whole sorry mess behind me.

At this point we need to get a picture " but no camera available so here goes:

Middle aged man in yellow aerostich roadcrafter " underneath " shorts and a t shirt (it has been hot in Toulouse) wearing thin leather harley type bike boots with no protection " last waterproofed in 2003 when the owner left the UK, he has light summer gloves on and round his waist is a small 'bum bag' containing mobile, credit card, cash and receipts. R1200GS immaculately cleaned " for train trip and delivery " sporting OEM BMW luggage and a tanksafe tankbag. Rider condition: tired at the end of the week's work, pissed off at the customer situation " not happy at being faced with a 480 mile night ride especially on the peage, hungry, unfed, unwashed " pre-knackered generally. He's standing putting in his plugs and helmet " which is a bug ridden fuzzy mess " covered with commercial information " he's hot.

So it's out onto the empty Saturday evening peripherique following the signs to Paris.

Thoughts turn to the trip. Running the bike up at 100KPH is the best option to minimise tire wear and fuel costs " so:

Some quick calculations " 11.5 hours to get 750 KM at 100KPH is 7.5 hours. An hour to get lost in Paris leaves 3 hours off bike " so no chance of a few hours kip in a hotel and my mood and morale downturn rapidly.

50 KM later it's the Montauban peage station and I am starting to get signs for the A20 and Paris. The first motorway station comes up and I realise that once I get into Paris I have absolutely no idea of where the station is. So I phone the wife and ask her to look on viamichelin for directions to the station, have a cup of coffee and a muffin then head on. It's about 10:30 pm " I have not calmed down yet so am not feeling tired.

The GS does not want to do 100KPH " she prefers 90 or 120 " in the end we settle on 105 and she sits happily-ish roundabout that speed.

There is a little wind roar from the screen and my head is very gently buffeted from side to side by the occasional gust from the side. I start to get a little cold in the hands and switch on the grips " we trundle on sedately " with me gently adjusting the throttle from time to time as she either settles down to 90 or speeds up to 120.

The view is a set of white lines gently blurring into the distance " unvarying and hypnotic.

I start to get a little cold and target fixation starts to set in. At first it's the crash barrier and I start to drift across to it, then it's the rumble strip and I go that way instead. I am blinking long and slow " and it's only 11 p.m. so I have 10.5 hours left.

I pull into an unlit aire and get out the heated jacket liner and it's controller " and arse around with the seat of the GS in the dark to get at the battery harness that I put on the bike months ago.

Plug controller to bike and controller to liner. Check function " it works! Arse around with controller and bum bag belt to fix controller " as stupidly forgot order belt pouch for controller (which would have sorted the problem) and get on the bike.

Adjust controller and set off. The warmth is starting to permeate the jacket within 30 seconds " but it's not enough so I hoik it round a quarter turn and wait.

Bizarrely enough a warm feeling cuts in around my stomach and I can feel some heat in my right arm but not the left. I pull over to the side of the road to check and the heat leaves my stomach and settles in my chest and shoulders. I put my hand on my left arm and press my left arm warms up and my right arm goes cold. It all seems to be working so I set off and hoik it another quarter turn to ¾ power.

It feels like someone has stuffed a hot water bottle into my stomach now " the heat has gone from my chest and shoulders again " and my left arm is cold and sections of my right arm are hot. This is pretty bizarre and doesn't seem like a short circuit.

I puzzle about this for a while " it is 11:45 and my hands are getting cold so I double the power to the heated grips and it feels like I'm gripping a central heating pipe.

I ponder this issue with uneven heating for a while " and bumble along at 90 KPH without noting for half an hour. My arse is getting sore so I shift my position " the band of heat disappears from my stomach and spreads more or less evenly on my chest. I am puzzled a little by this and suddenly it hits me. I bought the stich big enough to fit a fleece underneath. Unlike dressing for cold normally where tight is bad " for heated gear tight is good!

The backs of my hands are cold and I wish for another set of gloves " then it filters thru my poor tired brain that I have some so I pull in the next aire for a coffee stop.

I am shattered. It is now one o clock and I have gone under half the distance.

I phone the wife to see how she is getting on with directions. The conversation starts very well. 'Go into the centre of town and find Notre Dame Cathedral' she says.

I tell her I know exactly where it is. 'OK " now every church has the doors to the west and the altar to the east. You need to find the altar end and head away towards the south east on a big road' 'What's it called?' 'I don't know " and remember " not the Eifel tower, Notre Dame cathedral' 'I'm buying a map' 'You don't need a f*cking map " just listen'. More bizarre directions follow and I listen with half an ear repeating the names of dead French generals and saints to convince her I'm writing everything down and look around to see if I can find a map of Paris. There isn't one " and so, promising not to get killed, not to get lost, not to drive to fast and with protestations of undying love and affection I sit down to a cold cup of espresso, a sausage sandwich and a glass of water and try to stay awake. It doesn't help the hunger " but I am drowsy enough not to want to overload my system with food.

An early fazer 600 with a very sporty end can parks next to the GS and a young French lad struts in and buys a cup of coffee and a croissant. Can he join me? Of course.

We swap start and proposed end points. He has made an incredible time from Paris " so I ask him how fast he's riding the bike " 250KPH he says which is well over 140 MPH.

He's got jeans, a furygan jacket and a cheap helmet with a pair of medium weight gloves. His hands are shaking. Is he cold " no, it's the vibes from the bike. Are you afraid of having an accident at that speed?

Turns out he had one a year ago " two weeks in coma, 3 months in bed, 6 months in physio " first day out he buys another bike, and rides it to the stop everywhere.

He is the lunatic fringe without a doubt. His knuckles are flat and cut. He clearly has a life expectancy of less than two years. I try and pitch the heated gear " but as it won't make him go faster he's not too interested.

I move onto the philosophy of riding slower, riding longer and riding all your life.

I'm boring him a little less now. I explain my idea is to ride bikes till my legs get weak " then move to Harleys. When they stop working at all go to trikes. He laughs, he likes it " but in the final analysis it doesn't involve speed and early death so we exchange hand shakes and 'bonne routes' and I stumble outside for a quick ciggy and force myself to walk up to the GS, get the heated gloves out plug them in, plug me in " then get on it and ride off.

1:45 " 450 KM or so to go........

The liner is still heating me unevenly " and now the gloves cut in too. There's no heat on the inside " but the knuckles get unbelievably hot. I remember the grips are switched on still so I turn them off to see if it helps reduce the heat. It does a little. I fiddle with the controller a little and the heat goes away. My left arm is now heated as well as my right " something to do with adjusting my stich. The outside temperature is less than 10 degrees C " and I am somewhere onto of the Massif I think.

My feet start to get cold and eventually my brain slowly works out its because I turned down the vest. At 2:15 I pull into another aire and unplug the gloves from the jacket " and turn the controller back up. Within 15 minutes my feet start to feel a little less cold and I can see the benefit of having a controller for each item of heated gear you wear " lesson number 2 for beginners!

But I am tired. My eyes stare fixedly ahead " the GS rumbles through the night. I am tired beyond measurement " I resolve to write this article " and a commentary of impressions gives me something to think about.

The only thing is " I'm not cold " the temperature is dropping and I turn on the grips.

The heat on my torso is spreading a little more evenly " but some parts of me " especially where the bum bag pulls the stich onto my tummy are really hot. I jiggle about on the seat occasionally to try and ease the pain in my arse and spread the heat better.

The A20 descends from the massif in a series of downhill bends that are quite sharp. In my sleep and sensory deprived state they become major hassles " and I shit myself every time I have to lean the bike.

It doesn't help morale very much " but I am reminded about how much I loathe long distance motorway riding " especially at night. I'm basically warm " but the stich is blowing cold air onto my bare legs through the zips " and there is nothing I can really do about it. I would expect to be hungry " but because of the heated gear and the fact I am not moving my calorie consumption is down to almost nothing.

The mobile misery continues " I have a pair of long trousers and a shirt in the tankbag but want to save them as I plan to get a shower in Paris " and want clean clothes to change into. Otherwise apart from the ache in the arse and a tendency to fixate on the speedo or rev counter which is a little scary " I am more or less OK.

At 3:30 I have had enough and pull off the peage to have a coffee and more crap to eat.

My brain is no longer functioning and a paddle the GS to a stop in a very undignified fashion and almost drop it.

The temperature has dropped and as soon as I get off the bike and switch the gear off " my body temperature misses the heat and I start shivering. The fact is I am way underdressed and have the heat turned up too high. But it is working while I'm plugged in .....

My coffee break lasts almost an hour " my hands are shaking with tiredness, too much coffee and too much sugar. I don't want to get back on the bike. I'm so tired I scare myself " and the wife's constant bitching about being careful isn't amusing any more " I know she's spot on.

At 4:30 I have 300KM to go to Paris. The urge to get off the bike again after 15 minutes is almost overwhelming " but with my customers counting on an on-time delivery " I force myself to stay on.

At 5:15 I get off the bike again - more shivering and another ciggie.

The break lasts 15 minutes " sunrise reminds me to get on with it.

I pull off again at 5:45 " a light rain has started. I've ridden less than half an hour.

I am a little depressed. On the bike again 30 minutes later with 230 KM to go and an hour and a quarter to get there. But I have found a map of Paris " and my confidence levels of getting in easily have risen hugely. It's easy " follow the signs to Metz then get into the centre of town. Everything should be signposted from there.

I have the GS up to proper cruising speeds now " running between 120 and 140 KPH.

It's no longer dark " and I follow a guy on a sportsbike who I hope is in better condition than I am " trusting his eyes and reflexes " which isn't brilliant " but it is my best option.

It is however the safest form of fixation I can have " so I take it........

It is starting to pour down now...... with a shock I realise that I am starting to fixate on the raindrops on my visor " but just can't stop so close to the end. I know I'll not get on the bike again. My vision is cloudy and my reactions are shot " sports biker pulls away and I am left again in my own bubble of misery....

The cars have slowed down as the rain gets heavier " so for the first time in the entire trip I am overtaking them rather than the otherway round. Every time is a nightmare as I whip my brain into trying to calculate what I'm doing and whether its safe. I get close to rear ending a truck " more fixation...... I have less than 100KM to go.

I didn't grab my rain gear when I left the shop so my stich is letting in water " first through the zips " which I have forgotten to cover with the Velcro flaps. My underarms feel wet. Then my boots give in " first the left then the right. I feel my body temperature start to drop - I stop and plug the gloves into the vest. I am too tired to think my way through arranging the wires properly this time " and sure enough they work their way from under the sleeves of the stich. I have noticed a tendency to start to fixate on the raindrops on my visor and so start to worry about that again.

I am still warm. But my feet are squelching inside the boots. My shorts feel wet. Then my front feels wet too. I've never been warm and wet on a bike before " it's a strange feeling. The heat is now spread very evenly over my torso and my hands " after a while I get to provide a solution. The fact that I am now soaked means that everything is sticking to me evenly and so the heat is even too. My feet are very warm at this point. It's not so surprising " I used to run a K1200LT in the UK and at low temperatures used to switch on the heated seat " the effect of heating the blood going through my backside used to keep my feet from getting too cold. Any heat is good heat " keep up that core temperature - whatever!

I successfully pull off the A4 and start following the signs to Bercy Station.

I get in at 8:30 an hour before I am due to meet the customers. I cruise the nearby streets looking for an open café. - Sure enough there is one.

I park the bike up and stagger into the café. I order a cup of chocolate and a couple of croissants with my lid still on. Gloves off first " they are utterly soaked inside and out through because I didn't do them up properly. Lid off, plugs off. Breakfast arrives. As the hot chocolate eases into my system I try and locate the mobile " it's so soaked that it refuses to switch on. My receipts are soaked too " which will have my accountant raising his eyes to the ceiling as usual. I ask the guy next to me if there is a phone to use in the bar. He says normally down by the toilet " down the stairs. The shivers start again. I look at the stairs then the bike. The tanksafe is still on it " I am too brain dead to lock it on the bike and too tired to take it off and then put it on again. I thank him, and a couple of seconds later he has whipped out his mobile and, in perfect English, says I can call from it.

Suddenly I am reminded about why I love this country and its people. Apart from the odd tosser like last night's " the French are great. France is wonderful. I call home.... The wife who hasn't slept is grateful to hear from me " the guy tells her the number " she phones back. First order of business completed. He pays my bill " after we have an argument about who's had the hardest day (he had his story too). He used to run an XJ900 " and may be a potential customer " I offer him a massive discount if he hires " honour is satisfied on both sides. He leaves and I chance a coffee as the food has made me a little drowsy, and then get back on the bike to meet the customers at the station.

I am idling the GS at the traffic lights wondering if I just blanked out a light change when a really stong mid-west accent hollers " 'Hey, is that Bill?'. The customers have arrived.

Stefan in black bike leathers and Gregg the photographer in a borrowed jacket. Looks like the logos on the helmet worked then!

The bike gets parked outside another restaurant close by and I get out of my soaking stich for the first time in 12 hours. My language is choice as I explain what's happened and my journey up. Stefan understands completely. Gregg is a little confused and intimidated at my scary appearance. Not so intimidated tho' that the cheeky bastard doesn't take the opportunity to snap me looking like I just peed in my shorts. Jokes about incompetence are swapped as I undo the tanksafe and we leg it into the restaurant.

I leave the stich upstairs with them and pickup the tanksafe to go downstairs to change.

Just how wet I've got becomes apparent very quickly. Everywhere except my back, I am amazed that I managed to stay warm and it is a testament to the concept of heated gear that it has done it's job perfectly.

So has the tanksafe " my stuff is 100% dry. I re-emerge into the restaurant looking almost like a human being and feeling like one too.

We do the paperwork and have a chat. There schedule is tighter than mine so off they go.

I enlist the help of a waitress to pack my kit into the 80L stuffsafe. In it goes " stich rolled round my lid to protect it and everything else wet just thrown in.

I try to put the carry straps on the tanksafe " in one of those 'oh shit' moments I realise that I have taken the one for the tailpack instead. A sudden brainwave " (thank god for 2 breakfasts) has me hooking it on to the stuff safe " which makes a brilliant huge secure collapsible rucksack. I pull it on " and it works. (Note: I have asked the supplier if he will consider selling the tailbag straps separately " this works so well). The tankbag is light and despite being heavily loaded with wet gear and carrying a tank bag and being knackered beyond redemption I set off with a bit of a spring in my step to catch the train home.

The trip back.

After some arsing about I got on the metro and made it through to Montparnasse station for the trip back to Toulouse. Almost every train station if France has a shower facility " they are basically clean but sometimes a little mouldy. I stepped out of the shower feeling 200% better " warm and clean. Don't underestimate the power of a hot shower " especially on morale " most peage stops have them too " don't be afraid to use them!

Steak, chips and a 25cl carafe of red at the bistro sorted out everything bar being tired.

A two hour kip on the train almost sorted that out.

Some reflections on the kit

The heated gear " a controller per zone, sensible base clothing, worn tightly " and any heated gear will absolutely pay back the investment you put in it. Although I have not tried it " Gerbing has a good name in the field. Personally I deeply regret not buying any years ago " I would have saved myself hours/days of cold misery.

Aerostich Roadcrafter " probably the only single clothing purchase you need to make. Does not work too well with boots bulked out with armour " but does work with everything else. It's 'failure' was mine " Velcro zip covers not done up. Inappropriate clothing worn underneath " no attempt at carrying rain gear in rain that was lying 3-4 cms thick on the road. No attempt to waterproof for 4 years plus. Still rated number one piece of kit.

Pacsafe " every piece of feedback I have got on this piece of kit is that it is waterproof and secure. Have not tested tailpack in field conditions " but it sits well on the bike. The tankbag has taken 2 periods of heavy deluge (both on the same bike on a trip to paris) so far and has not let in a drop of water. It is expensive kit " but well worth it " especially if you want to lock stuff on your bike. The 80L stuffsafe will take all of your kit " and as mentioned we are researching whether we can sell a harness to carry it. The stuffsafe is 100% waterproof as well " one customer reports leaving it tied on the bike regularly over 4 days of rain and it never let in a drop.

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This thread is for discussion of the article Heated Gear - it really works!

Posted: 27/08/2007 at 20:06

Although I've been using heated gloves, then heated grips, for over 25 years, I only bought a heated waistcoat for Winter 05.

And from the first time of using it I was kicking myself for not having bought one much, much sooner.

My choice - because of a great bulk-buy discount (shared with several other Vd'ers) - was the EXO2.

This varies from Bill's in a couple of ways, including an optional battery pack (it 'just' heats your kidney area), a non-wires option which allows use on a variety of bikes and even off the bike (my father-in-law wore it at last year's Remembrance Day parade - he thought it was great!). The other difference is that although you can use a controller to vary temperature, it responds to your body's 'needs', only heating up when you cool down. This gives the weird (but pleasant) sensation of a 'heat massage' as the panels (shoulders, chest, kidneys) heat and cool at different times

The first time I used it wired from the bike was a 130 mile trip, over damp roads, with sleet and rain and temperatures around 2C.

Riding a BMW RT, I was so warm I switched the heated grips off!

One coffee stop mid-way, and I arrived home with slightly cold toes. Brilliant!


Posted: 31/08/2007 at 10:25

Horse wrote

And from the first time of using it I was kicking myself for not having bought one much, much sooner.

Maybe I should have just said that....

It doesn't matter which bike or which gear you use - this is absolutely the point.

Posted: 01/09/2007 at 08:25

I 2 have a gerbing jacket for years, the greatest bit of kit ever invented. Now going to buy the heated gloves.

Posted: 02/09/2007 at 19:49

Wow! Great ride, great story, great life! I have done similar late night rides.... just last year, I had to return home from Seattle after a ski-patrol training session. I was tired, and deathly afraid of smacking into a deer on the freeway (is that a problem in Europe? Kills many, many American motorcyclists). I found a big tractor-trailor truck going about 20mph over the limit (ridiculously low compared to over there), and I fell in behind him, hoping he'd hit the deer first. It rained, rained hard, but I had a Vetter electric vest under a down sweater, and I was warm finger tips to toes.....

The trip went well, but later I heard of a rider crippled using the same deer avoidance technique I'd used, following a big truck. The truck hit the deer all right, but then rolled the carcass along under the truck body.... until it bounded out into the lap of the motorcyclist! Months in the hospital....... damn deer! I hate em......... Thanks for the story!

Mel Goudge, Ellensburg, Washington State, USA

Posted: 09/09/2007 at 01:17

Now that's what I call customer service ! Anyone who risks life and limb to deliver a bike in that weather and time frame deserves to make a sale.

Posted: 22/09/2007 at 10:30

hondaladd wrote
I was tired, and deathly afraid of smacking into a deer on the freeway (is that a problem in Europe?

It is a problem in scandanavia I'm told - Reindeer are about moose sized - they lose a few there too.....

Posted: 25/09/2007 at 08:07

eojmo wrote
Now that's what I call customer service ! Anyone who risks life and limb to deliver a bike in that weather and time frame deserves to make a sale.

Thanks (he simpered ) - however the point of the story is that the weather was fine when I left Toulouse - and it only turned bad later on.

The great thing about heated gear is it packs to the size of a fleece (so you can take it anywhere anytime) - and is several orders of magnitude more effective. Like many of the early posters I wish I had bought some years ago - that is a message worth spreading!

Posted: 25/09/2007 at 08:15

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