BMW HeatUP Vest
Without proper attitude and preparation, winter riding can often be uncomfortable and sometimes just downright miserable. A long time ago I had a rule, above 40oF = RIDE! That was back when I wore a men’s heated jacket (small) stuffed under my tough Harley leathers. Now, I have a new rule, above 25oF = RIDE! Besides my Hippo Hands which I reported on a couple of weeks ago, one new garment opened up my riding world last winter: The BMW Motorrad HEATUP VEST.
Snowing, outside temperatures in the low 20’s, I rode along completely toasty and comfortable inside my Klim suit because my BMW vest kept my core body temperature up. I was dry and warm and able to ride safely until icing on my visor and snow piling up on the road forced me to exit the road and find shelter. Actually, it was the highway patrol closing the road that forced the halt. It was nearly June in the High Sierra Mountains as we finished an 8000-mile motorcycle journey, and were heading home near the Truckee Pass. Who would’ve believed one could need heated gear in the USA in June? Packing only what you need is an adventurer’s goal but clearly—we needed everything on this trip. It was 85-90oF only 2 weeks earlier as we passed through South Texas and Louisiana. This fabulous garment from BMW met all the packing requirements and I would never think of leaving home without it so I want to share the good and the bad with you.
It is light weight, not bulky, and packs flat and sleek in the bottom of my tail bag. It heats up quick and can get really hot so buying the expensive Controller, sold separately, is recommended. Like lots of the motorcycle world’s best—not made for women—I found the XS fit good enough. The vest does not have a collar and has a center off set zipper so it is not bulky and constricting around the neck. It breathes so when the environmental temperature heats up, you just unplug or turn it off if you have the controller. There is no need to stop and strip and pack in the middle of your ride. The virtues far outweigh the vices and I would buy it again in a second if I woke up tomorrow and my vest was gone. I wouldn’t think of leaving home without it.
As for the negative attributes, I have found fixes, so I am happy with this garment. It is expensive – hey, it is made by BMW. I tried not buying the $70 Controller. Then, it had only one temperature and that was very, very hot. After a couple of rides where I had to make a choice between being too hot or too cold, I purchased the controller. Problem one was solved.
Problem two was the short, curly and flexible cord that came with the vest and plugged in directly to the motorcycle’s (BMW GS 700) auxiliary power socket. Every time I used this power
source the vest would work for 10 minutes and then the power would shut off. According to my manual the power supply is discontinued when there becomes too much drain on the battery. My husband installed a plug-in cable directly to my battery and that solved the problem.
Problem three could have been caused by my solution to problem two but no worries, I found a work around for this problem also. The vest gets really hot on the red setting. A couple of times I noticed red burn marks across my back in a pattern consistent with the heating elements on the vest. If you want to use the hottest setting (Red), never wear a thin undergarment. If you must wear a thin undergarment, then only use the green or yellow settings.
Lastly, problems 4 and 5 have to do with the connections. Standing while riding requires flexibility of the cables. Otherwise, they come un-plugged and you can lose the expensive Controller, or come unplugged from the battery and the vest no longer heats. I devised a system of using a stretchy hair tire and D ring attached to my pants for flexibility while standing and duct tape to secure the Controller to the vest. Now I never come unplugged and I haven’t yet lost the Controller.
Sometimes I have wished I had an equally warm garment for my legs but BMW does not make an accompanying leg warmer. In planning for my 2017 trip to Alaska, I would like something for my legs that is sleek and non-bulky like this vest. If you have any suggestions, please share them with me!