Date reviewed: 23/03/2019 | Tested by: Patricia Stiemke, BikeSocial Test Team | Price: Jacket Liner £169.99, Trouser Liner £139.99, Glove Liner £99.99 | www.blazewear.com
After surviving most of another miserable winter, I’ve recently had the privilege of finishing the coldest season with a really decent set of heated clothing. I’ve been wearing the Blaze Wear Heated Motorcycle Trouser, Jacket and Glove Liners on my daily 70 mile commute along dual carriage ways, over miles of open country road, filtering through city traffic and through the twists of forest routes. My work-horse is a 1999 ZX6-R and yes, I do feel guilty about the amount of miles I’m putting on what is essentially a racehorse.
I was a bit suspicious of this kit at first as my only other experience with heated clothing was some Keis heated glove liners, which I found too underpowered once the temperature dropped below 3°C. The Blaze Wear kit is something you’d want to consider if you feel like a winter expedition to Finland for a bit of casual ice racing.
Blaze Wear describes its heated clothing as unisex and offers sizes from XS to XXL, with a helpful size chart as a guide. I’m 167 cm (5’5”) and fairly standard build with size L trouser liners. Lengthwise they fit perfectly and the elastic waistband can accommodate my entire outerwear stuffed inside when fully expanded, and then some. However, they do not feel baggy.
The waist closes with a zipper and a popper button. There’s a zippered pocket on the outside containing the electrical connector cable, and the lining doesn’t hug my legs, but doesn’t feel too floppy either. When sitting on the bike, the liner doesn’t fold or pinch anywhere.
The inner material is 100% nylon but feels like fleece against the top of the legs, and like smooth velvet against the backs; a very nice feeling indeed. There’s extra padding on top of the knees and the leg ends are zippered.
There’s a small hook and loop fastened pocket on the inside that contains the electrical connector cables for the heated socks, something I’ll definitely invest in for next winter.
There’s what I can only describe as a reinforced cloth beaver tail, which has the power button at the end. It originates inside the waistband and carries a flat sewn-in electrical band that ends in the power button. The idea is to let this flap hang out of your outer clothing so you can turn it on and off, and adjust the temperature without rummaging in your trousers, possibly causing unwanted public attention.
The flat electrical band has the advantage that you can bend the flap without breaking the wires. Blaze Wear states that this controller is waterproof. From my experience so far, the claim is correct. On the occasions where I’ve not turned on the trouser lining, the flap has not been of any discomfort when tucked inside the lining.
The jacket liner is thin, long sleeved, high collared and with a broad elasticated section at the wrists. The zipped pouches on the outside of the lower arms, which contain the connector cables for the glove liners, do not feel too bulky and do not interfere with my outer jacket sleeves.
The liner is also size L, and here I could have easily gone for a size M as it will fit comfortably over my normal clothing and even my Forcefield vest with its thick back protector and chest pads.
The collar has a soft inner lining like the trousers. I prefer this collar next to my skin over the collar on the Forcefield vest. The rest of the jacket is lined like most light rain jackets; if it gets too hot, it will stick to your skin unless you have a clothing layer in between.
The zipped inner pocket at the waist containing the electrical connector cable is sewn into the lining so it doesn’t stick out or feel bulky. The same applies to the hard plastic fuse holder. The only addition I would have wished for is an elastic section at the waist and a longer flap incorporating the power button. The material is so light that it’s a hassle to tuck into my motorcycle trousers without bunching up and having to fiddle about to straighten it.
When you’re in a hurry to get out the door in the mornings, it can get a bit frustrating having to fight with numerous layers of clothing. After all that, I still have to reach down and try and find the power button to activate the liner.
The glove liners are a size XS/S, which is perfect for me. They fit under my winter gloves – a pair of size 8 Rukka Mars. I believe a size 8 equates to medium in gloves, and they are roomy without being too big.
The liners are very comfortable; the inner lining of 85% nylon and 15% spandex hugs the hand and fingers without pulling, creasing, bunching or feeling too thick. I can’t feel the electrical wire along the fingers either.
There is the obligatory hook and loop strap for wrist size adjustment, which is also very unobtrusive. The plug for the electrical connector is well constructed and situated, so it doesn’t sit over any flexor tendons, major blood vessels or joints. I certainly don’t feel its presence while riding.
The power button sits at the top of the wrist for easy access and has a good height for operating with outer gloves on, without sticking up too much to interfere with sleeves.
The only slight design flaw is at the tips of the index finger and thumb where Blaze Wear has opted to attach extra pads for the touch screen compatibility. They feel like your fingertip is in a bit of a wedge and if you don’t get the angle of your finger just right when putting the liners on, this can start rubbing on your fingernail beds while riding. What is a bit more concerning though is that the index finger and thumb is already showing signs of fraying on the underside, and the thread is unravelling from the thumb pad seam.
Like most electrical accessories for motorcycles, each piece of kit comes with a cable terminated in closed ring black and red terminal wires for the battery, and a capped end connector for the clothing cable. The cables each have a 15A fuse, which seems very high – Keis supplies a range of fuses with its kit, so you can choose the one that’s just above the rated power for the gear you’re using.
The Y-connector has to be bought separately
Your bike does need to have a 12V battery, and there’s a separate converter cable (£9.99) if you have a cigarette-style power outlet on your bike.
Installation is as simple as getting to your battery and attaching the end terminals. Having said that, I do realise that some batteries are harder to access than others but the installation is otherwise straightforward. Routing the cable so it emerges from the top, side or under your seat is a personal choice, as long as the connector end doesn’t hang out for more than five inches (according to the instruction manual provided).
I found that, as all the cables from the liners basically end up poking out of your waistband, having the battery cable connector poking out of the top of your seat somewhere is the safest option. I initially had the cable zip-tied to my pillion footrest hanger, but didn’t feel comfortable with that much cable flapping about on the outside.
The cable lengths are all adequate for a connection to the battery cable, and any excess cable on the liners can be shoved into the sown in pockets and held at the required lengths by closing the zipper as much as possible.
The supplied 15A fuse really is too high – the trousers draw 3.2A, the jacket 3.5A and the gloves 0.6A each. For safety, Blaze Wear really should supply smaller fuses for each item, along with larger ones for combinations of kit; running all this together is a draw of 7.9A, so a 10A fuse would be ideal.
I treat the battery on my bike very carefully. Not only do I not know how it really is, but I have had it dead on one occasion early on in my ownership. I never have drawing power from it when the bike’s not running.
I’ve got heated grips and a pair of cheap Chinese spotlights with microscopic wires attached to the terminals. Adding even more makes me very nervous, but I needn’t have worried. With all the liners turned on, plus the heated grips (just for testing) and spotlights, the battery is absolutely fine – no fuses blown and perfect starting.
It is important not to overload your bike’s alternator, but if you’re not sure of its capacity, you can test it easily – just have the bike running at tick-over or just above, then put a voltmeter across the terminals. A healthy system, with no auxiliary draw, should read around 13.6-14.1V approximately. While watching the meter, turn on each accessory – if the voltage drops, it means the alternator is no longer able to supply the required power. You could try building the revs a little – if the drop was small, and it comes back when the engines revving a little higher, you should still be okay. If in doubt, check with your dealer.
So, after all that, how well does this kit work? The short answer is very well. Almost too well; I was not kidding about the expedition to Finland.
There are three temperature settings on all liners, reflected by LEDs in the power buttons. The button is held down for a second or two and starts off with the highest setting (red). A quick press will set it down to medium (yellow) and another quick press will turn it to the lowest setting (green). More quick presses will cycle through the different temperatures again and a long press will turn the liner off. The lowest setting is said to be for 38°C, medium is 45°C and high is 52°C. These settings apply to all liners.
I used different settings for trousers, jacket and gloves, mainly due to the different layers I had above and below the kit, but if pressing all those buttons feels a bit tedious, there is an optional wireless remote controller for the jacket liner (£34.99), which makes sense as this is the power button that’s hardest to access when all outer wear is in place. The buttons on the glove liners and the beaver tail from the trousers are easy to manipulate, even with gloves on.
I was riding in the mornings with temperatures around 0°C and the glove liners were on medium. My hands were toasty without getting grilled, and the heat was where it’s most needed – along the backs of the hands and all along the top and sides of the fingers. There were no concentrated heat spots anywhere. This was a revelation – I have very good Oxford heated grips, but have not used them once since I started wearing the glove liners. I had them on the low setting when the air was around 3°C to 6°C; after that it was just getting too warm to use them, even though they are quite useful for warmth even when turned off. A liner is a liner after all.
The jacket is a more complicated story. It was perfect on the low setting at around 0°C, but I had to shed layers; I ended up leaving my work shirts at work and literally riding in a bra, sleeveless cotton undershirt and my Forcefield vest with the Blaze Wear liner between the undershirt and the vest. Even on the low setting, it was getting very, very warm between my shoulders. The arms, core and neck felt very nice and cozy, as even the neck collar is heat wired. I have a cheap Triumph textile jacket as my outer wear, but I ended up taking out the inner liner so I could really test the Blaze Wear kit without overheating. Overall, this liner does its job, and then some.
The trouser liner is a mixed bag. Yes, it works very well on the top and side of the legs, and the inner thighs, but if you overheat in these, you could end up with red burn lines on your skin for around an hour after you stop.
Admittedly, I was stupid. Again at 0°C, I had it on medium because I have the cheapest (£34 off eBay), ripped at a few seams outer trousers, and I do get cold legs. What I should have done was pull over and adjust the setting to low after I was starting to feel uncomfortably warm. Instead, I rode another 10 miles to get my parking spot at work and ended up with my thighs looking like grilled aubergine slices. I have had it on the low setting only after that day, and I’ve been absolutely fine.
However, the designers have missed an important trick, especially for us females; the bum heater. It feels odd, even disjointed, to have warmth all over your legs but none on the bottom of your seat. I would urge Blaze Wear to include heated wiring along the bottom of, well, the bottom. Cars have heated seats, so why can’t we have it as a part of clothing?
Overall, the Blaze Wear heated liners have been superb. I’ve not dreaded the morning commute, and I find myself forgetting that there could still be the occasional icy patch on the road. I feel more inclined to flex, stretch and move about while riding, instead of hunkering down, trying unsuccessfully to escape the remnants of winter.
There is an interesting aside here. Blaze Wear advocates the deep heating effect its liners can have. When it comes to my hands, I’m inclined to agree. Being over 50, I have the odd arthritic spot around my knuckles and basal joints in my hands. Those have been getting better since I’ve been using the glove liners.
I will make no grandiose claims, I am a scientist, but I can report my observations and the fact that the swelling between my knuckles has gone down considerably.
I would very much recommend this kit, and I will definitely add the socks next winter. I’m not convinced by the remote control as £35 just for setting up the jacket liner seems a bit much, and I hope the glove liners will wear well, despite the early fraying on the index finger and thumb. I also think Blaze Wear should supply a range of fuses.
Other than that, this is a great kit. Pricewise, it’s comparable to the other kits on the market – not cheap but a worthy investment if you commute in all seasons. The best part, in my opinion, is the glove liners – outstanding.
As far as I’m concerned, apart from ice, roll on next winter! I now have the essential survival equipment.