Exposed to cold, the human body will happily sacrifice toes and fingers to frostbite in order to divert blood to keep the inner organs warm, thereby thinning down the blood vessels under the skin. This is obviously most noticeable in the limbs, so, barring any inherent pathological conditions, if you keep your torso warm, you will also have better circulation in your extremities. Most would argue that it’s easier to add layers to your torso than to hands and feet, but layers only work when there’s some space for air in between to effectively trap heat. Under motorcycle kit that becomes a problem, not to mention the fact that you need to retain some mobility...
Heated kit is the most sensible first choice if you want to prepare for cold weather riding and I’ve had this Keis heated bodywarmer on review for more than 1,500 miles with my Honda CBR500R on all manner of roads and at various times of the day and night, in temperatures ranging from 6°C down to -4°C (so far)…
Connectors for Keis gloves, trousers and insoles are built into the vest
The outer shell of the bodywarmer is made of polyester with 7cm-wide securely-stitched Spandex panels running down the sides for extra stretch. At the neck there’s a high, plush-lined collar (with heating element), while a cloth flap runs underneath the main zipper to form a better heat seal.
A zippered pocket further down the left front panel contains a pair of connectors for the optional power controller; as standard, these are bridged with a short cable. The zip of this pocket is upside down, so it can be closed over the cables if the controller is fitted.
There’s a reinforced zippered outer breast pocket on the left side and another, larger pocket on the right front panel near the waistline.
The heating elements in the front and back aren’t visible, and I can’t feel them through the fabric. They’re made with Keis’ ‘Micro Carbon-Fibre Technology’, which spreads the heat more evenly and retains the warmth, thereby cutting down on the power consumption, according to Keis. These elements carry a lifetime warranty, and the wind-proof membrane helps prevent the heat being blown away at speed.
The connector that hooks into the supplied power cable is fastened securely inside the waistline of the bodywarmer and protrudes through a rubber flap and out of a zippered cable pouch in the inner lining; along with the very secure stitching and seams, the overall impression is one of a good quality product.
For the always tricky question of hygiene, the bodywarmer can be hand washed, and at this point I should point out that Keis also offers a heated vest, but that doesn’t have a collar.
Just like the Keis G601 heated gloves and T102 heated trousers, Keis has produced another very comfortable and cozy garment; from the snuggly collar to the stretch panels and the smooth lining, it feels great. The cut very much compliments the female form and the red piping adds to the stylish look.
The arm cut-outs are large enough that I don’t feel the underarm connectors for the heated gloves, or the connector at the waist for the trousers/insoles. The one bulky element is the pair of connectors in the zippered side pocket that attach to the optional controller.
The bodywarmer hugs the torso all the way down to the hips and, unfortunately, interferes with the zipping together of my Richa textile jacket and trousers. I could stuff it all into the heated trousers, but then the zip on my outer trousers is too much of a struggle to close and there’s hardly any exposed cable left to hook up to the battery power cable. If tucked in over the heated trousers the access to the temperature control flap on the trousers is blocked.
Also, the connector pair for the temperature controller may be hidden away in a pocket but it’s just at waistband height of my textile trousers, so it tends to pinch and be a bit uncomfortable, getting more noticeable if the controller is attached.
While having a bit of a fold in the bodywarmer to allow it to all fit over the waist zip makes it a bit harder to fasten the outer jacket, but once done up, everything feels fine and comfortable enough. I expect this little issue could be solved if I had the bodywarmer one size smaller, but this is a minor niggle on my part and like anything to do with fit, it will depend on your body shape, as well as the outer kit you’re using it with; Consumer Editor John Milbank uses a Keis heated bodywarmer and finds the connectors all sit above his trouser’s waistline.
The bodywarmer is available in sizes 6 to 20, with free UK return postage should you happen to order the wrong size. If it helps, I have a size 14 bodywarmer that fits my 5’6” and 65kg fairly straight body shape quite loosely while wearing a thermal base layer and a thin pullover underneath. Keis does suggest that buyers may wish to consider a size smaller than usual for a good, snug fit, but I’m happy with mine.
The connectors for the controller are hidden in the left pocket
The Keis bodywarmer’s heating panels spread the warmth quickly and evenly. As I wear a base layer and sweater underneath, above 7°C I don’t bother to turn it on, but it’s still nice to have as an extra layer and in case the temperature drops unexpectedly.
Between 6 and 2°C, the lowest temperature setting produces a comfortable feeling even at high speeds, and below 2°C the medium setting is needed while still wearing the same clothing underneath. I’ve yet to use the highest setting as this kit is so efficient.
With temperatures down to -4°C at speeds of 70+mph, there’s a good deal of warmth down the front and back, particularly around the shoulder blades. It’s definitely not too hot, but it’s in sharp contrast to the icy-cold wind that envelops you; it’s the reverse of sitting in a warm room eating an ice cream.
As the bodywarmer is sleeveless, I can feel how cold the air really is, but my arms never actually get cold; having a sufficiently warm torso (the bodywarmer has its own wind-proof membrane) really does wonders for the circulation in the arms, and I do have the extra benefit of the Keis heated gloves.
I had notions of getting rid of the winter liner in my Richa jacket to cut out as much bulk as possible but sadly it lets through too much cold air on my arms as the liner is also a wind stopper.
The heat in the collar is more toned down and that’s a good thing as it’s the only part of the bodywarmer that touches bare skin. Keis warns against any of their heated apparel being worn directly on the skin, but the soft lining and more moderate heat makes the neck feel comfortable. It’s never enough to not wear my thick neck tube below 5°C, but I’m also very prone to getting sore throats.
Power is supplied by the battery connector, with a selection of fuses supplied
The Keis bodywarmer draws 1.2A, so uses about 14.4W from a 12V source via the supplied cable, which has a fuse box and terminal ends for the bike battery. I have the securely-capped connector sticking out of the front of my Honda’s seat. Pro tip: pop the cap off before putting any gloves on… it really is very well secured.
The power supply lead can feed out of the bottom of the bodywarmer, or tuck up into the battery pocket
Before putting a 2A fuse in the inline fuse box of the battery cable, it’s a good idea to consider any other pieces of heated clothing you may want to connect to the bodywarmer. By the time you have trousers, gloves and insoles taking advantage of the sockets on the garment, a much larger fuse may be more appropriate, but a full selection is supplied. The fact that you only need to plug one power lead in though – even if you have the heated bodywarmer, gloves and trousers – makes life a lot simpler.
If the thought of a dangling power cable doesn’t appeal, or you’d like to have the benefits of the heated bodywarmer when off the bike, Keis offers an optional 2,600mAh li-ion battery pack to power the bodywarmer for £58, or a 5,200mAh model for £85, either of which fit into a dedicated pocket sewn into the lining.
I know of one woman who uses her Keis heated vest with a battery not only on the bike, but also when she’s riding her horse or walking the dog – it might be a high initial outlay, but it can prove incredibly useful.
While the Keis heated gloves and trousers have inbuilt temperature controls, the bodywarmer has none supplied. I find it quite disappointing that you have to spend another £36 for a temperature controller, something that I consider absolutely essential to adjust the comfort levels, and to avoid having to pull over quickly and disconnect the power cable when it gets too warm.
I’m lucky enough to have the controller as part of this review, and having it poking out from underneath my Richa jacket makes adjusting the temperature or turning it off easy even while moving.
The controller, encased in a hard, water-resistant plastic shell, has a power button that turns the bodywarmer on by holding it down for two seconds, then cycles through three temperature settings – high, medium and low – when pressed quickly. Another two-second press turns the bodywarmer off. The temperature settings are shown via a set of LED indicators (red, yellow and green respectively). This really is an essential item, so budget for it when buying.
This is quite simply another great quality product that does exactly what it promises, keeping your torso and neck warm and cosy even in sub-zero temperatures. The warmth on the body is enough to mitigate the lack of heated sleeves, although I do have the benefit of heated gloves.
Keeping the torso warm is key to overall riding comfort in the winter, and the Keis bodywarmer does this very efficiently, with a good deal of style and comfort. Like other heated clothing, it’s not exactly a cheap investment, but it’s most certainly a worthwhile one. The lack of an included temperature controller is really my only criticism.