Nov 15, 2010

Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner

On a recent cold weather ride in Northern Ontario, I suffered serious failures on my one year old Gerbing jacket liner. Temperatures were several degrees below the freezing mark.

First problem occurred when putting my Aerostich jacket on. I was holding on to the right side glove connector to guide it through the sleeve opening, and it came right off in my hand. The wire separated from the connector right at the molding. No chance to resolder.

The heated hand grips were still working but it was cold enough to make the back of my hands cold on this long highway ride in the early hours of the morning.

Then the left heated glove stopped working. The wire inside the insulation broke at the molding, but did not completely come off. In the picture, it may not be obvious, but the wire is bent over at an odd angle. Now both hands were cold. The heated hand grips just can't keep up when riding on the highway at -4C for a number of hours.

Then the left heated hand grip stopped working - broken wire. Quite unusual. I would expect more troubles with the right side, where the wires flex with each application of the throttle.

The heated grips had been preventing the onset of frostbite, but just barely. Now my left hand was without any heat at all. It wasn't long before my fingers were painful and stiff. I took my left hand off the the handlebar and placed it between me and the tankbag, out of the wind blast. It helped some, but my hand was still uncomfortably cold. The right wasn't much better. My legs were cold and there wasn't much heat under the liner either. There was just my jacket's shell between the heated liner and the frozen air. I had been shivering for some time.

I pulled over at a Tim Hortons to warm up. Once stopped, I picked out my heated pant liner and heated socks. I needed to get my core temperature up or the ride was done. Once inside, I ordered a chili and hot chocolate. It was around three in the morning with many hours of cold riding before the sun rose.

I put on the heated pant liner and heated socks, which plugged into the bottom of the heated jacket liner. I then put a sweater on top of the liner in hopes of keeping some of the heat in. After finishing my food, I went back at it.

No sense plugging in the heated gloves anymore. Off I go with my single heated grip and heated gear running. I felt better but the left hand suffered. I had to ride with it tucked behind the tankbag or risk frostbite.

I rode like this for hours. Eventually, the sun came up and temperatures inched above the freezing mark. The pain went away, but the cold never did.

By that day's nightfall, I was in warmer air south of Georgian Bay and it wasn't as cold. I was mad as hell, however, to be the victim of an early failure of a brand I once trusted.

My old Gerbing served me for over ten years, without a single problem for at least six of those years. After serving me valiantly for so long, it did eventually begin to suffer broken wires. I fixed them all myself, even though Gerbing offers a lifetime warranty on the wiring to the original owner.

A warranty isn't much good when one is freezing one's ass off in the middle of the night. I would rather fix a problem myself rather than mail it back to the United States, wait a few months, then pay outrageous brokerage fees upon return of the garment because they ignored my request to return via post instead of the hyper-expensive courier companies. (That subject being a whole other lengthy post)

And I can't do without a heated liner for months, summer or winter.

But after being stranded in the cold one too many times, I invested in another Gerbing. Big mistake. The new ones are now made in China and are of poor quality.

Others issues have irked me about the new designs. The jacket heat circuit and the glove heat circuit are now separate, forcing a purchase of a dual controller, or a splitter to run both circuits from one controller. Not a good idea from the standpoint of having more connections, which equates to more potential trouble spots.

Well guess what? I had problems with this splitter circuit within weeks of buying the jacket liner - right before the Iron Butt Rally. The heated jacket liner quit working while the gloves continued to provide heat. This problem was quite obviously the fault of the splitter. Sure enough, moving the connections caused the problem to move also, following the bad leg of the splitter.

I returned the splitter to the dealer where it was bought. It was returned to me from the distributor with an explanation that it was not faulty, and that I should send my jacket liner back to the company. Well I tried it again, thinking they may have just given me a new one.

Nope, they gave me the same crappy splitter with one branch providing no power. I had to purchase another (overpriced) splitter and THROW OUT the original one which was only weeks old. As I suspected when I saw this new design, there are now more things with which to have trouble.

So all in all, I give Gerbings a failing grade. I will send the "new" liner for warranty, but I can never rely on it again. It will ride along as a backup set to my next heated clothing gear - appropriately called "Gears."

Made in Canada, this gear got a positive review from a friend. I shall be obtaining a liner and gloves shortly. Review to follow in the new year.