Heated Gear Issues; A Follow-Up

Back on December 8th I shared my less than fun experience with a heated glove that shorted out in dramatic fashion on an evening commute.  I thought I’d go ahead and offer a follow-up to that initial report to share what’s transpired since then.

I stopped by my local Gerbings dealer for the past 10 years to show them the glove and see what my recourse was.  Ryan got the folks at Powerlet on the phone and Powerlet didn’t hesitate to cover the glove’s cost as a warranty. The gloves are going back to Powerlet for a look-see as the ubiquitous “we’ve never seen anything like that before” response was offered. I’m Ok with that as it really is hard to know if at some point the wire in the glove got nicked; after all, I wear this stuff every day all winter long for my early morning sub-40°F commutes and these gloves have been in use since March ’13.

firstgear_heated_glove_liners_detailAs for replacing the Powerlet gloves, Powerlet discontinued their FIRe technology glove liners and the replacement model was not yet available.  FirstGear has a glove liner that’s nearly identical to the Powerlet model that I had, but that would have to be ordered.

gerbingsInstead, I went with the Gerbings glove liner that they had in stock  in my size.  Even though the Gerbing was not my first choice in the comfort and conformity categories, it was a more substantial glove that I thought would work just fine if I could find the right outer glove to mate it with.

burnIn any event, I was just glad the short-circuit and burn from the Powerlet gloves wasn’t any worse. Back on 9 December the deepest burn blistered and shed the damaged upper layer(s) of epidermis leaving a nice crater. I finally popped another blister that was surrounding the larger, deeper wound before taking this photo.  You can also see a small 1st degree burn on my pinky at the metacarpel/proximal joint from where the distant end of the nichrome superheated during the short-circuit; ouch!

I mated the Gerbings with the same 15-year old Olympia gloves that I’d been using with the Powerlet gloves and they were a tight fit.  The  Gerbings were just too bulky and stiff to work as an inner glove and, from a warmth standpoint, they also didn’t knock my socks off on just a 30°F ride.  So, no great expectations for how they’d work at 5°F in January or February.

I called Ryan and let him know that the Gerbing gloves weren’t going to work and asked if he’d order and swap them out for a pair of the FirstGear gloves.  He had no problem with that, ordered the gloves last Thursday and they arrived the following Tuesday.  I swapped them out on Wednesday.

The FirstGear gloves were identical to the Powerlet liners with two exceptions: the logo on the cuff and the sizing. Yup, what Powerlet called a medium/large is what FirstGear must call their small/medium as they were a full size larger than the Powerlet small/medium.  I thought about having them re-order the Extra-Small First Gear glove but decided it was “close enough”.

My only issue now is dealing with what appears to be electrical resistance somewhere in my 10-year old jacket’s wiring… or at least that’s what I think may be creating some issues with the flow of power through the system. I replaced on of the lead wires to solve part of the problem with an overheating connection between the heat troller and the jacket; those bullet connectors continue to be a source of problems for me.  However, the SAE connector between the bike and heat troller and other connectors at the jacket are also heating up which suggests a resistance issue somewhere else in the jacket.


I say the jacket because I’ve been able to troubleshoot using Miss Debbie’s jacket and heat troller interchanged with my own jacket and heat troller to see which combinations provide the most efficient heating and which ones seem to have resistance in the wiring.  My 10-year old jacket continues to be the weakest link so I think I’ll go through the jacket one more time and make sure all of the connections are soldered vs.using connectors. If that doesn’t solve it I may just give in and get a new FirstGear jacket to replace my Gerbings model.

I should probably point out that Gerbings isn’t Gerbings anymore; they’re Gerbing. You can read about the current owner and recent history of how Gerbings came to be Gerbing HERE if you’re interested.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 7.12.56 AMIt’s not that I don’t want to support Gerbing by buying Gerbing-branded gear, it’s just that they changed the sizing on their jackets in a bad way.  Back when I bought my first jacket they were sized like sport coats so that buyers could get the best fit possible, remembering that heated gear has to be snug to the body to transfer heat.  If the jacket is too big and billows then it doesn’t transfer heat, so they had a full range of sizing: 39, 40, 42, 44, etc. in regular and long.  Today they still offer a wide range of sizes from XS to 3XL in regular and long, but the small is too small and the medium is too large for me.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 7.13.40 AMThe FirstGear heated apparel is made by “Warm & Safe” who also markets heated gear under their own brand; it’s very nicely made but unlike Gerbing which is now assembled in the USA, Warm & Safe is made in Taiwan which is kind of a bummer. But, it all comes down to form, fit and function and the FirstGear medium-size jacket is a very good fit for me. The small would be ideal if all I wore was a long sleeve Tshirt; however, it would make a wrinkled mess out of my dress shirts on my daily commute.

The biggest differences between the FirstGear and Gerbing jackets is at the waist, sleeve ends and the side panels.  Gerbing jackets use a wide, soft cotton blend elastic band at the ends of the sleeves and waist whereas the FirstGear uses just an elastic reinforced seam. The FirstGear also uses a stretchable side panel to get that great fit, whereas the Gerbing is made just like a regular nylon jacked.  Anyway, I’ll try them both on again just to be sure… assuming I can’t solve the electrical resistance issue with my vintage Gerbings jacket.

As for the hand, it’s still on the mend.  I suspect there will be a pretty good scar there for a few years; good for conversations and story telling.



Post Script:

After the second re-wiring of my old Gerbings jacket and a functional check compared to Debbie’s newer Gerbing jacket with microwire technology I came to realize it was simply time to replace my jacket.  It heats up, but it heats up slowly and never gets was warm as the 90 watt gear and I figure after nearly 11 years of heavy use it’s just tired.

As for the replacement, I had to go with the best fitting choice: FirstGear.  I really wanted to support Gerbing since they now finish their garments in North Carolina, but at the end of the day I just didn’t fall into their sizing models for the small or medium size jackets.

I think I’m going to go ahead and run new power leads for the gear using the FirstGear OEM bullet plugs vs. the SAE plugs just to start off my life with the new gear using an all stock installation.  Why invite any more issues than I need to.

Looking forward to having a cozy winter of commutes with the new gear.  Can’t complain about the old stuff, as it lasted a long time and would be just fine for riding in the 40’s. But, when those temps drop below freezing, it just hasn’t been getting the job done.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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