One of the things about having a passion for riding motorcycles, Super Tenere or not, is that it's preferable to ride for as much of the year as possible. That requires taking heat and cold in your stride. For me, factoring in the impact of temperatures to the sport of long distance riding it becomes clear that controlling the effects of the environment are a critical part of managing fatigue and "self".
In June this year I rode from Newcastle to Darwin via Port Augusta in less than 60 hours. While riding through Coober Pedy about 9.30am despite two layers of thermals, a middle layer under my riding suit, two pairs of socks, BMW Pro Winter 2 gloves, a beanie under the helmet and a neck warmer I was so cold I was shaking too much to enter my PIN number into the EFTPOS machine while buying fuel. I can't recall ever being that cold and thinking that there had to be a better way. While looking for one, and after a throw away comment on a forum by one OX-34, I found the Jett Heated Vest on the interwebs. And guess what, it's Australian!!!
The vest operates using rechargeable lithuim batteries and comes with a battery, a charger and some almost chinglish instructions. @ $149 for the set or $195 with a spare battery. I bought the latter. I'm 195cm tall, 90kg and bought the large size. It arrived quickly after ordering online, well done Jett, and it was in tact.
You can see from the photo below it's got a couple of pockets in the front and a fairly low V neck. There's an elastic draw string on the bottom of it for adjustment and another under the arm area on the inside as well so you can keep it snug.
The Jett Heated Vest is not a fashion item, my wife (who is) wasn't very flattering when she saw it on me. I also have to say I was a little sceptical when I opened it, while it looks better on the model on the website than on me the fit was right and the battery and controller were kept at bay in a velcro pocket on the lower left front of the vest (on the inside). I wasn't sure whether it would get in the way while sitting on the bike but I guessed I'd find out.
The battery is shown in the internal pocket below. Pop it out, unplug it and charge it up. Easy. The controller has two buttons, on and off. But read the instructions, it's not perfectly intuitive.
OK, with it all charged up I got to test it recently when I rode my Super Tenere to South Australia on its first Iron Butt ride. I had it on over one layer of thermals and a long sleeve (thin) Katmandu Dri Motion top. Over the vest was my KLIM Latitude Jacket. It was a mild night at Newcastle but I was heading to the Southern Highlands in the dark. By the time I got to Marulan for fuel (about 4am) it was cold (about 4ºC not factoring in the wind chill of travelling at 110kph). I was relying on the vest working because taking layers off and putting more on in those temps is a sure way to get a chill that won't go away for the rest of the day.
So at Marulan it was time to bite the bullet and try out the Jett Heated Vest. Sadly I'd forgotten the instructions so I had no idea which of the three settings were Lo Med or High, I went with the red, which turned out to be High, but I didn't quite work that out until I was on my way. The infra red heating elements is in the back of the vest. Theres one about 10cm square positions about the cnetre o the shoulder blades and a second the same size over the lower back. One of the things that tend to happen to me when 'm riding really cold is that my shoulders and neck tense up and as a result I get sore between the shoulder blades, traps and neck. The warmth from the vest prevented that completely and I remained relaxed. The High setting was a little too toasty but not enough to encourage me to stop and turn it down.
After about 2 hours (somewhere aroung Wagga) the heat stopped, but by then the sun was up and on my back anyway. I have to say I was really, really impressed. I didn't need to turn it on again during that day's ride, but in itself, as a lightly quilted well fitting non natural material vest just wearing it provided a nice level of comfort and warmth by itself. It was a cold and very windy day.
The next time I wore the Jett Heated Vest was on the Super Tenere on the way back from South Australia 2 days later. This time I had a cotton long sleeved top over the thermals and Dri Motion top. I'd worked out that the green setting was low and leaving Wilmington South Australia about 5am heading towards Yunta was pretty cool. The low setting struggled to get heat through three layers but it was just noticeable. If I'd have been any cooler I'd have adjusted it to medium, but I didn't need to. In any case I certainly didn't feel let down by it and I turned it on again that evening while riding through Dunnedoo and Merriwa in the dark.
The battery pack didn't get in the way. At one point I noticed the controller hanging from the bottom of my jacket, there was no rain about so I didn't bother trying to secure it back inside.
Summary: I'm really impressed with the Jett Heated vest's performance, it's a great price and it's now a permanent part of my winter riding attire. My previous vest was a plain arctic fleece vest, which while good enough for reasonably cold weather isn't any warmer than the Jett Vest when turned off and certainly can't compare when the Jett is "fired up". In fact even off the Jett vest was a little more windproof.
I'll revisit this from time to time and let you know how the bits and pieces last or what happens if I ever decided to try to clean it.
Don't forget to read the instructions and the warnings !