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WarmGear Electric Gloves March 1, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Product Reviews.
Tags: , , , ,
5 comments

2nd UPDATE

Have bailed on the WarmGear gloves.  In all fairness, I didn’t try to negotiate a new pair with Cozy Winters yet.  (The “lifetime guarantee” statement disappeared from their website and the second pair were provided under a “1-year warranty”)  But at one major failure for every year and a half — I can’t in good conscience give a postive rating.  I think I’ll disect (maybe even repair) the dead glove, and try to figure out the fatal design flaw.  It is a shame.  They work great when they work, but…. 

So the new rating is: 

ac334

When they are good, they are very very good.  But when they are bad, they are horrid.

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UPDATE – UPDATE – UPDATE

Well — I may have to change my recommendation.  The second pair has just crapped out – the left hand heating element has had an open circuit failure.  Fortunately there are fewer 30 degree days this time of year.   Will let you all know how the warranty situation works out (see below),

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Thought I’d try a new blog category — especially since winter makes it difficult to make decent trips to chronicle.  Introducing the “Product Review”!  First up: 

WarmGear 12V Heated Gloves

warmgear-back1

warmgear-palm

Available from CozyWinters.com for about $130 (plus about $80 for a controller)

Net Recommendation: 

 Thumbs Up 

Well worth it despite some minor “Hmm’s”.

These gloves are the only reason I am able to ride almost year-round in Maryland, enabling my 23-mile commute into DC in temps as low as 28° F (coldest attempted so far…).  My Achilles heel to cold weather riding is my fingers, especially on my left hand in heavy traffic.  The pressure from riding the clutch in stop-and-go traffic doesn’t do much for blood flow to the phalanges.  More often than is healthy, I’d arrive at my destination with my fingers completely numb sporting a cadaver cream color down to the second knuckle, and staying that way for half an hour, or more.   Unfortunately, even with winter-weight gloves, the temperature at which this would occur kept increasing as the vascular damage got worse.    I even made a practice of putting my hands directly on the engine at stop lights, and really pissed myself off when I melted plastic texturization from some cheap gloves onto my chrome.  Finally, I broke down and got the electrics.

They plug into the bike’s battery, so there is no messing around with separate batteries like heated ski gloves.  They come with two harnesses.  The first is a harness that connects directly to the battery terminals that stays on the bike.  I have mine run from the battery to the underside of my seat, hiding the wires, and avoiding snags and abrasions.  I leave the connector end of the harness poking out from the front of the seat for easy connection, and for easy stowage by pulling the connector under the side of the seat.  The glove harness is a V-shaped cable worn under the jacket connecting to the gloves at the wrists. 

warmgear-plug-out

Battery harness postitioned for easy connection.

warmgear-plug-stowed-copy

Battery harness tucked out of the way.

The vendor strongly recommends getting the “heat-troller” to regulate the glove temperature; they are absolutely RIGHT.  I was originally wary and tried to be cheap thinking they were just trying to make an extra buck on accessories (Hmmm #1), and I would be so pissed spending the extra money if the gloves weren’t warm enough without the controller.  Big mistake: when plugged directly into the battery harness, these gloves get HOT.  Without the controller, I would start comfortably for a few miles, then be forced to unplug as my hands became searingly hot.   But then my (now sweaty) hands would quickly cool off and start to freeze, which forced me to pull over to plug back in again, get too hot again, unplug again…  Not a good way to ride.  I now have the single portable controller ($70) and the belt clip.  (Hmmm #2 is the fact that they charge an extra $10 for the clip, which ya really kinda need…).  I wear the controller clipped to the inside pocket of my jacket.  It would seem like the knob would be prone to movement, but I have not had problems with it. 

Right out of the box, they are a bit bulky and take some getting used to, but if you give yourself plenty of time and space to react in traffic (reaching your brakes with Michelin-man fingers), the break-in is not too bad.  With time, the insulation on the undersides of your fingers gets crushed and the dexterity improves daramatically.  I now have no issues getting my fingers quickly around the brake and clutch levers, though I do avoid grabbing my hand grips too tightly since they are a bit of a heat sink. 

The performance is generally very good, uniformly heating the backside of the hands and of all fingers and thumbs.  I have to admit however that I am on my second pair.  The first pair suffered a progressively worsening, intermittant open-circuit (in the left hand of course) just into the start of their second season.   However, I sent them back under warranty to CozyWinters.com, who quickly replaced them with new ones.  While I definitely cannot begrudge Cozy Winters much after such customer service, my third “Hmmm” came about from the terms of the “warranty”.  On the website, they advertised a lifetime workmanship guarantee; but when they replaced them, they said they did so under a one-year guarantee.  I even went back at the time and verified that they advertised a lifetime warranty, but was so happy to be getting new gloves that I didn’t rock the boat.  (Now the website doesn’t say anything about a guarantee.)  

As for design — they are quite good (above failure not withstanding).   They have an all-leather shell with Kevlar, and the thumb-side of the index fingers have a chamois like material to help goggle/visor wiping.  (Nice feature detail)  The fingers are pre-curved for riding.  The liner is comfortable and well attached to the inside.   I do take care not to crumple them or over-flex the heating wire to avoid breakage.  I would make a slight change in the routing of the heater wire.  As it loops from finger to finger, it runs right in the crux between the fingers and relies too much on the glove insulation to prevent a hot spot.  As a matter of fact, the previous pair did have some painful finger web hot spots where the insulation had shifted or gotten thin.  The design would be better if the heating wire returned all the way to the main knuckle on the back of the hand before crossing over to the next finger.  I already mentioned the bulkiness — but since they are already insulated with Thinsulate and I wouldn’t want to give up on the leather construction, I don’t see a good (i.e. inexpensive) way around it.  

The controller clip is a bit rigid, which makes it very secure, but a little tough to clip onto anything thick.  The knob has a tick mark so after using it a while one can get acclimated with how much heat to set.  The knob fell off once when its set screw loosen up.  Fortunately, this happened over my garage floor and not by the roadside.  You may consider lock-titing that sucker in there on day one to be safe.  The controller is pulse-width modulated, which means that it turns the power to the gloves off and on and doesn’t dissipate much power itself.  It has an LED light that turns on and off with the power modulation, so you can tell that you have a connection to the battery, and about how much heat to expect.  The harness connections are “standard” allowing the use of competitors products such as Gerbing.  I thought that a connector cap would be a good idea when not in use, but have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of corrosion after three years of exposure.  The battery harness has a replaceable in-line fuse which is great.  When routing the battery harness try to keep the section between the battery and the fuse as protected as possible.  Also note, if you take your bike in for service, it is wise to recheck the harness routing to make sure your tech was as diligent as you in avoiding pinching, and sharp corners.

So all in all — I love ’em because they keep me on the bike all year.  I do still worry a bit, however, about getting another failure mid-season and have thought about buying a second pair as a back up, but haven’t done so yet.   The new pair are well into two heavily-used seasons without any problems.  If I did need to buy replacements, I am about 90% likely to stick with these, unless I find that a competitor has much better dexterity and a lifetime warranty without losing the features of the WarmGear.

If you have used these gloves or comparable ones … leave a comment to let everyone know how they worked out for you.