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I'm asking more for my motorcycle, but I do have a MTB as well. Wondering if I can engineer a 'heat suit' - electric gloves, insoles and vest to make winter riding possible. If so, does anyone have practical experience?

I already can ride just about to now (End of November) with chaps, long johns, welding gloves (leather gauntlets) with 'Swedish Military wool gloves' underneath. But I'm about done without more help. This would be dry weather only.

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    Since this is a cycling-oriented site, I'll respond to the cycling part of the question. Unless you're riding really easy, or for <10 min, or in arctic conditions, you generate enough body heat to keep yourself warm as long as you've got the right insulation. In fact, dissipating just the right amount of excess heat is a design goal with winter cycling clothes. There are commercially available heated gloves and socks, though, since your extremities get less circulation.
    – Adam Rice
    Nov 25, 2022 at 20:01
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    As Adam suggests, it's too easy to overdo it. For every ride I returned home with cold or frozen fingers or toes, I returned home four times with my back drenched in sweat from excess layers, even at -5°C. Focus heavily on how to keep your fingers and toes warm, and two light layers of clothing will likely be more than enough for the rest.
    – Sam7919
    Nov 25, 2022 at 20:18
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    @Sam yes – but that actually makes a case for electric clothing: warm clothes, even with modern materials, are never as breathable as standard cycling attire, and still they can only do so much to heat the most sensitive body parts (hands and feet). IMO what would make a lot of sense are heated grips. Nov 25, 2022 at 20:23
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    "make winter riding possible" - it already is without electric clothes. Nov 25, 2022 at 21:07
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    Are the "Swedish Military wool gloves" a hint? Are we supposed to just guess what conditions you consider feel arctic? Some information about climate, terrain and experience would go a long way
    – Useless
    Nov 25, 2022 at 23:34

3 Answers 3

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Yes you can totally ride with electrically heated clothing. I had some bar warmers on a recumbent which helped enormously on mid-winter rides - the hands are well above one's heart on a bent which decrease blood flow so external heat was wonderful.

BUT.... downsides for heating large areas of your body are that you'll get hot and your body will sweat. This will effectively cool exposed areas, making you feel colder and damper.

Instead of adding heat, work out what part of your body gets coldest, and wind-proof that area. For me that was

  • toes/feet (add shoe covers)
  • thighs (wear bib tights or legwarmers)
  • chest (have several layers with zips for tweaking how much air gets through)
  • hands (pick a weight of glove that suits the temperature and moisture)
  • forearms and upper arms (two layers of arm warmer, white on top, long enough to get to biceps)
  • neck and face and ears - wear a cycling cap with a brim and ear flaps that cover the ears, and a buff that goes from under nose/over ears down to below my collar.
  • eyes - I got some wrap-around cycling glasses that take prescription lenses in an insert, and they work well to remove the buffeting of cold wind. Fogging up is always an issue.

Often, simply keeping the extremities warm will help and you don't need to warm the core - after all you're exercising which generates heat.


External Moisture comes in from rain and fog and road spray. It may be something to ignore and enjoy a hot-shower at the other end, or if the rain is bad you may choose a waterproof layer on the outside. Have spare clothes at your destination.

Problem with waterproof is they tend to resist sweat leaving as well, so I've had rainy rides where I am a parboiled chicken inside my raincoat/overtrousers. Its not pleasant and sometimes I prefer to get wet.

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    Shouldn’t it be possible to add temperature control to electric heating?
    – Michael
    Nov 25, 2022 at 21:03
  • @Michael totally could add all manner of things. Depends how much more "stuff" you want on your bike or in your pockets. In theory one could even power a small heater from the bike using a generator/dynamo :))
    – Criggie
    Nov 25, 2022 at 22:42
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    @Criggie That's one way to keep the legs warm LOL!
    – MaplePanda
    Nov 26, 2022 at 6:37
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E-bike may be a good target for such devices as the cyclist produces less heat, the speed (so wind) is often higher and there is a good power source. I use heated gloves that absolutely make sense at zero temperatures.

A big benefit of such devices is the capability to turn the heating on and off while riding, with the flip of the switch. The heating requirements may change significantly during the ride. It usually feels much colder in the beginning of the travel.

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I don't think that's a good idea and here's why.

If your fingers or feet get cold, that's caused by your body having too little insulation. Your body is removing heat from non-essential parts to keep you alive. The solution is to insulate your entire body with enough clothes.

Now, when riding a motorcycle your body produces probably around 100 watts of waste heat (idle heat). When riding a bicycle, you additionally are producing 100 watts of mechanical power which creates along with it at 25% efficiency 300 watts of waste heat, so you have 400 watts of heat total.

The problem is, you probably need at least 2 hours of runtime to have acceptable range, which means for motorcycling to match the heat power output of your body you need 200 watt-hours and for bicycling 800 watt-hours. This matching of human power output is for cases where your clothing has half the amount of needed insulation.

Do you know how much 200 watt-hours weigh? Even with lithium ion, that's a lot. My ebike battery (500 Wh) weighs 2.9 kg, so you need at least 1.2 kg for the battery. And that's when the battery is new. Ideally batteries should be usable when they have 70% of capacity left, so using that measurement, you would need 1.7 kg for the battery.

For bicycling, that would be 4 times more ridiculous (6.6 kg for the battery).

My opinion is that the best approach is to insulate your entire body well. And just in case you have too little insulation in your body, causing heat to be drawn out from fingers and feet, you should have lots of insulation on those fingers and feet that would not be necessary normally but could be useful if for example due to you becoming tired your heat output decreases.

I think that in most cases, it would weigh less to have more insulation rather than to carry a heavy battery and electric resistance heaters. It would cost far less too.

However, if you tap into the electric power output of a motorcycle, then it might make sense. I have a heated steering wheel in my car, and that's useful because it doesn't need a big battery. It just uses the alternator output.

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  • I don't follow your math. If cycling is producing more waste heat, then doesn't the "thermal suit" need to produce less heat itself when cycling vs motorcycling? And so 200 W-h would last longer?
    – Paul H
    Nov 29, 2022 at 0:47
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    "If your fingers or feet get cold, that's caused by your body having too little insulation. Your body is removing heat from non-essential parts to keep you alive. The solution is to insulate your entire body with enough clothes." - comments like this make me think you've never actually ridden in the cold. With the wrong setup you can be roasting in your pants and coat and still be getting cold hands and feet. Your hands and feet have a high surface area to mass ratio and in real cold temperatures your body just cannot offset the heat transfer without enough insulation even if the rest of you Nov 30, 2022 at 7:54
  • is completely comfortable. Nov 30, 2022 at 7:54
  • I agree with @whatsisname, and would even go further - too much insulation around your core, you ventilate to try and cool off (e.g.after a climb) but the bits you can ventilate are extremities. They cool fast but your torso is still too hot. OTOH cold hands can often be helped by better insulation on the arms, especially the wrists, and cold feet by better insulation around the calves/ankles.
    – Chris H
    Nov 4, 2023 at 19:45

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