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by Jeff on November 25, 2011

http://motorcyclesafetynews.com

Once you ride with heated gear and feel the difference it makes in cool-to-cold weather, you’ll never want to go back to riding without it.

To see what the state-of-the art in heated vests is, we acquired the newly released Tourmaster Synergy 2.0 Electric Vest Liner with Collar, and did some cool weather riding.

Being late November in Pennsylvania, it was not outright frigid, mind you, but this vest will handle winter weather and definitely was toasty in 40-50 degree Fahrenheit conditions.

The Synergy 2.0 Electric Vest is part of a collection of Synergy 2.0 gear one can interconnect.

For example, you could get heated pant and chap liners and heated insoles, or if you want your arms and hands warmer, a heated jacket, and gloves are available too.

The coaxial plugs enable you to wire pieces together in most cases. This vest would work with pants and insoles, for example.

In our view, the vest may be the single-most important piece if you only get one. Keeping your vital organs warm is key to staying warmer overall.

Since the vest does not have sleeves with the necessary wires to connect the gloves as the Synergy 2.0 heated jacket liner does, it could get tricky mating heated gloves – as in not likely without sourcing leads to string through your jacket sleeves – and definitely not too copacetic.


Zippered bag as delivered.

If you have heated grips or wind guards, that could suffice for keeping hands warm. Or just winter gloves may be enough too, depending on how cold your riding gets.

Tech

The Synergy 2.0 Vest is an update from Tourmaster’s previously well-regarded Synergy vest. That piece had carbon fiber heating elements which Tourmaster has chosen to replace.

The heating elements are now flexible steel fiber and, as before, safe even if you get wet and are still plugged into your ride’s 12-volt system. Tourmaster says they heat just about instantly, and this we found is true.


What’s it look like when you unzip the bag? Like this.

Inside, the liner material is polyester, and outside it’s Taslan nylon. A medium-gauge zipper looks durable and did not snag. Insulation is provided by 100 grams of Polyfill insulation. Stretch panels on both sides allow a close fit – and this you want. Two zipped handwarmer pockets are included. It comes with no reflectivity as this is an inner garment.

As mentioned, we got the version with a heated collar. Some riders with jackets or leathers having short or no collar may want to opt for the version with no collar ($5 less).

Another update to the Synergy 2.0 Vest is a temperature sensor and regulator. This also acts as a safety back-up to the 15-amp fuse in the included positive/negative-lead motorcycle wiring harness.


Shown are the two pieces of the included wiring. Battery harness (above) and dual-control rheostat harness.

Speaking of which, the rheostat which connects via a single coax plug to the harness is a new design as well.

Where the previous model had red and green push buttons and only three heat settings, this simpler design uses twist knobs and offers five heat settings. A single ON/OFF indicating red LED light lights when you click the knob ON.

As you’d expect, heat adjustment varies depending on how far you turn the knob – all the way is a little less than half a turn. Between the OFF position to FULL, there are five detents indicating five current levels to the vest.

The temperature control unit is of course weather resistant, and it is a dual control unit meaning if all you have is the vest, you have an extra knob that you don’t need – but it doesn’t hurt anything to have it, and you will have options open.

Heated Gear Considerations

Heated clothing works best with one thin layer underneath with a wind-blocking outer jacket – preferably motorcycle specific.

A wicking inner layer is preferable instead of cotton in the event you get wet or sweaty. Cotton can be more comfortable however, so it’s your call. If you are sure you are going to stay dry, and like cotton, have at it. If not sure, synthetic or hypoallergenic wool is the way to go.


Just unpacked. Size medium (42) fit me well – athletic build, 6-feet-tall, 180 pounds.

The other key variable is wind resistance. The Taslan is itself wind resistant, but it does not mind some extra help. Wearing the vest under a perforated or vented jacket is tantamount to a wasted exercise. You’ll probably still feel heat, but definitely not as much with air blowing through your jacket. If your only motorcycle jacket is vented, you can still use it, but wear a windbreaker of some sort over it.

A better approach is a purpose made wind-blocking armored motorcycle jacket. And if you really feel like keeping the heat in, you could wear a windbreaker over the vest, but under the outer jacket. Or you could add insulating layers like a fleece or sweater or do all of the above as long as they fit comfortably.

Closing off all ways for cold air to sneak in becomes more critical as the thermometer dips toward freezing and below. Keep that in mind when reviewers talk about how these work in freezing weather. It all depends on how windproof you are. Block the windchill factor, and guess what? You’ll stay warmer!


Coaxial leads – one for for receiving power, another for sending power on (if required to connect another Synergy 2.0 piece).

Windchill factor is also conditional on whether you have air blockage from a fairing and windshield. If well protected, you won’t have to be as diligent wrapping yourself up. If on a naked bike, dual-sport, or sportbike with marginal wind protection, wind-proofing yourself becomes more critical.

Another thing to think about is the condition of your electrical system, and maximum stator output. Just about any bike has enough juice to heat a vest, but if you are thinking about vest, pants, maybe heated insoles, maybe heated jacket plus gloves, etc., you’ll want to do some quick math.

Touring and sport touring bikes can usually handle the electrical accessories fine. My 1998 R1 has a custom rewound stator and MOSFET regulator rectifier from a 2010 R1 and kicks out decent current. The stator is too tight to have let me go oversized though, so it will never have the current output of a Gold Wing.


Dual control rheostat clipped to belt.

As for the accessories, you’ll need to check with the manufacturer – in this case, Tourmaster – to determine maximum current draw in watts. Your energy draw considerations include your bike’s headlights, signals, miscellaneous lights, instruments, EFI if applicable – plus auxiliary lights or other accessories. All electrical components weigh into your energy budget for your stator to keep powered without the battery drawing down.

At the same time – especially if you have a lighter bike or sportbike – you’ll want to check your owners’ manual or consult with a shop to figure out how much available electrical power you have.

Bottom line is you should determine how much current is available versus how much will be used before committing to a whole head-to-toe kit. Better safe than sorry.

On the Road

The Synergy 2.0 Vest works as advertised. Heat is felt immediately and when worn under a wind-proof winter jacket, it feels great.

Its heated collar is a plus, and since my Rev-it! Cayenne Pro jacket has a medium collar, it was all the better with, than without.

As a second-generation product, we would have been surprised if the Synergy 2.0 had hot spots, and sure enough heating is pretty even.

The rheostat comes with a belt clip which you can use to attach to your pants or something on your garments.


Our test bike. Whatever you ride, bear in mind amount of wind protection as well as electrical system condition and available wattage output.

Adjusting the rheostat takes heat from mild to pretty hot. The knobs are big enough to feel with gloves on, and – while we did not compare it – we imagine this is a better setup than the old push-button design with LED graph. The new design is probably more intuitive.

The extra lead had to be wrapped out of the way with a zip tie, but that was no problem.

Conclusion

If shopping for a heated vest, this is a terrific piece, and ought to work for years to come.

Tourmaster charges $179.99 for the Synergy 2.0 Electric Vest Liner with Collar, but we got our Tourmaster Synergy 2.0 from Competition Accessories as they charge just $161.99.

Tourmaster offers a three-year limited warranty, and everything you need to plug and play is included with the purchase.

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