It’s 35 degrees Celsius (95F) out and San Diego is in the grip of a heat wave as we ride through, on a spring tour, which makes it a very odd time to look over our notes and write a review of the Widder System 2 Lectric Vest and Arm Chaps. But what strikes me, as I flee for the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel room, is how much easier it is to deal with cold than heat.
Heat, you’re stuck; it’s 35C out and the best you can hope to do is get to 34C with some sweaty evaporative action. At near-freezing however, with the Widder you simply crank the dial and the electrics take up arms against the environment for you. Two seasons ago generic electric vests transformed our fall/winter/spring riding season from a battle with the elements clad in parka-like gear to something vaguely comfortable.
The System 2 Widder Vest with arm chaps and coiled electronic thermostat control take formerly off-season riding to the next level of comfort and leave you looking at near-freezing temperatures as a perfectly acceptable riding day – provided the road is dry.
Over the generic offerings that our near non-existent OWD budget had previously equipped us with, the build quality of the Widder system is flawless. Seams are neat, tidy and well finished, the lining is soft and fleecy, and extra touches like the wind-breaking fabric shell and a heated collar complete a well thought out design. The heated collar especially saves one from the feeling of a perpetually oncoming sore throat I’ve come to associate with winter riding.
The quality of the heat is as good as the design. The delivery was amazingly even and hotspot free, even through a thin cotton t-shirt. A godsend in comparison to our frayed, worn, and thrice-over rebuilt generic vests which feature several too hot spots. Branding may be in with some crowds, but you’ll be suitably square in a Widder. The range of the heat provided is wide, from gentle warming to “excuse me my leathers are a dry sauna and I love it”.
You may ask, as we did, whether the arm chaps, which attach to the vest via two snaps and are covered over by a Velcro flap when not in use, are worth it? The answer, “Hell Yes!” Returning to our dodgy generic vests after sending back the Widder had the OWD staff contemplating paying retail for the set up. Retail! Unheard of!
The arm chaps provide an almost radiant warmth to the back of the arms, while the front of your arms remain comfortable, unpinched by bunching fabric. The open design ensures that your arms never reach heat of vindaloo proportions, and in cold weather it’s amazing how much your riding is aided by truly warm and flexible arms. The down side is that the Velcro attachments and elasticized straps of the arm chaps, while an effective means of affixing them, can be difficult to strap into by yourself. A stretch material across the front of the arm might improve this system, easing entry and egress.
The Widder system has a couple of other quirks that could be sorted though. The dial on the electronic thermostat control is light to the touch; the slightest bump will change the setting. It was easy on warmer days, say 6 degrees C (38F) and above, to go from a comfortable setting to sauna with an accidental brush of the controller. Also, for those of us who occasionally forget to plug-in prior to riding, the two-prong connector system doesn’t lend itself well to on-the-fly jacking in; we’d recommend spending the extra money for a BMW-style plug for ease of use. This would also sort an issue with the controller, which only works properly if the positive and negative terminals are properly matched, a bit of a nuisance as the plug will fit either way. Minor quirks in a fine product to be sure.
Being as toasty as toast over the winter months is addictive; the Widder System 2 Lectic Vest ($217.78-$229.66 CDN), Arm Chaps ($128.68), and “Coiled Electronic Thermostat Cord” ($135.28 CDN) give us that cold weather hit we need – though at a costly retail price totalling $481.74 that quality comes dear. Still, if you amortize it over a few years of extended riding seasons, no roadside repairs to a cheaper version, a few less lift tickets, and a lot less shivering slurping of $5.00 lattes to warm your core, it works out pretty well in the end. So, curl up by the fire my arse! We’re off to rock the twisties and laugh at those guys sliding down hills on boards. Now if only they made cooling air-con gear for the heat-waves.
Ph: (403) 239-6908
Toll-Free: (877) WIDDER7 (toll free)