My first impression of the 12V Gerbing heated socks was that they looked more like sacks than socks, not that aesthetics were my top priority. Then I was disappointed to see the heating element didn’t go beyond the ankle. But before I begin, I must point out that Gerbing are about to release a whole new version of this sock and address many of my gripes. Not the one about leg heat though…
Knowing a tropical Mexican beach was a two week ride away gave me motivation, but not insulation, to leave a frozen December Colorado. I’d done this journey two years before and have preserved a frozen memory of icy discomfort.
The amount of wiring with the Gerbing heated socks had me You Tubing hints and tips on where to run the excessive cable, but surprisingly there was nothing on the subject, a gap in the You Tube market or does no-one else find it an issue? It’s never easy to test out your layers of winter warmth before you leave and in a false environment, so with all the enthusiasm of a teenager with a broken phone, I went through the motions and half-heartedly plugged in the cable, felt warmth, then went back to my other pre-trip planning.
On the day of departure there were a few inches of snow on the ground, the temperature a few degrees below freezing. I had run the cables up the inside of my linings and was relieved to discover that I couldn’t feel them where my boots were fastened or where my knees were bent. A more satisfying connection would have been useful; a bayonet fit or a satisfying snap fit of some sort, but the male to female connection felt insipid. I gathered lengths of excess flex out the top of my waistband, conscious that a tug to hard might pull the leads apart.
There is nothing graceful about the multilayered biker, prepared for a sub-zero ride. My form is fat and my gloves are cumbersome. Even the overland high kick to avoid the luggage as I mounted the steed would be a recognised move by the Ministry of Silly Walks. Once on, I fastened leads to battery outlets and pressed the button on heat setting controller, then stuffed the excess cable in my hip pocket.
I had imagined the formless bag of a sock would gather and bunch at the bottom of my boot, but it didn’t and as soon as I was moving and my confidence on the compact snow had my feet up on the pegs, the effect of the socks was felt in full. There was no discomfort, only a genuine hug of heat which was perfect. My feet were well and truly taken care of. The material is actually lightweight and stretchy and has wicking properties to reduce the problem of sweaty feet. They are hand wash and line-dry only, which is the norm when you’re on the road anyway.
The body’s extremities are always the first to report back with stories of cold and discomfort but my feet were mute and content. The downside was I could give my full attension to my inadequate heated grips and numb fingers. If only I had got the Gerbing gloves too, but then I’m not sure what I would have had to moan about if my fingers were not screaming ice blue murder. After 150 miles I stopped for some breakfast and with my gloves off, poorly dextrous fingers pulled the connections apart, before I slid off and dismounted the bike.
Walking in to the restaurant with trailing leads, looking like I’d unplugged myself from a life support machine (which in a way I had) I felt smug from the knee down, with my central heating installed. In the toilet, cables and flies got tangled and like a fat man looking down, my upper body layers blocked the view and I could only feel my way round my waist band.
That night I undressed leaving the socks dangling from my trousers still connected and in the morning I wriggled in to the pre-prepared clothing with no increased ease. My left foot got really cold on my 100 mile -3°C pre-breakfast ride. The left connection from sock to harness had come adrift and I think that stopped the right one working so well. It was more a case of are they on or not? It was only my second day, I know now they are so efficient that if they are working they leave you in no doubt. It’s real and a totally new experience, much like the time I wore a helmet intercom and for the first time discovering the voice in my head was genuine.
What they lack in looks and fit they make up for in comfort and performance. There has to be a more efficient way of dealing with the excessive cable and securing the connections, but ultimately the new experience of sub-zero temperatures and happy feet was a pleasure that makes winter more bearable.
As a bonus when I reached the tropical Pacific coast they stashed away neatly at the bottom of a pannier. Two months later they were retrieved and in a Mexican petrol station toilet I rewired myself up. I cannot emphasise enough how instant, constant, and efficient the heat is as the elements are fitted above and below the foot, but also how annoying the connections are. They kept coming undone on the 3 day ride up to the frozen Midwest, and when you have that many layers on, pulling down your trousers at the side of the road is not only unsightly but a slow, awkward and unwanted delay when you are destination-driven by the warmth of a hotel or home.
The heating effect of these socks is spectacular, when the connections co-operate. Interestingly, I had no discomfort from the actual heating element, but the yet-to-be released new model has a whole new, even less intrusive, system apparently.
I’m keen to try the Gerbing gloves because the conditions in the North American winter were beyond the capabilities of my heated grips.
Sizes available: Mens 3-12, womens 2.5-12 covered by XS – XXL
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