NOTICE:  These are tech pages explaining how I did these mods to my bike.  In almost every case -
I DO NOT SELL THE PARTS DESCRIBED.  I do tell you where I got them.  EXCEPTION - I do sell my custom exhaust mods. 

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My Valkyrie


Wire an Electric Jacket or Liner for heat and to Power Elect Gloves

Thanks to Steve Quiat, Whit Brown, Jason Sherman and Mike Coan for their contributions



      I've been meaning to do this for awhile.  I've been using Widder gloves for years, and man when the temp gets below 40 and you have miles to go, just about nothing is as nice as warm hands.  Except maybe warm arms, shoulders, back and johnson.  (OK I didn't put heater wires THERE, just checking if you're paying attention)  Maybe you've heard the saying - there's no bad weather, just bad gear.  I'm SO tickled now, I can ride in ANY amount of cold as long as there's no ice & snow.  And I don't have to use up my bags with layers of sweatshirts.


      Depends on your ambition and your pockets.  I spent more than I had to by buying a controller instead of making one.  Well I wanted to support the guy who makes them and it didn't cost a lot - more on that later.

      $175 including $100 for the controller and I didn't try to cut corners.


      All day.  I wasn't in a hurry and the olympics were on TV.


    • long sleeve light nylon quilted lined Dickies jacket from Gander Mountain or Cabela's - $27
    • 200 ft 28-ga silver plated teflon coated 19/40 stranded mil-spec wire from AllCable - $28 - see product spec sheet at # 12819
    • 2 male coax plugs from - $10
    • semi-permanent 2-circuit heat controller from -  $100
    • heavy duty black nylon thread
    • shrink tubing
    • 30" of steel dowel in 3/16" and 1/4" sizes to make giant needles
    • 2 wire nuts

    Tools I used

    • Soldering equipment
    • heat gun (or hair dryer or bic lighter)
    • needlenose pliers
    • wire stripper
    • Dremel with cutting wheels
    • drill with small bits
    • sewing needle
    • Belt sander
    • multimeter


      I reviewed several write-ups on the subject that I found via google, and the article Steve sent me that Whit wrote - the latter was particularly helpful.  Basically what this amounts to, is using light gauge wire in a deliberate short circuit, paying careful attention to the gauge, length and resistance of the wire, so we plan the watts it will consume as it tries to pass all the current it can and inevitably heats up.  The choice of wire is thus very important.  We need it to be insulated so we don't get unplanned short circuits, and the insulation needs to be very heat resistant.  We need it to be multi-stranded so it doesn't fatigue and break from flexing - the more strands the better.  We need consistent quality in the wire so impedance is constant (no one place has too high impedance and heats up too much) and predictable.

      Whit's recommendation is perfect.  mil-spec 28ga 19/40 stranded silver plated copper with teflon coating.  The teflon is good to 392 f and is slippery which enables sewing with it, and the high strand count makes it very durable in a flex application, while the mil-spec ensures uniformity.

      Whit had written up a great article on this subject, and had determined this wire meters at 0.068ohms / ft.  He wired his so he could select via a switch, to run power through 100 ft of this wire yielding 6.8ohms, at 13 volts that results in 1.85 amps and 25 watts.  Running the current through only 50 ft halves the resistance to 3.4ohms and yields 3.7amps and 50 watts assuming 13 volts.  There's an ohm's law calculator at

      I decided I wanted to shoot for a little extra capacity since I planned to throttle it down anyway with the digital control.  The clothing makers typically make their jackets around 50-70watts.  I got 85watts assuming 13 volts (meters at 2.0-2.1ohms) by using 2-57ft lengths of wire, each meters at 3.8 ohms, connected in parallel.

      You need a pleated jacket to help hold the wires from moving around.  The wires need to be run just inside the lining, inside any insulation (The Dickies jacket - made in Egypt - has polyester fill).  I discovered it is best to NOT break the quilting stitches but to poke the big needle through the inner lining, go around the stitching, then poke it back inside the lining.  I found out the hard way that if you just ram it through the stitches, the pleating will unravel.

      I made two giant needles out of steel dowel - one is 3/16" diameter, the other 1/4".  I used the bigger one to route heavy wire (extension cord) from the input plug on the right side bottom of the jacket, to the plugs at the end of the sleeves, for the gloves.  Unfortunately I pushed it through the pleat stitches and they are unravelling.  Well I found out that was a mistake, you can avoid.  Now I would just route it on the inside of the jacket and stitch it in place every 4 inches or so.

      Figure out the watts you want, use the above calculator to determine what length wire will produce that at the rate of .068ohms/ft, and use the pleats of your jacket to carefully route the wire evenly so you run out of wire when you run out of area to heat.  Jason mentioned in his article that it's best to avoid heating your shoulder blades as they are bony and the heat conducts too easily there, whereas you do want plenty of heat on your kidney area.  Remember adding wire in series increases the impedance and thus a longer wire will use less watts and produce less heat, while wires in parallel will lower impedance, increasing power use and heat. 

      On the heat control - I bought mine at  This company made the heat control for Gerbing - until Gerbing got tired of paying their price and reverse-engineered the controller to get the schematic, then outsourced it to China, thereby ripping off Mike's intellectual property, knowing he didn't have the resources to sue them.  I've had my TromBones patent infringed by 2 Dutch companies - it turns out having a patent and enforcing it are two different things - my lawyers want a quarter-mil retainer to go after them.  He who has the most bucks wins.    Anyway, I'm really pleased with the controller and the coax connectors I got from Mike, and his customer service is Johnny-on-the-spot.

      The big needles - they need to be sharp and smooth.  I ground the profile of the point against the side of my chop saw, but any power grinder or sander would work.  Then I smoothed the profile with my 1" belt sander (no platen), and smoothed the surface so it would slide easily through the fabric, by turning it against the cloth side of the sanding belt.  I drilled the needle eye with a small drill and put a couple grooves from the eye to the end with a dremel cutter wheel.  You use it just like a sewing needle - the wire is run through the garment double thick, so the current will go out and back in series.  I made the bigger needle with the hollow end and the set screw to route the extension cord - that wasn't the best plan, just stitching it inside the garment would be better. If you use switches to select the wires to use them in parallel rather than series, it will double the power and heat.  As for me, I wanted it simple and just bought the controller. 

      I wired mine so the current for the jacket is connected on the bottom hem left side.  From there it splits to two circuits.  One goes up and down on every pleat on the front, then routes into the sleeve, goes down to the wrist on the inside, up, down, and back up with 3 lines covering the inside and top and one on the back.  This seems to work well.  Then the circuit covers the left half of the back except the shoulder blade, and covers up the spine to the collar.  The other circuit goes around the bottom hem to the right back, covers the lower back only, then does the right sleeve in the same manner as the left, then the right front is last in the same manner as the left.

      Here's some pictures I took, mostly self-explanatory, all link to enlargements:





      Here's the Article Whit Brown wrote:


             My leather Kilimanjaro jacket has a full, snap-in, Thinsulated
             liner. While it does make things a good bit warmer, I thought I'd
             try to improve on that by electrification. The liner is silk on both
             sides of the Thinsulate filler and vertically stitch/pleated in
             1-1/4" channels. The process described below could also be adapted
             to other thin, lightweight, garments readily available at WalMart, Cabela's or
             outdoor stores.

             I used a hundred feet of mil-spec, silver-plated, Teflon covered, 28
             ga, stranded wire to act as the 'elements'. I could have used
             conventional PVC-covered wire, but I wanted the extra margin of
             temperature protection and longevity. The Teflon covered stuff is
             good to 392 degrees (F). It is quite flexible, nearly indestructible
             and quite slick so it pulls easily through fabric.

             I made a 'needle' out of an 1/8" dowel about 24" long. One end
             semi-pointed, the other with a small hole as the 'eye'. After
             unwinding the 100' roll I threaded the 'needle' at the 50' half
             point which left me with the needle pulling two 50' lengths of wire.

             I recommend the initial entry and final exit to be on the outside of
             the liner around the lower left-hand corner. This keeps any underway
             switching and plugging/unplugging confined to the non-throttle hand.
             I then proceeded to thread these two conductors through the 22 pleats
             that made up the 'body' of the liner, I also made four runs through
             each full length sleeve, trying to avoid the armpit area. Remember
             to anchor about 3" of the two ends exposed at the entry point, or
             you could just connect these two ends to the terminal strip now.

             One can pierce the silk material with the pointed end, run it up
             through a channel to the top of the garment, then pierce your way
             out of that channel. Once the 'needle' and wire is a couple feet
             outside that channel, you can then reinsert the needle's point back
             into that same exit hole and go across, through the adjacent
             channel's stitching, enter the next channel and come back down, etc.
             This leaves no exposed wiring while transiting the pleat's
             stitching. The piercing holes in the silk close up almost completely
             on their own.

             When threading, make sure you keep the wires on the 'inside' of the
             liner, between the inner silk lining and Thinsulate filler, if
             applicable. (The outer surface of the Thinsulate has a metallized
             foil and I don't think the wire would transfer much heat through the
             filler to the body.) After all the threading, I exited the liner at
             the same point of the original entry. I then separated the half
             point that was in the eye of the needle. This results in four ends
             of the two paralleled 'elements'. Make sure you mark the ends to
             keep them paired either beforehand or use an ohmmeter to mate them
             up afterwards. You'll need to be able to identify each end of the
             two sections. Actually, one could carefully remove about 1/2" of
             insulation at the wire's mid point (where the "needle's eye" was),
             and connect this to the center terminal of the terminal strip.

             This center point and two ends are terminated to a small laced-in,
             barrier terminal strip (RatShack 274-658), on the outside of the
             liner, so it lives between the liner and outer jacket on the lower,
             front, left side when worn. The other side of this terminal strip is
             tied to the 4" 3-conductor, 16 ga cable. Any good, flexible
             appliance or extension-type cable will work. Some of these cables
             are available with a silicon jacket which remain very flexible even
             in cold weather. This short cable goes to the 'male' 3-conductor,
             inline connector. I recommend the "Cinch" series connector as it has
             plenty of contact area yet will disengage readily if you forget and
             walk away while still connected. This concludes the jacket wiring.

             The mating 'female' end of the Cinch connector goes through a
             convenient length of the same type 16 gauge, 3-conductor cable as
             detailed above. It needs to be long enough to go from the
             rider-mounted jacket's male plug to the switch, wherever you put it.
             It is recommended you incorporate some sort of cable clamp or
             'strain relief' close to the switch so the switch, itself, won't
             have to take any unexpected jerks from the cable.

             The input-side of the switch goes through the necessary length of 16
             ga, two-conductor cable to the battery or preferably to a switched
             accessory relay via a 10 amp inline fuse holder (#270-1213) and ATC
             blade fuse as close to the relay "out" terminal as possible.

             For information only, and for those not fluent with electro-speak,
             note the transition of the 28 ga Teflon wire to the larger 16 ga
             supply wire at the jacket's terminal strip junction. Wire, the size
             of 28 ga (.013" diameter), with its inherent greater resistance,
             ceases being a low-loss conductor and morphs into a 'heating
             element' like an electric blanket. The supply-side (love that term)
             16 ga (.051" diameter) will readily carry this current with little
             loss (heating effect) so anything smaller beyond the 16 ga wire will
             heat up, relatively, while trying to keep supplying the source
             voltage and current. This is, in effect, a calculated short circuit.

             The reason I elected to pull TWO lengths of wire throughout the
             liner was to take advantage of the combined series switching
             possibilities yielding two separate heating wattages, thus
             eliminating the big resistor. (Actually three heats are possible by
             switching in a paralleled configuration yielding 100 watts, but I
             found this amount of heat to be too much and the necessary 4P3T
             switch is very hard to find. It would also necessitate a separate
             on-off switch) 100' of this wire exhibits 6.8 ohms resistance. When
             the 13 volts runs through the full length (both 50' elements in
             series via the switch) it pulls about 1.85 amps yielding ~25 watts,
             the low position. When the 13 volts runs through only one of these
             two elements (via the switch), the resulting 3.4 ohms pulls 3.7
             amps, yielding ~50 watts, the high position.

             Lastly, I strongly recommend the DPDT, center off, switch be the
             waterproof "marine" type switch with the sealed entry barrel where
             toggle bat enters. I have the necessary teflon wire, marine switches,
             connectors and terminal strips.

             Whit Brown 




      Because we routed the wires so they are exposed in places on the inside, you'll want to wear a long sleeve T shirt under it so the wires aren't directly against skin.  It doesn't help to pile on other layers, as you're then asking the heat to come through that as well.  What would help, if it gets absolutely sub-arctic out there, is to add a layer OUTSIDE the jacket - that is, use the jacket as a liner inside another jacket.  This light electric jacket works fine down into the lower 20's on my Wing and my Valk - both with shields - with absolutely no chill experienced.  I haven't tested it below that yet, but I'm about to wire the liner in my Belstaff jacket - which without added heat, is already good to below freezing.


      Man, does this baby heat!  I LOVE it!  NOW I don't care if it's below freezing!  OK, I also have a balaclava since I don't prefer full face helmets.  And my legs don't get cold anyway, kinda hairy and that traps warm air next to the skin (I know, TMI).  OK I ride a Valkyrie with Baker Wings, and also a GL1800 Gold Wing with Baker Wings, so I don't have a lot of air on my legs anyway.

      NOW I'm going to look into wiring my own electric gloves, the Widders are too bulky and I don't support companies that rip off inventions just because they can...


All technical mods described here are merely reports of what I've done.  You may attempt to replicate them at your own discretion and risk if you choose.  Horseapple Ranch, LLC and Mark Tobias will in no way be responsible for the results of your attempting to perform these mods on any motorcycle, regardless of the outcome.

All content on copyright 1999-2006 Mark Tobias except "Riders Say", "Dyno Day", Vallejo and Shop Manual and Alternator Review pages, and SWF and MP-3 files and their graphic icons, and any content specifically attributed to another author.  
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