Posted by: Jessie | January 1, 2010

Gear Reviews: Vega Women’s Touring boots, Olympia Ladies Airglide Pants, Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket

So after my winter trip I thought I would do a gear review.  Some of you may wonder what I was wearing that enabled me to ride all day in temperatures in the 30’s.  Keep in mind that my bike has a full fairing that shields me from the wind from head to toe.  Well, mostly.  Not the top of my head, nor the outside edges of my shoulders, and not my toes.

Vega Women’s Touring Boots: These are an inexpensive touring boot.  While the Vega boots are very comfortable, they offer little protection and no support.  They have a gusset behind the zipper to keep the water out.  The back of the boot has a velcro panel so you can adjust how tightly the boot hugs your calf.  This is a nice adjustment to have in case you want to wear your pants inside the boot instead of over the boot.  They have a shin protector.   I wore them to the Sturgis, MI mini rally this spring.  I rode on wet pavement (it had stopped raining) and walked in the wet grass and my feet stayed dry.  Being soft and flexible, they were comfortable walking around at the rally.  On the Deal’s Gap trip there was no rain nor snow, so the waterproofing did not get tested.  What became clear to me is that the boots may be waterproof, but they are not breathable.  It was cold enough that my feet should not have been sweating, but when I took my boots off at the end of the day my socks were slightly damp.

Socks and sock liners: When I ride in the cooler weather I always wear wool socks.  Much warmer than cotton.  I’m especially fond of Smart Wool.  On this trip I also wore silk sock liners.  These were thin enough not to make my boots too tight.  Silk is a natural wicking fabric, and it’s naturally warm.  I definitely recommend silk sock liners for riding on cold days.

Grabbers:  I had never tried these before, but I have seen them in stores.  They are little heat packs that go in your gloves or boots.  They have chemicals in them that heat up when exposed to air.  They are in orange, red, and yellow packaging and promise to produce heat to keep your hands or feet warm.  I was a little afraid of them at first… I was afraid they would feel too hot or uncomfortable.  I finally decided to give them a try.  First I tried the “Footbeds.”  They come two to a pack, one for the inside of each boot.  They gave off a gentle warmth.  Comfortable.  Cozy.  The warmth lasted longer then I expected.  My toes still got a little cold, though.  Next I tried the toe warmers.  They come two to a pack.  They suggest that you put one on top of your toes and one on the bottom of your toes.  They are sticky on one side so that they don’t slide around in your shoe.  Well, I only had one package, so I stuck one to the bottom of each sock, under my toes.  I rode 4 hours at highway speeds and my toes did not get cold.  Very nice.  They are only supposed to last 6 hours.  When I finished my ride I took off my boots and put on my slippers.  The Grabbers were still warm and still stuck to my socks, so I just kept them on.  They are still warm now, 10 hours after first putting them on.

Olympia Ladies Airglide PantsI’ve had these pants for two seasons now.  I bought them in 2008 to wear in the summer.  They are abrasion resistant mesh over-pants with knee armor and removable hip armor.  These pants have two zipper pockets in the front and a snap-shut pocket in the back.  There is an attachment zipper to zip to your jacket.  It has reflective piping down the sides.  Zippers down the sides make them easy to put on and take off.  They are meant to wear over your regular pants (or shorts) and take off once you get to your destination, but they are comfortable enough to keep them on.  Air flows right through the mesh, giving me protection without being so smotheringly hot in the summer.  Last summer I had a slow-speed wreck in them.  They not only saved my skin, but the armor saved my knee.  I patched up the holes and kept on wearing them.  They also have a quilted waterproof liner that I had not used before.  I used it on this winter trip.  I was surprised at how warm it is.  I wore my jeans under the mesh pants with the liner and I did not even need to wear long johns.  Very nice.  Now, if I had been riding an unfaired bike it may have been a different story, but I was comfy on this trip in these pants.

Olympia Airglide Pants are very comfey with sweatpants underneith.

Update 5/3/11:  I wore these pants to a cool and damp rally this weekend.  I wore them with the rain liner in for four days straight.  They did keep me warm and dry, but the rain liner does not breathe.  By the end of the day I was ready to take them off!  Also, with wearing my jeans, rain liner, and mesh pants all together made going to the bathroom quite inconvenient.  It’s like wearing three pairs of pants!

Update 5/22/11:  I wore these several days in a row on my Blue Ridge Parkway trip.  Many days I wore them over jeans with the waterproof liner in.  I discovered that they are more comfortable and easier to move in if I do not wear jeans under them.  Instead I wore a pair of knit water-resistant pants.  (Woolrich 3x dry camping pants)  Very comfortable!  I felt like I was riding in sweat pants, only with protection!  We did get caught in the rain, and the rain did soak through the mesh pants.  The Woolrich camping pants did not keep the water off me like the waterproof liner would have, but thanks to the fairing on my RT I only got a little wet.  The bummer is that my Olympia mesh pants are starting to pull apart at the seams on the inner thigh.  Is it possible I am wearing them out already?

Update 11/4/11:  I ordered a new pair for our Bourbon Trail trip and our BMW club trip to Hocking Hills.  The only real change they made in these pants is the sizing is more accurate, so order your regular size instead of a size smaller.  Also the waterproof liner is no longer quilted, it’s just one layer now.

Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket:  I got this jacket a few months ago on supersale.  It’s supposed to be waterproof, but I haven’t tested that, thank goodness.  This jacket has a windproof, waterproof fleece liner that can be worn on its own as a windbreaker.  In fact, I did that quite a bit in Knoxville.  It also has a lot of pockets, which came in handy on this trip.  The greatest thing about this jacket is that it does not leak air.  Every other jacket I’ve worn in cool weather leaks air through the zippers.  When riding on a cold day that can feel like needles in my chest.  Not this jacket!  This was designed to be an adventure jacket.  So far I have tested it in heat and in cold and I’ve been pleased with it.  In hot weather you can take the liner out and open the vents and it lets quite a bit of air through.  The zippers are covered, this is what makes them waterproof and windproof.  My one complaint about this jacket is that even as bulky as it is there is not much room for layers under it.  It worked out well with my heated liner, but if I did not have the heated liner then there may not have been enough room in the jacket for enough layers to keep me warm on a cold day.  Also, the sizing is off.  Order one size smaller than you usually wear.  I ordered my usual size and it was huge on me.  The armor floated around loosely nowhere near where it should have been.  I returned it for one size smaller and it fits fine.

We both love our Kilimanjaro Jackets.

Update 5/22/11:  I wore my Kilimanjaro Jacket on a week-long trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway, down through Deal’s Gap, and back to Cincinnati.  I wore this jacket through rain, fog, 40 degree temperatures, 80 degree temperatuers, and every temperature in between.  What a wonderful jacket.  It kept me dry, even with the vents open.  The pockets are waterproof and they kept my phone, camera, and wallet dry.  Even though the jacket is waterproof it is also breatheable, so I did not feel like I was wrapped in plastic.  I was able to keep warm by adding extra layers underneith, and when the weather got warm I was able to open the vents and get good air flow.  When I wasn’t wearing the full jacket, I was often wearing the liner, which is a wonderful waterproof fleece windbreaker when worn on its own.  This could have been a miserable trip if I had taken any of my other jackets.  Good gear makes all the difference.

First Gear Heated Liner:  This thing is great.  It’s like a lightweight windbreaker with wires in it.  Plug it in to the bike, turn it on and then go!  It heats up like an electric blanket.  The jacket itself is supposed to be breathable and “temperature neutral.”  This way if you are riding and start to overheat you can turn the jacket down or off.  You don’t have to get off your bike to take the jacket off.  What I thought was interesting is that it works best when it fits snug, then the heat directly transfers from the jacket to you.  I thought that if it heated up the inside of my Kilimanjaro then I would be warm, but it doesn’t work that way.  If  you get one, be sure to order it snug.

Firstgear Heated Liner doubles as a windbreaker

Update 5/3/11:  I velcroed the temperature controller onto the outside flap of the pocket on my jacket where it is easy to get to.  We rode about 900 miles this weekend and I wore this liner most of the time, even when I was off the bike.  Off the bike it makes a great windbreaker.  On the bike it kept me comfortable riding in the cold, rain, and wind.  When the weather got warmer I turned the electric off, but it was comfortable to keep wearing the liner.

Balaclava:  I don’t know much about balaclava.  I used one on this trip and was happy that I had it.  My helmet leaks air, so having one made a big difference.  Balaclavas designed for motorcycling often have some extra length in front to keep the wind out.  Be sure to get one that fits tightly enough not to slide around when you put on your helmet.  If you wear glasses make sure the opening is wide enough for you to still be able to put your glasses on.  Recently a friend of mine told me about riding in the winter and getting frost bite on his chin.  I suspect if he had a balaclava this may not have happened.

Glove Liners:  I brought two pairs of glove liners with me.  One pair of silk glove liners and a pair of outlast liners.  The outlast liners were warmer, but they were too thick under my gloves.  I felt like I could barely move my fingers, and it was difficult to operate the turn signals.  I switched to the silk liners.  They felt nice, were warmer than with no liners, and did not interfere with my ability to operate the controls on the bike.  The bummer is that the velcro on my glove was hard on the silk.

Harley Davidson Gloves:  This is the first time I’ve been able to wear these gloves.  I bought these several years ago when I first started riding.  Very nice gloves.  Unfortunately I have never been able to wear them because the sleeves on all my jackets (except the Kilimanjaro) come down so far that the push the gloves off my hands.  They have a cuff that goes inside the sleeve and a gauntlet that goes over the sleeve.  inconvenient, but it keeps the wind out of your sleeve.  These are great gloves.  Leather, gel palm, Thinsulate lining, reflective stripe down the outside of the hand, a little extra padding over the knuckles for crash protection, and some type of grippy stuff over the fingertips so that you can still pick up your keys.  The only bummer about them is that the fingers are too long, which made it very difficult to do things like turn the key in the ignition, zip the tank bag, adjust the temperature on my heated liner, etc.  The moral of the story is: when you are buying gear, try it on with your other gear BEFORE you buy it.  Also learn something about gear before you buy it.  How is it supposed to fit?  What is it supposed to do?  Does this size and this brand do what it is supposed to do for YOU?  Does it work with your other gear?  A pair of really great gloves doesn’t help you if they won’t stay on your hands or if you can’t operate your zippers.

Pictures of me in all of this gear are posted here.



  1. […] Heated Liner Review Update I first wrote about this heated liner here:  Today I thought I would add an […]

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