First liquid cooled motorcycles, now liquid cooled motorcycle riders. Whatever next? Since the dawn of motorcycling, bikers have been famed and revered for “braving the elements”. But is all that about to change, with the advent, and now ever-increasing range, of air-conditioned clothing for riders?
Is this really the dawn of a new era? Or is air-conditioned motorcycle clothing one of those “inventions” destined to be swiftly buried by the course of time? The kind we’ll look back on with nothing but derisive laughter?
We’re only half way in and already this is proving to be the decade of air-conditioned clothing. In Japan, former Sony technician and president of Kuchofuku, Hiroshi Ichigaya, invented an air-con jacket that uses AA batteries – or a USB cable – to power a couple of built-in fans. By effectively creating a “micro climate” within your own clothes, air-conditioned clothing is obviously much more economical – and eco-friendly – than traditional, large scale air-con. But there’s another obvious group who could benefit from air-conditioned clothing: motorcyclists, because, for bikers, there’s no other alternative.
It didn’t take motorcycle clothing manufacturers long to jump on the air-con band wagon, so let’s take a look at the options.
EntroSys BikeAir Motorcycle Air Conditioner
The idea behind the EntroSys BikeAir motorcycle air-conditioning system – named “Most Ridiculous Motorcycle Product Of The Year” by Cyril Huze – is that you are safer if you’re at an ambient temperature. Their system promises to reduce rider fatigue brought about by conditions that are too hot or too cold. Yes, that’s right, it also has a heating setting – or three to be exact – and is made up of a special vest that goes under your usual riding gear, connected, via an insulated air hose, to a unit on the back. The whole piece of kit is massive and only really recommended for big bikes.
“Oh let me just assemble up my air-conditioning unit before we hit the road,” is not something I ever dreamed I would hear from a motorcyclist, and carrying around an air-conditioner isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a good time either.
While it looks like a big burden, it is actually incredibly compact for what it is. Rather than using typical compressor based technology, the BikeAir system utilises the same “solid-state” thermoelectric technology employed by the likes of NASA.
The system is operated by a remote control that fits on your key ring, handlebars, tank, and so on with equal ease, conjuring up a vision of the future: a motorcyclist surrounded by buttons and dials – volume controls and air-con remotes and his very own portable, tank-mounted deep-fat fryer.
So if you don’t mind riding around town looking like you’re wearing a catheter and you’re damn proud of it, this is the gismo for you. It will set you back about a thousand pounds though, which is more than this reviewer would spend on a motorcycle, let alone a piece of motorcycle clothing.
Make sure you get it wired up to shut off automatically when you cut the engine. Otherwise, remember to switch it off or unplug the power cable before you switch off the bike. Unless you want a flat battery as well as tripping arse over head over the hose.
Hog Cooler is a similar contraption that’s been around for a few years now. It’s an air-conditioned leather vest that keeps you at a constant 65 degrees. (That’s Fahrenheit, we hope!) I’ve never been exactly sure what the point is in a leather motorcycling vest anyway, though. It’s certainly not ideal protective clothing.
The air-conditioning unit – which in this case is essentially just a bag of ice in a cool-bag – is more discreet than the EntroSys and can sit tucked away in one of your panniers. The on and off switch is located on the connecting cable, which is apparently easily disconnected to avoid the aforementioned arse over head trip. You can also get the “Stingray” helmet cooler.
More Air-con Clothing for Motorcyclists?
As well as “traditional” vented motorcycle clothing such as the BMW Airflow 4 suit, and the Ventz gismo, also look out for the following products:
- The REV’IT! Liquid Cooling Vest
- The Veskimo Cool Vest
- Silver Eagle Outfitters’ Kula XD Vest
- The Macna Dry Cooling Vest
- Joe Rocket Sahara Evaporative Cooling Vest
- Koolin’ Klotz Cooling Neck Wraps
Historically, the popularity of motorcycles has always been tied to their relatively low price as a means of getting around. If you can afford air-conditioned clothing and other fancy riding accessories, surely you might just as well fork out and get a car. But as motorcycles increasingly become a play-thing for economically comfortable shopaholics, for many, air-conditioned clothing for motorcyclists seems to be just another step in the trend.
If you’re the kind of person that needs to be kept at a static, regulated temperature, maybe you should stay at home. Maybe motorcycling isn’t for you. This is certainly not a technological development that British bikers have felt an aching need for. We’re cool enough already, thank you very much.
In fact, there are very few situations in the world where anyone would need air-conditioned riding gear. In the most extreme conditions – from a Saharan summer to a Siberian winter – it’s unlikely you’ll choose a motorcycle as your vehicle of choice, and, if for some reason you do, these air-con clothes are unlikely to do much to help you.
No, for the time being at least, this reviewer will be relying on another form of air-conditioning for motorcyclists: it’s called the wind.