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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff and Wendy Gerbing’

Thermal factors such as air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity and humidity all contribute to our riding comfort.   Or some would say DIS-comfort?!

My trip in April through the Willamette and Modoc National Forest to Laughlin and then most recently the ride to the Hells Canyon Rally reminded me how stubbornly, Mother Nature refuses us the ability to control these thermal factors.

During those trips, I was plugged in for multiple hours during the day to combat the rain/cold weather and it got me to thinking about my H-D heated clothing.  I’ll do this on occasion as I meander along the highway listening to the engine noise as a musical backdrop.

I bought my current heated vest and gloves back in 2000 after returning home from a bitter cold trip to Reno.  It was during Street Vibrations and it snowed on the surrounding hills in late September.   I recall leaving Reno wearing multiple pairs of socks, long-sleeve t-shirts, handkerchief around the face and ski gloves and it wasn’t enough. Snow was falling on the ground in Susanville and by the time I arrived in Grants Pass I was nearly frozen.  Vowing to never let that happen again I immediately went out and bought the gear for future trips.  I always pack it on the bike if I think the weather has a chance of being dicey where I’m going.

It’s well known that when colder outside temperatures occur, the nervous system restricts blood flow to the extremities to maintain the body’s core temperatures. The toes and the fingers quickly become uncomfortably cold.  Other factors like wind chill aggravate the situation even more. Also, the presence of moisture increases thermal transfer significantly and causes heat to escape more rapidly and cold to penetrate faster.

Clearly the type of clothing we wear, the physical activity levels and individual physiology are elements of thermal comfort we can control.  So, I started wondering… did H-D design and make this gear or was it outsourced.  My search led me to Gerbing’s heated clothing, which is the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson heated gear.

Back in the 1970’s Gordon Gerbing owned a small machine shop just south of Seattle that primarily produced parts for Boeing airplanes. Several of his employees rode motorcycles to work all year, even through the Seattle winter chill and dampness. Gordon made note of their discomfort when employees arrived at work after a cold morning’s winter ride and he decided to look for a way to keep the riders warm. He devised a way to “wire up” motorcycle clothing with heating pads and connect the pads to the bike’s electrical system.

Over the years Jeff and Wendy Gerbing assumed management of the business and it’s a family affair.  As the technology improved they won more deals and then in 1999, Harley-Davidson selected Gerbing’s to be the sole supplier of Harley-Davidson label heated clothing.  Basically the wire inside the garment consists of bundles of stainless steel strands, twisted and wrapped in a thin Teflon-derived coating. They alter the number of these strands in each wire to custom-tune the amount of heat. By using these wires either in a heating pad, in a woven pattern or in a ribbon matrix they can further tune how the heat is delivered to the body.

In the fall of 2008 Gerbing’s moved into a new 30,000 sq ft facility located in Tumwater, WA., and this year they announced plans to expand into North Carolina (Stoneville) with a new plant that will create 158 jobs by 2015.  They will open an 88,000-square-foot facility and the company plans to invest more than $1.2 million in building upgrades and equipment with help from state, county and local incentives.

These days Gerbing’s clothing is not only popular with motorcyclists but includes hunters, fishermen and professional athletes. Among its customers are teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball as well as law enforcement and the military.  The new facility in North Carolina is also part of a move to relocate the company’s manufacturing operations to the U.S. from China, where Gerbing had difficulty obtaining deliveries on time.

After 10+ years of use, I for one truly appreciate their heated clothing and it’s especially rewarding to hear in this economic climate about a manufacture bringing jobs back to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Gerbing.

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