Stephen Romanin is the outdoors type. He loves mountain biking, skiing, and taking motorcycles off the beaten track – pursuits that put him on a mission to create a lightweight heated garment that can keep the cold at bay without interfering with the activity at hand. The result is the Avade heated jersey.
Australian-based Romanin started developing the idea four years ago when he couldn't find anything on the market to meet his exact needs. Heated jackets (most notably the Milwaukee jacket) were already out there, but he wanted a more sports-focused solution. Working from the ground-up, he began by tinkering with a set-up that involved power drill batteries and a Camelbak, eventually honing the design and launching it onto the marketplace in late 2014. The final product is a versatile piece of kit. Not only can it be used as a warm-up and cool-down aid in Enduro riding and any number of adventure sports, it's potentially useful in any situation where you're outdoors and you're cold.
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At first glance the Avade doesn't look a lot different to many long-sleeved sports garments. It's made from a polyester spandex blend and is designed to provide a balance of lightness, strength, compression and wicking capability. Look a little closer and you'll notice three knitted carbon-fiber wire heating elements (two on the chest and one in the center of the upper back), a button on the cuff of the right sleeve and a battery pocket under the arm. Wires run up the outside of the sleeve between the battery and the button and across the upper part of the chest and back to the heating panels – all of which isn't quite as cumbersome as it sounds.
As a motorcyclist who lives a long way from the equator and commutes 12 months of the year, I can see the attraction of a lightweight heated garment (as far as I'm concerned, heated handgrips represent humanity’s finest application of radiant heat since the invention of the toaster). This was my first test scenario for the Avade jersey, and immediately I was impressed.
Despite all the extra bits, the top is quite comfortable and you tend to forget about the wiring and the 174 g battery under your arm once you're on the move. If you do find the battery annoying, there's an extension cable that let's you remove it from its pocket and place it in a backpack. Operation is simple – press of the button for three seconds to turn it on, press it again to move through the three color-coded heat settings – 30º C/ 86º F (green), 40º C/ 104º F (amber) and 50º C/122º F (red). The button does take a little getting used to, and I found myself having to reach inside the sleeve and press it between my finger and my thumb initially, but after some practice I was able to operate it with one finger, even with gloves on and a heavy jacket over the top. Romanin explained that a little slack has been deliberately left in the wires in case you do need to tug the sleeve down a bit to access the button. My only other gripe is it can be easy to forget which setting you are on if the button is hidden underneath other layers of clothing. There's a fairly simple solution though – turn off the heat by pressing the button for three seconds and start again.
Each element has its own sensor to stop it from getting hotter than 50º C, so if you are wearing a backpack and the rear element gets too hot, it will shut down while the front panels keep delivering heat.
The heat arrives within about 15 seconds and on the highest setting it is fairly aggressive. I was most comfortable during my one hour commute with it on the lower settings and/or adding a think layer underneath. The pads are well positioned to keep your entire torso warm (though of course, I won't be trading in my heated hand-grips). The heat also fades quickly when you switch it off.
On the mountain bike, these factors make the jersey ideal for warming up or for when you are taking a break from pedaling. The fabric breathes nicely, doing a decent job of drawing sweat away from your skin and, central heating aside, it's a very serviceable garment in its own right.
The 7.4 V, 4400 mAh lithium polymer battery should last for around six hours on the lowest setting, but expect less than three on high. According to Stephen's testing it should last for 2.5 hours in a freezer at -18º C (-0.4º F), in case you had that in mind.
Given you are not likely to have it on all the time – even on a brisk morning on the road bike I found myself switching it off occasionally – this seems like a pretty good trade off between having enough juice to ensure you are not constantly charging up and not having to lug around a massive battery.
Charging is through a regular socket and while you can't toss the jersey in the washing machine, it can be hand washed once the battery is removed.
The conclusion here is pretty simple. The Avade jersey is a well thought through design that does exactly what it sets out to do, it does it with little fuss and it does it well. There might even be a place for it on the podium next to the heated hand grips and the toaster.
The Avade is priced at AUD$199 (approx. US$155) in Australia (including shipping). The company is also taking international orders.
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