Arm and leg warmers provide added flexibility to your cycling wardrobe throughout the year. They really come into their own on autumn and spring mornings when an early morning chill can soon give way to warm sunshine. On milder winter days they can be paired with a more substantial short-sleeve jersey or thermal shorts and if you are heading up into the high mountains in summer, stash away a pair with your gilet to guard against heat loss at high altitude and on descents.
Those made with a windproof or water resistant fabric will increase the cost a little, but provide that extra bit of protection against rain and cold, but the majority come with good thermal protection and many are fleece lined, which are perfect for cooler days. Breathability is paramount, so err towards fabrics that will provide optimum protection and wicking, like Windstopper or Vent-X-Air. Similarly, water resistant fabrics like Castelli’s Nanoflex or Acquazero, will repel water, but sacrifice some of their wicking potential due to the silicon used in their manufacture.
Pure merino wool warmers are wonderfully soft and naturally wick sweat away from the skin. They will even keep you warm if they get damp too, which is another plus point, but for higher tempo riding a synthetic fabric may be preferable.
Hems and cuffs should be tight and grippy and long enough to cover your wrists when on the drops and your ankles when your foot is at 6 o’clock. Some warmers have a panel, articulated construction and if they do, check the seams are flatlock, to ensure there is no rubbing or chaffing. Others just incorporate a single seam running down the lenght, with the shape of the warmer cut to mimic the articulation of the limb.
Warmers do not cost a huge amount of money and given the amount of times you will reach for them before a ride, it’s well worth investing in a decent pair. Below are some of the best on the market, to suit a variety of wallets and cycling conditions, but if you have any recommendations of your own, then let other members know!
Italian label, La Passione, sell direct to their growing customer base from their HQ on the shores of Lake Garda in Lombardia and by cutting out the middlemen, pass on a considerable saving, making their high quality and beautifully made cycle clothing far more affordable.
La Passione may inhabit the mid-market price bracket, but everything about the brand oozes Italian class and verve, from the slick, eye-catching website to the beautifully wrapped garments, which arrive beautifully packaged in a musette in their signature dark blue, and further encased in opaque plastic bags.
Their designs can be bold or classically simple, and their range of arm and leg warmers fall into the latter category. Black or dark blue are available, either in the very affordable woven arm warmers, or the more technically advanced arm and leg warmers, which both feature a brushed fleeced inner lining, elasticated hems, embossed with silicon tabs to ensure they don’t slip. Pair these with a La Passione short-sleeve jersey and/or bibs and they’ll see you through much of the year, but the discreet branding, coupled with good reflective detailing, means they can be easily paired with other brands too.
Both the arm and leg warmers are well constructed, with robust flatlock stitching on the hem and the fabric has a slinky feel on the outside, but the brushed fleece inner is reassuringly soft and warm.
On the road both the seamless knitted arm warmers and more technical fabric of the arm warmers (and matching leg warmers) provide a good level of protection from the wind and cold. The brushed fleece provides reassuring warmth on the skin in temperatures below 10 degrees centigrade, but should the weather be warmer or you are riding at a higher tempo, the technical fabric offers excellent breathability.
The seamless knitted arm warmers (pictured) are available in dark blue, black and white and there are also the option of combining different colours to compliment some of the other La Passione collections. The arm warmers are available either in blue or black and cost £26. The leg warmers also come in blue and black
Danish brand, Gripgrab, have been making inroads into the UK cycling market in the last couple of years, thanks in part to the professional endorsement of Thomas de Gendt’s Lotto Soudal team, but more likely due to the fact that they make some seriously great cycling accessories.
Their standard warmers (not to be confused with the lightweight and thermal options) have a wonderfully luxuriant feel to them, due to the brushed fleece lining, which helps to provide an extra level of warmth on colder days. The logo and reflective strip are discreet, whilst the single flatlock seam running down the length of the arm warmer ensures total comfort.
The knee and leg warmers have a panel construction to provide articulation around the knee joint and both feature silicon hems on both the bottom and top, which ensures they stay exactly where they should. The knee warmers (tested) have a compressive fit, which I really liked and they felt nice and secure on the thigh.
On early morning rides they have proved excellent at keeping my thigh muscles toasty, negating any windchill, but as the temperature rose above 12°C they did feel a little too warm. I would suggest using the knee or arm warmers in colder conditions, perhaps worn with thermal bibs shorts, as they offer excellent warmth, but are a little bulky to stash away in a rear pocket.
I should also point out the quality of the construction. These are a beautifully manufactured set of warmers and the quality of the flatlock stitching suggest that these will withstand frequent use.
Gripgrab arm warmers retail at £29.95 and the leg warmers for £41.95 and are available to buy online. Both come in either a black or hi-viz fluro version. Visit the Gripgrab website for more information on their leg and arm warmers and the entire Gripgrab range of products
Gore Bike Wear Universal GWS
Synthetic fabrics have come a long way in the last decade, but when it comes keeping out a chill wind, Gore’s Windstopper (GWS) fabric remains the market leader. Their fabric is not only windproof, but also breathes effectively too. Gore don’t market Windstopper as a waterproof fabric, but in light rain these arm and leg warmers do a good enough job of shrugging off the worst of it, keeping your arms and legs from getting cold and damp.
They are articulated at the elbow and knee respectively, which means that they follow the bend of your limbs, but the panel construction may not appeal to those who prefer a sleeker look. The flatlock seams, however, mitigate against chaffing and also provide a robustness to the construction, which is reassuring if you expect to be using these warmers on a regular basis.
The zip on the ankle is a nice touch and, should the need arise, you can take these on and off wearing a shoe, and typical of Gore’s attention to the details that matter, it also incorporates a reflective strip down the length of the zip.
The downside is that these are on the pricier side, but quality does not come cheap and they’ll be a staple of your cycling wardrobe for a few seasons, so it’s a price well worth paying.
Rapha Pro Team Shadow
Rapha’s partnership with Team Sky only lasted four years, from 2012 to the end of the 2016 season, but the collaboration saw the introduction of numerous innovative garments, developed in response to the uncompromising demands of the British team.
The Shadow kit was arguably the most impressive of all, with a huge amount of R&D invested in producing a range of garments that would protect the Team Sky riders during the changeable conditions they were most likely to encounter during the Spring Classics in northern Europe. The woven-stretch material offers protection from both the wind and the rain, but is also lightweight, form-fitting and provides excellent breathability.
The Pro Team Shadow Arm and Knee Warmers are perfect for the changeable conditions of autumn and spring, but an accessory you can turn to on milder winter days and if you are heading to some high peaks in summer, then you might want to stash some in your luggage, just in case the sun don’t shine.
The Shadow range have a brushed inner fleece, which makes them soft on the skin, but given the nature of the water-repellent DWR (durable water resistant) coating, the fabric, although stretchy, is far stiffer than other warmers in the Rapha stable, notably their luxuriantly soft Merino Arm Warmers, If, however, you want protection from the elements, then one has to be prepared to compromise, but the designers have sought to compensate for this by including a panel of softer material on the elbow and back of the knee, which mitigates against chaffing and also helps with articulation.
The Leg Warmers (tested) provide excellent warmth in cold conditions – you could easily pair these with a pair of thermal shorts in preference for wearing bib tights. The fabric does feel a little unforgiving in rotation and that does take a little getting used to, but when you see spitting rain and road spray just beading and running off, one can forgive a the fabric being a little stiff.
It also has a tendency to crease around the knee joint, which though a little unsightly, did not appear to impact on the performance. The panel of softer fabric on the back of the knee, which is not treated with a DWR coating, did get damp in the wet, though this didn’t cause any discomfort or impede performance.
The lack of reflective detailing is a major flaw. These are designed for ‘foul weather conditions’, which in my experience is when one feels most vulnerable on the road. It’s all the more surprising given that Rapha have put a lot of thought into rider visibility in recent years – just check out their Brevet range.
The price may put some people off, but one has to bear in mind the extensive R&D that went in to the development of the Shadow fabric and Rapha claim that the DWR coating is more robust than other similar products on the market, though the coating will need to be replenished at some point. Gripes aside, if you are looking for ultimate protection from the elements then the Shadow warmers will quickly be the accessory you reach for when the skies are looking gloomy and foreboding.
Shadow Arm Warmers retail at £70, Knee Warmers at £75 Leg Warmers (£85), but for those who are just looking for some protection from an early morning chill, then Rapha’s Merino Arm Warmers are wonderfully soft, stretchy and highly regarded. They retail at £45, with complimentary Knee and Leg Warmers priced at £50 and £55 respectively.
The 'Regulate' warmers are competitively priced option from Wiggle’s in-house brand. dhb have a habit of just doing the simple things very well and these are no exception – comfortingly warm and soft and providing excellent protection from the elements. The material is pre-shaped to follow the natural bend in the arm and the stretchiness of the elastane based fabric ensure a sleek fit and silicon grippers ensure they stay securely in place.
At this price point, they are a match for more expensive warmers and dhb have not cut corners – the styling is slinky, with only a discreet reflective ‘B-warm’ logo on the outside and a sliver of hi-viz material to ensue your rotating legs catch the eye of approaching motorists. On the bike they provide the necessary protection against autumnal and spring temperatures, but are not overly bulky and scrunch up tight for storage in a rear pocket. Hard to fault and the construction is sound too – repeated use has not resulted in any deterioration in the fabric. A higher end product at a budget price.
The dhb arm warmers retail at £18 and the leg warmers at £22. If you are looking to save a few pennies on your pins, then the knee warmers, at £18, are another option. All three are available to buy exclusively on Wiggle.
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