When the weather turns a chilly — or starts to emerge from
the frigid depths of winter — arm and leg warmers are a useful weapon in
your bad-weather armoury.
Arm warmers can extend the time of the year when you can ear your
favourite jersey, or add extra insulation under a jacket if your arms feel
the chill. When the weather’s cool but not frigid, leg warmers can keep
warm the bits of your legs that aren’t working hard while your thighs keep
themselves plenty warm enough in shorts.
That’s especially useful on autumn and spring days that start cold and
warm up. When conditions improve you can peel off arm and leg warmers and
stuff them in your bag or pockets. Bringing that versatility to your
outfit makes arm and leg warmers an essential part of your cycling
Arm and leg warmers are usually made of some sort of insulating fabric
that’s thicker than the usual Lycra or jersey material. The most common is
a fleece-backed Lycra called Roubaix which traps air against your skin to
keep you warm. Super Roubaix, as the name suggests, is a thicker, warmer
version of the same idea.
Arm and leg warmers are also made from knitted fabrics, usually some sort
of polyester or Merino wool for maximum warmth and luxury. These are often
thicker and warmer than Roubaix, and if they’re knitted in one piece they
don’t have the seams that some people find annoying.
A big step forward in the last few years has been the introduction of
water-repellent fabrics that help keep you dry. Rain beads off Sportful’s
NoRain line, Castelli’s NanoFlex and dhb’s Rain Defence fabrics. Water
gets through them eventually, but they’re a good first line of defence
against damp weather.
You can also get thinner arm covers that protect against the summer sun
without adding insulation. We think they're a bit pricey, but Castelli's
UPF 50+ Light Arm Skins do a good job of stopping your arms getting
Most warmers use silicone strips to grab your skin, although some very
carefully-designed models manage to stay up without it. Some also have
silicone on the outside to grab your shorts legs or jersey sleeves to keep
them in place too.
Arm warmers are all supposed to be long enough to reach from your upper
arm to your wrists, though some manufacturers do offer different sizes to
accommodate longer or shorter arms. But as well as shorts-to-ankle leg
warmers, you can also get knee warmers that end mid-calf and turn your
shorts into three-quarter length tights. If you find it’s your knees that
really take the brunt of cold weather, you may find this surprisingly
Here are 17 of the arm, leg and knee warmers we've reviewed and liked
over the last few years.
Morvelo Stealth Stormshield Knee Warmers keep your knees luxuriously warm
down to about 3-5 degrees in foul weather. They are water repellent, stay
up well and the plain black material means they will work well with most
of your other riding kit.
The Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Knee Warmers keep your legs toasty, dry
quickly after a downpour, and stay up well. What more do you need from
They look identical to the 2016 model, but there is one new addition: the
PI Dry technology coating, which makes them water resistant. The Elite
Thermal Fleece fabric means they are very warm and kept our legs
comfortable down to around 4 degrees.
These are the companion arm warmers to Pearl Izumi Elite's Thermal Knee
Warmers, above, and they're just as good. In fact, if you run hot you
might find that you're perfectly comfortable in them down to actual
Comfort is further improved by an anatomical cut that's shaped at the
elbow, which means fit is practically perfect whether you ride in the
saddle or dance out of it with a dynamic arm movement. They're demarcarted
into left and right arms, with Pearl Izumi logos placed on the top
(slightly to the outside) to help oncoming or merging traffic pick you up.
The Lusso Max Repel Leg Warmers use fibre treatment to resist water while
keeping you warm, and they stay put too. Made in the UK, they're a great
option for cool rides.
Manchester-based Lusso has once again come up with a product that's hard
to fault – simple in both design and execution, with performance fabrics
that work out on the road and look good doing it.
The Hackney GT Robi Arm Warmers are a really nicely designed and original
looking set of arm warmers. They are well insulated with a heavyweight
fleece lining and a decent level of windproofing to keep out the autumn
and winter chills.
The Aeron Rain Defence arm warmers from dhb are a great layer of
protection against the elements, complementing both the Aeron Rain Defence
range and any combination of kit you like.
Featuring the mid-weight style of the Aeron Rain Defence range, these arm
warmers are well up to the task of insulating you from the cold. The rain
resistance they offer is very impressive, while the thickness of the
fabric provides insulation even if water manages to seep through, which it
did on one occasion in a fantastic 20-minute deluge.
The Prendas Meraklon arm warmers are basic but they do a good job and
come at an amazingly cheap price.
They're essentially tubes of polypropylene (58%), nylon (40%) and
elastane (2%) with a ribbed top and a more tightly woven cuff section at
the bottom. A little more air gets through than with fleecy Roubaix
fabrics but they're warmer than skinny Lycra warmers – they split the
difference between the two. We found them a good option for typical
Polaris's RBS (really bright stuff) arm warmers keep you cosy with their
thermal lining and visible with their reflective trim.
The biggest issue our tester had was that they didn't match with anything
in his wardrobe, unlike classic “goes with anything” black arm warmers,
but they are certainly warm, and provide a decent degree of protection
from chilly weather and wind. They are quite tight though, with secure
silicone grippers. That’s good if you have skinny arms, not so great if
you’ve got guns from another sport.
The advantages of Castelli's Thermoflex arm warmers are individually
small, but they all add up to create one of the most comfortable, best
fitting sleeves on the market.
The Thermoflex name comes from the fabric. It's a medium-weight fleece to
trap a layer of warm air against the skin which it does well providing
plenty of warmth in temperatures ranging from mid-single figures to the
The best thing about the Thermoflex Arm Warmer, though, is the fit. They
are anatomically shaped during construction — a pre bent elbow if you like
— and the fabric is super stretchy so it fits closely and moves with your
arm. This means there are no creases or rucks in the material, better for
comfort and aerodynamics.
A neat addition is the silicone grip on the outside at the top to grip
your jersey sleeve.
Castelli Nanoflex kneewarmers combine two handy functions, keeping your
knees both warm and dry. The fabric incorporates silicone filaments that
keep the rain out, causing it to bead on the surface and be moved away by
The inner is a fleecy lining Roubaix style that is very soft to the touch
and keeps your knees warm even when the rain eventually gets through. The
Thermaflex fabric does exactly what the title suggests, flexes and moves
with your leg while travelling through the pedalling motion.
The Galibier Ardennes Roubaix Leg Warmers work well, keeping out the wind
effectively and keeping in warmth nicely. The fit is also a strong point
thanks to the left and right-specific fits.
They are made from two different fleece-backed Roubaix fabrics, which
Galibier claims are matched to the motion of the pedalling leg. Inside
they also have a good fleecy material to help keep warmth in.
We haven’t tested this exact incarnation of dhb’s well-priced Roubaix,
leg warmers, but we liked the very similar Pace Roubaix model.
Those were excellent, with five separate panels to give an 'anatomical'
shape - ie, they've got a bend half way down, to match the bend in your
leg, and silicone grippers round the inside of the ankle cuff, and around
the inside and outside of the thigh cuff so they don't slip down from
under your shorts to reveal that annoying and very unstylish inch of bare
With an identical feature set, we’d expect these to be just as good, and
the price is very reasonable.
DeFeet Kneekers are seamless knee warmers. High in comfort and stretch,
they're are ideal for autumn cycling.
They’re made from a single seamless tube of Coolmax/Lycra material.
They're longer than most knee warmers and that means they can cover the
legs well above and below the knee, providing extra insulation on cold
They provide good protection from the cold and rain without any hint of
overheating. There’s Aireator mesh in the back panel, which improves heat
regulation and also contributes to the comfort, but allowing extra
If you want a bit more warmth, there's a Merino wool version too.
These arm warmers are from Stolen Goat's
Orkaan winter range are made from the same material as their bib tights,
so you get a comfortable brushed inner surface and a degree of protection
against the cold and wet. They have a section of reflective Pixel material
which is a great idea, giving some much needed side visibility for
They always stayed safely tucked inside
the jersey sleeves, helped by elasticated cuffs at each end with a
silicone Bioracer pattern on the inside.
The dhb Aeron Rain Defence Leg Warmers are yet another excellent piece in
dhb's water resistant range. Water simply runs off. They also fit superbly
thanks to well thought out stitching. With their brushed, fleecy lining,
the leg warmers instantly feel snug and ready for some cold miles. The
Rain Defence fabric is included only on the frontal section, where most
spray is concentrated, leaving the rear more flexible for comfort behind
As arm warmers go, the Craft 3Ds are at the upper end of the scale, both
in the design and technology that has gone in to them and in price. They
are nevertheless amazingly good value in terms of versatility, usefulness
and all-round ride comfort.
They kept our tester’s arms pleasingly warm on even the coldest days. You
really don't notice you are wearing them. The silicone grippers at the top
of the arms do the job effectively but unobtrusively, the material is soft
to the touch and there is nothing to itch or scratch.
Castelli's Nanoflex Leg Warmers are well designed and comfortable with
the added bonus of being water repellent, thanks to the Nanoflex fabric.
It keeps road spray and showers out but harder rain does work through,
especially through the bit at the front of your knee that you stretch
repeatedly as you pedal. But the point is, these feel like any other leg
warmers in terms of feel and breathability – like most, they're made from
nylon and Lycra – so there's no down side to that extra water repellency.
Nanoflex aside, these are good leg warmers in their own right, coming
with just one flatlock stitched seam up the back, which I haven't found at
all irritating. The elasticated gripper has silicone on the inside to hold
it against your leg, and on the outside to keep it in place against your
shorts. I've never had any trouble there. A YKK zip at the back makes
getting them on and off easy, even over your shoes.
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Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.