Madison's unisex RoadRace Optimus Softshell knee warmers are great for autumn through to spring. Their water-resistant fabric makes them perfect for the inclement British weather. Like the RoadRace Optimus Softshell arm warmers, rain beads on the surface and rolls off and the softshell material prevents wind chill. Likewise, they live up to Madison's claims of 'waterproof fabric' – it would take a heavy downpour before they soaked through – which is surprisingly breathable.
The warmers are a generous length, reaching midway down my calf, and the four-way stretch fabric means they are easy to pull on. They are anatomically cut for each leg; you can tell which is left and right by the reflective logo on the outside calf. As with the arm warmers, they are constructed from multiple panels, five in total including a thin Lycra panel behind the knee to reduce sweatiness. All seams are flatlock stitched and didn't irritate at all.
So far so great, but I had an issue with the fit. It would appear these unisex warmers are designed for riders with slim upper legs in mind, which makes them ideal for wiry whippets but not so good for those of us with more 'womanly' thighs. Despite the size chart indicating I was a size small, the thigh band was way too tight so I sized up to a medium. This was a lot more comfy but then meant they were a bit baggy around the knee, so I was sporting fetching Nora Batty wrinkles.
The broad leg band (over 2.5in wide) is made from a single piece of Lycra doubled over. While it's comfortable and prevents ugly thigh bulge, I found it rolled down both when on the bike and walking around, despite the silicone gripper. This was only a cosmetic annoyance though as the knee warmers themselves didn't slip, thanks to the snug fit on the thigh.
These Optimus knee warmers are compatible with Madison men's RoadRace Optimus thermal bib shorts, which have silicone leg grippers compatible with the silicone print on the outside of the warmers' leg bands.
Aside from my baggy-knee fit, which won't be an issue for many riders, these are a versatile and well-made pair of warmers that I'd consider an essential in my riding wardrobe – who wants cold, wet knees? They are good value and you can find them a couple of quid cheaper online even.
Comfortable, quality, water-resistant unisex knee warmers for very reasonable money
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Madison RoadRace Optimus Softshell knee warmers
Size tested: Small, Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Madison says: "The ultimate cold weather warmer, the Optimus softshell knee warmer keeps the rain away from the skin without letting you overheat."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Waterproof softshell fabric with four-way stretch
Lightweight Lycra fabric behind the knee
Silicone printed leg grippers
Perfectly matched with the Road Race Optimus men's bib shorts
Limited lifetime warranty
How they fit depends on your leg shape. These unisex warmers are designed for people with thighs that are not proportionately larger than their calves, so will generally fit men well and women blessed with slim thighs. I needed a Medium to fit my thighs but then they were baggy around my knees.
They size up small. I selected Small according to the thigh measurement on the size chart but needed to go up to a Medium.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine washed well
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well - they keep you warm and dry and don't get too sweaty.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Their water resistance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bagginess around knee.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
They would have scored 9 if it wasn't for my knee fit issue and the leg band rolling down.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Giant Anthem X1
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Audax