George recently reviewed the sister knee warmers to Pearl Izumi's Elite Thermal Arm Warmers, and if you've read that review you'll know he rated them particularly highly, especially with the addition of new PI Dry coating that adds water-repellency to the mix.
- Pros: Warm, comfortable, great fit, water repellent
- Cons: Expensive
As with the knee warmers, a very soft fleece backing provides the warmth and no small degree of comfort besides, and while George commented that the fabric is good for anything down to around four degrees, I'm going to up the ante by saying that if you run warm, as I do, you'll get away with temperatures sneaking down towards the frosty freezing mark.
Comfort is further improved by an anatomical cut that's shaped at the elbow (much like George's knee warmers were, at the knee), which means fit is practically perfect whether you ride in the saddle or dance out of it with a dynamic arm movement.
Handily, 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. Moreover, the fit is always constant thanks to a nice level of consistent compression throughout the arm warmers, as well as plenty of length in a large so that it's never struggling to keep full coverage. Flat silicone grippers on top of an elastane upper cuff further guarantee a fast fit.
As our PI Dry tech test showed, water is able to bead off remarkably well, and if you ride them in fog then the condensation sits atop rather than ingressing. That makes for a real shell-like feel, which is great when you're venturing outside and the weather is a bit iffy.
Construction and quality is excellent too. Seams are strong and resilient to the stresses of being yanked on or off, while washing after every use seems to have little detrimental effect on the fit and shape.
Pearl Izumi tells us that it'll only lose 10% of its water resistant coating effectiveness after 100 washes. It's impossible to quantify this, of course, but on the evidence of my test period it's not a crazy claim to make. To make sure, whenever I'm in reproofing mode with my jackets (using Nikwax Tech Wash), I've thrown in the arm warmers to help actively refresh them too. Can't hurt, can it?
Like the rest of the PI Dry-infused range, you pay a fair old price. At £39.99, they're six quid more than GripGrab's AquaRepels, which I reviewed earlier this year (now with an RRP of £33.95). The case for this is harder to make with the arm warmers than the leg warmers – full review to come, but I think the Pearl Izumi legs are genuinely a cut above the AquaRepel rivals, but the arms are far closer. That said, I'd still opt for the Pearl Izumi ones because they are just that bit more comfortable by my reckoning – and they match the leg (and knee) warmers that you really should buy.
Near-perfect arm warmers with added water resistance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Arm Warmers
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pearl Izumi says: "The Elite Thermal Arm Warmer is an absolute essential for cool weather riding. Our bestselling arm warmer is now updated with water-shedding Thermal Fleece fabric with PI Dry™ technology for all-weather performance. These arm warmers are sold in pairs and have unisex sizing."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Thermal Fleece fabric with water-shedding PI Dry™ technology for all-weather performance
- Anatomic left and right arm-specific fit
- Plush wide elastic binding with silicone gripper for a stay-up fit
- BioViz™ reflective elements for low-light visibility
- BioViz™ Screaming color option for added daylight visibility
- Unisex sizing
- 56% nylon 30% polyester 14% LYCRA® elastane; Made in Vietnam
"What is PI Dry™? PI Dry™ technology is a hydrophobic treatment used on knit or woven fabrics that makes the fibers repel water without effecting the breathability or the feel of the fabric. Now you can splash through a puddle and the spray will simply run off."
No flaws detected during the test period.
They do a great job all-round, including staying in place and overall fit.
They seem very durable, and I suspect will last for multiple seasons.
Thanks to the tapered fit and length, it's full marks here.
Those with very skinny and long arms may find that they come up a little big, but overall they're very good for the average cyclist.
They weighed in at 70g, which is perfectly reasonable for thermal warmers of this type.
The fleece backing is very soft, and the seams are well placed. Even the elastane cuff with flat silicone gripper is very comfortable.
£39.99 is a high price, but you get high performance and comfort with it.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly – the best arm warmers I've worn, to date.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit, length, comfort, warmth.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
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 overall score
These arm warmers perform incredibly well all-round, are comfortable, and fit very well indeed. I'd be happy using them through winter and beyond.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding