Rapha's new Merino Arm Warmers are, as the name suggests, mostly merino wool with a bit of elastane (5%) thrown into the mix to add stretchiness, and they're exceptionally comfortable.
As you'll know if you own any Rapha wool clothing, they use only sheep that are washed and conditioned every morning, groomed twice daily and fed on a diet of nourishing, green-leafed vegetables. All the while, the sheep are watching newsreels of epic Tour de France stages from the 1950s.
And that is all absolutely true, which is why the wool is incredibly soft and fine and suitable for cycling. It really does feel great against your skin. No prickliness, no itchiness, no scratchiness.
These arm warmers aren't thick so I thought they'd let more air through than Rapha's standard (and £5 cheaper) fleece-backed arm warmers. But wearing them in tandem (not a classic look, admittedly), I'd say they offer about the same level of insulation. There's really not much in it either way, meaning they're a good weight for autumn and spring. They're certainly considerably warmer than skinny Lycra options.
Arm warmers don't usually have to deal with a ton of sweat - you just take them off if you start overheating; that's the whole point - but these stay comfortable even if they do get a bit damp and they're lightweight enough to dry out quickly.
The other good thing about wool as opposed to most synthetic fabrics is that it doesn't start reeking if it does get sweaty. So if you use these on the ride to work in the morning, say, you won't be pulling on minging kit for the ride home.
A rubber gripper at the top holds them in place and you can't even feel the flat-locked seam down the inside..
Soft wool arm warmers with good insulation -although as ever with Rapha, they're pricey
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Make and model: Rapha Merino Armwarmers
Size tested: Black - L
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?
Rapha say, "Made from a fabric developed exclusively by Rapha, these high-performance arm warmers combine the natural performance properties of merino wool with a degree of Lycra for stretch and durability. They provide insulation, are highly breathable and also transfer moisture effectively. The fabric is quick-drying so the arm warmers can be used in a variety of conditions. They are versatile enough for city riding and work brilliantly when paired with any short-sleeved Rapha jersey."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
It's 95% merino wool, 5% elastane.
They're tubes of merino wool with a flatlock seam. There's not a lot to get right or wrong here.
They insulate, they stay in place... that's about all they're supposed to do.
Good so far. Wool isn't s hard wearing as some synthetic fabrics but it's not as if the arm warmers are going to rub against anything else as you cycle. It's quite easy to catch a thread on things like Velcro.
They feel great: soft and warm
There aren't too many other merino arm warmers out there but you can pick up a pair for under £20 so you'd struggle to call these great value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They do a straightforward job well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is high.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yep.
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly. They're a bit of a luxury, but they feel great.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As above.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.