As the name suggests, warmers are pieces of material which cover the arms, knees or legs and are held in place with some sort of gripper.
Arm, leg and knee warmers are three sets of kit that every road cyclist should have in their wardrobe. Their beauty is that they can be worn with shorts and short sleeve shirts when it’s cold but can be removed when not needed. Once removed they’re easily folded up small enough to fit into your jersey’s rear pockets.
Warmers are not just for autumn and spring – although that’s when you’ll use them most – even early morning or late evening summer riders will be much more comfortable and enjoyable with warmers on you.
They may look simple but there’s a great deal of thought gone into them to ensure the best fit, warmth, wicking and even weather-proofing properties. There’s a high degree of construction properties gone into decent ones to keep them lightweight but effective.
It used to be that warmers were basic. Just panels of fabric to trap a layer of air next to the skin to keep it warm. Now there is an impressive range of materials used offering different layers of warmth and protection.
Various weights of warmers are available these days. From summer breeze protection right up to heavy Roubaix type fabric. Water- and wind-proofing materials have also come a long way with warmers offering such capabilities.
The latest innovation in warmers are lightweight versions offering sun protection equivalent to a factor 50 cream. This may sound daft but I have used these in the heat and they are surprisingly light, comfortable and breathable even on long hot rides.
What were once a simple one-piece wrapped-and-stitched garment are now multi-panel and multi-fabric. More panels give a better fit. They also enable the use of different fabrics in different areas eg. stretchier panels at the joints or windproofing on the front.
The higher the price tag the more goes into the construction, But saying that, the basic one piece design is still very popular and effective. Their simplicity is arguably an appealing feature in fact!
Fit is crucial to comfort and performance.
Too loose and they will move about. Which is very annoying and can result in the warmers slipping down and leaving exposed skin which defeats the whole purpose.
A good fit is especially important in wet weather. Ill-fitting warmers will become soggy, saggy and slip down even more.
Warmers that are too small can also be problematic. They can leave exposed areas of skin, especially at the top of arm warmers where a gap can appear between the sleeve and warmer. Tight warmers will be also be uncomfortable and restrictive.
Arm warmer fit – Make sure they are long enough. Good coverage at the top between jersey and top of warmer and long enough to touch the gloves at the wrist.
Knee warmer fit – Long enough to give a good couple of inches under shorts to make sure they stay under the shorts and help keep the thigh warm as well. Should come down to mid calf.
Leg warmer fit – Long enough to give a good couple of inches under shorts to make sure they stay under the shorts and help keep the thigh warm as well. Not too long or baggy at the ankle otherwise they will ride up leaving skin or socks exposed, especially crucial when using overshoes as the bottom of tights should be kept in them.
Grippers hold the tops and bottoms in place. Grippers can make or break a good warmer. Most grippers are a stitched-in elastic round the top and bottom. There are also fancier, lighter weight warmers with a stretch fabric band for a smoother appearance.
Some leg warmers have a zip at the ankle instead of a gripper which makes the much easier to remove, which is especially handy for warming up before an event as they come off quicker and easier.
The most popular colour is black which seems to go with every colour combination of jersey and shorts. Of course there are other colours out there but chose wisely against your current wardrobe! Or just embrace the colour clash.
Just one request – please do not buy white leg warmers unless you are using them with white shorts. If you haven’t got white shorts them don’t get any. No matter how cheap they are some things that just shouldn’t be done!
Which warmers should you buy?
It can be a personal preference but generally arm warmers are the most used so we’d recommend getting some of those first. The decision of whether to get knee warmers or leg warmers is a closer call.
Leisure riders – Any set of warmers is better than none. Just bear in mind what kind of weather you will typically be riding in and this will help you decide whether you need warm or mild versions.
Regular riders will appreciate a well amde and robust set of warmers as they will be using them quite a lot and in all different weathers. A lightweight set for summer and a more heavyweight set for cold conditions. This may seem unnecessary but just wait until you have two different weights and how you appreciate the difference.
Racers will definitely want at least two different weight sets of warmers. A heavy set for use between season changes and a lightweight set for summer, early morning and late evening rides.