Leg and arm warmers are a staple in every cyclist’s wardrobe for good reason, as they greatly expand the temperature comfort range on any ride. However, if your arm and leg warmers don’t fit correctly, cold weather riding can be uncomfortable and unflattering.
Women’s bodies are shaped differently to men’s, so it makes sense to choose arm and leg warmers that have been designed for female cyclists. Warmers should be long enough to keep you covered and insulated from the elements, tight enough to stay in place, but flexible enough to allow a normal pedal stroke and easy elbow movement. They also need comfortable elastic bands that fit your body well to hold them in place. Warmers with loose bands can creep down, causing bare spots between the jersey or shorts and the warmers. On the other hand, warmers with overly tight elastic bands can be painful and cause the dreaded sausage-leg look. Finding the warmers that fit you best will make every ride more comfortable
We tested four sets of arm and leg warmers from Assos, Castelli, Pearl Izumi and Panache, and evaluated them on three criteria. For reference, the warmers tested and shown are all size small on a 5ft 10in (178cm), 140lb (64kg) rider.
- Length – Are the warmers long enough to cover the whole arm and leg? We measured each for you.
- Elastic bands – Do they comfortably hold the warmers in place without causing sausage arms and legs?
- Construction – How does the material feel? And how do the different paneling designs fit?
Panache at left (model’s right) and Assos at right
Leg warmers US$65 / £47 / AU$N/A, arm warmers US$40 / £29 / AU$N/A
- Leg 62 cm
- Arm 45 cm
Elastic band – The Panache elastic bands are the best of the roundup. The leg bands are nearly 4.5cm wide, creating a comfortable hold without distorting the thighs into strange shapes. The arm bands hold firmly without squeezing and prevent the warmers from creeping down throughout the ride.
Leg warmers US$80 / £49 / AU$87.95, arm warmers US$50 / £29 / AU$49.95
- Leg 63 cm
- Arm 44 cm
Elastic band – With a looser fit, the Assos elastic bands keep legs and arms looking smooth even under tight shorts and jerseys. The bands are narrow with an effective strip of sticky gripper that keeps the warmers in place even on bumpy dirt roads.
Leg warmers US$70 / £50 / AU$64.95, arm warmers US$60 / £30 / AU$49.95
- Leg 60 cm
- Arm 47 cm
Elastic band – With sticky grippers on both the inside and outside of the elastic bands, the Castelli warmers stay in place through even the most turbulent of terrains. The inside grippers hold tight to the arms and legs while the outside grippers grasp onto jerseys or shorts to stop them from riding up. However, be aware that the leg bands are especially tight and cause some serious sausage legs when paired with tight cycling shorts. Going up one size helps reduce the sausage and makes the warmers even more comfortable.
Pearl Izumi Elite
Leg warmers US$45 / £40 / AU$59.95, arm warmers US$32 / £30 / AU$39.95
- Leg 59 cm
- Arm 47 cm
Elastic band – Unconventionally, these arm and leg warmers don’t have sticky grippers on the inside of the elastic bands. Rather, the grippers are on the outside and keep the warmers in place by grasping onto the jersey or shorts rather than the rider’s skin. This reduces skin irritation and makes for a much more comfortable ride. The warmers stayed snugly in place with this system. The ankle was a touch loose, though.
Construction – The shape of the Pearl Izumi warmers mimic the body’s shape while pedaling a bike. With significant bends at the knee and elbow, these warmers stay snugly in place with every pedal stroke. However, with this more constructed style comes more seams and more rubbing.
Overall –The Pearl Izumi Elite warmers have some comfort issues with their numerous seams and not-so-soft material. However, for the money, these leg and arm warmers are a steal. They fit true to size and if you’re looking for a more moderately priced pair of warmers this winter, Pearl Izumi has you covered.
Beware of complicated designs and shapes. These usually have more seams that cause discomfort and rubbing. Simpler designs often fit more body types and feel better against the skin since they have fewer seams and panels. Multi-panel designs can be comfortable — but be sure to try this style on first.
Length is important. It might be necessary to mix and match brands to find the correct length for both your legs and arms. For tall cyclists with long arms and legs, mixing the Castelli arm warmers with the Assos leg warmers is a great choice to keep you fully covered.
Proper compression and gripping is important. There is no one perfect style for all body types, but with a variety of choices, there are ideal warmers for you out there, no matter your shape or size. Don’t settle for discomfort or an overly tight or loose fit.