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
Length – The leg warmers fit extremely well and are long enough to keep everything covered from thigh to ankle. The arm warmers, however, are a bit short for riders with long arms, leaving the wrists exposed to the elements.
- 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.
Construction – Soft and slightly fuzzy on the inside, the warmers have minimal seams to reduce rubbing and irritation, and keep your limbs warm and happy. The leg warmers have a small anatomical bend at the knee that reduces bunching and keeps the warmers in place while pedaling. We found them to be very comfortable. The zippers however, would not stay put and slowly unzipped themselves throughout each ride.
Overall –We found the Panache warmers to be the best of the bunch because of their extra-large leg and arm bands. These were far more comfortable and flattering than any of the others. They stayed in place and did not cause sausage legs or arms. Reasonably priced, they became our personal “go-to” for most rides. Even in a cyclocross race, they didn’t sag or creep down after dismounts, mounts and run-ups. Because of this, we were willing to tolerate the fact that the zippers sometimes opened up a little bit.
Leg warmers US$80 / £49 / AU$87.95, arm warmers US$50 / £29 / AU$49.95
Length – With the longest leg warmers of the roundup, the Assos Uno leg warmers will comfortably fit even the tallest of cyclists. However, Assos also has the shortest arm warmers of the roundup leaving many riders with bare wrists.
- 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.
Construction – The arm warmers have a simple, tube-like design while the leg warmers have a bit more construction and paneling. However, the extra paneling and seams in the leg warmers are unnoticeable. Even the seam down the front of the shin can’t be felt while riding. The soft outside and fuzzy inside materials also make for a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
Overall – The Assos Uno arm and leg warmers are comfortable, soft and flattering. However, they fit rather large so going down one size is recommended. They are on the pricey side for warmers, but with the correct size and fit, these warmers will surely be one of your favorites for years to come.
Leg warmers US$70 / £50 / AU$64.95, arm warmers US$60 / £30 / AU$49.95
Length – For riders with especially long arms who have been searching for warmers that don’t leave them cold wristed, the Castelli Nanoflex arm warmers are the answer. The leg warmers are average in length but the Nanoflex material provides extra stretches creating even more length once the warmers are on.
- 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.
Construction– The NanoFlex material is water-resistant yet still breathable and comfortable. The warmers stretch nicely over every curve of the knee, elbow, and ankle. However, with the tighter fit, the seams down the outside of the arms and leg warmers were noticeable and sometimes irritated the skin in these areas.
Overall – We recommend going up one size in both the Castelli Nanoflex arm and leg warmers to avoid sausage legs and uncomfortable seams. They’re on the more expensive side, but if you have long arms or you often ride in the rain, the Castelli warmers are meant for you.
Pearl Izumi Elite
Leg warmers US$45 / £40 / AU$59.95, arm warmers US$32 / £30 / AU$39.95
Length – The Pearl Izumi Elite leg warmers are the shortest of the roundup while the arm warmers are some of the longest of the group. On top of being a bit too short, the leg warmers flare out at the bottom, which allows cold air to sneak in and up each leg.
- 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.