Arm warmers are an ideal accessory for the transitional seasons of spring and autumn or on cold winter days when they can offer extra insulation under your jacket.
Like leg warmers, they consist of a simple fabric tube with their main advantage being that they are removable, so so you can stow them in a jacket or jersey pocket when not needed. That way, you can ensure you are warm and cosy on early-morning training rides or during the initial stages of a ride, when your muscles are yet to warm up. When the sun comes out or when you are sufficiently warmed up, the arm warmers can be taken off.
The reverse is also true – you can easily carry arm warmers in your pocket or backpack on days that may look sunny but threaten to turn wet and cold, putting them on as conditions dictate. Alpine tourers may additionally find them useful for long descents off the mountains, when all that thermal energy built up during the climb quickly dissipates in the face of a stiff mountain breeze. Commuters or anyone training through the winter months may also find them useful as a base layer to wear under work clothes or your cycling jacket for an additional level of warmth and protection.
Read on to find out more about the different technical features that are commonly designed into arm warmers and help you choose which ones are right for you.
Like all cycling garments it’s important to choose arm warmers made from a material with good wicking properties – the ability to draw moisture from next to your skin and to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate, preventing you from becoming wet and cold. Many other arm warmers, given the conditions they are intended for, are also designed to offer a level of thermal protection, trapping a layer of air next to the skin where it warms up and insulates you. Other arm warmers may feature membranes that are specially designed to offer additional wind- and water-resistance, at the expense of a small amount of breathability.
Some other key features to look for are:
• Materials: Most arm warmers are made from synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, polyamide, polyurethane or a proprietary blend – many have names such as ‘Windstopper’ or ‘Thermoflex’, which offer an excellent indication as to the performance priorities of the garment – which offer the ideal balance of light weight, breathability, durability and technical performance. Other arm warmers may be made of natural fibres such as Merino wool, with all of that fabric’s excellent wicking, insulation and microbial properties.
• Construction: High-end arm warmers may feature multi-panel construction to offer a level of extra flexibility where it is needed (e.g. around the elbows). Seamless arm warmers meanwhile are intended to prevent chafing and discomfort.
• Fit: Arm warmers must fit snugly next to the skin in order to maximize wicking and thermal properties and to prevent them falling down. Look for silicone gripper bands around the biceps for a soft but secure hold, and a snug-fitting wrist band (not too tight as to cut off circulation or to make them difficult to put on or remove). Some arm warmers also employ small silicone ‘gripper dots’ around the upper bicep area which are designed to prevent the sleeve of a short-sleeved jersey from riding up and exposing a strip of skin.
• Safety: Commuters or cyclists intending to wear arm warmers on early morning training rides may appreciate features such as reflective piping to aid visibility.
• Lining: If you are on the roads in the depth of winter you may want to consider arm warmers with a brushed fabric lining for additional warmth and insulation.