Tubular fabric leg warmers are an ideal accessory for the transitional seasons of spring and autumn, on days when the weather hasn’t quite made up its mind what it’s going to do
Like arm warmers, they are designed to be worn with cycle shorts, but have the advantage of being removable, 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 leg warmers can be removed.
The reverse is also true – you can easily carry leg 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 may also find them useful as a base layer to wear under work clothes or cycling trousers for an additional level of warmth and protection.
Read on to find out more about the different technical features that are commonly designed into leg warmers and help you choose which ones are right for you.
Like all cycling garments it’s important to choose leg 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. Most leg warmers are made from synthetic materials such as polyester, polypropylene, polyamide 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, durability and technical performance.
Many leg warmers, given the conditions they are intended for, are 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 leg 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:
• Construction: High-end leg warmers will be constructed of multiple panels, with a level of extra flexibility where it is needed (e.g. stretchy Lycra or Spandex around the knees) and extra protection in other areas (e.g. wind-resistant panels on the front of the thighs.
• Fit: Leg warmers must fit snugly next to the skin in order to maximize wicking and thermal properties and to prevent them falling down and bunching around the ankles. Look for silicone gripper bands at the tops of the thighs for a soft but secure hold, and a tight-fitting but stretchable ankle area in order to prevent loose fabric from catching in the chainrings, while still enabling the leg warmer to be put on and taken off easily. Some leg warmers may be designed with a certain degree of compression – as with all compression garments, the claimed benefit being increased blood flow to the muscles for improved performance, reduced fatigue and resistance to injury.
• Coverage: Full-length leg warmers cover the leg from ankle to thigh, while shorter knee warmers –as the name suggests – extend from midway up the calf to midway up the thigh.
• Safety: Commuters or cyclists intending to wear leg warmers on early morning training rides may appreciate features such as reflective piping to aid visibility, while flatlocked seams will help to prevent chafing and discomfort.
• Lining: If you are on the roads in the depth of winter you may want to consider leg warms with a brushed fabric lining for additional warmth and insulation.