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Best arm warmers for cycling

Best Arm Warmers
(Image credit: Getty)

Arm warmers are one of the most versatile ways to protect yourself in cold or changeable conditions. They come in plenty of different shapes and sizes, from heavy-duty thermal construction with windproof panels protecting your joints, to lightweight materials designed to fend off UV rays.

They can be worn with just about any jersey, then peeled off and stuffed in a rear pocket when the sun comes out, making them a quick and easy way to protect yourself from variable temperatures.

The use case options for arm warmers is a list as long as your arm itself. The humble arm warmers can serve as a backup option stuffed into your pocket on those warm-but-cloudy days, they can be paired with a short sleeve jersey to form a versatile replacement for your long-sleeved option, they can be pulled on at the top of a long Alpine descent at the height of summer. They can even form a second (or third) sleeve on the coldest of winter days, where a winter jacket and waterproof layer still don't cut it. 

Here is some advice on how to choose a good quality, well-fitting pair of arm warmers, with our pick of some of the best available to buy.

Size and cut

Like most cycling gear, getting the right size warmers is paramount: too loose and they'll fall down; too tight and at best, they'll cause discomfort, but could lead to affected circulation and numb hands. The same applies when it comes to length: if they are too short, there will be an awkward, chill inducing gap below your sleeve; on the other hand, too much material will make for an uncomfortable bunch of fabric around your wrists.

When trying on warmers watch out for folds in the bend of the elbow. While some warmers are just a tube of fabric, others are articulated to accommodate bent elbows. The skin in this area is surprisingly sensitive, and over time bunched fabric can chafe, and will only get worse as sweat and/or rain is introduced. Watch out for warmers with lots of crisscrossing seams, as these are less pliable than the surrounding fabric and can often cause bind points.

Fabric

Most arm warmers are made from 'Roubaix' fabric, which is basically a fleece-lined lycra and nylon blend.

A few brands such as Defeet and Rapha also make knitted warmers out of merino or synthetic fibre. These come in several sizes and are usually devoid of seems.

There are plenty of basic warmers on the market that are essentially just fabric tubes; however, some also see panels of windproof fabrics sewn in over the joints or have received a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment.

Grippers

As cyclists, we aren't known for our biceps, but thankfully, most arm warmers have silicone grippers around the top cuff to prevent them from slipping down our t-rex-like arms. Most brands place these on the inside of the cuff to grip the skin, while others place them on the outside, so they grab onto your sleeve.

DWR

Many warmers feature some definition of a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. This is a fabric treatment that binds to the individual fibres and creates microspikes that increase the contact angle water droplets have with the fabric. These mini-pegs force droplets to maintain their surface tension and roll off the material rather than spreading out and seeping in.

DWR treatments are not permanent and wear off over time, however, there is a range of wash-in or spray-on treatments available. 10 minutes in the tumble dryer can do wonders for extending the life DWR treatments.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal

DWR Treatment: Yes | Gripper: Yes

Well thought out panelling

Pearl Izumi updated its best-selling thermal arm warmer with 'PI Dry' hydrophobic treatment, allowing them to shed rain and road spray. They are anatomically cut, with the left and right arm warmer labelled as such.

Pearl Izumi has also updated the gripper around the top cuff to prevent pulling and added reflective logos for increased visibility. Should you want to go full day-glow they are also available in fluorescent yellow.

Castelli Nanoflex +

DWR Treatment: Yes | Gripper: Dual side

Hydrophobic treatment

Not to be confused with the lightweight laminated fabric seen in the Gabba jersey, Castelli's Nanoflex fabric gets a DWR treatment to keep airborne moisture from soaking in. The latest version uses a lighter material on the back to help the fabric conform to tight angles and to prevent pinching with seams routed down the outside of the arm.

The Nanoflex + warmers also have a double-sided gripper around the top so it can grab onto your arm and jersey to prevent them from falling down.

Sportful NoRain

DWR Treatment: Yes | Gripper: Yes

DWR treatment

As the name suggests, the Sportful NoRain warmers receive a DWR treatment to keep moisture from soaking into the fabric. To be clear, they are not waterproof and you'll need a jacket for that kind of protection but they keep a surprising amount of moisture out.

Those with long arms will be happy to learn the NoRain warmers feature a lengthy cut that helps avoid gaps between the arm warmers and your jersey or gloves. They've also got reflective logos and come in a touch cheaper than other water-resistant options, depending on where you live.

Endura FS260-Pro Thermo

DWR Treatment: Yes | Gripper: Yes

Thicker fabric for more warmth

The FS260-Pro Thermo arm warmers are on the thicker end of the spectrum with the 'Thermoroubaix' fabric treated with a PFC-free DWR treatment to help repel water and rain. Even with the heavier material they aren't restrictive and don't bind or pinch at any point. The lower portion of the warmer also sees reflective detailing and logos.

If these warmers tickle your fancy, be aware that Endura has employed some interesting sizing, and they seem to run a bit small even on our scrawny arms.

Giro Chrono

DWR Treatment: No | Gripper: Yes

Unique stretchy fabric

With an almost waffle-like texture, the Chrono arm warmers from Giro are unique among this bunch. They are a touch smaller in diameter than most of its rivals but they are very stretchy, and there is no need for a gripper of any kind.

The material is woven and is air permeable but aren't nearly as warm as some of the segment leaders.

Gore Bike Wear Thermo

Price: £30 / $40 / AU$60 | DWR Treatment: No | Gripper: Yes

Silicone-free gripper

While the Gore Bike Wear Thermo arm warmers don't have any of the laminated, technical membrane fabrics for which the brand is best known, they do possess a unique take on the gripper.

The wide elastic cuff on the wrist and bicep are made from a lighter fabric and seem to hang on pretty well. The bulk of the garment is made from a fleece-lined Roubaix-style fabric and the warmers have an asymmetric design, meaning they are left and right arm-specific.