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Best leg warmers for cycling: Extend the life of your bib shorts as the seasons change

Cyclist wearing a pair of the best leg warmers for cycling rides through a forest on a gravel bike
(Image credit: Giro)

Whether they're already a staple in your cycling wardrobe, or a phenomenon that's so far passed you by, the best leg warmers are a versatile piece of kit that allow you to prepare for all weather eventualities.

As the seasons change, spring and autumn become a game of guessing what the weather is going to be like, and even if you manage to guess correctly, the weather might still change drastically over the course of a long ride. Dealing with the uncertainty and changing conditions requires flexibility, so the best thing you can do in these situations is gear up with a pair of the best leg warmers for cycling. 

Good cycling gear is always an investment, but leg warmers even more so than most. Choose the right leg warmers and they will last for years. Paired with your best cycling shorts, they'll see you through the shoulder seasons when there's still enough chill in the air to nip at your pins on a crisp day's ride. 

That makes them pretty important. When you need them, the best leg warmers have the job of extending the life of your favourite summer bib shorts, allowing you to continue wearing them before you make finally give in and make the switch to your best winter bib tights

To help you choose the best leg warmers for you, we've rounded up our favourites. Read on for those, or skip ahead to the bottom to learn everything you need to know when choosing.

Best leg warmers for cycling

(Image credit: Bontrager)

Bontrager Halo Thermal leg warmers

When staying visible is an important consideration

Available Colour Options: Visibility Yellow | Available Sizes: XS-XL | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: Yes | Designed for Wet Weather: No | Price: £59.99 / $69.99 / €69.99 / AUS$TBC

Bright colours and reflectivity
No rear seam
Zippered ankle
 No protection for wet weather

When it's cold and the days get shorter, riding in low visibility is all part of the experience. Bontrager approaches visibility through a variety of avenues, including a concept called biomotion. The idea is that the human brain is biologically wired to recognise certain movements as human. The Bontrager Halo Thermal leg warmers highlight the movement of the lower legs with high visibility neon yellow during the day, and reflectivity at night, making you more recognisably human. Aside from visibility, Bontrager has used its Profila Thermal fabric for cold weather warmth and added zippers for ease of removal while riding.  

(Image credit: Castelli)

Castelli Nano Flex 3G leg warmers

When rain is as much of a consideration as cold weather

Available Colour Options: Black, Saville Blue | Available Sizes: S-XL | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: Yes | Designed for Wet Weather: Yes | Price: £65 / $69.99 / €64.95 / AUS$119

Side seam follows muscle shape
Double-sided gripper
Zippered ankle
Expensive
Water repellent protection requires care

The Castelli Nano Flex 3g leg warmers are all about dealing with light rain. The inner face is a soft and comfortable fleece that will hold heat, but it's the outer face that adds the magic of Nano Flex. Nano Flex is a five-phase nanotechnology treatment with an outer coating of tiny, silicone fibre nanofilaments. Now in its third generation, Nano Flex pairs a chemical DWR (durable water repellent) finish with a non-membrane mechanical water repellence. It's not waterproof but it offers a high level of water protection without sacrificing breathability or stretch.

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura FS260-Pro Thermo Full Zip leg warmers

A full-length zipper makes these the easiest warmers to take off

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: S/M & L/XL | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: Yes | Designed for Wet Weather: Yes | Price: £35.99 / $54.99 / €47.52 / AUS$75.45

Full length zipper
DWR coating
Silicone grippers in three places
Only two sizes

One of the benefits that come with use of leg warmers, as opposed to a bib tight, is the ability to shed them mid-ride. Many warmers feature a zipper at the ankle to make it possible to get them over your shoes. Endura takes it a step further with a full-length zipper on its FS260-Pro Thermo Full Zip leg warmers, making them even easier to shed. Meanwhile, for as long as you decide to keep them on, the silicone grippers at both the bottom and the inside and outside of the top mean that they will stay in just the right spot.  

(Image credit: Assos)

Assos Spring/Fall Leg Warmers

When you need extra warmth all-day but not as much as bib tights

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: 0 (XS/S), 1, (S/M/L), 2 (XL/XLG/TIR) | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: No | Designed for Wet Weather: No | Price: £50 / $69 / €60 / AUS$120

Incredibly comfortable fabric
Light water repellence 
As high as possible on the outer thigh
Very specific use case

When we reviewed the Assos Mille GT winter bib tights, one of the best things about them was how comfortable they were. The Assos RX fabric is soft, luxurious, and a joy to wear, and the same fabric makes up the entirety of the Spring/Fall Leg Warmers. There's no zipper or silicone gripper, there's just a single seam at the outside and the highly compressive RX Light fabric. These are the perfect option for wearing all day in weather somewhere between bib tight and bib short temperatures. 

(Image credit: Sportful)

Sportful Fiandre NoRain Leg Warmers

Combining a material that protects against light rain and cold with a simple design

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: S, M, L | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes (only in the graphics) | Included Zipper: No | Designed for Wet Weather: Yes | Price: £55 / $60 / €49.90 / AUS$80

No Rain fabric resists light moisture
Comfortable and stretchy
Great for layering
Requires careful washing

Sportful and Castelli live under the same corporate roof, with their similarities and their differences. The Sportful Fiandre leg warmers are a perfect example of this. Nano Flex fabric from Castelli is very similar to the No Rain technology that Sportful Fiandre uses. Tiny nano filaments work in a similar fashion to the fuzz on a peach, catching the water and causing it to bead. What's different is that the Sportful approach lacks the complexity of zippers. They make a great option for wearing all day when you want something lighter than a bib tight, but still be protected from light rain or road spray.

(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha Merino Leg Warmers

If you prefer natural fibres, Rapha makes an incredibly comfortable option

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: S, M, L | Left/Right Specific fit: No | Included Zipper: No | Designed for Wet Weather: No but merino retains warmth even when wet | Price: £55 / $75 / €65 / AUS$95

High quality merino wool
Naturally anti-bacterial and odour-resistant
Soft both inside and out
Requires careful washing

Some people prefer to wear as little synthetic materials as possible. If you fall into that camp, the Rapha Merino leg warmers have got you covered. If you want a useable technical garment, you need some stretch. With that in mind you will always find some spandex mixed into merino products. After that, the exact blend of materials can be about cost savings. Synthetics are less expensive, so mixing only a little merino but charging more for a merino wool tag is a trick sometimes used. Not from Rapha though, the material blend in these merino wool leg warmers is 95-per cent superfine New Zealand merino and only five-per cent spandex. Just enough spandex for great performance while retaining all the benefits of real merino wool. 

(Image credit: Giro)

Giro Thermal Leg Warmers

Synthetic construction that helps reduce ocean waste

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: XS-XL | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: Yes | Designed for Wet Weather: No | Price: £66.23 / $90 / €77.87 / AUS$122.32

Recycled materials
Reflective highlights
Paneled and pre-formed construction
Expensive

While some prefer natural fibres, others prefer synthetics. Making the choice to go with a synthetic material can actually be a benefit to the planet when done right. In 2020 Giro updated its Thermal warmers to make them part of its Renew series. That means the Super Roubaix material, with a mix of 85% nylon and 15% elastane, is at least 50% recycled fishing nets and other ocean debris. Along with reducing waste, you can also feel good with a high-quality design incorporating ankle zippers and an articulated three-panel design. Giro didn't forget the packaging either, and it now uses 34% less plastics than previous designs.  

(Image credit: Pearl Izumi)

Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal leg warmers

Water resistance that lasts the lifetime of the garment without special care

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: XS-XXL | Left/Right Specific fit: Yes | Included Zipper: Yes | Designed for Wet Weather: Yes | Price: £49.99 / $55 / €47.59 / AUS$99.99

Easy care
PI Dry coating keeps them from saturating
Zipper garage at the base of the zipper
Seam at the back of the knee

There are a range of different strategies for dealing with rain and breathability when it comes to fabrics. Some companies use a softshell design with a top layer that repels water. The way that Pearl Izumi handles it with the Elite Thermal leg warmers is something the brand calls PI dry technology. Instead of treating the top layer, each fibre gets a durable waterproof treatment before they're woven together. It means the warmers are impervious to saturation. Water vapour comes through, rain beads on the surface, and the warmers will never hold moisture. PI dry will also remain waterproof throughout the life of the garment without special care. 

(Image credit: dhb)

dhb Regulate Thermal leg warmers

Excellent quality at a bargain price

Available Colour Options: Black | Available Sizes: XS-L | Left/Right Specific fit: No | Included Zipper: No | Designed for Wet Weather: No | Price: £24 / $28 / €28.70 / AUS$40

Inexpensive
Bluesign approved
Double sided silicone gripper
Not the warmest option

Not every product has to be the most expensive and most capable in every situation. dhb has gone with a simple, lightweight design. There is low complexity in the manufacturing and easy to source materials. All these factors add up to high quality and a low price that gets passed along to the consumer. Even with that low price though, there is still consideration of sustainability. The dhb Regulate leg warmers use Bluesign approved fabrics. You might not find any cutting-edge technology but you get something tried and true. It's a quality design with a reasonable price for the times you need a bit of extra warmth added to a summer kit.

What you need to know about using leg warmers

When do you wear leg warmers?

There are tons of use cases for leg warmers but it all comes down to flexibility. If you know that you are not going to take them off all day, and it's going to be cold enough, you are probably better off wearing bib tights. Fewer layers tend to be more comfortable. What you gain from using warmers instead is the possibility of shedding them mid-ride. If you start a ride in the cold, and expect it to warm up, that's where leg warmers - and the best arm warmers - shine.  

Another great time to choose leg warmers is when you need just a little warmth. Bib tights are, by design, not offered in an ultralight warmth profile. The kind of day where it's brisk but sunny might see you preferring not to have exposed skin but all you need is a very light layer. This is another situation where leg warmers are a great choice. 

For those who are bikepacking, leg warmers can also find use because of the high packability. Bib tights are warmer but the chamois means they take a lot of room when packed. Instead, you could bring bib shorts, leg warmers, and shell trousers. When it's warm out the leg warmers and shell trousers won't take up much room. If the weather changes, the combination of all three layers will make for a huge range of temperature coverage.

Do you need a zipper? 

The answer to this question goes back to your desired use and how much flexibility you need. The fewerfeatures a design incorporates, the lighter and more comfortable it will be. If you need a lightweight warmer to bridge the gap between bib tights and bib shorts, then a design with no zipper is great. It's not impossible to take off but it will mean stopping and removing shoes. On the other hand, if you need something heavy for part of the ride and expect to shed it mid-ride, then it's a lot easier with a zipper, and you won't have to remove your shoes. If you are looking for an option that does it all go for a zipper. In most cases the difference in comfort is negligible but it's a lot easier to get off.  

Which size should I choose? 

A lot of people tend to size up with jersey and bib shorts or tights. If that's comfortable for you then great, do what works. When it comes to leg warmers, or warmers of any kind, make sure not to do that. You really need leg warmers to fit exactly or they won't stay up.  Instead of just changing the overall look, a bit like a looser jersey does, you'll end up with a garment that doesn't work. Pay close attention to the manufacturer sizing guides and if you are on the border between two sizes go down. Leg warmers have plenty of stretch to manage a fit that's a little tight. 

Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minute details of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer is probably yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Look 795 Blade RS, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Priority Continuum Onyx