Knee and leg warmers are one of the most versatile pieces of kit in the road cyclist's locker. Here is our guide to this useful piece of kit
What are leg warmers?
For those new to the sport, leg warmers are designed to be worn with bib shorts. They are intended to be worn underneath your shorts, typically from the mid point of the thigh to the ankle, being typically made from lyrca, with silicone grippers to hold them in place.
Knee warmers are a shorter version of leg warmers, and you guessed it, cover the knee joint, effectively transforming your bib shorts into a 3/4 length short. Although less popular than leg warmers, they can be very useful in certain conditions.
If you ride in a temperate climate with changeable weather, it can often be chilly in the mornings or evenings. Leg warmers give you the option to set out in cold weather while keeping warm.
Once you warm up and the mercury rises, leg warmers can be peeled off and stuffed in your jersey pocket (or team car!). Another popular use is to put a pair of warmers on ahead of a chilly mountain descent.
Why wear leg warmers?
Why not just wear a pair of tights you may be asking? While a pair of tights may do a similar job in chilly conditions, they are nowhere near as versatile.
Living in the UK, the weather can be very changeable. Often you start a ride first thing, feeling a little chilly, with the temperature around 8ºC only to rise.
Having a pair of leg warmers you can peel off and stuff in a jersey pocket is a great option. They are also really useful for riding in the mountains. Ahead of a long, chilly descent a pair of leg warmers can be a godsend. You will often see professional riders warming up in leg warmers, only to take them off before they take to the start line.
What to look for
Quality pairs of cycling leg warmers are ergonomically shaped to accommodate a bent knee, allowing for good freedom of movement and to maximise comfort. With regards to size, we would suggest you opt for the same size you would normally wear for shorts.
More expensive pairs often have a multiple panel construction, with single piece warmers typically being cheaper. Some will feature a zip opening on the ankle to aid taking them off over shoes. Warmers such as Castelli’s NanoFlex have a water repellant coating, although this does wear off over time. Bear in mind that you can apply your own hydrophobic coating to most leg warmers.
Our pick of the best leg warmers
Dress right for the Autumnal weather
How have we tested the leg warmers?
We have been testing these leg warmers on rides of various lengths in different weather conditions. This has included rides with changeable weather and stuffing them in a jersey in anticipation of long descents from the tops of chilly cols.
All the warmers tested were judged on the following criteria: fit, comfort, thermal insulation, breathability and other features such as water repellency. We also paid close attention as to how well they stayed in place during a ride.
How we score
10 – Superb, best in its class and we couldn’t fault it
9 – Excellent, a slight change and it would be perfect
8 – Brilliant, we’d happily buy it
7 – Solid, but there’s better out there
6 – Pretty good, but not quite hitting the mark
5 – Okay, nothing wrong with it, but nothing special
4 – A few niggles let this down
3 – Disappointing
2 – Poor, approach with caution
1 – Terrible, do not buy this product