Best arm warmers for cycling

Few items of your cycling wardrobe will get as much use as a good pair of arm warmers. Here’s how to choose a good pair, and our pick of some of the best on the market

cycling arm warmers in use

A humble pair of arm warmers is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing any cyclist can own.

They breathe additional life into all your short sleeve jerseys,  making them ideal for cooler autumnal rides or even used as an extra layer of protection beneath one of the best winter cycling jackets (opens in new tab)on freezing days. 

Equally, with the weather increasingly less predictable, the best cycling arm warmers also allow you to adapt to changing conditions. A crisp morning often evolves into a bright - or at least warmer - day. A quick pit stop to remove the warmers and you're ready for more miles in the saddle. 

And likewise, because of their light weight and small size, they're easily stashed in your jersey pocket or handlebar bag. Should the temperatures start to drop on the way home - or you have a chilly descent ahead - and you can quickly pull them on again to help keep warm.

Some arm warmers can even be used in sunnier climes thanks to in-built UV protection. A trip to the Alps for example can often mean plenty of warm sunshine but also much colder temperatures as you climb higher.

However, for such a simple piece of kit,  the formula for the best arm warmers for cycling can be surprisingly difficult to find.

Manufacturers occasionally struggle to design a warmer that is tight enough to not fall down while not digging in, and also long enough to cover the whole of your forearm without having baggy excess material.

And then there's the choice of material. Do you need them to be waterproof? Is merino wool a good fit thanks to its packability, odor-resistance and and moisture-wicking properties? Or perhaps you prefer a classic roubaix fleece? Like most cycling clothing  the choice can be overwhelming.

A gap between arm warmer and sleeve

Hopefully, this test will help you in the search for the best arm warmers for cycling. And to complete the set check out our guide to the best cycling leg warmers and knee warmers too.

Dress right for the Autumnal conditions

Our pick of the best arm warmers for cycling

Best arm warmers for low weight

Specifications

Fabric: Polyester/nylon/Lycra® 78%/15%/7% blend
Colours: Black, Saville Blue
Sizes: S/M, L/XL

Reasons to buy

+
Light - just 34g
+
Insulating but breathable
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Delicate fabric
-
Gripper won't take rough terrain

The Castelli Pro Seamless arm warmers are very lightweight indeed. On test (opens in new tab)our size S/M weighed in at just 34g. This makes them easy to stash away when not in use but does it impact their ability to keep us warm?

We found them to be ideal when you need a little extra protection when it's chilly. The fabric provides warmth without causing overheating - this was noticeable when climbing, for example. However the innovative fabric is delicate, while the lack of silicone gripper means these slip down on uneven terrain.

best arm warmers cycling: Giro Chrono Arm Warmers

Best arm warmers for dry and mild weather

Specifications

Fabric: WikiPro material: 60% nylon/30% polypropylene/10% elastane
Colours: Black
Sizes: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable
+
Fast wicking
+
Offers UPF 50+ protection

Reasons to avoid

-
No water resistance

These arm warmers are not designed to be wind or waterproof but they excel at being comfortable and breathable, which makes them a perfect choice for dry spring or autumn days.

Coming in at 58g they are lightweight and take up little space in your jersey back pocket. Plus, the fabric offers UPF 50+ protection, so useful for descending mountains in the sunnier climes of Spain and Italy.

best arm warmers cycling: Castelli Nano Flex 3G Arm Warmers

Castelli NanoFlex+ Arm Warmers
(Image credit: Picasa)

Castelli Nano Flex 3G Arm Warmers

Best arm warmers for cold and wet conditions

Specifications

Fabric: Water-repellent thermal and breathable Nano Flex
Colours: Black, Belgian Blue
Sizes: S-XL

Reasons to buy

+
Water resistant surface treatment
+
Warm and breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey - RRP £40

Castelli's NanoFlex arm warmers have been around for years and the water resistant fabric has impressed us no end.

The 'NanoFlex 3G' version is the latest and greatest, designed to be weatherproof as well as breathable. Silicone grippers at the top remain the same and the fabric is as warm and breathable as ever.

best arm warmers cycling: Carney Reflective Sleeves

Best arm warmers for riding after dark

Specifications

Fabric: Polyamide-elastane mix
Colour: Black with reflective beads
Sizes: S, M (unisex)

Reasons to buy

+
Reflective in all light conditions
+
360° visibility to other road users
+
Unisex sizing
+
Good fit with plenty of flexibility
+
Washable

Reasons to avoid

-
None!

Launched via a Kickstarter campaign, Carney arm warmers are designed to provide 360° visibility to other road users via the use of tiny reflective beads which shine under headlights.

They've got a good level of Elastane content, and a Roubaix-like inner which we found warm and comfortable.

best arm warmers cycling: GripGrab Light

Best arm warmers for packability

Specifications

Fabric: 80% Polyamide, 20% Elastane
Colours: Black
Sizes: S, M, L

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable
+
Very breathable
+
Good temperature range
+
UV protection
+
Roll up very small so easily stored in a pocket

Reasons to avoid

-
The washcare label could be better placed

These lightweight arm warmers, when rolled, are almost half the size of a normal pair which makes them great for slipping into your pocket when out of use. We found them to be very breathable, and good for a range of temperatures - though there are probably better pairs for full-on wet and freezing winter days.

Best Cycling Arm Warmers

(Image credit: Sportful)
Best arm warmers for comfort and fit

Specifications

Fabric: ThermoDrytex Plus
Colours: Black
Sizes: S-XL

Reasons to buy

+
Good level of water resistance
+
Length leads to good fit and coverage
+
Great silicone grippers

Reasons to avoid

-
None!

These Sportful warmers come back on sale every year, and we continue to rate them highly. Rather than their previous name, NoRain, they're now called Fiandre - that's Flanders in Italian - which reflects their cold/wet performance, thanks to a water resistant surface treatment. 

Made from a water resistant fabric, they provide enough insulation whilst still being breathable (unlike the Fiandre Light version which impressed us less). We found the length spot on and the grippers held up well without digging in. There are refelctive accents too.

Best Cycling Arm Warmers

(Image credit: Defeet)
Best arm warmers for choice of colours

Specifications

Fabric: 49% Recycled Polyester, 48% Nylon, 3% Lycra
Colours: Black, white, neon yellow, process blue, neon orange, hi-vis pink
Sizes: S/M, L/XL

Reasons to buy

+
Great value - RRP £22.99
+
Warm down to low single digits C
+
Excellent fit
+
Plenty of different colours

Reasons to avoid

-
Best saved for dry days

Something a little different compared to the more robust options on the market, the ArmSkins are super light and made using CoolMax EcoMade fibre from recycled sources. They're warm, and incredibly breathable - as well as being available in a wide range of colours to brighten up any kit.

These aren't a good option for wet days - so best to slip a waterproof packable jacket in your pocket if rain is on the cards.

The Best Arm Warmers for Cycling Buyers Guide

How do cycling arm warmers stay up?

There’s no shame in the fact that, as a cyclist, you’re unlikely to have the biggest biceps. For this reason any set of arm warmers worth their salt will have silicone grippers around the upper hem to prevent them from slipping down.

The silcone grippers on the best cycling arm warmers should hold them in place without feeling overly tight and causing any discomfort.

best arm warmers cycling: grippers

How should cycling arm warmers fit?

Decent arm warmers should be long enough to sit snug against your gloves even when pulled up high. In cold weather the last thing you want is a gap between glove and the cuff of the arm warmer or between the top of the warmer and the cuff of your short sleeve jersey. The best cycling arm warmers provide full coverage so there's no gaps and no compromise in performance.

What additional benefits do arm warmers provide?

While basic arm warmers might be little more than a lycra extension of your jersey, there are plenty of warmers that will offer more than just additional warmth.

Many manufacturers integrate wet-weather technology into their warmers, which increases their functionality and often makes them three-season appropriate.

For the warmer months many arm warmers also feature UV protection - an ideal choice if you're heading to the mountains during the summer when you'll need to guard against both the sun's rays and cold temps on long Alpine descents.

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