Best cycling arm warmers for autumn and winter

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

Whoever came up with the idea for cycling arm warmers deserves a pat on the back.

One of the most versatile pieces of cycling clothing, the humble pair of arm warmers is equally at home providing an extra layer of protection on freezing days beneath a heavy winter jacket as it is being pulled on to tackle a long Alpine descent at the height of summer.

For what may appear to be a very simple piece of clothing, the formula for the perfect arm warmer is surprisingly complex and difficult to solve.

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.

A gap between arm warmer and sleeve

Hopefully, this test will help you in the search for that perfect pair of arm warmers, and once you do find that match made in heaven it’s set to last. Each pair of warmers I’ve owned has lasted at least two years, and has only had to be replaced following crashes. 

So take a good look at the options, and ride off into the sunset. Check out too our guide to the best cycling leg warmers and knee warmers or our full range of warmer reviews.

Dress right for the Autumnal conditions

Our pick of the best cycling arm warmers

best arm warmers cycling: Giro Chrono Arm Warmers

Reasons to buy
+Breathable+Fast wicking
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

Reasons to buy
+Water resistant surface treatment+Warm and breathable
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

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

Reasons to buy
+Reflective in all light conditions+360° visibility to other road users+Unisex+Good fit+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

Reasons to buy
+Very comfortable+Breathable+Good temperature range+Roll up very small
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 arm warmers cycling: Sportful Fiandre arm warmers

Reasons to buy
+Good water resistance+Length leads to good fit+Great grippers+Very competitive price
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 arm warmers cycling: Defeet ArmSkins

Reasons to buy
+Great value+Warm+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.

What to look for in arm warmers for cycling

Grippers

best arm warmers cycling: grippers

There’s no shame in the fact that, as a cyclist, you’re unlikely to have the biggest biceps down the gym. 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.

Length

best arm warmers cycling

With those skinny arms of yours, you might find yourself having to pull arm warmers almost over your shoulders in order to keep them up. However this can leave an annoying gap between the bottom of the warmers and your gloves, a particular pain in cold or wet weather. Decent arm warmers should be long enough to sit snug against your gloves even when pulled up high.

Added Protection

best arm warmers cycling - water protection

Cheaper arm warmers might be little more than a lycra extension of your jersey, but spend a little more and you’ll find that many manufacturers begin to integrate the technology from their bigger garments into their warmers. This can be anything from water-resistance to UV protection, so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you buy.