Hincapie Arenberg Warmers

I need to level with you. I take a very skeptical view of most arm/leg/knee warmers. Even though I wear arm warmers for a good nine months of each year (people have no clue how cool the South Bay is), my standards are almost unreasonably high. I’m almost as likely to toss a new pair of arm warmers as I am to wear them. Almost.

The way I see it, I’m not being unreasonable. I just have a basic expectation. Arm warmers have a single mission: to stay in place so they may keep my arms warm. Same goes for leg and knee warmers. If they don’t stay in place then they can’t keep you warm, ergo, they haven’t fulfilled their mission. When I first entered cycling, I didn’t see anyone but PROs wear them. Then I saw a friend with a set. He safety pinned them to his jersey sleeves.

Let’s try that again: My buddy took safety pins and attached them to the ends of his jersey’s short sleeves to hold his arm warmers in place.

That’s a function fail. It’s a design fail. It’s a fashion fail. It’s more kinds of fail than I have the energy (though I certainly have more than enough space) to enumerate here. I rather instantly came to the conclusion that anything so poorly designed didn’t deserve to ride my skin. Then I became the dedicated cycling clothing guy for a bike magazine. I’ve worn dozens of different arm, leg and knee warmers over the years. I was required to try stuff I detested. Mercifully, I ended up only writing about the stuff that measured up.

Here are the most common fails. With arm warmers, length is usually the big one. Arm warmers that are too short make your upper arms and shoulders cold. Occaionally, I’ll run across a set made with Roubaix Lycra that isn’t stretchy enough. Pulling them on is a bit like getting a bone out of a dog’s mouth—surprisingly difficult and not without risks. Making them ultra-tight as a means to combat having them slip down is tantamount to setting fire to your checkbook to keep your spending down. Sometimes arm warmers are cut on too much of a taper, so by the time you find one that will fit your wrists, they are too loose on your upper arms. So they slip down.

With knee warmers length is an issue again. They need to be long so they can ride high on your thigh and still cover your calves. This, because most folks don’t own thermal bibs, so you want that Roubaix Lycra covering as much of your thigh as possible. This, by the way, is yet another reason to shave the whole of your leg. Having the leg grippers of a pair of knee or leg warmers pulling on hair is as much fun as being one half of a girl fight. And again, some Roubaix Lycras aren’t stretchy enough. The problem usually comes down to using material that is stretchy enough for thermal bibs, and because there’s lots more material in thermal bibs than there is in knee warmers, the smaller garment requires stretchier material. And for some, there’s a real challenge to finding a gripper elastic that won’t irritate the skin.

Leg warmers have the aforementioned challenges regarding the stretchiness of the material and even, sometimes, length. The bigger, more frequent issue has to do with zipper placement and taper. Years ago I recall seeing Axel Merckx in the start village of the Tour DuPont. He had leg warmers on. They looked like the most ridiculous bell bottoms ever imagined. Unless you played for George Clinton, and then they would have been money. Merckx’ calves were tiny, but the problem was that his ankles had been crafted from No. 2 pencils. Even zipped up, his leg warmers could have been caught by the chain and sucked through his drivetrain with the gleeful destruction of a Great White Shark feasting on whole chickens.

Could that be right? Ah, we’ll never know. He took the leg warmers off before the start of the stage.

So at some point I should probably mention Hincapie’s new stuff. I say let’s go for it. Okay, so the basics: The warmers are available in three colors—black, red and white. Length on the arm, knee and leg warmers is good. The arm warmers run from wrist almost to mid-bicep; they are roughly as long as some of the other big brands I’ve worn, though a bit shorter than my faves. They are different from some in that they are cut from two pieces of fabric—not one—to create a bend at the elbow. The knee and leg warmers are right in line lengthwise with some of the big brands like Giordana. And the ankles on the leg warmers? Cut on a nice taper so they don’t flair out like some pants. That the zipper on the leg warmers is red is an attractive detail. Another nice detail is that the zipper locks. I’ve noticed that I have to pull these leg warmers up exceedingly high to keep the bottom of the zipper above my cuboid bone (that bump on the outside of your ankle), which will just push it open if it isn’t flipped up in the locked position.

The warmers are all cut from Hincapie’s BodE Thermal Loft fabric. It’s unusually soft and seems to feature more loft than some materials I’ve worn, and it’s very stretchy so it’s easy to pull on. The Hincapie logo transferred onto the warmers is reflective because, Lord knows, half the time you’re wearing this stuff you’d have to shoot at F2.8 to get a properly exposed image.

All that stuff is nice, but not terribly different from stuff by competitors. Here’s why I bothered: Hincapie placed grippers on both the inside for against your skin and the outside to grab fabric. It’s a classic “D’oh!” innovation. That is, the fact that nobody did it before now made me go “D’oh!” when I pulled these out of the package. I didn’t need the fact sheet to clue me in on their purpose. In the image above the gray grippers at the top of the warmers are against your skin, while the red grippers hang on to your clothing. And both the knee and leg warmers are given grippers on the lower hems to keep them from riding up. These might be the most budge-proof warmers I’ve worn.

All that’s well and good, but this may be their best feature: Suggested retails for the arm, knee and leg warmers are $29.99, $39.99 and $49.99 respectively. In the past, I’ve spent more for less.

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14 comments

  1. Paul

    I have some extremely cheap arm and leg warmers from Louis Garneau that I wear all the time and have never had a problem with. I have some much more expensive leg warmers from Capo that I never wear, because they bunched so badly behind my knees that they actually removed skin from the abrasion.

  2. Souleur

    Can’t wait to try, as my current stuff is frustrating like you mentioned, and they shouldn’t be. Now having bought them, i just feel obliged for the season. But…when its done, its done!

    Thanks

  3. Bikelink

    Ah, leg/knee warmers. I don’t like having them so high that they rub (and chafe) where my legs brush the saddle (some don’t have this problem…I’m 160 5’10”..not chubby, but the legs are shaped that way). But if the warmers aren’t all the way up I either get the sausage effect from too tight grippers (annoying and painful after 3 hr ride) or they slide down. The ‘both sides’ grippers on the legs sound great…agreed why wasn’t this done before? I’ve also wondered if there was some way the leg/knee warmers could *attach* to the hem of the shorts legs and then both stay up and not have to squeeze so hard. I race but don’t shave anymore (spouse issues, folliculitis, etc) but freshly shaved legs have their own sensitive skin issues. I’ve tried 3-4 kinds and so far can only really tolerate Giordana ‘dryarn’ knee warmers…no grippers..shape amazingly holds them in place. (PI’s standard knee warmers are OK with only a bit of a sausage effect, but I wouldn’t buy them again).

  4. Jason

    Just as an FYI, my Castelli Nanonflex (water resistant) arm warmers have gripper tap on the inside and outside at the top. I too thought this was a fantastic idea!

    The Castelli’s are also nice and long…or perhaps my arms are short.

  5. Sam

    At 6’3″ and 155lbs it’s hard to find ANY cycling gear that fits me as intended. Arm and leg warmers are particularly problematic because of the length vs. width conundrum. Still waiting on that Johan Vansummeren X Castelli collabo for beanpoles like myself….

  6. Steve

    Defeet make the best and least expensive arm and knee warmers out there. They don’t budge and you forget you’re wearing them.

  7. M. Hottie

    Just prior to your review I purchased a complete set of Hincapie Arenberg Warmers: leg, knee and arm. I too was impressed with the double gripper design. The fabric is so stretchy that you almost feel like you have purchased the wrong size when first putting them on. But they pull up and stay up nicely. My one complaint is with the arm warmers. I figure with a name like Hincapie and considering the man’s arms, the arm warmers that bear his name would be on the long and slender side. They come up a bit short for my liking. I prefer an arm warmer that stretches to my deltoid so it overlaps a short sleeve baselayer. So George, if you’re reading, how about something for those of us, like you, who have a more wingspan than the average cyclist. Great content as always Padraig.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments.

      Matt, Jason: I didn’t know that Castelli was doing the double gripper thing. I do love the Nanoflex material. That stuff is genius. For those not familiar with it, Nanoflex is a Roubaix Lycra that receives a light silicone coating on the outside of the material. Water beads up and runs off.

      Sam: As M. Hottie notes, this stuff is pretty stretchy. I think in your case the leg warmers would be worth a try.

      Steve: I love many DeFeet items, but their arm and knee warmers are, to my eye, the least PRO looking I’ve ever seen and don’t do as good a job of keeping you warm in wet conditions as traditional Roubaix Lycra.

  8. rpb2

    Second (fourth?) the comments regarding Castelli Nanoflex. My arm and knee warmers have grippers on both sides and fit fantastically well. I am 5’10”, 150 pounds and have the upper body strength of a seven year old (thus pencil arms), yet my mediums (they come in four sizes) stay in place perfectly. Same for the knee warmers–great stuff. They cost about twice what the Hincapie warmers mentioned here cost (i.e., about $60 for arm warmers/$60 for knee warmers), but I like them much more than any other out there. Well worth the price discrepancy, in my opinion.

  9. Touriste-Routier

    My big gripe with all of the warmer manufacturers is their lack of detailed sizing info. Total length and diameters at various points would go a long way to help understanding what is likely to work and what will not. Instead, they just label them S – XL and one needs to guess. If your local shop stocks the ones you are interested in great, you can try them on. But if you need to order them…

    +1 The Castelli Nanoflex are brilliant; it is nice to hear that the Hicapie ones measure up.

  10. kosh

    Arm warmers are morphologically specific. Nature intended me to be a football player; I don’t have skinny upper arms so what fits me wouldn’t fit mountain goats like the Schlecks.

    Sizing codes are rarely useful as a result; most “XXL” sizes that fit my arms are comically long. The lack of detailed sizing data excludes many manufacturers from consideration at all.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Kosh: You bring up a really interesting point. I’ve found very little variation in how arm warmers are cut. As opposed to, for instance, blue jeans. Levi’s makes more different cuts than I can remember. Only one of them fits me, and they aren’t the skinny jeans everyone insists on buying. In your case, what I need to remember always to include is my take on just how stretchy the Roubaix Lycra is. Not all Roubaix stretches the same. The Hincapie stuff was pretty stretchy, but the stretchiest arm warmers I ever owned were by Noret, though they weren’t cut for someone with real biceps. I still think they’d be more likely to fit someone like you than most others out there.

      “Morphologically specific.” That made me laugh. The problem, unfortunately, goes deeper than that. There’s an assumption that all cyclists have the same morphology.

  11. kosh

    Padraig: the best fitted I’ve tried to date have been Endura’s merino arm warmers in Large. They’ve been exactly the right length for my 57cm arms, and being wool have stretched over my outsize biceps admirably without being constricting in the manner of even the stretchiest lycra. They too have an outer silicone jersey grip, and being merino wool they remain warm and insulating even when wet.

    So they’re my personal tip for guys with guns.

    I mostly use them or (if the ride looks really chilly) a long-sleeved merino base layer in XL from the same manufacturer, paired with Rapha merino knee warmers.

    I have to say, those sheep really understand how to keep warm.

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