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Yanto Barker: How to wear arm warmers and leg warmers

Cyclist magazine
13 Apr 2017

Ex-pro Yanto Barker lays down the law on arm and leg warmers. There's more to it than you might think…

First off, we have to address colour. Warmers should be plain: black or dark coloured. I’m not really a fan of this new trend for bright colours and patterns – it’s like putting milk in a bowl before cereal. Just wrong.

If you simply must wear something flamboyant, though, you’d better have the skills to back it up. Winners can get away with this sort of thing.

The second most important point to consider is gapping. Warmers must always overlap (underneath, unless you are a pro) the garment that they are extending.

Leg warmers can show a good bit of sock, as you’ll have colour-matched socks on anyway, naturally, but a gap between arm warmer and jersey sleeve is a sin – nobody should have to witness an inch of bingo wing between warmer and sleeve.

It’s OK for arm warmers to be worn fully rolled down to your wrists, however, but only if – and this is important – your leg warmers have been fully removed first. Wearing leg warmers with no arm warmers is a cycling crime for reasons that may or may not be relevant.

What’s more, you can’t just push your leg warmers down around your ankles because, apart from making you look like Jane Fonda in a 1980s workout video, it’s dangerous as they can get caught in your chain. 

Keeping warmers from getting lost is really hard – I’m obsessive about folding them up together so I never lose just one. You should see how neat my sock drawer is. Always folding them in pairs extends into races too, because warmers should always go in the same pocket if taken off mid-ride.

Cutting edge

You may have heard of pros trimming down warmers to alter the length, but actually that’s pretty rare.

We tend to wear the same stuff as any weekend warrior, and the idea of taking a pair of scissors to turn a kneewarmer into a thighwarmer is something done by only a very small number of riders who are super-picky about the amount of leg cover they have.

No doubt we’ll have arm warmers trimmed down to elbowwarmers at some point. It’s more about a trend than a function.

On the other hand, some of my teammates have made suggestions about new designs that have been very good – Chris Opie, now of Bike Channel Canyon, is especially talented at coming up with new technical designs. His big thing was proper seam placement, which is something to look out for on a warmer.

Warmers are, by their nature, versatile bits of kit so can be used in a wide temperature range – anywhere from the teens to the early 20s if you run cold.

Pros tend to use them at colder temperatures than most because they’re riding so hard and generating lots of heat. Although I have seen recreational riders wearing short sleeves and warmers in the depths of winter when I’ve been in full tights and a jacket.

They were carrying a little bit more timber than me, though, which is another solution to staying warm…

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