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Expert’s Tip: Arm and Leg Warmers for Winter Riding

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 04:50 PM

Last May during Bike to Work Week, I decided it was time to suit up and take on the 64km (40 mile) round trip commute to work and back on my trusty bicycle, which was brand new so I was only assuming it was trusty. And though my bike did turn out to be trusty my clothing choices left something to be desired.  The first morning would teach what it meant to be woefully underprepared on a ride.

My alarm woke me up just after 5am, I reluctantly crawled out from under my warm covers, shoveled back a quick breakfast and hit the road.   It was cold, damn cold and wet too. When the mountains came into view I could see a blanket of fresh snow, like the sugar coating on Mini-Wheats that extended half way down the mountain side.That’s okay I was starting to warm up, or at least parts of me were. Others were getting cold quickly; namely my legs, feet and arms. Just over an hour later I rolled up to work feeling dangerously close to a human Popsicle; It took two hours for my toes to stop burning as they thawed. Deciding I didn’t want to go through that again I purchased knee and arm warmers and a set of shoe covers. On my next ride I was like Goldilocks, before the three bears came home and ruined the party,  just right.  It was the warmers that made the difference.

Before I learned the hard way I had never seen the virtue of warmers and covers but afterwards they became a must have and something I recommend to every rider. There are a lot of options out there, and of course it depends on when and where you are going to be riding.  But here are some of the basics when it comes to covers and warmers.

Shoe covers will keep you and your feet happy and comfortable and come in a variety of materials, heights, closures etc… If you are only worried about your toes then you can get toe covers that just cover the front of your shoes. If you are going to ride in wet cold weather then look for something that is waterproof and windproof, yes, I know this is obvious but I’m sure somebody would still ask. Look for covers with waterproof membranes or coated fabrics. Trust me shoe covers, booties or whatever you want to call them will make your rides much more comfortable.

Leg warmers are, awesome. Enough said! Okay I can say a bit more. They are great for riding and can serve double duty for running as well. You can buy either full leg warmers or knee warmers (which actually cover a good deal of your legs). Warmers are great for almost any cooler to cold weather ride and can be layered under your pants or tights to keep you toasty.  Arm warmers are similar to leg warmers except for the obvious: they go on your arms. Warmers are easy to remove, making them ideal for layering and are relatively small making it a simple decision to pack them with you. If you are planning on riding year round or even in the cooler shoulder months warmers are key.

Many of the daily bicycle commuters here at work swear by warmers and shoe covers, making them the first suggestion to me when I was imitating an ice cube during my long commute last May.  Now that warmers are a part of my life I can’t imagine a cold weather ride without them. If you haven’t tried warmers yet then next time you stop by your local bicycle shop grab a pair and try them out. They are an inexpensive way to add excellent warmth to your rides.

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