Let’s explain the basics first: what are leg warmers in cycling?
They are a tube-shaped garment designed to be combined with bib shorts, covering almost the entire leg, from the thigh to the ankle.
The fabric is typically made of synthetic fiber, although you can also find merino wool options. It offers various levels of thermal protection. It can also be water resistant, and the fabric must always be elastic to ensure a perfect fit.
The primary function is to protect the entire leg and the knee joint from low temperatures or cold wind, but also from UV rays. Besides, there are also compression leg warmers that can reduce muscle fatigue, increase blood flow and improve post-workout recovery.
How to choose the right cycling leg warmers?
Four key features should be taken into account:
- Fabric. If we want thermal protection we should look for models with brushed skin side and thermal insulation. If we only want protection against the sun, a thin lycra with UPF 50+ will suffice.
- Anti-slip system on ankles and thighs so that they do not move or slip down when we’re pedaling. An elastic band with an inner silicone grip is a standard solution.
- Fit. Choosing the right size is key to ensure that the leg warmers are aerodynamic, fit like a second skin, and do not cause discomfort in the knee joint.
- Seams. As few as possible and as flat as possible, to avoid chafing and discomfort when pedaling.
Why do cyclists use leg warmers?
Some of the reasons are similar to those explained in this blog post on cycling arm warmers:
- They offer extra protection against cold, wind, rain or sun.
- They are easy to put on and take off, but not on the go like the arm warmers. Even if you’re super dexterous, when you need to take off the leg warmers, you’ll have to stop.
- They take up little space and can be carried in jersey or vest pockets.
- They help maintain body temperature.
- They are compression garments that improve your blood flow. They help with post-workout recovery and reduce pain and muscle tension.
Moreover, it is a garment that allows us to extend the use of the summer bib shorts beyond the hot days.
When should I wear leg warmers?
If they serve only as sun protection, use them at all times. Especially at those moments in the day and times of the year with the highest level of ultraviolet radiation.
When it comes to leg warmers with thermal protection, it’s a very personal choice that depends on your temperature sensitivity, your style and pace of cycling, and the weather in your area.
We generally recommend using them below 15 °C down to 8 °C. However, let us repeat this again: each cyclist must make this decision individually, without looking at other riders. It is of no benefit to get cold by copying what others are doing. Keeping warm is what really matters and we can’t stress it enough. Even more so in the case of leg warmers that are so easy to put on and take off.
We can use them when we go out early in the morning and it is cold. Once the sun starts to shine and the air warms up, we can easily take them off and put them in a jersey pocket.
They also come in handy when the temperature drops along the route. We carry the leg warmers in the pocket and, when we feel cold, we simply put them on.
Do leg warmers go under or over bib shorts?
Leg warmers go under bib shorts.
How to put on leg warmers?
First, put on the bib shorts and the socks. Then, pull up the leg warmer until its lower end is at the ankle. Now stretch the leg warmer till the beginning of the thigh. Fold and raise the leg of the bib shorts over your mid-thigh. Pull the leg warmer up until the elastic band reaches mid-thigh or slightly higher. Now pull the leg of the bib shorts down over your leg until the inner grip is below the elastic band of the leg warmer.
Socks under or over the leg warmers?
This question raises a heated debate in the cycling world and we have already told you about the unwritten rules for wearing cycling socks.
It’s a matter of personal choice. Typically, socks are worn under the leg warmers, mainly for comfort and because it’s easier to put on and take off the leg warmers. But if you like to show off your socks by wearing them on top, go ahead. Just put them on after you put on your leg warmers.
Leg warmers or bib tights?
If you can have both garments, why leave one out? If it’s cold and the low temperature does not seem to go away, use the bib tights. If the temperature drops and we leave the house with a cold engine, but the weather might pick up during the day and/or we are going to train hard, we should opt for the leg warmers so that we can take them off when the temperature goes up or once we have warmed up enough.
Here are the pros and cons of each garment:
- Leg warmers
- Versatile, adapting to temperature changes.
- Easy to put on, take off and carry.
- They allow you to wear your summer shorts for longer.
- Cheaper than bib tights.
- Faster washing and drying.
- They only provide thermal insulation from the ankle to mid-thigh. The buttocks and crotch are exposed to the cold.
- You have to wear two garments: bib shorts and leg warmers.
- If they don’t fit snugly in the thigh, they tend to move down.
- Bib tights
- Increased thermal protection on legs, buttocks, crotch, abdomen and lower back.
- You only wear one garment.
- The fit is not as snug as in the leg warmers. The bib tights go from the shoulders to the ankles. Bear in mind that some riders have long legs and a shorter torso, while others quite the opposite. Naturally, at some point of the body the bib tights may not fit perfectly. Even so, the modern fabrics are very elastic and offer a good fit.
- Increased sweating in the crotch area, especially if the fabric and chamois are not breathable.
- More expensive than leg warmers.
- They dry slower because it is winter, there is more fabric and it is thicker.
As you can see, leg warmers have some advantages over bib tights. Cyclists who ride in climates with mild winters often use only this garment when it gets cold. If that’s your case, Siroko leg warmers and Siroko bib shorts are all you need to enjoy cycling all year round.