Arm warmers are one of the most critical pieces of cycling gear, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing their importance and versatility the first time you pull them on. Technically just two tubes of stretchy fabric (that are quick to remind you to do more bicep curls), a good pair of arm warmers allows you to ride comfortably in changing weather conditions without the hassle or weight of a jacket. At the other end of the weather spectrum, arm warmers are also there for you when the sun is unrelenting and no amount of sweat-proof sunscreen can block it out. They’re as easy to put on at the top of a descent as they are to shove into a pocket when the road arches upward. And when you’re trying to preserve weight on a bikepacking trip, an extra pair of thermal arm warmers can take the place of much heavier layers.
But to get the most out of your arm warmers, you need to find a pair that fits well, holds up to your regular washer cycle, doesn’t roll down or cut off your blood flow, and keeps you warm enough—or cool enough—for your style of riding. To help your search, we’ve collected our favorites below.
How We Selected
Every arm warmer on this list has been evaluated and vetted by our experienced team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, and use our own experience trying to keep our noodly cyclist arms warm in every conceivable weather condition to determine the best options. We evaluated these warmers on performance, value, comfort, weight, durability, protection level, and even aesthetics to come up with models that best serve every type of rider.
—BEST WINTER WARMERS—
Defeet Arm Warmers
When it’s chilly and damp out but you know you’re going to warm up fast the minute you hit the first climb, these snug arm warmers are the next best thing to a post-ride hot chocolate. Made of USA-sourced merino wool, they dry quickly and keep your arms comfortable while you’re moving in temperatures from 30 to 50 degrees. On really cold rides you can wear them under a jacket; on fall mornings they’ll keep you cozy with just a jersey until you’re warmed up enough to peel them off.
—BEST FOR REPLACING YOUR SUNSCREEN—
Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves
Here in Texas, where I live, arm warmers are a year-round affair if you want to protect your extremities from the blazing hot sun. All the burn-prone redheads in my ride group swear by these arm sleeves from Pearl Izumi—they’re made of a light, breathable “In-R-Cool” coldblack fabric that reduces surface temperature by a few degrees, so they won’t feel stifling in July. But they’ve also got up to UPF 50+ protection, even when stretched tight against your skin, so you won’t have to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. The grippers in the top keep them from sliding down.
—BURLY AND WEATHERPROOF—
Gore Windstopper Arm Warmers
The inside of these arm warmers is made of a soft fleecy fabric with an elastic gripper cuff up top so they stay comfortable against your skin and don’t migrate downward. The sleek outside with an inner Gore-tex membrane provides a windproof and water-resistant shield from the elements. They’re a bit less stretchy than standard arm warmers, but they give you more protection and warmth without feeling thick or heavy.
—BEST CASUAL STYLE—
Giro Chrono Arm Warmers
Made of a ribbed tech material, these Giro warmers are the lightest, most breathable arm warmers I’ve ever worn. They also have more of a casual-wear vibe than most dedicated bike apparel, which means you can also get away with wearing them off the bike when the sun goes down and you forgot your hoodie. But don’t be fooled—they’ll still wick sweat, keep you warm on an early-morning ride without rolling or sliding down, and do all that good performance stuff on par with the best lightweight warmers.
—BEST COMPRESSION WARMERS—
2XU MCS Elite Compression Arm Guards
2XU makes serious compression gear—so serious the brand uses a medically certified device to make sure all its gear provides just the right amount of targeted pressure and support. That added squeeze has been shown to improve circulation and reduce fatigue, though it certainly doesn’t come for cheap. These compression sleeves aren’t cycling-specific, but they work well when you want additional warmth, support, and UPF 50+ sun protection on or off the bike. One caveat: They have been known to roll down on some wearers, so make sure you double check your size if that tends to be a problem for you with arm warmers.
—HI-VIZ AND THERMAL—
Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Arm Warmers
Made of a much thicker fleece fabric than the brand’s sun sleeves, these stretchy thermal arm warmers are clutch for rides in the 35- to 55-degree range. They’ve got a nice wide elastic band with inner silicone to hold them in place without squeezing your arm like a blood pressure cuff, and a designated right- and left-specific arm for a more comfortable fit. If you buy the “Screaming Yellow” color, you’ll add a pop of hi-viz with reflective touches for better visibility on the road.
Louis Garneau Arm Warmers 2
There’s nothing too standout about these versatile arm warmers, but they check more boxes than any other we’ve tested: They fit well, stay put, keep you warm in most brisk weather, breathe and wick with the best of them, provide UPF+ 50 protection, and aren’t overly expensive. The inner fleece is soft and cozy, and the elastic gripper is unobtrusive. You can even score them in white or bright yellow for added visibility or for use as midweight summer sleeves.
Castelli UPF 50+ Light Arm Sleeves
Much like the Louis Garneau Arm Warmers, these lightweight arm warmers hit the sweet spot between providing some bonus warmth on slightly chillier days but also UPF 50+ summer protection when the sun won’t let up. Double-sided silicone elastic at the top and bottom of the sleeves effectively holds them in place. They’re durable, well-constructed, and made from a polyester-based “Solare” fabric that’s designed to stay cool in the heat.
New Balance Compression Arm Sleeves
Designed for running, these arm warmers nevertheless have enough grip to hold tight when you’re hunched over your handlebar and focused on the road. Worn snugly, they feel compressive enough to get some blood moving but still have enough stretch that they’re not stifling or uncomfortable. They’re ideal for 40- to 55-degree days, and breathe and wick well once you start working up a sweat.
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