Staying warm and comfortable while cycling in cold weather isn’t just a matter of putting on a heavy coat. Overdressing is a surefire way to actually chill your body. Excessive perspiration leads to rapid heat loss through conduction, heat loss occurring when contact is made between your body and a cooler surface, in this case, your sweaty clothing. While dry air conducts heat poorly, conductive heat loss occurs 25 times faster with wet clothing! You may have heard the expression, You Sweat, You Die. While you’re probably not going to die on your cool weather ride, getting wet and cold is at the very least going to make you miserable and shorten your fun time in the outdoors.
Layering is the key to staying dry, warm, and comfortable in cool weather. With the added windchill while cycling, it’s always a balancing act between blocking chilly wind, insulating, but also venting excess heat and moisture. Slip-on arm and knee warmers can help handle this function. They are a great way to add a layer of warmth through changing conditions without adding a lot of weight and bulk to your gear carried. They can be easily slipped on when the temperature drops, either as a breathable outer layer, or as a base layer under a wind proof shell for further protection against convective heat loss (wind chill). If you like to ride bikes year round like I do, I suggest adding some to your pack.
Back in Spring, Snēk (pronounced “sneak”) sent me a set of their Merino Arm & Knee Warmers to demo. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to test them out in a variety of situations and environments, from trail riding in the Sierra Nevada to bikepacking in the desert of Southern Utah.
Snēk Arm and Knee Warmers are made in the USA from imported fabrics. Content: 51% Nylon, 39% Merino, 10% Spandex. From the manufacturer:
Warmth without weight or restriction. Our arm warmers bring together the key elements missing from your current cold weather riding gear. Contoured, flat-lock stitching wrapped around the elbow provides a natural fit while the silicone grippers provide secure placement for peace of mind. Finished with a Merino and Nylon combined fabric for durability with a French Terry lining that gives a soft, pleasant, dry feel that will leave you thinking less about the temperature outside and more about your ride.
I’ve had a set of budget arm and knee warmers for over a decade. While the arm warmers have served me OK, I never could get the knee warmers to stay in place for very long. Without constant attention, they soon slid down my leg to become ankle warmers…and this was with the smallest size available! These saggy knee warmers weren’t real practical, and made their way to the bin of misfit cycling gear out in the garage.
By contrast, the Snēk website has a fit guide that helps ensure you get the right size for your body measurements. I’m on the border between two sizes, but went with the tighter fit option based on previous experience with sagging arm and knee warmers. They turned out to be pretty snug, but not uncomfortably so. Coverage is generous, easily covering all exposed skin on the arms and legs. There is contoured stitching around the bends of the elbows and knees for an anatomical fit.
The silicone grippers on the Snēks certainly help keep the arm and knee warmers in place, but the entire length of the warmers are snug and don’t constantly fight to slide down my arms and legs as my previous budget warmers did. This was particularly noticeable on my legs. Periodic adjustments are needed, but usually done while taking a break and not inconveniently while riding.
Another area where the Snēk warmers excel is comfort. They’re both warm and soft. The merino wool blend fabric is noticeably pleasant against your skin, more like a comfortable pair of pajamas, and not plasticy feeling like some synthetic fabrics. The best way to describe slipping them on when you’re chilly is, “Ahhhhhh….”.
I brought the Snēk arm and knee warmers along on a few bikepacking trips this year, primarily using them off the bike instead of while riding. The days were warm, but the evenings and mornings were chilly. I most often used the knee warmers, substituting them for a pair of pants. As the Snēk “knee” warmers actually cover from thigh to ankle, it’s like slipping on entire pant legs. Since the wool warmers were actually more insulating than the thin sun pants I brought along, I rarely, if ever, used the long pants…clothing I hauled around for at least 200 miles for no good reason! Cargo space and weight are always a concern while bikepacking, so these arm and knee warmers are a great strategy for adding warmth without the bulk. Next year, the long pants will stay home!
Anything made from Merino wool is never cheap, but always worth the investment when compared to similar items made from synthetic fabrics. Merino wool fiber can absorb and retain up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch, making it an excellent performer in cold, damp conditions. As I mentioned before, dry equals warm. Merino wool also maintains its shape well. My Snēk arm and knee warmers don’t feel all stretched out and saggy after repeated use. Merino wool is soft and comfortable next to the skin (not itchy), and feels great on or off the bike as the situation calls for.
Bottom line: The Snēk arm and knee warmers are a high quality, Made in the USA product. Although a bit pricey, they perform well and are super comfortable when the weather turns cold. Mine have no real sign of wear yet, and I expect them to last for a long time. The fit guide on the Snēk website seems to be accurate. As I mentioned, I’m in the middle of two sizes. I could’ve probably sized up instead of down for a more relaxed fit without excessive slippage. Mine are definitely on the snug side, taking a bit of effort to get on and in position; but like I said, still comfortable. If you’re looking to augment your cold weather gear and ride year round, I definitely recommend this product!
At the time of this writing, Snēk arm warmers sell for $68.00, the knee warmers for $72.00, or you can save $25 on the bundle for $115. In addition to the arm and knee warmers, Snēk also sells a few other products like wool cycling caps and beanies. Head over to the Snēk Cycling page for purchase or more info!
Disclaimer: Although BikeCarson.com received this product at no charge, the opinions in this review are honest and my own.