Mar 08 2010
The days are getting longer in the northern hemisphere as General Winter retreats, but daytime temperatures are still cold enough to require tights, fleece, woolens, full-fingered gloves, and wind shells when bicycling. And mornings are downright icy, so it’s not time just yet to remove the studded tires if you’re commuting early or late in the day.
When conditions are chilly, it’s difficult to imagine sweltering under a roasting sun on a shadeless road. But that day will come, and when it does, it pays to be armed with ways to combat the full blast of the sun’s heat. After a long winter, I like the feel of the sun on my bare skin during those first opportunities to go outside in shirtsleeves. Yet however good it feels, and however cool it is to show off the classic cyclist’s tan, it’s not wise to court burns or cancer by exposing skin to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. I’ve been using sunscreen to combat the threat, but it’s greasy and eventually washes off as I sweat, and I don’t much like it. I could wear long-sleeved jerseys, but I don’t own any summer-weight ones, and they’re pricey. Then I learned about arm coolers, and I knew that I’d found a solution that I could live with.
Arm coolers are similar to arm warmers in design but not in purpose. Where arm warmers are made of heavier insulating material, often flocked on the inside, arm coolers are made with less beefy, more brightly colored material. Arm coolers slip over your arms and cover the skin between wrists and biceps or armpit, depending on how long they are. I’ve never used arm coolers before, but have decided that it’s about time I gave them a try.
After hearing good things about DeFeet Armskins from cyclists who ride in hot climates, I ordered a pair of them from Team Estrogen. I was favorably impressed by Team Estrogen about two years ago when I ordered my Canari Barrier Commuter jacket, so they were my first stop when shopping for arm coolers. I wasn’t disappointed with their service. It was exceptional—I received my order within five days without paying extra for expedited shipping.
It’s too early to know how the DeFeet Armskins will work as sunblocks. I’ll have to wait for warm weather for a complete evaluation, but I can say that I’m pleased with the workmanship and fit. Armskins come in two sizes—small/medium (S/M) and large/extra large (L/XL). Team Estrogen states that the arm and wrist measurements are the same for both sizes, and that the roll-top design makes them comfortable for all sizes, so they advised choosing size based on the length. The S/M Armskins are 15 inches long, while the L/XL are 19.5 inches long. I chose the longer ones, because I felt the 15-inch Armskins would leave a gap between the short sleeves of my jerseys and the ‘skins.
I’m glad I chose the larger Armskins, which rise to my armpits and should provide continuous coverage from wrist all the way up, even if they slip in use. The fit is snug without being tight. The wrist band is fairly wide, and the rolled-edge top is about half as wide. Here’s what each end looks like:
The material is almost like a mesh, but no skin shows through:
Armskins roll up into a tidy package that can easily be tucked into the pocket of a jersey or into a handlebar bag, and that’s where mine are now, waiting for a day when I can give them a test.
Until hot weather, then, I’ll keep wearing my cold-weather clothes and dream of spring. But I’ll be prepared for those searing hot days when they do come.