Hidden away within a pile of plastic-wrapped clothing being handed out to journalists at a 2011 Shimano Ultegra product launch was something of a holy grail: a pair of leg warmers that fit so perfectly, so comfortably, and were so versatile, that I struggled to find a fall, winter, or spring day for which they were not absolutely perfect.
Anyone who has struggled through winter with a pair of ill-fitting warmers, bunching and chaffing behind the knee, will appreciate the magnitude of that statement.
Within 18 months I had worn them out, their wonderful knit construction slowly fading into the same threadbaren thinness that afflicts the heels of old socks. I’d worn them nearly every day from October to March, through two winter seasons, and I was devastated, reticent to return to the bunchy, uncomfortable leg warmers that had been lying dormant in my closet.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to. A pair of Giordana’s knit leg warmers, similar but not identical to the impossible-to-find Shimano version, landed on my desk last fall.
A year later, I can confirm that they are every bit as good — better, in some ways — than my original holy grail.
The fit of the warmers, which retail for $70, is flawless, without even a hint of bunching, thanks to a sock-like knit construction that provides a versatile, warm, and above all comfortable shield against cool temperatures.
The knit pattern and thickness changes on different parts of the leg, with particular attention paid to the front and back of the knee. Just like a sock wraps around the ankle, the knit allows excellent articulation at the knee. The material on the back of the knee is thin, while the thigh and calves utilize thicker material.
The Dryarn material breathes so well that the knee warmer as a species should be put on the endangered list. I haven’t slipped on a pair of knee warmers in over a year because there’s just no point: the Giordana leg warmers are comfortable into the low 60s, and bare legs come out at about 65 F. I’ve relegated knee warmers to those 64-degree days.
As with all clothing, Giordana’s warmers are conditions-specific. They fall short in wet weather; just like your socks, they get soaked in the rain and then do more harm than good. They are not as wind resistant as heavier Roubaix-style fabrics, either, so very cold days may call for a different warmer or a pair of heavy tights — something like Assos’ nicely cut LegUno S_7 or Castelli’s waterproof Nanoflex warmers will be better options in extreme cold or wet weather.
The Giordana knit warmers aren’t really intended to replace your heavy thermal leg warmers; think of them as more versatile replacements for your knee warmers, capable of handling the same warm temperatures while also extending useable range down 15 degrees. Assuming dry weather, they are comfortable down to about 25 degrees, and up to the low 60s. And, unlike a knee warmer, they’ll keep your lower legs toasty in those transition temperatures, helping to prevent winter injuries.
Durability is quite good, better than the pair of warmers that inspired me to seek these out. After a full year of riding and washing they still look like new.