It’s mid-summer in Central Texas (and everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere) and that means blistering sun and hot, hot temperatures. Most of us grit our teeth, make sure we have ice in our water bottles, and slather on the sunscreen before heading out on a ride. But this year, some riders are showing up with another arrow in their anti-heat quiver: arm coolers.
We who live in climes where the temperature gets below 65 degrees (18C) probably have a pair or two of arm warmers — those slip-on black sleeves that we can pull off once the temperature rises enough. Arm coolers serve just the opposite function: They keep the arms cool under the burning sun.
At least four members of my cycling club have taken to showing up on ride days sporting these things. And they swear by them.
Do they keep your arms cool? I asked my friend, Laura.
“Oh, yeah, they really work,” she said. She’s been wearing them every week for at least a month.
Janice echoed that opinion. “They do,” she said.
But there are some actions users must take to get the best out of them. For example, in our ride Sunday, we faced the usual hot sun and high temperatures, and Laura said she’d forgotten one important thing.
“I forgot to wet them down,” she said. She, and the others who use them, pour water over the sleeves before heading out into the elements. But Laura didn’t do that Sunday, and she said the sleeves didn’t cool her arms.
Janice said that’s okay. “I use mine as suncreens,” she said. “My skin is so light that I need all the help I can get.”
Laura said preventing sunburn was the only real effect the arm coolers had on her arms that day.
On really hot, bright days, Laura and other users have been known to slide ice cubes under the sleeves to beef up their cooling power.
A quick check of some online sites shows arm coolers to cost more than arm warmers — about $30-$45, depending upon the brand and the site. But for those who’ve become hooked on them, that doesn’t really matter.
“I’m going to get some leg coolers to go along with these,” Janice said.
I bought a set last weekend and started wearing them. I have not put water or ice to cool, but I am indeed using them as sunscreens. I despise putting on sunblock on my arms, so I welcome them. The only thing is that I do feel that they make me a little bit warmer than usual, but I am willing to forego that in lieu of not having to put gunk on my arms 🙂
Andy from NH says
A few weeks ago, I ordered arm coolers for my wife and myself from Voler.com after researching the options. They really make a big difference when the sun is blazing and temps are soaring. If you wet them before the ride, they immediately create a chilly cool-down as you ride along. After the water evaporates, the arm coolers wick up the sweat from your arms– as the sweat evaporates, it also creates a chilling effect, though not quite as dramatic as soaking them in cool water. Sprinkling a few drops of water on the arms during a ride can temporarily boost cooling, but naturally you don’t want to waste a lot of water this way. Still, we both think the arm coolers are great and actually do keep the arms cooler than having bare skin (even with sunscreen) exposed to the sun.
Get them in white, not in the colors that are often offered.
Bike Noob says
How about that? I didn’t expect someone from as far north as New Hampshire would use these. Thanks for the input.
Andy from NH says
Hah! Yesterday it hit 100 degrees with humidity in the 70%+ range– even our morning ride was a scorcher. Unfortunately, the arm coolers are not as effective when humidity is high (for obvious reasons), but by keeping the sun from broiling your skin, they still serve their purpose.
Plus, they look cool!
I bought a pair for the UPF factor. They certainly don’t make me any hotter and on a week long ride (OK Freewheel) the coolers certainly helped keep my arms protected from the sun.
A few drawbacks, however. My arms are downright skinny and I had some trouble keeping them up, especially if I wore them a second day. Also they have gotten very grey, which doesn’t affect how well they work but isn’t too appealing visually.
Bike Noob says
Another friend’s turned pink. But that was because she washed them with some red stuff.
I’ve had great luck beating the Colorado summer heat with my RecoFit arm coolers. I’ve used their compression products in the past but became interested in the arm coolers in hopes of diminishing my jersey tan lines (gasp!) in time for my sister’s wedding. They’re made with Icefil Fabric, which contains Xylitol to keep you cool. I agree with Andy from NH — arm coolers are the best when you dunk them in water pre-ride and also mid-ride!
Tony L says
Fascinating read. I have been using a white synthetic long sleeved undershirt for protection against the sun. Never occurred to me to wet the sleeves. Will have to try that.