Tis the season when the humble arm-warmer becomes the most useful piece of kit in many a cyclists armoury, indeed depending on where you live every season can be arm-warmer season and if you are looking for a year-round arm-protecting friend you won't go far wrong with the Craft 3Ds. My test pair have seen me through all four seasons including protecting my lily-white skin from 30° sun on last year's road.cc road trip to Italy and they've come through it all with flying colours.
I love arm-warmers, living in the mild west they can pretty much be used year round – during the last unusually cold winter I used mine for additional warm over long sleeved jerseys and under a jumper or sweatshirt on occasional rides around town. As arm warmers go, the Craft 3Ds are at the upper end of the scale, the design and technology that has gone in to them and the higher end of mid-range in terms of price. That said, they represent amazingly good value in terms of the versatility, usefulness and all-round ride comfort they bestow.
The “3D” bit of their moniker refers to the fact that they are constructed in such a way that the anatomically cut panels from which they are made are of different thicknesses depending with extra material going where it is needed most where your arms are most exposed to the elements. Craft bill these as “defying the laws of physics” by both working to keep you warm while at the same time releasing excess heat. My guess is that's down to the ribbing which I'm guessing is the reason, like the Gore Ozon, that they initially feel like they are cooling your arms when you first put them on. I put their ability to release excess heat to the ultimate test in Italy when caught without sunscreen and with my arms starting to crisp nicely I used them as sun protection – they were so good that I continued to wear them all week.
I'd have to say they certainly do the job for me keeping my arms pleasingly warm on even the coldest days – either worn as extra protection with a long sleeved jersey or with a short sleeve jersey and often under a jacket. One of the things that I like about arm warmers is that they give you greater flexibility of clothing choice on cold days. On spring and cooler summer mornings they are great as an outer layer in their own right (I reckon the 3Ds would work on winter days too although I haven't tried them). Interestingly whatever condidtions I was wearing them in I don't think I ever felt the need to roll them up or down or take them off… they were more or less fit and forget.
That's what is so great about the 3Ds they are so good that you really don't notice you are wearing them. The silicon grippers at the top of the arms do the job effectively but unobtrusively, the material is soft to the touch and there is nothing to itch or scratch – even the frankly care instruction lable (which takes a long time to tell you just to bung 'em in at 40°C) doesn't itch or scratch and it would anyway be the work of a trice to get rid if it did. Cut is long enough that you won't have any annoying gaps at top or bottom – I particularly liked the way that the cuffs tucked went right down in to my gloves and stayed there.
For the money I can't think of another piece of technical cycle clothing that is as useful for riding in the UK as a good pair of arm warmers – they even do a great job on a cold morning commute matched up with a t-shirt and jeans. The world being what it is you can of course spend silly money on even arm warmers, but if it's bang per buck versatility and usefulness you are after look no further than the Craft 3Ds.
Hard to beat in terms of comfort and bangs per buck versatility and usefulness
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Make and model: Craft 3D Arm Warmer
Size tested: M/L
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"The third and outermost layer is your shield against the elements and provides comfort and performance no matter what the conditions. Transcending the laws of logic this layer protects from wind, rain and cold at the same time as it releases surplus heat and moisture from the layers underneath." That's what Craft have to say about their 3rd layer garments – they don't really have much to add when it comes to the armwarmers except to list their benefits:
- 3D knit – seamless
- Different thickness on different thermal zones
- Silicon gripper at top
- Fabric: C403 (Google say it's a nylon polyester mix - heavy on the nylon 85%)
- Size: XS-XXL
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The bit that I noticed was the ribbed construction which increases the garment's surface area and thus makes it more efficient at dispersing heat.
Very well made piece of kit, detailing is excellent and the basic construction is very neat and well done. These aren't your basic arm warmers though, they are made in such a way as to have have varying amounts of material thickness to help dissipate heat, the pronounced ribbing in the material must also have a big part to play their as it increases the surface area of the garment. They aren't just a tube, either being made from a series of panels which are all seamlessly fitted together. They may be 3D seamlesslelly knitted but there is a big seam running the length of each one, curved to the shape of your arm and flat locked for no loss of comfort.
Superb, simply a great all-year round piece of kit I wore mine in the depths of winter to do the arm warming bit and on some blistering 30°C rides in Italy to keep the sun off my lily with skin and they did the job in both conditions.
For such a simple piece of kit these are very well put together and so far have proved extremely robust and hardwearing.
Extremely comfortable. Apart from the fact that your arms are warm, but not too warm you would hardly notice you had them on.
These aren't the off cuts from a run of short sleeve jerseys. A lot of thought has gone in to their design and construction combine that with their superb performance and the price tag looks like a bargain.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They do what they are supposed to do, and they stay put while doing it. So unless you roll them down they stay put - the best thing I can say about them is that they do their job so well that you wouldn't really notice you were wearing them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
That so much thought has gone in to making a simple garment as good as it can be.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 46 Height: Weight:
I usually ride: Ridgeback Genesis Day 03 My best bike is: Whatever I'm testing at the moment
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.