Keeping Your Legs Warm During Cool Weather Bike Rides

17 Sep
DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream

Those of us in the Upper Midwest have already had a few fairly cool morning bike rides. While it is very tempting to just “tough it out” in cool weather, you really ought to keep your knees covered. As Hughes and Kehlenbach explain in Distance Cycling, “The knee has poor circulation. If your knees get cold, blood won’t reach them and they may become injured. You can avoid this by wearing knee or leg warmers until temperatures exceed 60° F.” I try to put off wearing knee or leg warmers as long as possible, so I apply DZ Nuts InHeat Low Heat Embrocation Cream on my legs before I ride and have been very happy with the results.

Embrocation creams contain vasodilators that warm up the skin and muscles. They also create a weather-proof barrier that protects your skin from the elements. For many of us, embrocation creams are the main reason we shave our legs (just don’t shave your legs on the same day you use an embrocation cream). About 15 minutes before you go out for a ride you massage this cream into the exposed areas of your legs. It will take several minutes before you feel the cream working, but once it does you will be able to ride for several hours in cool weather without having your legs cramp up from the cold. The DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream washes off easily with just soap and water, but you can still feel it a bit even after you are out of the shower.

Make sure you put this cream on your legs after you have put your cycling shorts on! If you put the cream on your legs first and then pull your cycling shorts up some of the cream will stick to your chamois. This cream has capsicum in it and if the capsicum comes in contact with your ‘nads you are going to experience a level of pain that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have never even dreamed about. DZ Nuts InHeat Embrocation Cream comes in three strengths (low, medium and high). The low heat cream is good for rides down to around 50 degrees. A six-ounce tube retails for around $20, but you can find it cheaper on You should be able to get at least 15 rides out of a single tube.

Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers

Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers (back side)

If you would rather not use an embrocation cream you should get a pair of Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers. These lightweight knee warmers will keep you comfortable when the temperature is in the 50′s and you can easily take them off when the temperature hits the 60′s.

The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers will wick moisture away from your skin and keep your knees warm at the same time. The elastic band at the top of the warmers does a good job of keeping them in place. There is another elastic band on the bottom edge of the warmers that is a bit looser, yet still keeps the fabric from moving around too much. Flat-lock seams prevent both hot spots and chafing. There is a reflective logo on the back of these warmers that will help motorists see you easier at night. In addition, there is a very small reflection circle at the top to identify the left and right warmer. The Gore Bike Wear Ozon Knee Warmers are available in four sizes (S,M,L,XL) and have a suggested list price of $50.

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker for cool weather biking

Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker

Another great option for cool weather cycling is the Pearl Izumi Attack Knickers—they extend down to mid-calf and keep your knees warm in cool weather.  The Pearl Izumi Attack Knicker is extremely comfortable and the Select Transfer fabric quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. The chamois on this knicker is very comfortable, even on very long rides. There are also several reflective elements for low-light visibility and the silicone leg grippers on these knickers keep the pant legs from sliding up as you ride. The Pearl Izumi Men’s Attack Knicker is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and retails for $85.

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights

When the temperature drops down to below 50 degrees it’s time to put away the knee warmers and get out the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights. For temperatures between 28 and 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) I don’t think you will find a better pair of cycling tights.

These tights are made with a very breathable wind-resistant fabric on the outside combined with a thin layer of thermal fleece on the inside. The fabric is about as close to magic as you will find—it wicks moisture away from the skin to keep you warm, dry and happy! While these pants are not rainproof they are definitely water-resistant. I often ride Metric Centuries (62 miles) in these tights during light rain without any trouble.

You can buy this tight either with or without a chamois. I would definitely buy one with Pearl Izumi’s Elite 3D Chamois since it is the same chamois that is in the Pearl Izumi Elite Cycling Shorts, which is what I ride in all summer. This chamois has 13mm of variable-density microfiber padding coupled with active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. This chamois was designed with Pressure Relief Technology (PRT) for riding comfort and improved blood flow and I think they ended up with a perfect design!

At the bottom of these tights you will find an 8-inch ankle zipper so the tights are very easy to put on (or take off). The zipper has a lockable tab to keep it closed. The tights also have silicone ankle grippers to keep the tights in place. You will also find reflective piping and logos on the legs to help motorists see you better at night.

The quality of these tights is superb! As for fit, I would say they are true to size. However, if you are on the border between two sizes I would definitely go with the larger size. Tight clothing in the winter is never a good idea. Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Cycling Tights retail for $125. If you enjoy riding when the temperature is between zero and 30 degrees (and who doesn’t?), I would suggest you buy a pair of Pearl Izumi AmFIB Cycling Tights.


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20 responses to “Keeping Your Legs Warm During Cool Weather Bike Rides

  1. christov10

    September 17, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    A goofy question, but why is it necessary to shave legs at some point prior to the use embrocation cream?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM

      Two reasons: First, if you apply embrocation creams to hairy legs then your leg hair will be matted down — I can’t even describe how BAD it looks (yep, I did it that way once). Second, you use a lot more of the cream if your legs are hairy (in the winter when my legs are unshaven they look like the legs of Chewbacca from Star Wars).

  2. elisariva

    September 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Great information. And a few funnies too!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 17, 2012 at 8:48 PM

      The story about the Embrocation Cream is funny now, but it wasn’t when it happened (however, my wife was laughing even as I was in deep distress and agony).

  3. The Captains Daughter

    September 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    What about good ol’ Vasalene? I feel it’s sort of like duct tape. Would it work in a pinch?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      Vaseline might work if your only concern was protection from the rain. However, it will not increase blood flow in your legs nor provide the warmth that an embrocation cream would. Also, embrocation creams clean up pretty easy, but Vaseline might be a nightmare to remove. One more thing: Vaseline tends to clog up the pores of your skin and can lead to ugly skin bumps.

  4. Daniel Undem

    September 17, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Another cold weather tip I’ve found from riding in the cold MN winters. Invest in a pair of windrpoof briefs. They help to keep the wind off of sensitive areas in the middle of the winter. Well worth the 20 bucks.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 17, 2012 at 8:51 PM

      Daniel, I’ve seen the windproof briefs online, but don’t own a pair (yet). It rarely gets lower than -20 (F) around here and I have been comfortable so far.

  5. irishkatie

    September 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    I really love riding …but 0 degrees?!?!? Oh. My. God. Now THAT is dedication.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 17, 2012 at 8:54 PM

      Katie, riding in zero degree weather is not all that bad. In fact, even -20 is not too bad. However, the crazy folks up in Minnesota ride in temps well below -40 (now THAT is dedication).

      • irishkatie

        September 17, 2012 at 9:10 PM

        Ohh now I see. The “crazy” one’s are elsewhere nod nods. *and thinks to myself ..levels of crazy…how crazy is that!* lol. I am still waiting with bamboogirl for the review on internal toe heaters.

      • All Seasons Cyclist

        September 17, 2012 at 9:16 PM

        Katie, there actually is a toe heater, the “HeatMax ToastiToes Air Activated Foot Warmers” and I will be reviewing them in a few weeks. I used them for several years and they work very well.

  6. AndrewGills

    September 17, 2012 at 11:36 PM

    Oh wow. I never knew that about the knees. I live in a warm place where it rarely gets really cold. But still, winter mornings are relatively cold for us. Summer has hit here with a vengence but I might get some longer knicks to cover my knees for next winter once they go on ‘out of season’ special. Perhaps being properly dressed will make me enjoy cycling in our mild winters more than I otherwise do. (Our winters here are about 6-10 weeks long with morning temperatures around the 5-10’C – 40’F-51’F at the coldest).

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 18, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      40 degrees (F) at the coldest? WOW! It gets a lot colder than that in the fall. The worst it ever got in the Chicago area was -27 (F).

      • AndrewGills

        September 18, 2012 at 9:53 PM

        I can’t even imagine that kind of temperature. Mind you, from September to April our average daytime temperature is between 85’F – 95’F every day and from November to February our night time temperatures can hover between 78 – 90’F with sticky humidity. So we kind of pay a price for missing out on winter ;)

        All that snow and ice and cold does seem very exotic, exciting and adventurous to me. I think I’d like it … for a visit. LOL. I can’t wait to see your winter cycling pics and stories.

  7. livewithoutreservations

    September 19, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Thanks for liking my post

    Can you use this while you jog? I’ve never seen it before, but I jog year round…

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      September 19, 2012 at 10:18 PM

      I don’t think the leg warmers would work for jogging because they would probably fall down within the first 10 minutes of use. However, the embrocation cream would be GREAT for jogging in cool temperatures.

  8. livewithoutreservations

    September 19, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Awesome! Thank you so much!!! I will definitely try it……….I’m from the deep even moving up here I’ve become a scared little girl about jogging in the winter..I’m not use to snow! lol

  9. melissakoski

    September 21, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    I never knew that about knees either. Glad I haven’t injured mine in some of the cold runs I’ve been on recently. GREAT and useful information on applying the cream after the shorts are on! I did laugh a bit (: Tough lesson I imagine.


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