Episode 184 - Knee Warmers

@trevor I know you’ve been banging the drum on proper attire and protecting the legs from cold temperatures for a long time. The general principles make a lot of scientific sense, but in the last podcast, you referenced Dr. Pruitt and the recommendation to wear knee warmers below 70 degrees. I have to wonder why 70 degrees, room temperature is 68-72 which would almost indicate that some of our indoor training environments would elicit the need for knee warmers. Is there any literature on this particular breakpoint in temperature? I’m certainly not averse to the idea as I tend to be a bit more cold natured, but temperatures in the mid to high sixties are pretty indicative of “shorts weather” for the greater population.


I wondered the same thing. At 70 degrees, I would run the risk of overheating if I covered my knees indoors. That said, I must admit that this past year I have come to embrace being slightly overdressed when doing outdoor rides in temps below 55, opting for full leg warmers instead of knee warmers, and more clothing for the torso as well.

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I wonder if @ThermalDoc is aware of any research on leg warmers at cool room temperatures?

After converting to Celsius, I don’t use knee warmers unless it’s below 50°F (single digits in Celsius).

Once it gets below 40°F, then I’ll revert to full leggings and a thermal jacket. That said, we have about 3-4 days of ice cold conditions 3-4 times through winter. The rest of the year it’s warm enough to ride in shorts, and thermal sleeves or completely short shirt only.

Id say the wind created by riding outside is the difference. You probably dont have 20 mph wind blowing on your whole body inside, so you body generates a lot more heat and therefore doesnt need the covering

I’m not really questioning whether they should be worn inside, I’m making my point as compared to indoor temperature, I would argue my high powered fans make me feel MUCH colder than riding outside on a 70 degree summer day, and find myself keeping them off until I have built up substantial heat. I don’t believe this is a unique practice.
Temperature in motion is not a fixed variable either, depending on humidity and barometric pressure, skin temperature could actually be colder at an ambient temperature of 75 than it is at 70. There is no way to control for that variability other than to choose a temperature as a breakpoint and male decisions based on that. I’m asking to understand the literature as to why it’s 70 and not 68, 62, 65… Temperatures that you will often find people in the real world walking around in shorts without building up the same body heat as someone running or cycling.

70 is considered warm-hot in the UK - shorts and t shirt weather. Perhaps this is based on where you live and the temperature you are acclimated to?

Sorry to take a while to chime in here. I haven’t seen literature on the specific temperatures at which to wear knee and leg warmers. This is more a rule among many elite athletes and coaches that has been passed along.

I’ve personally always followed the rule and have found it effective for myself.

Be careful though about comparing indoor and outdoor. Outdoor there is a big windchill effect that you don’t get indoors, even with a fan. So, 70 degrees indoors and 70 degrees outdoors are very different beasts.

But also be careful about justifying under-dressing outside. Amateur cyclists (I say “amateur” because all of the pros I know get it,) seem to want to find reasons to under-dress. There seems to be a much bigger concern with over-dressing than under-dressing. I feel quite strongly that it should be the other way around. Remember, when you are over-dressed, you are a little uncomfortable but training effectively. When you are under-dressed you are doing damage and hurting your adaptations. If you have to make a mistake one way, far better to overdress.

Hope that helps!

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Normally I would wear leg warmers when it went under ~45f. But Trevor sold me by saying it wasn’t about being tough but performance. So I’ve been using mine in 55-65 weather and honestly can say it just feels better afterwards and the next day. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I’m not feeling hot by wearing them, so why not?!

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Since my college days in the 90s, I’ve religiously used the 60 degree benchmark for knee warmers. After listening to the podcast, I tried wearing knee warmers on some of the recent 65 degree days. It’s certainly not uncomfortable so why not be comfortably warm? But 70 sort of seems excessive.

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In Australia it’s all about cold starts and waiting for the day to warm up. Sub-55 degrees Fahrenheit is a fairly normal morning in Sydney or Melbourne for half the year. I’d rather be uncomfortably cold for the first hour or so than have to carry a lot of extra clothing later on.

I don’t think pros have to worry about this because they don’t head out the door at 6am. Or they have a team car following them. :slight_smile:

As a motorcyclist - I would also add - 70 degrees in the sun is very different than 70 degrees in the dark. I’ve never been as cold as leaving a criterium in my summer moto gear and getting home at 65 degrees in the dark. That big round thing in the sky changes EVERYTHING! I often where more clothes on night rides than I do during the day, at the same temp.

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Full agree! That’s also why all the heated clothing technology started with motorcyclists!