By Pete Penseyres
Arm warmers are familiar to most of us, but not many roadies have heard of arm coolers. I hadn’t until just before the 2007 Race Across America (RAAM).
I was skeptical when one of my RAAM teammates suggested that everyone get a pair of De Soto Arm Coolers for the race. He said our arms would be cooler than if we rode with bare skin.
I remember thinking something like, “You must be kidding,” but I got a chance to try them when a team sponsor came aboard too late to get its name on our jerseys. So we added its logo to the arm coolers it bought for us from De Soto Triathlon Company in San Diego. We specified our sizes and received the all-white arm covers just before RAAM.
All 8 of us wore Arm Coolers extensively during the June transcontinental race and agreed that they really do work as advertised. The company says they “are designed to cool you in hot weather. The special moisture-radiating [fabric] composition actually offers a cooling effect. The moisture [sweat] dissipates through channels to the outside of the fabric so that it dries 3 times faster than regular polyester and 5 times faster than cotton.”
The coolers work best in direct sunlight, but even when it was cloudy or dark they seemed to keep arms cooler than they would have been if bare. I especially noticed the cooling effect after a hard effort on the road while I was recovering under the air conditioning vents in our support vehicle. The cold air blowing over my sweat-soaked arms created a chill more quickly than it did on my bare skin or under my jersey.
I’m more skeptical than most folks. So I “tested” the coolers by rolling one of them down and comparing how that arm felt vs. the other. The bare arm didn’t stay bare very long!
The white material reflects much of the sun’s direct radiant heat. According to De Soto, it also blocks 75% of the sun’s UVB rays. That’s about the same protection a jersey or T-shirt provides. Even so, De Soto still recommends using sun screen under the coolers.
Our 2008 RAAM team had 3 returning and 5 new riders. Based on our 2007 experience, we bought and used Arm Coolers again this year even though we lacked a sponsor to pay for them. As a fringe benefit during RAAM, we found that the coolers conveniently enclosed the wires between our radios and the finger-activated “push to talk” feature. Without the coolers, the wiring was annoying as it flapped in the wind between our shoulders and wrists.
Wearing the right size is important. I originally ordered medium, but they tended to slide down my skinny arms. Size small fixed that problem. If in doubt, a smaller size would probably provide a better fit because the material does stretch.
The only negative might be explaining to other roadies why you are wearing “arm warmers” in the summer. The question comes frequently. One of my teammates was asked by Floyd Landis, who passed him on a ride. No word on whether Floyd bought a pair, but my RAAM teammates and I don’t leave home without ’em.
De Soto also sells a Skin Cooler Helmet Beanie (see following review), and several other garments made of the same or similar material. The company says it plans to introduce Leg Coolers ($36) in early August 2008.
Pete Penseyres and his brother Jim (next review) are veterans of numerous solo and team Races Across America. Pete has won the solo event twice and in 1986 set the still-standing record for fastest average speed: 15.4 mph, counting time off the bike.