I have always used knee or leg warmers with cycling shorts rather than knickers. In my western Colorado home where daily temperatures can range 30F degrees (17C), it makes sense to start a ride in warmers that can be peeled off later. Why wear knickers that are comfortable early but too hot as the sun rises higher?
But as I write this I’m in the midst of a 3-month sojourn to Seattle, where the daily temperature range is much less. Now I’m sold on the virtues of knickers.
Why are they better than knee warmers? Knickers can’t slide down as you ride, so your hinges remain toasty. They can’t get lost, but one or both warmers can slip out of your jersey pocket, or you could misplace one during a road trip. And knickers don’t have an elastic gripper around the upper thigh that can irritate skin.
Early in my trip to the “Great Northwet,” I bought 2 pairs of Specialized BG Pro RBX knickers and have worn them almost exclusively for 6 weeks. For my 5-foot-10, 155-pound (70.5 kg) body, the fit of the size medium is excellent.
The bibs have straps the right length — they don’t sag (too long) or give me a snuggy (too short). The fit is firm around my quads and hips so the chamois stays in place. Silicone gripper bands hold the legs securely and comfortably just below my knees.
Even when the temperature has risen above 60F (15C) the knickers weren’t too hot. And they kept me comfortable when the mercury dipped into the high 30s (4C). Unlike versions made of uniformly thin material, the BG Pro RBX has fleecy Fieldsensor fabric in front for warmth. A thinner material in back adds ventilation to help them handle a wide temperature range.
Wonderful When Wet
In the rain (a Seattle tradition) these knickers stayed firmly in place, unlike warmers that can sag and slide when weighted down with water.
I was concerned that the lack of covering over my lower legs would be uncomfortable in cold rain. But I never got freezing shins, even when caught in a memorable sleet storm. I theorize that tights soak through immediately and the wet material clings to skin, keeping it cold even after the rain stops. With no covering, skin gets wet but dries quickly.
The BG Pro RBX chamois pad is thick enough for comfort but doesn’t bunch and cause irritation. It’s properly located with the maximum pad thickness between my sit bones and the saddle. The pad fabric is smooth so it doesn’t chafe.
Some pads feel good out of the package but when chamois lube is applied, the individual strands of microfleece clump together and abrade tender skin. But when I put Chamois Butt”r on the Specialized pad it produced a slick, non-irritating surface.
Quick to Dry
The Fieldsensor fabric dries fast. On rides that began in rain and ended in what the locals call “sun breaks,” the knickers got soaked but dried 10 minutes after the rain stopped. This feature makes washing the knickers easy during a trip. Hand wash, then simply drape them over the bike in the motel room and even the chamois will be dry by morning.
Fieldsensor is durable too. My knickers show no signs of wear after each pair has been ridden in for more than 35 hours. They’ve been machine washed and dried about a dozen times each.
I have only 2 complaints
First, BG Pro RBX knickers are expensive (even the basic BG Comp version costs $120). I haven’t adjusted to shelling out $100 for a piece of cycling clothing. Nearly 2 bills seems astronomical. But the price doesn’t seem out of line compared to other companies’ offerings. And these knickers are versatile, providing double duty in winter — I plan to wear them under chamois-less tights for an extra layer of knee protection.
Second, the legs are somewhat short, extending only to just below my knees. I prefer this fit but other riders, who like knickers or warmers to go about a third of the way down the calf, may not.
Specialized’s BG Pro RBX knickers are expensive but they fit well, wear well and have proven to be perfect for riding in cool, wet conditions. If you have always used knee warmers, They’re definitely worth considering.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.