Robot’s Useless Reviews – Knee Warmers

Knee warmers are a stupid piece of clothing. There. The cat’s out of the bag. We’re still in the first paragraph. We only just got the cat into the bag, hissing and scratching at us like a, uh, like a goddamned cat. Does the cat not know that we have to put it in the bag in order to let it out of the bag? What does the cat think our relationship is about for crying out loud.

(Ironically, both the cat and I cried out loud during the process of its insertion into the bag. Perhaps I ought to have used a larger bag, or a dead cat, but then the letting it out part wouldn’t have been awesome at all.)

So knee warmers. Here’s the problem they solve and a couple of better solutions for the problem, and some follow on problems with those solutions, just for good measure. Now the stupid cat is free, we have time to explore this thing.

What in Sam Hell is happening here?

Cold knees. That’s the problem. You have cold knees or potentially cold knees, because it’s cold outside, and you want to take your knees out there. I’m gonna skip right over the idea of detachable knees, because they don’t exist (yet). You have to take your knees out with you if you’re going out. What a predicament!

So you pull on knee warmers, et voila!, your problem is solved. Except what if your knees get hot? No one likes a case of the hot knees. An arm warmer can be stripped off, while riding, and stowed in a jersey pocket., the tragedy of hot arm averted. But you can’t very well strip off a pair of knee warmers while riding along at pace, or, if you can, then you’re not riding outside, because you work for the goddamned circus and it’s just not that cold under the big top. To take off a pair of knee warmers, you have to stop, push them down to your ankles, and then somehow pull them over your shoes, which is about as easy as forcing an angry cat into paper lunch bag. You probably have to sit on the ground to complete this operation, and it’s cold out. Why are you sitting on the ground?

Knickers. Knickers are the solution. Just put a pair on. They have built in knee warmers, and sure, they’re not hot-mod ready like a pair of warmers, but realistically, as I demonstrated above, taking off knee warmers isn’t really a thing sane people do anyway. So you put on a pair of knickers, and you ride your bicycle, and then you return home with nary a thought of your knees. Solved it.


You just HTFU and wear shorts. You deal with it. You ride a bike because you’re better than everyone else anyway. Why not underline the point by blithely pedaling along with blue, chafed knees? That’s what a Belgian would do. The expression we use when we bail on some terrible idea is “I got cold feet,” not “I got cold knees.” Cold knees might not actually even be a thing.

As long as we’ve invoked Belgian-ness (or Brabantitude for those of you in the know), I should mention embrocation. Some of you will know what that is. For the rest, I’ll explain. Embrocation, or “embro” once you’re cool enough to say the word aloud, probably while unironically wearing a cycling cap to your kid’s middle school orchestra recital, is a petroleum-based unguent that smells like grandparents and will blind you if you accidentally get it in your eye. You need a tub. In the above shorts-based scenario, you could, theoretically, slather your knees with embro. The final warning I will give about this particular solution is that embrocation can be harder to get off your legs than a pair of knee warmers during a town line sprint.

I should, at this point, admit that I own a pair of knee warmers. I never wear them, but I keep them. Why? Because they’re dumb and absurd, and if anything marks me out as a passionate cyclist, it’s my keen embrace of absurdity and willful stupidity. For that reason, I give knee warmers and their supporters high marks. I don’t really expect anyone to HTFU. I’m certainly not going to.

Join the conversation
  1. bluezurich says

    I own both. I have had more experiences with wishing I had worn the warmers while in knickers than the reverse. True, the knee warmer ride when warmed up is a bulky one in the back pocket area…joining the arm warmers, vest, cap, long fingered gloves etc in space already taken up with phone wallet and food. The days the temp swings 20+ degrees on a ride is when I probably need one of those goofy gravel bags to keep my discarded bits for the 2nd half.

  2. TominAlbany says

    So, I can remove and fold/pocket my knee warmers. I read an article somewhere about the ‘simplest’ technique. And, while I’m not ‘at speed’ while doing so, I am moving. As for knickers, I’ve never owned them. A single set of knee warmers is much less expensive than buying multiple sets of lycra pedal-pushers. YMMV

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Tom, I can readily accept that you are a better cyclist than I am. I once crashed while eating a sandwich, and it wasn’t even a good sandwich. Robot

    2. TominAlbany says

      Robot, I make no such claim. In fact, I may be a stupider cyclist than you for even trying!!!

  3. southcarolinamtb says

    You are wrong about knee warmers. There, another cat out of the bag. Will they fight, or will they hang out together and look for trouble? They don’t even know (they are cats.).
    In the southeast and in central europe, knee warmers are invaluable. Weather changes, elevation changes, especially on long rides. Knickers are great and are sometimes a better option, but warmers extend your options plenty.
    I didn’t think you were a CA person riding in sunshine all the time. Whats up?

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      The truth is, and this is part of the reason for the name Robot, I don’t feel cold. Really. I mean I can feel it on my skin, the sensation of coldness, but I very rarely feel any discomfort from it. So I don’t require knee warmers or any knee covering really unless it’s below freezing, and then I probably just pull on some tights.

      I’m comfortable being wrong about knee warmers. In fact, being wrong is very comfortable for me. I’m used to it, you might say.

  4. Rick says

    I keep rereading this piece wondering if it’s all just a convoluted pun on Belgian Knee Warmers, a term that will be familiar to longtime Padraig fans.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Rick, the convoluted part seems spot on. Any resemblance to cleverness however, is only incidental.

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