Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pactimo Knee Warmer Product Review

Post Soggy-Race Photo 
I’ve been putting various items of Pactimo clothing to the test of late.  I use it and abuse it and as soon as I form a solid opinion I post a review.  I have formed an opinion on their Pactimo–branded knee warmers. Stand back.

If there is any piece of clothing that has frustrated me over the years it has been knee warmers.  I would study reviews and marketing propaganda and then make a purchase full of hope and optimism only to be let down time and time again.

After accumulating more knee warmers than I want to admit to owning, I had resigned myself to accept compromise and tradeoffs.   The Nanoflex knee warmers are really good in the rain, but the fabric is so slippery that the hem of my bibs slips on the fabric and the legs ride up.  I don’t want to be tugging at my clothing during a race, so that limited their usefulness.   I have some Hincapie knee warmers that stay in place just fine, but they bunch up behind the knee so my skin is raw after a long ride.  I had others that didn’t even stay up so they end up tied in a knot in the back of the drawer awaiting a bike clothing drive.  I tried some reassuringly expensive Assos knee warmers that were so bad at staying up I returned them.   Some Pearl Izumi leg warmers suffered the same fate. 

When I opened the Pactimo knee warmers I wondered if Pactimo had any idea they were picking a fight with the knee warmer snob of Washington State. “Good luck Pactimo, you’re going to need it“ I said to myself. 

First impressions were positive.  These were not just bland fabric tubes. Good start. They had multiple panels and flat seams, and based on logo placement, I could identify a specific right and left. Okay so far.  My jaded experience kept my optimism in check.

Unlike other knee warmers, Pactimo puts their logo on the back.  After a moment or two of wondering what they were thinking, I figured it out. When I ride or race I see other cyclists from the side and behind.  Whatever logo is on their front isn’t seen unless we are standing around before or after the ride.  Granted logo placement is self serving for the brand, but it does show me they understand how cyclists work. I allowed myself the faintest glimmer of hope.

It won’t matter how pretty these are if they are stuck in my drawer; and unless they can perform on the bike, that is where they will end up.

Here is what I have settled on for knee warmer criteria:
(You get the benefit of my years of knee warmer frustrations - So don’t mock me!)

They have to stay put.  No sliding down or they are cut from the team. Failing to stay up is a deal breaker.
They can’t feel tight. If you think this contradicts the requirement to stay in place you aren’t greedy enough.  I don’t want them to cut me at the hem (mid calf) or at the knee or the top (somewhere on the thigh).  I want them to keep me warm while letting me forget they are there.  I want it all.
They must work with my clothing.  I don’t want to be pulling my bib legs up or down or pulling the knee warmer up through my bibs.  If I am wearing them under rain pants I don’t want the friction with the rain pant to wear off any aspect of the miracle fabric. 
They must fit in a pocket if it warms up significantly.  I have some knee warmers that have the bulk of a small jersey when they come off so I can only wear them if I am confident I won’t be taking them off.
They must be Comfortable. I don’t want any chafing at the back of my knee. I do want a big temperature range so I can leave them on unless it gets way hot.  I want the fabric to feel cozy going on and have enough loft to provide warmth. I don’t want any seams that chafe me and if the elastic on the hem pulls on my legs hair I won’t be happy.
They need to be durable.  I ride every week of the year and wear my stuff out.  I need to be able to wear it and wash it (gentle cycle, no hot water, hang dry) time and again.  I don’t like seams that fail or fray or fabric that fades or gets stretched out.

No knee warmers I had ever tried managed to hit all of these criteria.   Because I ride and race in various conditions I have amassed an assortment of knee warmers and I use one pair for racing, another pair for rain, another if it is a long ride…….you get the idea.

Blah, blah, blah, what happened when I used them?

The Pactimo knee warmers feel good against your skin.  They stay in place at the top and at the bottom. My bibs don’t wander when I wear these knee warmers.  They wash and wear well.  They seemed to disappear on my legs. The fit is perfect, not tight or loose.  No bunching at the back of the knee. 
If you are invisible, this is exactly what you would look like..
I rode in them again.  I wore them in the rain.   I wore them in the wind.  I wore them on a ride just above freezing.  I wore them on a ride in the fifties.   I haven’t used any other knee warmers since I started using these.

A recent ride turned into the perfect multifaceted acid test for knee warmers.  After getting dressed we rolled out and encountered clouds, sun, wind and some rain.  We climbed hard and soft pedaled later. We rode on pavement and gravel roads.  We got off the bikes during which time I stood, sat and walked around. Another hour of riding and the knee warmers had no slippage, no bunching and no adjusting of anything at any time on or off the bike. I was comfortable and not only did I never think of taking them off, I forgot they were even on. 

After the ride they sprang back into shape and were ready to go again. No stink and no stretching.  They breathe well so they aren’t even damp unless it is raining.

After writing this I wondered if my experiences thus far had been a fluke, or maybe it had all been a dream. I kept the write up as a draft and waited a few more days until I could wear them this week bike commuting.  In the morning I would hit temperatures around forty and it would be in the mid fifties on my ride home. 

They did well.  Then I raced in them in epic Belgian conditions.   Heavy, unrelenting rain and wind and an angry peloton made for a hard, hard day.  My knees were happy start to finish. 

I believe my search for the Holy Grail of knee warmers has ended.  Once again they stayed in place without binding or bunching. Knees were happy. 

You can maintain a quiver of knee warmers and select your weapon depending on the circumstances you expect to encounter, or you can have one pair that does it all.  Look for my other knee warmers on eBay sometime soon.

You can buy them here !

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