Review: Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves (White); Headsweats Spin Cap revisited
This afternoon, with sixteen miles or so to ride in the sun-baked July heat, I decided to try out the white Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves that I ordered in anticipation of the Boston-Munfordville-Boston century (during which they remained neatly tucked in my bar bag).
I figured that, at worst, they’d annoy the fire out of me and I’d skin ’em off en route like I do with my arm warmers in the spring. At best, they’d offer the ideal combination of sun protection and cooling.
The reviewers who liked them best all said essentially the same thing: if it’s going to be hot — like, 80F+ — douse them in water. Thus, dutifully, I applied my fresh, white armskins inside and took the hose to them outside.
The cooling effect, believe it or not, was both immediate and pronounced.
Standing in the shadow of the house, my arms actually felt chilled. While riding, I’m not going to say that my arms were cold — but they remained quite comfortably cool as I banged out a reasonably-fast 8.3 miles in 93F heat with a heat index of around 100F.
This is certainly the kind of heat that can become uncomfortable. Coupled with the humidity, it can be quite uncomfortable indeed. With the IP arm-coolers on, it was actually very tolerable — even comfortable — so much so that I found myself wishing for an entire summer riding wardrobe made from this miraculous cooling fabric.
As the armskins dried, the cooling effect diminished somewhat, but my arms still remained cooler than they would have been without. Moreover, the armskins kept the sun at bay — a great bonus right there. I did apply sunblock before I decided to ride with them, but I’m pretty sure I could have left it off. After my therapy appointment was over, I re-soaked my sleeves and rode home in even hotter weather. PI’s Sun Sleeves continued to do their job. Awesome!
One note: usually, I think it’s ridiculous that armskins are labeled “left” and “right,” since normally they’re just basically tubes of fabric. The Sun Sleeves actually employ a different texture on their inner surfaces — a sort of dimpled effect that I suspect is designed to afford better evaporation near large veins close to the surface, thus improving the cooling effect. Thus, in this case, it’s probably worth paying attention to the “left” and “right” labels when donning your armskins.
In related news, since it was blistering hot and I know myself well enough to know that I was not going to really take it easy on this particular ride (I ride this route all the time and it involves one of my favorite flats and a “testing tree” climb), I figured it would be a good time to see how Headsweats’ “Spin” cycling cap held up under demanding heat. I gave it the same treatment the armskins received, soaking it thoroughly (though I soaked it in the sink instead of putting it on and soaking it under the hose).
I’m pleased to report that it performed admirably (once the bill stopped dripping); my head stayed cool and comfortable under my primary helmet (which is well ventilated). I fully expected to take the cap off halfway through the ride or less, so this was a nice surprise.
The only flaw in the cap’s design is the same one I complained about before — its bill is quite long. This proved pretty annoying on stretches with a lot of stop lights and/or traffic. I was finally able to adjust the bill so I didn’t feel quite so much like I was straining my neck to peer out from under it, but I also found myself contemplating whether I might be able to trim the bill down.
For what it’s worth, the bill would be a non-issue on a more-upright bike: in fact, when I find the perfect road-bike cap, this one will probably find itself relegated to Tricross and MTB duty, where it will perform admirably, I’m sure. (Sidebar: since I swapped out the Tricross’ seatpost for a zero-offset model, its riding position on the hoods is much more upright — which is fine by me, since I can still get down in the drops and get my aero on. For races, though, I will probably scoot the saddle back a smidge.)
Pearl Izumis’ Sun Sleeves are worth the purchase price, especially if you frequently ride in the hot sun.
Soak them with water, and if you’re going to be out for a long ride in the head, consider bringing extra water to re-soak them (it actually doesn’t take much; I dribbled a little water from my bottle on them en route home). The water you use to soak the armskins doesn’t even have to be cold; the stuff from my hose was, in fact, quite warm indeed.
Fit is spot on for cyclists; I ordered a Medium pair for my increasingly-scrawny and climber-esque arms and they’re perfect.
Headsweats’ “Spin” cycling cap is also pretty darned great. Like the IP Sun Sleeves, it does a fantastic job keeping you cool on hot rides if you douse it with water.
The bill is a bit long to be entirely perfect on any bike that puts you in an aggressive position. For relaxed bikes, touring, and commuting, however, that same long bill offers exceptionally good rain protection, so it’s well worth the price for those purposes.
Full disclosure: I am nobody special and paid full price for both these products. That said, I would do it again! YOU’LL HAVE TO PRY THEM FROM MY COLD (AND I MEAN COLD!) DEAD ARMS!
What came over me just now?