I distinctly remember my first Muffin Leg incident. Proud of my newly purchased leg warmers – a discovery that further identified me as a ‘proper cyclist’ - I sauntered past the mirror in the changing rooms, and felt a little dismayed to see a bulge at the thigh where the leg warmers stopped.
Considering this just a horrible accident, I fiddled with the grippers on the leg warmers to try to remedy the situation but to no avail. I could roll the warmers up, down, fold the tops over – whatever I did I was still left with a clear marker where they cut into the fat on my thighs.
I have since found one pair of leg warmers that avoid this – they’re a set with a lovely wide band that stays up without cutting in. However, as far as I know they’re not in circulation any more and growing a little threadbare after years of use and abuse.
So, when X-Bionic told us about their own ‘no seam’ leg warmers with a self-adjusting cuff and that clings to the leg without chafing, digging, or slipping, I was excited. Could this be the answer to the endless search for a leg warmer that doesn’t result in a very notable crease below the short?
We Still Got Muffin Legs
When the parcel first arrived I pulled these leg warmers on with what can only be described of as Great Expectations. Since the warmers are unisex, and women on average have 10 per cent more body fat than men (deposited kindly around the bum, hips and thighs) I opted to try both the Medium and Large/XLarge warmers to make sure I gave them the best chance.
The less said of the Medium pair, the better. Being an 8-10, I’d usually opt for Small or Medium brand dependant, but these were clearly not built with me in mind. The cuff at the top was far too tight and cut each thigh in half like a sausage wearing a piece of string. That’s fine – X-Bionic take in-store care very seriously at their dealers and I do believe if I were shopping with them I’d be guided to the larger pair. It is worth bearing in mind that this doesn't leave much room for anyone much larger which is a bit restrictive.
Pulling on the Large set, my attention went first to the gripper. The warmers being Large/XLarge and thus very long, this sat just below my bum – creating more of a ‘bum shelf’ than a ‘muffin leg’ look – but a marked groove none the less.
I could roll them down to go for the mid thigh mark if I fancied..
So no – these warmers did not slay the Muffin Leg dragon – but all is not lost. The thing about this look is that it bothered me until I sat down and discussed it with my fellow female riders and observed other women around me.
Aside from those with incredibly low body fat, every female cyclist I know suffers from muffin leg from time to time. Arriving at early season races this spring, I noticed even the girls topping the most competitive start lists have a little bulge. National Champions get the leg warmer bump.
In fact, and I hope they don’t mind me drawing attention to the fact, even absolutely amazing, incredibly fast pro-cyclists get muffin leg – perhaps not immediately but once you’ve been on the bike a while and the warmers have had a chance to roll down a bit and shift, it just happens - to all of us:
I wouldn’t say that I would turn down the perfect pair of non-crease-creating warmers, but it’s certainly not a problem worth worrying over. Leg warmers are a genius invention – allowing us to jazz up summer shorts and make them last longer, and giving us a get-out-of-the-furnace option when we overdress for a ride. So, I say we all just make a collective decision to wear them anyway – un-selfconsciously.
On the scale 0f 'Muffin Leg creater' I'd place X-Bionic on the middle to low end - I've seen it done better, and I've seen it done worse, I've never seen it done perfectly (there's an idea for you if there are any fashion/design students looking for a gap in the market).
Aside from Muffin Leg
Of course the gripper is one tiny part, though a very important one, of a leg warmer. Ar £53, X-Bionic warmers are a high end option offering a vast degree of technology.
In terms of the basic principle - keeping my lower legs warm on the bike - these without a doubt did the job and I would be happy paring them with shorts even in the very depths of winter months for higher intensity rides. Made from a stretchy weave they snap to fit you body and stretch as need be.
Unlike most on the market, which offer a standard fabric thickness throughout, the 'Energy Accumulator' leg warmers provide targeted protection that caters for the specific area in question.
(NB: In case you wondered, X-Bionic take a very different approach to shorts and chamois - read more here).
Since the knee bends frequently, X-Bionic stitch in their 'Energy Accumulator' system at the joint. The tech works like an accordion - with chambers and ducts which unfold and fold with the knee. This means that the fabric isn't stretched thin, causing it to offer less warmth, and isn't restrictive either.
Yet more tech in the 'Thermal Window' means that sweat is carried away from the knee, so you don't feel a cooling when you stop. I certainly felt completely unrestricted when pedalling wearing these warmers and didn't experience any sweatiness or bunching around the knee - a pet hate that can be uncomfortable.
As well as attention at the joint, compression technology is used at the calf to provide support for those muscles that are working hard but not experiencing much movement in the cycling motion.
Compression is always difficult to review since it's hard to put a number or a scientific grading system on the support, extra power or quickened recovery offered. However, I did feel like my calfs were being lovingly cradled when wearing these - and the fit must have been close enough because on removal I found I had a series of ridges imprinted upon my legs!
I wouldn't say they achieved the gold standard of reducing 'Muffin Top', but in every other respect they did their job. These kept me warm, and offer some great touches in the lack of seams and the knee and calf support which set them apart from the competition.
Check them out here.