Dressing to stay warm on a winter ride starts from the layer closest to your skin. A base layer is worn under a jersey and is used to keep sweat away from your skin (wicking) and to trap a cosy insulating layer of air to keep you warm.
You want a base layer that you barely notice – something that is tight to keep the air in, but not so much so that you feel restricted. The right layer for you will also depend upon the sort of riding you’re doing – if you intend to work quite hard, wicking is most important, if you’ll be going at a more amiable pace, think about warmth.
Here are a few of the most popular versions out there:
The Baa Baa baselayer will make you warm like a sheep without adding a woolly bulk. This is still a light layer, but it’s designed to keep you super warm, using Merino wool, which is one of the snuggest yet most effective sweat wicking fabrics around.
The added bonus of Merino wool is that it doesn’t accumulate any unwanted odours, so you can wear this one repeatedly before it will need a wash. It is, however, machine washable so you have no excuse for never giving it a clean.
Seams are flat locked to prevent rubbing, and the athletic fit might take getting used to if you aren’t accustomed to wearing skin tight material, but this will ensure you are insulated and the stretch in the fabric will keep you breathing easy.
This one got 4.5/5 from Evans Cycles customers, and 5/5 from BikeRadar who called it a “great performing, quality lightweight Merino base layer.”
You can read more about Merino tops for cycling in our blog post.
I’ve had one of these for over a year and it’s a versatile base layer that keeps me warm but doesn’t cause me to overheat. Helly Hansen use what they call LIFA stay dry fabric, which they claim retains 40 times more moisture than conventional fabrics, which is great as they also state that your body looses hear 25 times faster when it’s wet.
The cut is close fit, and clings to your body, and the fabric is stretchy and incredibly soft making it un-restrictive.
The Helly has 4.5/5 stars based on customers reviews on Evans Cycles, Chain Reaction and 5/5 on Wiggle – so we can;t really fault it.
I’ve included this for people who, like me, are sweaty bods that get warm at the sight of a hill. Compression clothing is designed to enhance muscles, supporting them and aiding recovery, minimising post training fatigue. Compression baselayers sit close to the skin and regulate your body temperature, retaining a layer of air to keep you warm without allow overheating, whilst also wicking sweat.
This one from 2XU has 4.5/5 based in Wiggle’s customer reviews, and I’ve been wearing a similar piece from 2XU for a year or so. The 2XU layer fits very tightly, and is incredibly stretchy – it’s good for a training ride, but I wouldn’t consider it a good choice if you don’t plan on getting hot and bothered.
The 2XU version isn’t cheap – but this Under Armour version has 4.6/5 and will set you back just £19.80. I haven’t worn it, so I can’t recommend it – but customer comments included remarks such as: “Excellent at keeping me warm whilst pulling sweat away from the body and keeping me dry” and “top level base layer as you would expect from Under Armour.”
If you’re still feeling chilly – here’s our round up of cycling kit to keep you warm.
Do you have a favourite base layer?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.