Base layers to keep you warm this winter

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 Endura Baa Baa Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer and womens fit version – £39.99

Women's Endura Baa Baa

Women’s Endura Baa Baa

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.

Helly Hansen Stripe Crew Dry Base Layer – £19.99 – from £29.99

Helly Hansen's stripe crew dry layer

Helly Hansen’s stripe crew dry layer

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.

2XU Compression top – mens (£48) and womens (£33)

2XU compression baselayer

2XU compression baselayer

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.”

The Under Armour HearGear compression baselayer

The Under Armour HearGear compression baselayer

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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8 Responses to Base layers to keep you warm this winter

  1. JB 15/11/2013 at 10:21 am #

    I can thoroughly recommend the Under Armour EVO Coldgear Mock Neck Compression base layer. RRP is £40 but you can pick it up online in various places for £30. Its in a different class to the Helly Hansen striped crew base layer which I’ve used for the last two years.

  2. Shut Up Legs!! 15/11/2013 at 10:27 am #

    Rapha merino base layers are the business.

    Thigh you only really need to wear them if you’re a proper cyclist that does long mileage on weekends – 40+. Not for all the fairies that commute 6 odd miles to work each morning as the price is a bit unjustifiable.

    Also Gore bike wear base layers are good too at about £50 each.

  3. Tripod 15/11/2013 at 10:52 am #

    I, personally, recommend the Baa Baa.
    Ideal for commuting and/or long rides.
    It doesn’t ‘pong’ like man-made materials do, so you don’t absolutely stink at the café after laying the hammer on your mates.
    And it is wool, keeping you dry and warm!

  4. JimF 15/11/2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Agree with Shut Up Legs about rapha base layers being the business and Tripod’s point about merino wool not smelling. The stuff is brilliant. Disagree with Shut Up Legs as a 6 mile commuter though for three reasons.

    Value – they may be expensive but they’ve outlasted other cheaper base layers I’ve bought (skiing brands like North Face) .

    Other uses – I swear by them for other sports too and use mine for football (11 a side Sunday League and 7 a side friends game on astro), skiing and running.

    Indulgence – every time I commute I save £8. If by having nice gear I commute in more questionable conditions, I still save that money. It’s better for my health, it helps make the marginal decisions more likely to cycle rather than drive/get the train, so I indulge myself regularly when it comes to cycling gear. It’s good motivation. If I commute every day that is £80 saved. The odd £40 base layer won’t kill me.


  5. Cas Burke 15/11/2013 at 1:08 pm #

    When they have them in stock, Lidl do some great compression tops for about a tenner.
    And Uni-qlo’s HeatTech range are terrific base layers / thermals for on or off your bike, all for about 12 quid.

  6. Paul 15/11/2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Can anyone recommend which type would allow an outer shirt to keep reasonably dry when the base layer is wicking away the sweat? I need to be able to arrive at the office ready to go into meetings, and can’t take a folded shirt to change into as it would be too creased.

  7. Paul B. 16/11/2013 at 8:34 am #

    Don’t bother with all this speciality cycling gear. Marks & Spencer do an excellent merino wool thermal top – long or short sleeve – £19. It’s long enough to keep the kidneys warm and has all the benefits of merino. Big plus, it actually fits the larger figure – think rugby flanker build – unlike Rapha which is nowhere near big enough in any direction.

  8. Paul 18/11/2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks Paul B, I’ll go and have a look.

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