Post by Katy Beveridge
What’s amazing about these base layers is just how fast they dry. You can pelt it down
the path on the sweatiest of rides and be quite confident in the knowledge that you aren’t going to have to sit shivering in a soggy top for half an hour after your done.
Rapha’s website credits the base layer with the ability to keep you “cool in the summer and warm in the winter” and not surprisingly my Easter weekend in the West Coast of Scotland allowed me a taste of both, though admittedly much more of the latter than the former.
Setting off into the land of infamously unpredictable weather, I was quite grateful to have one of natures finest miracle materials so close to my skin. The base layer looks very thin but that’s the beauty of this wool; it has a very favourable warmth-to-weight ratio. The lightweight fibers in merino wool are hollow and help regulate body temperature by drawing sweat away from the surface of the skin. This means that it is both absorbent and breathable, but most importantly, in my case at least, it keeps you warm even if it’s wet. And being Rapha it’s not just merino wool but it’s scientifically proven the worlds very best, softest, finest and the most absorbent merino wool, obviously.
Having only one base layer to trail on a two-day ride I was given ample opportunity to test their claim to be “extremely odour resistant”. Merino wool is standard for most highend sports wear; its light and thermo-regulating, and being a natural fabric performs over and above any synthetic cheaper alternative.
It also has natural antibacterial properties, which is what make’s it so resistant to that sweaty sportswear smell, a testimony that I, and my rather unwilling fellow smeller, can whole-heartedly testify to be true. Saying they’re “extremely odour resistant” turned out to be somewhat of an understatement: withstanding not only the ride but also the train journey back crammed under my socks and shoes this extraordinary fabric retained not even a hint of a whiff. For that alone I give it big points.
On a practical note this is something that makes the base layer particularly handy for commuters as it can be worn under clothes or as a change and won’t make you smell too anti-social if your rushing to get into the office.
One thing I was made very aware of during the course of my journey is that the label is at the front of the shirt, now this is a feature most cyclist wouldn’t pass comment on as it’s pretty standard for a base layer, however the same does not apply for non-cyclists. Almost every shop I stopped in seemed to feature some friendly Scottish shop owner who took it upon themselves to kindly inform me my shirt was on back-to-front. #grinandbearit
Really I’d say the only drawback with the merino base layer is the look of it. Unlike the Rapha Softshell Ladies jacket, which I previously reviewed, the base layer does not cut such a flattering figure. It’s practical, it’s comfortable and it’s durable, and it can be rolled up into a ball the size of your fist, which is all great for traveling, but it’s just not particularly flattering. I know it’s not the most important part for a practical garment, but it’s Rapha, and one thing they’re meant to do better than anyone else is make practical things look good. Potentially, I believe the black version may be more appealing and therefore people should consider that instead.
In terms of durability it holds up well on a regular wash, you can pop it in the machine at 40°C without risk of shrinking. The material holds it’s shape well and having run it through the machine a good few times now it look no worse for ware. Featuring some pretty heavy duty reinforced stitching along all seams and a nicely lined collar I feel confident that it’ll have a lifespan long enough to justify it’s rather handsome £50 asking price.
By way of cycling essentials this base layer has quietly secured it’s place very near the top of my ever-expanding list. It’s often easy to skimp on the smaller things in favour of bigger buys but it really is the kind of top you’d use every ride. Just make sure you have something else to put over it and your good to go.