Base layers are the base of any layering system - they are designed to sit next to the skin and wick moisture away from your body; they do this by absorbing moisture (sweat) from the surface of your skin, then allowing it to evaporate away.
By wicking sweat away from the body, a base layer keeps you dry, comfortable, and chill free. Thermal base layers can also help to keep you warm by trapping an insulating layer of warm air around the skin.
Base layers can be made of several materials: namely synthetics (Polyester or Polypropelene) or Merino wool.
Cycling base layers also come in a huge variety of styles. From long-sleeved, with high collars for the cooler weather, to mesh sleeveless garments for the hot days.
In this Wiggle guide, we look at what you should consider when you are buying a base layer, including the fit, the materials, and the season that you are buying for.
Cold-weather cycling base layers
Important factors to consider when buying a base layer for winter use:
- Material: you want a fabric that will provide warmth and insulation.
- Fit: just like a summer base layer, a winter layer also needs to be close fitting; to ensure you're trapping a layer of insulating air between body and fabric.
- Cut: base layers for cold weather can be short sleeve or long sleeve - personal preference comes in here, but also how adaptable you require your base layer to be.
Base layer materials for cold weather
Base layers are often made from synthetic materials that have been engineered to keep you warm and dry quickly.
Another great material for winter base layers is merino wool. Merino sheep have adapted to extreme conditions in their native country Australia. Thanks to their highly specialised wool, they thrive in the hot summers and harsh winters. The same properties that help keep merino sheep happy make merino wool perfect for sportswear. Durable, soft, thermal and moisture-wicking, it's an increasingly popular choice for base layers.
Cold weather base layer fit
Like summer base layers, it is vital that cold weather base layers fit close to your body. Luckily, both synthetic materials and Merino wool have great stretch properties.
Check the unique size guide on all base layer product pages, for a tailored fit.
Cold weather base layer cut
You may want to wear your base layer underneath a protective short-sleeved jersey, with arm warmers; in this case, you'll need a short sleeve winter base layer.
However, if you're wearing your winter base layer with a jacket or long sleeve jersey, then we highly recommend a long sleeve base layer.
Longer sleeves keep warmer blood flowing to your forearms, and then onto your hands; helping to keep this vital extremity warm and protected from the chill.
Winter base layers we recommend:
Here are some of our recommendations for the best brands who offer winter cycling base layers at Wiggle.
Assos solve the age-old problem of what to wear on those days when you alternate between too hot and too cold. The SKINFOIL Spring Fall Long Sleeve Base Layer features carbon and polypropylene yarns which wick away moisture during harder efforts, then keep you warm as you back off the pace. The SKINFOIL weighs in at 11% lighter than its predecessors and has been constructed with a circular knit, eliminating the need for seams for a barely-there feel.
Designed for the harsh conditions of Flanders in February or base building rides in the coldest conditions, GripGrab's Merino Polyfibre 50/50 Long Sleeve Base Layer is an essential addition to your winter riding kit. Super-soft merino provides warmth while the excellent moisture management from the anti-odor fabric keeps you dry and cosy.
dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer provides insulation and superb sweat-wicking performance. This makes it a great all-rounder, worn under a lighter jersey to extend comfort into the first days of autumn or take the chill off spring mornings. Alternatively, layer under a winter cycling jacket when training sessions are more intense.
Endura's BaaBaa Blend Long Sleeve Base Layer has allowed devoted athletes to pursue their optimum performance in fair and cold conditions. The merino blend provides excellent thermoregulation while an ergonomic fit and the flatlock stitching ensure total freedom of movement and excellent ventilation.
To make the most of your technical cycle clothing, you really need a base layer for each season. This will maximise warmth in the winter months and excess manage moisture in the summer. Having a good base layer can significantly improve your riding comfort and enjoyment in all seasons.
The fabric you opt for will depend on your budget and what you intend to use the product for. Merino wool is normally more expensive than polyester due to the expense of sourcing the material. However, it is worth spending more if you use the layer frequently or for longer rides.
Ensure you get a base layer that fits you well. Base layers are designed to be a second skin, so close-fitting profiles are vital. Sizes vary between manufacturers so check the size guide on individual products.
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