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.
Winter 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: winter base layers can be short sleeve or long sleeve - personal preference comes in here, but also how adaptable you require your base layer to be.
Winter base layer materials
Winter base layers may also be produced from synthetic materials; often Polypropelene, because it has great fast-dry characteristics, with good thermal properties.
Another great material for winter base layers is Merino wool. This material has a number of great natural attributes:
- The ultra-fine yarns of merino wool mean it is super soft, and super stretchy (far more so than normal wool).
- The fine fibres in Merino allow it to stretch and contour to your body, yet return to its original shape even after many uses.
- Unlike synthetic fabrics, Merino absorbs moisture - which means less sweat is left on your body. In doing so, the fabric also absorbs the odours from perspiration; these are then retained until the garment is washed clean. This property makes Merino wool an ideal fabric for longer hours in the saddle, and for commuting cyclists who don't want to be putting on smelly kit when they come to cycle home.
Winter base layer fit
Like summer base layers, it is vital that winter 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.
Winter base layer cut
You may want to wear your winter 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 winter base layers at Wiggle.
Designed for the harsh conditions of Flanders in February or base building rides in the coldest conditions, Castelli's Flanders Warm Long Sleeve Base Layer is an essential addition to your winter riding kit. High loft fleece on the inside provides warmth while the softness and excellent moisture management from the multi-denier fabric offers a comforting fit. The integrated neck warmer keeps the cold from creeping in.
The Women's Prosecco R long sleeve base 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 worn under a winter jacket when training sessions are more intense.
Craft's Active Extreme 2.0 CN Long Sleeve Base Layer has allowed devoted athletes to pursue their optimum performance in fair and cold conditions. The double-layer fabric featuring CoolMax Air provides excellent thermoregulation while an ergonomic fit and mesh-panels ensure total freedom of movement and excellent ventilation.
Summer cycling base layers
The most important factors to consider for your summer cycling base layers are:
- Material: you want a fabric that will wick moisture away from your skin, leaving you cool and dry.
- Fit: you want a summer base layer to be close fitting, so it doesn't clump underneath tight summer riding kit, and so it sits close to your skin.
- Cut: summer base layers come in short-sleeved and sleeveless options. What will be best for you, depends on the riding conditions and your other riding kit.
Summer base layer materials
Summer base layers are normally made of synthetic materials because of their excellent stretch properties. Along with providing a good fit, they are resistant to shrinking with continued use and highly effective at wicking away moisture.
Look out for fast dry fabrics such as CoolMax, CoolMesh, ThermoCool and DriFit; these will ensure sweat is quickly moved away from the body, keeping you cool and comfortable.
Many modern polyester fabrics also use odour reducing technology such as Microban and Polygiene. These anti-microbial finishes stop odour building up in the base layer, even with heavy perspiration, making them more pleasant when in use for long days in the saddle.
Summer base layer fit
The great stretch properties of modern synthetic materials mean base layers can fit like a second skin. Indeed it's important they do to provide the best moisture management.
Use our detailed size guides on each base layer product page, to ensure you get the best fit.
Summer base layer cut
Sleeveless or short-sleeved? Summer base layers could be either.
Which one you choose depends largely on personal preference. A vest-style base layer will typically be cooler.
Summer base layers we recommend:
Here are some of the latest summer base layers available at Wiggle from top brands.
The knit construction of this open-mesh base layer allows effective ventilation and airflow between your skin and your jersey. You'll finish your ride feeling as dry and fresh as you started thanks to the superior wicking properties of the fabric.
Bring vibrant style to your sleeveless baselayers thanks to the Castelli Women’s Pro Mesh top. Perfect for chilly to mild conditions thanks to its low insulation and high breathability, this colourful option features wisp-like weight that also efficiently wicks sweat away from the body.
Forming an essential part of Craft’s 'Stay Cool' Superlight range, the Cool Mesh Base Layer gives you sweat-free performance that doesn’t break the bank. Its ergonomic fit allows complete freedom of movement in your torso, while the fabric is made from six-channel material to keep you cooler than ever before. Even better, superb moisture-wicking and an anti-odour finish ensure you feel every bit as fresh ten miles in as you did at the start.
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.