There are few things more important in a cyclist’s wardrobe than the humble base layer, particularly during the autumn and winter.
This understated bit of fabric will help to keep you warm and move sweat away from your skin. However, there’s a fair amount of choice out there, including some that are designed to keep you cool in summer, some that are made from synthetic fibres and some that are made from Merino wool.
Whilst there is a lot of choice out there, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Synthetic materials such as polyester will keep you warm and wick away sweat, but they can hang onto that sweat and start to pong quite quickly, especially as they get older and much of the deodorising treatment has been washed away. This does mean that you’ll need to wash them after one ride, or one day of commuting. However, they are often quite cheap with some retailers starting them at around £10.
One thing to watch out for with the synthetic layers are that some you’ll find on the racks at the moment are summer ones designed to keep you cool. As we head into autumn and winter, that might not be such a good idea…
Merino wool base layers are excellent at both wicking water away and repelling water from outside. They’re also naturally odour-resistant, so whilst they can be more expensive you may only need one or two of them to get you through a week of commuting. Plus, if you are on a multi-day ride with wild camping and no laundry facilities your chums will certainly appreciate the natural odour-resistance.
What, where & how…
We’re recent converts to Merino and have been shopping around for well-priced base layers, socks, gloves and pretty much anything else we can get our hands on. However, we also have an extensive collection of synthetic layers from last year.
Pretty much every sport shop will carry a range of synthetic base layers from the usually suspects –Under Armour, Nike, Puma etc, but the Merino layers are a little harder to find.
At the time of writing, Mountain Warehouse has their Merino base layers reduced to £25 and they have a number of stores around Cardiff, including on Castle Street, in Morganstown and in Ty Glas Retail Park.
Wiggle also has a number of base layers for around £35 as part of the DHB range, but it is worth shopping around. Ladies may wish to note that there is a Blacks store in the Cardiff Bay retail park selling Merino base layers for £15, but sadly no gents versions when we went looking.
It’s also worth noting that many Merino base layers will be a mixture of Merino and Polyester. The DHB “37.5” layer we’ve been testing is 65% Merino, 35% Polyester. Their M200 layer is 100% Merino. The Mountain Warehouse base layer we mentioned earlier is 80% Merino. It’s worth bearing that in mind.
Polyester will be quicker to dry, but not so good at keeping you warm in the wet or keeping odours at bay. A pure Merino layer should be ideal for multi-day rides where constant rain is expected, but theoretically a mix would be good for more changeable conditions where it’ll dry out more quickly.