A great baselayer is a vital bit of kit to have in your cycling wardrobe, especially for chilly autumn and winter rides. The best baselayers trap a thin layer of warm air against your body but also let the body breath so things don't get too clammy. The weave of the material should actively wick sweat away from your skin, passing it through the fabric to the next layer, which should also be breathable and moisture wicking. Keeping your first layer of clothing dry ensures that no heat is drawn away from your body by pools of cold sweat. The overall benefit of baselayers can be seen in both warm and cold conditions, this is called thermo-regulation, your body is kept at an optimal temperature regardless of external conditions.
These baselayers have all been tested extensively both on-road and off, in all seasons and in all weather conditions to get down to the nitty gritty of where they succeed and where they fail.
To read reviews of similarly high performing mid and top layers visit our gear review pages.
Alpkit Kepler Velo LS | £49
The Velo is made from beautifully soft New Zealand merino wool with a long front zip, gripper elastic at the hem and a small zipped pocket big enough for keys or a phone. Add to that a long zip complimenting the high collar and it becomes very easy to moderate temperature on the move. Gripper elastic at the rear hem prevents it riding up and there is a small zipped pocket. Even after a few days on extended overnight trips it still didn't smell – making it a go-to jersey for bivvying or bike packing. A women's specific fit is also available…
Every now and again you come across a garment you just can’t ride without once discovered. For us this is it.
+ Supremely comfortable at a great price
– The soft fabric will need looking after
Altura Dry Mesh SL | £40
Altura Dry, an open weave ‘tubular knit’ fabric (no, not a string vest!), is built to remove moisture from the skin and is combined with a ‘body mapped’ close fit for maximum effect. We find using it under a standard road cycling shirt works best – wicking sweat and increasing the cooling effect. At no point, no matter how warm it got, have we wished we could stop and remove it. When the weather cools we find it actually helps too. Coming out of a cafe into a cool evening, for example, we have found it to be a great help at retaining heat.
At £40 it may seem a lot of cash for a thin shirt, but this is actually a versatile bit of kit for staying warm or cool.
+ A versatile baselayer that can cool or warm
– Looks like a string vest – but then it isn’t
Endura W BaaBaa L/S | £43
Endura's BaaBaa Merino baselayer is created from 100% pure mercerised merino – a process which creates a silky, almost cashmere like feel.
Straight out of its very smart packaging it's a pleasure to pull on. Positively luxurious in fact. With every seam flatlocked and a fit that offers a perfect compromise between tightly fitted performance and roomy for everyday cycling, it barely registers as being on. Pressed into action it's an ideal spring or autumn weight, backing up a long sleeve jersey on cooler rides, yet smart enough to be worn on its own.
A warm and cosy insulation layer, which stays comfortable even when damp and shrugs off multi-day riding pongs.
+ Wonderfully comfortable and warm
– Can saturate with moisture when working
Craft Cool Mesh Superlight SL | £28
The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight is an airy light, sleeveless open weave mesh layer designed for wearing under a thin jersey in warm weather.
At 60g for our large it barely troubles the digital scales, and yet it certainly has an effect.
Under a light road shirt it removes the whole ‘sticky jersey’ feel when working out hard, just keeping a layer of air virtually undetectable between our skin and the polyester garment.
The Superlight is an excellent addition to your summer wardrobe, banishing hot sweaty rides.
+ It really does help sweat evaporate faster
– You wouldn’t want to wear it in public…
Helly Hansen Women’s HH Warm Ice Crew | £55
Helly Hansen have taken the Warm Ice Crew and given it a thorough makeover, offering it in ten colours and patterns. The inner face of the 2-layer fabric is Helly’s well known and proven Lifa polyester, while the outer is merino wool.
We found it a superbly warm and cosy base layer under windproof layers, and milder spring and autumn outings under a thin jersey. The fit is close without being oppressively so.
With high performance, decent price and good looks it ticked all our normal baselayer boxes and added a few more.
+ Great to see someone jazz up the baselayer
– A pricey option
Gore Bike Wear Baselayer Windstopper Shirt | £50
The Baselayer Windstopper is a baselayer with a twist. The entire front is Windstopper fabric, turning to mesh over the back and under the arms. On the bike this combination of windproof and extremely breathable fabric works superbly, keeping icy wind from the chest and, for such a light and unassuming garment, adding massively to weather protection on the move. As expected from Gore Bike Wear kit, the fit is superb.
A cracking piece of kit unlike any other baselayer. Not for the heat of summer, when we welcome a cooling breeze…
+ The Windstopper element does what it says
– Not quite as comfortable as a soft Merino