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Best winter cycling base layers 2022: Keep warm on the bike

Cyclist magazine
8 Mar 2021

Winter cycling base layers: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing

The humble base layer is the foundation of any comfortable outfit. More critical than ever once the temperature drops, in winter a cycling base layer should manage the indispensable task of keeping your core warm and dry.

Letting you ride on in comfort, unlike your everyday cotton t-shirt which will rapidly absorb sweat, cycling clothing tends to employ either synthetic fibres or natural Merino wool.

The result is that even when damp your baselayer will retain most of its insulating properties. Also allowing it to continue wicking away moisture, this means that pulling one on will reduce the risk of you ever feeling clammy or catching a chill.

Here are a look at eight of the best winter base layers for cycling

Best winter cycling base layers 2021

1. Castelli Flanders long sleeve base layer 

A garment named after professional cycling’s most gnarly playground, the Castelli Flanders base layer has been designed in mind of the most hostile of February days in the Flemish Ardennes.

It does that by relying on a high-loft fleeced inner material that manages to provide warmth and comfort to the skin while also quickly wicking away any sweat you produce. To prevent overheating, the armpits are mesh and the flat hem bottom means this baselayer tucks perfectly into a set of shorts or bibtights.

We are also fans of the mock turtle neck, sitting a little higher it gives you a few more centimetres of protection for your chest and neck.

Being Castelli, we would also recommend sizing up as the fit can be quite racy and ultimately you want comfort from your winter baselayer.

2. Isadore Merino base layer 

Another brand to utilise merino wool, Isadore offers a premium product that it promises can be raced in. Expected considering the brand is the brainchild of former pro brothers, Martin and Peter Velits. 

In a slimmer cut, Isadore's offering fits slightly different to most other options, being a little tighter but this doesn't subtract from comfort which is provided by the soft material. 

The little touches have also been remembered including thumb holes on the cuffs, a lower cut and unrestricted neck and the choice of five colours. Available from XS to XXL.

Read our full review here

3. Dhb Merino long sleeve base layer

Importing Merino wool fibres from Australia, this long sleeve base layer from dhb should provide good insulation for its wearer.

With a mid-weight 200gsm fabric it’s light enough to be worn through spring and autumn while thermal enough to act as a first layer in winter. Its moisture management, thermo-regulation, and odour-managing properties make this a perfect option for anybody looking for next-to-skin comfort.

Available in four colours and from small to XXL, given their low price, each represents a bargain.

4. Spatzwear Basez2 base layer

It seems to be that if you know about Spatzwear, you know. The small Yorkshire-based brand that started on a quest to make the perfect overshoe after countless sodden miles ridden through the Dales.

After conquering the overshoe, Spatz has expanded into the world of baselayers with the Basez2 which claims it will be ‘the most technically advanced base layer you’ll ever own’. 

An extended rear section protects from draft seeping through the back of your jacket, thumb loops help keep the sleeves pulled down and a high neck negates the need for a buff or snood. It’s even good enough for the current men’s road race Olympic Champion too.

Buy from Spatz for £75

5. Craft Active Extreme 2.0 CN base layer 

Hailing from Sweden, Craft knows a thing or two about keeping warm, and that’s apparent in its Active Extreme base layer.

The polyester/elastane mix used in this garment gives this a thinner feel than the others on test. Something that’s evident in the saddle, too.

This is a base layer better suited to milder autumn rides (or maybe Swedish summer ones) than ones when a southwesterly is blasting you with freezing air fresh from the Atlantic.

On warmer rides, you’d have no worries about sweat, however, as the fabric used scores highly for its wicking abilities, while its design also helps to keep body temperatures down.

Loose rather than close-fitting, its ribbed pattern keeps the material thin and stretchy while separate mesh panels around the armpits lend the garment even greater breathability. Available in black, French blue and white, in sizes S-XXL.

Buy now from Sports Shoes for £25 

6. Madison Isoler Merino long sleeve base layer

The Madison Isoler does a very good job both of insulating you against the cold while also making sure that you’re kept sweat-free, too.

It’s also very comfortable, with flat-lock stitching throughout and a fine yarn ensuring this sits on your skin without rubbing.

The cut is geared more towards comfort than the fitted style of some others on test, and there’s plenty of give in the material, too, so if you’re a little on the beefy side it won’t feel restrictive on the bike.

Dabs of reflective detailing on the sleeve, hem, chest and back complete this robust package. Available in French blue or black and sizes ranging from S to XXL.

Buy from Freewheel for £50

7. Rapha Pro Team base layer

Not much comes cheap with Rapha but that's for a reason. Extra care in manufacturing has helped it produce products that stand the test of time, just like this Pro Team baselayer, an excellent first layer for any ride in slightly colder conditions.

The fit is close making it perfectly acceptable for a fast chain gang or even racing while low-profile seams reduce on irritation, often an issue with baselayers. The high neck is good too, does away with the need for a snood.

As an added touch, Rapha has also emblazoned its baselayer with 'Trouee d'Arenberg', the five-star cobbled sector from Paris-Roubaix. Available in black, purple and green in XS to XXL.

Buy now from Rapha for £49

8. Megmeister Drynamo 

Nothing to do with Bradford-born magicians, everything to do with staying warm on the bike through winter. 

The best thing about this baselayer from Megmeister is its ability to manage your body temperature, keeping you warm enough to stave off the shivers while allowing enough heat to escape when you begin to wrench it up a climb. It also does a good job of managing moisture and doesn’t hold odours, which is always a bonus.

One point of note is that it comes up fairly big so do not be scared about buying true to size or even a size down.

Buy now from Megmeister for £65

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