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Winter cycling base layers are designed to keep you warm and comfortable by wicking away moisture and keeping the skin dry. This is why a good base layer is such an important element of winter cycling clothing.
In this article, we have put together a list of the best winter cycling base layers for men. Our shortlist includes various options that are suitable for different budgets, temperatures, and use cases.
We have also answered frequently asked questions about winter cycling base layers to help you decide which one is right for you, but feel free to ask questions and leave comments down below.
Quick Overview of Our 5 Best Winter Cycling Base Layers
Best Premium Base Layer
Rapha's Pro Team Thermal
Best Budget Base Layer
Helly-Hansen HH Dry Stripe
Best Value for Money Base Layer
Endura BaaBaa Blend
Best Merino Wool Base Layer
Icebreaker Merino 175 Everyday
Best Short Sleeve Base Layer
Craft Active Extreme X
Important considerations winter cycling base layer choice:
Long-sleeve base layers are generally preferred in winter since they are warmer and provide more coverage, while short-sleeve versions are better for summer or spring months. However, if the winter is relatively mild, you can get away with some short-sleeve base layers.
The two most popular base layer fabrics are merino wool and synthetic. Merino wool is a natural fabric that is very warm, comfortable, feels pleasant against the skin, and has natural antibacterial properties (it does not need to be washed after every ride, which can be crucial on a multi-day adventure). The synthetic fabric is usually cheaper, more durable, lighter, and dries faster than merino wool. Generally, the higher the price, the better fabric quality you get (both merino wool & synthetic). We also discuss the differences between these fabrics in the frequently asked questions section in case you need help choosing the right fabric for your needs.
The best base layers are pretty close-fitting but should not cause any discomfort. Ideally, look for a pleasant, second-skin fit and feel.
Some base layers offer neck warmers that can be used as a face covering. Also, it’s better to find a base layer with minimum seams & zippers. Last, but not least, think about your riding conditions (mostly temperature) when shopping for winter cycling base layers.
Our Pick of 10 Best Winter Cycling Base Layers
Endura BaaBaa Blend Long Sleeve Base Layer
Endura is a well-known brand in cycling, and they have produced yet another fantastic product – Endura BaaBaa Blend Long Sleeve Base Layer.
The combination of wool and lyocell offers the perfect weight to warmth ratio. The fabric is also very comfortable to wear and has excellent odor management properties (you can wear this base layer several times before you need to wash it).
Keep in mind that this base layer is ideal for colder days and might be too warm when temperatures reach 10°C / 50°F.
Overall, it was hard to spot any downsides and Endura’s BaaBaa Blend base layer is a great value for money choice.
Rapha's Pro Team Thermal Base Layer
Rapha’s Pro Team Thermal Base Layer is perhaps the best winter cycling base layer on this list. It is ideal for high-intensity winter riding and racing on the coldest days.
The high-quality fabric offers great moisture management and keeps the rider dry and warm regardless of intensity level and even when temperatures reach freezing.
It also comes with a high snood that will keep your neck and face warm and protected from the wind. Last but not least, we definitely think that this base layer is stylish looking and will make you stand out from the crowd!
The only downside is that it is pretty expensive, as is often with a premium brand like Rapha.
Craft Active Extreme X CN Short-Sleeve Base Layer
Craft Active Extreme X CN Short-Sleeve Base Layer is ideal for those cold but not yet freezing days when you still don’t need a long-sleeve base layer.
It is made of 100% polyester fabric which feels comfortable against the skin and has excellent wicking properties to keep you dry and warm. It is also very breathable.
Another great thing about this base layer is that it features a form-fitting cut and stylish look, which is always a plus.
Negative points? There aren’t many! The only downside we can think of is the price tag. However, Craft products are well-made, durable, and are priced accordingly.
Craft also offers a long-sleeve option in case you need that extra warmth.
Castelli Flanders Warm Rosso Corsa Base Layer
Castelli Flanders High Collar Base Layer is an excellent piece of winter cycling clothing for staying very warm on the cold winter days.
The fabric is very warm, breathable but at the same time very light and non-bulky. This is why the recommended temperature range for this base layer is -8°-6°C / 18°-43°F. On warmer days, you can really overheat in this base layer.
Also, it comes with a built-in neck warmer that will keep your throat and face protected from the chilly wind.
The only downside about Castelli’s Flanders base layer is the price. Not everyone can afford around $100 for a winter base layer.
Assos Winter Long Sleeve Skin Base Layer
Anyone serious about cycling most likely heard about Assos – a well-known premium cycling brand that produces superb clothing. Their Winter Long Sleeve Skin Base Layer is no exception.
Made of polypropylene and elastane, this base layer offers the perfect mix between warmth and breathability. It also fits close to your skin, which helps keep you warm in winter and looks fantastic.
The fabric quality is superb, feels great, and offers excellent moisture management properties.
The main downside is the price and not everyone can afford Assos products.
Under Armour ColdGear Armour Compression Base Layer
The Under Armour ColdGear Armour Compression Base Layer is a worthy contender for the best budget cycling base layer.
It is made of a warm and tight-fitting fabric that should keep you comfortable even on the coldest days. The material also has quick-drying properties (ideal for high-intensity winter cycling workouts).
The main downside is that the fabric quality isn’t as good as offered by some of the more premium options on this list, but it is significantly cheaper.
Icebreaker Merino 175 Everyday Long Sleeve Thermal Base Layer
When it comes to the best winter cycling base layers, merino wool often prevails and Icebreaker’s Merino 175 base layer is an excellent choice.
It is made of 100% soft merino wool fabric, making it very comfortable to wear against the skin. The fabric is also very breathable, and it does not smell after first usage, which is a big plus when shower is not available.
On the downside, merino wool takes longer to dry than synthetic fabric. Also, it is not as tight-fitting as some of the alternatives.
All in all, this is a very comfortable and warm choice, which you will appreciate on cold winter rides.
dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer
If you are looking for an excellent value-for-money merino wool winter base layer, then dhb’s Merino Long Sleeve one is worth considering.
Made of 100% merino wool, it feels comfortable against the skin and keeps the body warm on the coldest days. The price tag is also very appealing.
This base layer is available in multiple colors, which is always a nice bonus. The only downside is that it is not as quick-drying as synthetic fabrics, so you might feel sweat building up on warmer days or when you are pushing hard on your bike.
Helly-Hansen HH Dry Stripe Long Sleeve Base Layer
If you are looking for a budget-friendly winter cycling base layer, then Helly-Hansen HH Dry Stripe is a great choice.
It is made of 100% polypropylene fabric which is very breathable and light. This fabric also dries extremely fast, making it ideal for high-intensity workouts.
The downside to this base layer is that the fabric is not as warm when compared to some of the more expensive and premium choices on this list.
But, it is a great option for the price if you are looking for a breathable and fast-drying winter cycling base layer.
Pearl Izumi Merino Long Sleeve Baselayer
If you are looking for a premium base layer, then definitely consider the Pearl Izumi Merino Long Sleeve one.
It features a blend of 58% recycled polyester and 42% merino wool (a great combination of both worlds), making it super soft against the skin yet warm on the coldest days. This fabric is also very breathable.
In addition, you get thumb loops for added comfort when putting on a jersey or a jacket on top.
Pearl Izumi also offers a thicker thermal base layer in case you need extra warmth.
On the downside, this base layer is more expensive than some alternatives, and it does not fit as tightly as some might like.
Frequently asked questions:
1. What is the difference between merino wool fabric and synthetic?
Merino wool fabric is a natural material that is super soft against the skin and has the amazing ability to generate a tiny bit of heat when wet. This is why it is such a warm fabric and a preferred choice by many people. It also does not smell after repeated usage (natural antibacterial properties) and prevents rashes. The fabric works by absorbing a bit of water inside microscopic tubes, and then the rest is wicked away. However, merino wool takes longer to dry than synthetic fabrics, making it less suitable for high-intensity rides when you are likely to sweat a lot.
Synthetic fibers generally don’t absorb water and work purely on evaporation compared to merino wool. This is why base layers made of synthetic have fantastic wicking properties and dry so fast. Synthetic is generally lighter and tighter fitting making it a preferred fabric choice for athletics and higher-intensity cycling workouts.
2. Should I get merino wool or a synthetic base layer?
This depends on the conditions you plan to use the base layer in. For example, synthetics are generally better for athletics and high-intensity sports. So if you go out to train and exercise, go with synthetic fabrics. It is also lighter and fits closer to the skin.
However, if you are commuting (not sweating a lot) and need to stay dry and get straight to work without smelling bad, then merino wool is your best friend. Also, you are backpacking or going for a multi-day adventure without the possibility of jumping into a shower; then, again, merino wool is your choice.
3. What is the best base layer for winter?
Again, this depends on the weather conditions and what you plan to use it for. A thicker long sleeve thermal base layer is generally better in freezing temperatures to keep you warmer.
A long sleeve synthetic base layer is preferred by athletes who cycle for sport and exercise. This type of fabric is also great at wicking away sweat and is very light.
For commuting and recreational cycling, merino wool is better as you don’t need to wash it after each use as this type of fabric has natural antibacterial properties.
So, to sum up, the best base layer for winter really depends on the conditions you are cycling in, intensity level, and how long you want to use the base layer before washing. Our list of best winter base layers in this article includes impressive options to choose from, so we are confident you can find something that suits your needs.
4. Are base layers good for cycling?
Base layers are definitely a must for cycling. If you are cycling in cold weather, then a winter base layer helps to keep your body warm even when it is wet (sweating). This is achieved by wicking the sweat away from the skin and keeping it dry and thus warm. In winter, base layers work best if combined with a good outer shell, for example, a windproof or waterproof jacket or a jersey.
In summer, base layers are also super helpful as they help keep you comfortable and cool by wicking sweat away from your skin and preventing chafing from bib straps or cycling jerseys. Most cyclists have several base layers in their wardrobes for various weather conditions and seasons.
5. Is a merino wool base layer good?
It depends on the brand and overall fabric quality, but in general, yes, merino wool is a very good base layer fabric. It absorbs the sweat from your body and keeps you warm even when the fabric is getting wet. It is also very comfortable, feels great against the skin, prevents itching, and does not need to be washed after every use.
However, some cheaper brands might not be as comfortable, and the fabric might even irritate your skin. So if you are looking to buy a merino wool base layer, make sure to do your research and be wary of the cheap price tag.
6. How tight should a base layer be?
It depends on the type of cycling you do. For example, if you are doing high-intensity training, you would want a base layer that is tighter fitting as it will be better at wicking the body sweat. However, a looser fit is more comfortable for commuting or leisure cycling. So, it really comes down to your needs and the type of cyclist you are.
However, generally speaking, the fit should be tight but comfortable at the same time. So, it is best to try on a few different base layers before purchasing to see which fits you the best. If you are ordering online, get a few options, try them on, and send back the ones you dislike.
7. Do you wear anything under a base layer?
No. A base layer is meant to be worn directly against the skin. Typically, you will wear a jersey or a jacket on top. Layering is key to dressing for the weather.
8. What is a wicking base layer?
A wicking base layer is the one that helps to move sweat away from your skin and keeps you dry. Today, most base layers used for sports have some wicking properties. As a result, such base layers prevent you from getting cold in winter and overheating in summer.
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In order to feature and review any products on our website we do extensive research, read user feedback, carefully review forum threads, look at search trends, brand popularity, try to actually use and test as many products as possible ourselves, and evaluate other factors depending on the product category. By doing extensive research and incorporating it with our own experience we are able to shortlist only a handful of products out of thousands of options.
We want to bring value to our readers and help them find answers to questions and buy the most appropriate cycling products. Brands and cycling professionals always try to innovate and improve to get the best possible outcome. Unfortunately, innovations and product improvements these days result only in marginal gains, but the price increase for these gains is not equally proportional. In economics, this behavior is defined as “diminishing returns”. Knowing this we focus on featuring the best value for the money products that are affordable, but at the same time have a lot to offer. We don’t want our visitors to overspend on something they will not benefit from.