It's been said before on this site that Swedish company Craft knows a thing or two about base layers. They have an unusually broad range, that's for sure, including a base layer to wear when it's too hot and this, the Active Extreme Windstopper Long Sleeve base layer, with a Gore Windstopper layer built in. The windproofing extends across the front of the torso and across the shoulders but not onto the arms, and you can really feel the difference when you're going quickly on a chilly day. My only quibble would be whether a base layer is really the best place for windproofing.
Mat has previously tried to get to the bottom of Craft's somewhat confused naming strategy for its base layers, so I won't cover that ground again. The Active Extreme Windstopper base layer is intended for cold days, that's for sure. The main material is a fine-knit fabric made of 100% polyester, but woven such that it is pretty stretchy. This is good as it is also cut very close, so it conforms well to your body shape. For a base layer to be most effective, you want as much of it against the skin as possible, and the absence of flapping on our size-medium test model was perfect in this respect. Craft base layers tend to be on the long side but I'm in favour of this - you can tuck it into your bibs and keep the draughts at bay.
I first tested this on a cold day, wearing it under the Alé winter jersey which I reviewed recently, a close-fitting mid-weight top without any windproofing. The effect of the Craft base layer was noticeable from the off, and especially when going downhill at speed. My torso was well protected from the chill factor in a way it wouldn't be with only the jersey. Quite a few jerseys don't have enough protection for cold days, so this will certainly give you more options during the winter.
The Windstopper layer is thin and very lightweight. In common with other Craft base layers, general breathability and wicking is extremely good. The Windstopper layer is breathable, but obviously rather less so than the rest of the garment. I found that this meant I had to give a little more thought to what to wear over the top. If I overdressed then I would find myself starting to get too hot, due to the reduced breathability at the front.
For general riding during the winter, I spend most of the time wearing a jacket as an outer layer, which usually gives a reasonably good protection against the wind. So dressed, the further layer of wind protection here is arguably superfluous and even counter-productive. A good winter base layer performs two functions: it keeps you warm, and it wicks the moisture from any sweat away from your skin. I felt that the Windstopper panel was less able to perform the second of these functions and I was more aware of sweat underneath when I had a jacket over the top.
When you are dressed to go quickly, such as for racing, then I think it makes a lot more sense. This would be a great option under a skinsuit or other tight-fitting jersey, allowing you to get away without a gilet for riding in the cold. More generally, as with the Alé jersey mentioned above, it does allow you to have some extra hidden protection against the cold if your favourite top doesn't keep the wind out.
General standards of construction are impressive. The seams are neat and tidy and (important in a base layer) flatlocked to avoid any irritation. It's really comfortable against the skin. Thermal transfers instead of a scratchy label inside the collar are a welcome further comfort-enhancing measure. There's a reflective logo on one sleeve: I can't really imagine why this was felt to be needed.
This, then, is another very well-made base layer from Craft. In specific circumstances, the addition of a windproof panel on the front gives protection for which you'd otherwise need a jacket or a gilet, so it can mean you can get away with one less layer, saving weight and improving aerodynamics when that matters. In the extreme cold this would also be beneficial. For more general riding in UK conditions, I'd probably spend my money on the non-Windstopper version which I find a bit more comfortable as it wicks and breathes a bit better.
Great base layer with extra wind protection if your other layers aren't already fending off the breeze
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Craft Active Extreme Windstopper Long Sleeve Baselayer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
DEVELOPED TO KEEP YOU AT THE OPTIMAL TEMPERATURE.
BE ACTIVE EXTREME WINDSTOPPER® is made of a thin, lightweight and elastic micro polyester fabric and Gore Windstopper® panels.
The polyester combines CoolMax Extreme® and Thermolite® fibers to provide excellent moisture transport and body temperature management.
The Windstopper® panels are placed in exposed areas and more individually, providing wind protection and freedom of movement simultaneously.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Bodymapped wind protection at shoulders and parts of front
- Protects your body in fair and windy conditions
- Comforts your body in zones you need it
- Seamless torso
- Ergonomic fit
- Lightweight, elastic Gore Windstopper fabric
- Soft and close
- Article number: 194612
When used in the absence of other wind-blocking, this is really impressive, keeping the chill from your torso at speed. If you're already wearing a windproof jacket or gilet then the non-Windstopper version will keep you more comfortable (unless you're somewhere very cold indeed).
No issues. Others have reported that they can get a bit smelly even when washed but I've not had the problem, and I wash cool with non-bio.
Much lighter than a base layer and a separate gilet.
Again, this depends on how you're using it. Under a jersey or skinsuit for winter racing this would be a perfect choice. When under something more substantial, I found it less comfortable because of the windblock layer and the associated reduction in wicking and breathability.
Fifty quid is upper-end for a base layer but you're getting some extra protection here from the primo Gore Windstopper panel which few base layers can offer. You can find it with some decent discounts if you look around.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It gives you more options in the winter. Leave the jacket at home and stick this under a close-fitting jersey to go fast!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
When I wore it under a jacket I found myself sweating more than I would without the windblock panel. Unsurprisingly, perhaps.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? I'd probably get the non-WS version.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
My needs would be better served by the non-WS version, but I'm marking this based upon the usage for which I think it is intended, for which it is really, really good.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.