The Craft Zero Extreme Short Sleeve Base Layer sounds like it's intended for wintry weather. It's not. For that you want Craft's meekly titled 'Warm' range. This vest is meant for 'fair to cold' conditions. After wearing it from winter to late spring, I reckon you can delete 'cold' from that description. This is a two-season top, at its best when the temperature climbs into double digits.
It's made of 100% polyester, with "a hollow fiber on the outside for insulation and moisture transport". It didn't get noticeably soggier than other base layers in use, though being polyester it does hold onto odours more than wool or wool blends.
Where it falls down is in terms of insulation. This is a lightweight base layer, weighing just 72g compared to the 120g of my short sleeve Crane Sport base layers from Aldi. On some rides, it felt like cold winds cut straight through the thinner material of the Craft top. Granted, I live in North Yorkshire where it is colder than down south. I've not got a lot of padding either, and not being a T-shirt-in-January kind of northerner, I wasn't really comfortable in this until May was properly underway, or unless I overdid the outer layer(s).
Unlike some lightweight base layers — I'm looking at you, merino wool — it didn't develop holes and tears. There's a good amount of stretch in the material and it's well stitched. The cut is athletic, the Medium size fitting me as close as the Small of some brands. It's not constricting to wear, however, and the flat seams and soft-faced material are comfortable against the skin. The fact that it's machine washable at 60 degrees means it's easier to live with, as you can just chuck it the machine. A hot wash keeps it smelling sweet too.
On the whole, it's a well made base layer that should suit late spring to early autumn conditions. A price of £30 is about par for the course. Yet for that money you can buy three or more base layers from Aldi (for example), and I have done. I wore all of them more than this Craft one during the test as they were more comfortable on cooler days. On the rare occasion it was too hot for a heavier-weight base layer, I didn't wear one at all. So the Craft Zero Extreme often languished in my bike gear drawer, alongside an abandoned string-vest type base layer.
Comfortable fit but suits milder conditions only, despite the name
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Make and model: Craft Zero Extreme Short Sleeve Base Layer
Size tested: Medium - Black
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?
Craft say: Craft Zero Extreme allows you to perform with an optimal body temperature during workouts in fair and cold conditions. The underwear is made of a lightweight, elastic fabric featuring two high-tech polyester fibers: a hexa-channeled fiber against the skin for optimal moisture management, and a hollow fiber on the outside for insulation and moisture transport. A three-dimensional ergonomic fit provides freedom of movement. The fabric's anti-smell quality keeps you fresh.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Very well stitched. Good, close fit.
Not warm enough.
It's thin, but hasn't developed holes.
While it is light, it's actually TOO light.
Good - except in cooler conditions.
It's just a vest really. £30 is par for the course, but it's still a chunk of change.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Not warm enough.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Material too thin.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only if they're better insulated than I am and don't mind spending money.
Age: 46 Height: 1.78m Weight: 64kg
I usually ride: Genesis Longitude My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,