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The Lusso Pain Cave Eco Summer Baselayer is its fastest wicking, most lightweight and ethically sourced baselayer. Crucially, performance lives up to the hype, and though primarily designed with balmy summers in mind, it's a good bet for indoor training too.
The baselayer is made from a 93% recycled polyester/7% elastane mix, the polyester component acquired from recycled PET bottles. This kind of reclamation, though welcome, isn't a new concept, but traditionally the fibres have felt slightly synthetic against the skin. Lusso has apparently been working with its suppliers to address this, and the result is pleasingly soft and smooth.
Continuing this theme, Lusso says the garment meets OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification. This isn't an environmental accreditation in the classically accepted sense, but refers to the lack of harmful substances, thus safe for the wearer.
There are five different designs to choose from, all employing sublimation printing. Skulls and pain not really your bag? 'Bike Addict', 'I'm not a Climber', and 'Rest Day' are alternatives. Black goes nicely with everything and on the rare occasions I've dropped a jersey zipper, I thought the skull and crossbones logo looked quite funky.
Lusso's sizing chart is accurate and the medium fitted my 1m 81cm, 70kg frame perfectly. I'm broader across the shoulders than my build would imply, but as it's a sleeveless design it wasn't an issue. It sits second-skin close, with ample give and length, so no issues when alternating between tops, hoods and hunkered low on the stem.
Bottom line, it's delivered exactly what I expect from a decent quality baselayer. The synthetic weave is soft and smooth against the skin, not comparable with pure merino but not particularly synthetic either.
The lightweight material undoubtedly helps, but wicking prowess is swift and, to date, any misting (experienced indoors, on the turbo trainer, given the chill weather) around the chest and lower back was very fleeting. I could essentially sit back and hammer out a 90-95rpm and remain comfortable throughout – even with the heating wound up to 25 degrees.
Out on the road, the song remains the same, although it's worth noting I donned a long sleeve, middleweight winter jersey, or one of my favourite jersey cum jackets. In these contexts, and when the temperature began to plummet, I became more aware of chill than when wearing a lightweight merino base. Yes, I know it's a summer garment but something to bear in mind on longer, late summer rides when it can turn a bit nippy.
Odour management in synthetics has improved quite considerably in recent years and this one's no exception. I've worn it for five successive rides over different distances/contexts, and even with two 45-minute turbo sessions in the mix, it remained socially acceptable.
Machine washed at 30/40 degrees, with minimal detergent, and to date it still looks packet fresh, with no issues of bobbling, fraying or snagging. Being a printed design, the graphics have also held up. I've also treated it to a couple of hand washes, using soap flakes and warm water – campsite stylee – and again, it came up fresh and fragrant.
In terms of drying times, bargain on 20 minutes outdoors with a moderate breeze, 30 on the clothes horse at room temperature.
A penny less than £30 isn't a lot of money when it comes to baselayers, but there's still quite a lot of capable competition if you scout around.
Van Rysel's Cycling Summer Training Base Layer, a mesh design with similar performance objectives as the Lusso, comes in at a mere £14.99. However, as far as I can tell, it's not made from recycled materials and the design is perhaps a little 'plain Jane' by comparison.
An extra fiver buys its Sleeveless Base Layer Ultralight Race. Another mesh design, it's only available in a 'one size fits all', which may be a serious deal breaker.
Dhb's Lightweight Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer is closer in price to the Lusso at £25; it's made from 93% polyester, 7% elastane, and features flatlock seams and an 'anti-odour' treatment.
Overall, the Pain Cave is a sensibly priced and surprisingly comfortable synthetic summer baselayer, with the fact that it's made from recycled materials and without impairing comfort, or performance, another plus.
Very good summer-weight baselayer made in the UK from recycled materials
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lusso Pain Cave Eco Summer Base Layer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Lusso says: "OUR HIGHEST WICKING, MOST LIGHTWEIGHT AND ETHICALLY SOURCED BASE LAYERS EVER.
These base layers started life out as plastic bottles. PET bottles can be recycled into a wide variety of products including polyester fibres. We have been working with one of our fabric suppliers to produce this new mesh material that is as soft and lightweight as non recycled versions, so there is no loss in quality.
This multifilament yarn contains 93% recycled polyester for its lightweight and high moisture transfer properties, 7% elastane for flexibility and a better fit, resulting in a super light base made for the heights of summer.
The full body design has been achieved via sublimation printing that allows us to add colour from seam to seam.
SHOW OFF YOUR OWN STYLE ON THE INSIDE IN 1 OF OUR 5 UNISEX DESIGNS!
The fabric has been OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified."
My feelings – it's a tactile and high performing summer weight base layer with funky styling and eco-friendly credentials.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
93% recycled polyester
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified
Seam to seam sublimation print
Thin yet surprisingly sturdy fabric. Neatly executed throughout. No loose stitching or signs of deterioration to date.
Very comfortable next to the skin and wicks fast, which is not surprising given the thin fabric, but will retain some welcome heat, should the temperature dip slightly mid-ride.
Fabric feels very thin but is incredibly stretchy and resilient. No loss of shape, or anything similarly untoward in several weeks of constant wear and washing.
Medium was bang on for me. However, while I stand and weigh a very average 181cm, 70kg, I'm proportionally short in the torso.
Bang on for me, but worth noting my previous comments.
Feels remarkably light and unnoticed in the most positive sense.
Very good, in every respect.
Its £29.99 rrp isn't particularly pricey, especially when factors such as performance and recycled materials are factored into the equation. Nonetheless, Van Rysel's Cycling Summer Training Base Layer comes in at a mere £14.99, and an extra fiver buys its Sleeveless Base Layer Ultralight Race. Dhb's Lightweight Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer is closer in price to the Lusso at £25.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Thus far, very straightforward. Pop in the machine at 30/40°C and swerve the drier. Has responded very well and looks new several weeks down the line.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Lusso Pain Cave does an excellent job of regulating temperature and odour. The fibres respond quickly to rider effort, and coupled with the thin tog weight has meant clamminess, odour and sweat marks have been conspicuous by their absence. Jersey quality obviously plays a part, but it's been consistently good with several ranging from Lusso's own to middleweight long-sleeve designs on cooler days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Softness, light weight, practicality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, given the design brief.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Cheaper than some, more expensive than others but then, it has some unique features. Dhb's Lightweight Mesh Sleeveless Base Layer is probably its closest rival at £25.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good: light, decent value, very comfortable and fast-wicking, eco-friendly and available in novel designs.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)