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Best cycling base layers 2024 — ride year-round in comfort with this cycling wardrobe essential

Stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer with one of the best cycling best layers out there

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Arguably, the most important layer is a base layer when it comes to cycling, and it can make a huge difference to your cycling comfort all year round. During winter, it ensures warmth, while in summer it facilitates cooling. Here's a selection of our favourite base layers and what to look for when you buy. 

A good base layer provides the foundation for enhanced comfort and performance on the bike, as it helps to regulate your temperature when combined with one of the best winter cycling jackets or a summer cycling jersey

A base layer is often overlooked in the summer, and as counter-intuitive as it may seem, the addition of a layer under your jersey really does help – wicking sweat away from your body when the temperature ramps up. It not only helps to keep you cool but also plays an important role in reducing damage from abrasion during a crash, as your jersey will slide over your base layer. 

There are lots of options out there, so we've picked some of the best base layers from the review archive and split them into two sections: short sleeve and long sleeve base layers. 

The best cycling base layers: our top picks

Short sleeve cycling base layers

GripGrab WindBreaking Thermal Short Sleeve Base Layer

GripGrab WindBreaking Thermal Short Sleeve Base Layer

Best overall short sleeve cycling base layer
Buy now for £33.57 from Wiggle
Feels just like a normal baselayer
Non sweaty, non stinky
Definitely keeps the wind off
Leave the gilet at home
Recycled fabrics
Check sizing

The GripGrab WindBreaking Thermal Short Sleeve Base Layer is called a thermal base layer but it's great for mid-teen temperatures in autumn and spring, and even handy for evening summer rides. This isn't for the hottest summer days but given the infrequency of extreme temperatures in the UK, this is an excellent base layer option.

It features an effective windproof front that means you can ride gilet-free whilst still looking and feeling like a normal fabric without the shine or crinkle of other wind-resistant fabrics, and despite its thick construction and windproof character, it's still incredibly breathable. 

Galibier Echelon Short Sleeve Base Layer

Galibier Echelon Short Sleeve Base Layer

Best budget short sleeve cycling base layer
Buy now for £23 from Galibier
Front graphic may not suit all tastes, but a minor quibble

The Galibier Echelon baselayer performs extremely well when it comes to comfort and moisture management, and it's a very attractive price. Tester Paul said, "The construction and fit make it a baselayer that can compete with more expensive offerings from the big brands". 

Galibier claims that the Echelon is a year-round garment, despite its AirMesh construction, and while it is the sort of baselayer you would usually reach for in the warmer months, it can be layered up effectively under one of the best winter cycling jackets. It isn't there to add insulation the way a merino layer might, but it helps to regulate your body temperature by ensuring you don't get too clammy on milder days or during periods when you're working hard.

Lusso Pain Cave Eco Summer Base Layer

Lusso Pain Cave Eco Summer Base Layer

Best cycling base layer for the summer
Buy now for £18 from Lusso
Fast wicking
Not as versatile as some – gets a bit cool if the temperature suddenly dips

The Lusso Pain Cave Eco Summer Base Layer is a very good summer-weight baselayer made in the UK from recycled PET bottles without impairing comfort, or performance. Though it's it's primarily designed with balmy summers in mind, it's a good bet for indoor training too. 

Tester Shaun said, "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". 

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. 

Chapeau Mesh Base Layer Sleeveless

Chapeau Mesh Base Layer Sleeveless

Best sleeveless cycling base layer
Buy now for £26.24 from Chapeau!
Available in a range of colours
Great wicking
Decent price

The Chapeau Mesh Base Layer Sleeveless is lightweight, feels soft against the skin and works really well when the temperature is warm thanks to really good wicking capabilities.

It's made from made from a mesh material, with solid, stretchy panels down the side, which contribute to the fit being really good without feeling restrictive. On all but the hottest days it does a good job of keeping you dry, and should it get overwhelmed it'll soon dry again quickly once your pace has dropped a touch.

The Chapeau Sleeveless is available in five colours, all with corresponding decals and logos on the chest.

FR3ND Classic T-Shirt

FR3ND Classic T-Shirt

Best casual cycling base layer
Buy now for £29 from FR3ND apparel
Supersoft and comfy
Great alternative to merino
Slim fit but can be worn casually
Doesn't get stinky
Four classic colour choices
Slow to dry if it's saturated

The FR3ND Classic T-Shirt is the ideal casual baselayer for on and off the bike with an excellent fit and good breathability. 

Fr3nd's Classic T-Shirt is constructed from a mix of Tencel – an environmentally–friendly type of fabric made from sustainably sourced wood – and bamboo. Both have excellent properties for activity, being naturally breathable, antibacterial, and with good heat regulation. It feels incredibly soft on the skin too and tester Hollis found that it doesn't ever get smelly. 

It's not one for high-intensity workouts because of the very slow drying nature of the fabric.

Kostume EDIT002 Men's Sleeveless Base Layer

Kostume EDIT002 Men's Sleeveless Base Layer

Best cycling base layer with a pocket
Buy now for £20 from Kostume
Comfortable fabric
Quick wicking
Good odour management
Nice detailing
Use of recycled materials

The Kostume EDIT002 Men's Sleeveless Base Layer is a highly effective base layer with lovely detailing, a comfortable material, great wicking and good odour management. It works well underneath a jersey but can also be worn as a standalone garment for both indoor training and in hot riding conditions. 

In keeping with other garments in the Kostume range, this base layer is made from recycled plastic bottles and unusually for a base layer, this comes with a small back phone pocket which is a handy addition, especially for indoor training sessions. 

Megmeister Women’s Drynamo Cycle Sleeveless Baselayer

Megmeister Women’s Drynamo Cycle Sleeveless Baselayer

Best women's short sleeve base layer
Buy now for £37.46 from Condor Cycles
Great fit
Wicks very well
Very stretchy
Good length
Very comfy
Slightly irritating label

Megmeister's Women’s Drynamo Cycle Sleeveless Baselayer is an excellent summer-weight baselayer that's great-fitting with comfy seam-free sides and excellent wicking ability. 

There are strategically placed sections of mesh across both the front and rear of this baselayer, as well as under the arms, for moisture to escape more easily in the areas you sweat more. Anna said, "It manages sweat generated very well and I found that it wasn't ever overwhelmed", making it an excellent choice for hard, competitive riding. 

Sizing-wise, the Drynamo is split into just two, XS/S and M/L. This may not seem like a lot of choice, but there's so much stretch to this material that it can accommodate a wide range of shapes for each size.

Long sleeve cycling base layers

Specialized Seamless LS Baselayer

Specialized Seamless LS Baselayer

Best overall long sleeve cycling base layer
Buy now for £65 from Specialized
Particularly warm
Good moisture management
Odour resistant
Quite long sleeves
Shortish torso
Probably too warm for spring and autumn

The Specialized Seamless LS is a relatively thick, very warm baselayer that's best for when temperatures are under 5°C. It's comfortable against the skin thanks to the seamless design and flat-locked stitching, with nothing to rub even when you're layered up. 

The Seamless LS is also excellent at wicking sweat considering its thickness; the different fabric styles for the armpit and back sections help here. It's also remarkably good at resisting smells. 

Pearson Long Sleeve Base Layer

Pearson Long Sleeve Base Layer Iron Grey

Best merino long sleeve cycling base layer
Buy now for £24 from Pearson
Keeps the whiff at bay
Merino-blend should help durability
Fits well
Wicking not as good as a synthetic base layer

Pearson's Long Sleeve Base Layer is made from a mid-weight merino wool blend that will keep you warm and comfy on less intensive cold-weather rides. 

It doesn't wick sweat quite as well as synthetic base layers though it does still feel warm when it gets damp, and on the flip-side, merino fabric has great odour-eating properties. 

Tester Iwein said, "Purely in the interest of scientific research – and so you won't have to – I wore it for six straight days skiing, and my wife agreed its olfactory status was still passable."

Spatz BASEZ 2 Black Baselayer

Spatz BASEZ 2 Black Baselayer

Best cycling base layer for the coldest rides
Buy now for £74 from Sigma Sports
Excellent in very cold temperatures
Wrist covers
Sweat wicking
High neck limits temperature regulation

The Spatz BASEZ 2 Black Baselayer is excellent in very cold temperatures - the warmth and wicking performance is excellent and it has some features you don't always see on baselayers.

First, the sleeves go over the wrist, with thumb holes to keep it in place, providing a little extra warmth over the part of the hand it covers. There is also a longer dropped back section, which goes right the way down below your back to keep your lower back warmer, and a high neck which adds incredible warmth and helps keep the wind off your chest.  

ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer Elite

ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer Elite

Best money-no-object cycling base layer
Buy now for £109 from Armaurto
Extra protection in the event of a crash
Wicks sweat well
Good for a range of riding, from racing to commuting
3/4 sleeves mean it's best paired with long sleeve garments

The ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer Elite is a light and comfortable base layer with added protection to your elbows and shoulders in the event of a crash. ArmaUrto says that despite the thinness of the padding, the 'ARMA' is capable of absorbing and safely dissipating up to 80 per cent of impact energy.

It's ideal for icy rides, commutes and some crit racing with an upper limit of about 12 or 13°C when worn with a lightweight jersey. The 3/4-length sleeves mean it's best suited to wearing under long-sleeved outer garments, and it's easy to forget you're wearing it when the temperature is below the mid-teens.

The ARMA padding is flexible and it conforms well to the shape of the shoulders and elbows. Tester Jamie said, "I found them perfectly comfortable for riding both in an aggressive position on my road bike with arms bent, or when riding more upright on mountain bikes and commuters."

Craft Active Extreme X Round Neck Long Sleeve Women’s Baselayer

Craft Active Extreme X Round Neck Long Sleeve Women’s Baselayer

Best women's long sleeve base layer
Buy now for £20 from Merlin Cycles
Moisture management
Recycled fabrics

Craft's Active Extreme X Round Neck Long Sleeve Women’s Baselayer offers exceptional performance and comfort, and eco-credentials to boot. It keeps you warm and dry in cold to mild weather making it difficult to fault for the price. 

Tester Emma writes, "I've used the vest in a variety of conditions, with temperatures as low as 3°C and as high as 12. It's certainly proved versatile – Craft gives it a range of -5ºC to +10ºC."

It ticks all the performance boxes – breathability, wicking, ventilation, warmth – and on top of that, the fit is functional and comfortable, making it very difficult to fault,. 

How to choose from the best cycling base layers

Should you wear a base layer for cycling?

Wearing a base layer while cycling is often overlooked but it is generally recommended. They provide several benefits including moisture management, temperature regulation, and comfort, and can protect you in the event of a crash too. 

The job of a base layer is quite simply to keep you dry when you’re sweating, by pulling moisture away from your skin. A base layer also provides a layer of insulation, and you can tailor how much insulation by the base layer you choose.

Base layers came in many varieties: different sleeve lengths, different fabrics and weights, high collars and low collars; no two base layers are the same. A base layer doesn’t have an easy job, and the trick is to find one that suits your demands and style of riding.

How should a cycling base layer fit?

For a base layer to do its job most effectively, the material should sit flush with the skin. If you’re riding at a lower intensity or commuting, then a looser fitting base layer may be fine, but for higher tempo cycling when you expect to produce a large amount of sweat, look for a close fitting base layer.

The more stretch a fabric has, generally the better the fit. Also, look for smartly placed seams to avoid discomfort, the base layer will dictate the comfort of your whole outfit so check the insides carefully.

Comfort is critical and it’s not just the material being soft next to the skin that is important, t’s also worth looking for a base layer flat seams and no labels or tags, anything that can cause irritation or discomfort.

Which length sleeve is best for a base layer?

You can choose base layers with short or long sleeves, or sleeveless. Sleeveless and short sleeves are best suited for warmer days and the summer, but depending on the layers you’re putting over the top, and how cold it actually is, a short sleeve base layer can still be useful in the winter. Sometimes it’s simply not cold enough for a long sleeve base layer, and you can always add arm warmers if going with short sleeves.

Long sleeves are the business for the coldest days though, and paired with a soft shell jacket offers perhaps the most versatile and suitable outfit for typical UK winter weather. A long sleeve thermal base layer and good soft shell jacket is a really good setup, for example.

What is the best material for a cycling base layer?

Base layers come in a variety of materials, falling into two camps; man-made and natural materials. The weather in the UK can vary hugely, even from one day to the next, so having a couple of different base layers so you can dress appropriately is a good way forward.

Merino wool is the most common natural fabric base layer. Merino is great because it copes with a wide range of temperatures and doesn't pong when you get sweaty, and it’s very soft next to the skin. It comes in different weights to suit different temperatures, from lightweight to thermal insulation.

Man-made synthetic base layers like polypropylene and polyester are generally better at wicking sweat and are usually much lighter, and many people prefer how they feel next to the skin. Such materials can get smelly when you sweat though, so you certainly can't wear them for multiple rides, but recent material developments have seen this become less of an issue than it used to be.

Aside from material choice, base layers are available in a wide range of thicknesses, from lightweight summer tops to chunky Arctic-ready base layers. You need to take into account the average temperature that you aim to ride in, the duration and intensity of your cycling, and what layers you plan to wear over the top, to help you decide what base layer is right for you.

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…