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The Craft Active Extreme X Wind SS base layer is described as 'multifunction,' but crucially performs very well for cycling. The fabric and windproof panel feel a little synthetic at first, but that's quickly forgotten as it just gets on with keeping out chilling drafts. Oh, and it's a much slimmer fit than it looks!
The polyamide (nylon) chest and shoulder panels provide the wind-cheating defences, while the back and sides are 100% polyester. That's nothing exotic, but I was surprised by how thin the whole thing is.
It's not delicate, let alone flimsy, but it's tangibly thinner than my usual polyester/polyamide defaults. The seams are flatlocked to keep them perfectly comfortable with the tight fit.
It's a well-shaped tight fit, too (no – that's not me in the pictures! This was obviously too large for our model, who refused to bulk up for the part. Whatever happened to method acting?).
There's ample room around the shoulders, and it's cut very slightly longer at the back – if not seriously dropped – and feels snug without restricting movement at all. I find it stays comfortable and resists bunching no matter what riding position I adopt.
By synthetic standards, the fabric is very tactile and feels a lot lighter-weight than other short sleeve designs in my collection. That makes it very comfortable indeed under whatever you put on top, from second-skin aero tops such as the Lusso R1 Style Breathe Jersey and Triban RC 500 Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey, to much chunkier, long sleeve jersey/jackets when it's particularly chilly.
The windproof panel is surprisingly effective at blocking chills, even in my coastal test area, yet the Active Extreme X remains comfortable up into mid-teen temperatures. It breathes well, even through the windproof panelling, and I never felt clammy.
In fact it feels comfortably and consistently arid, whether hammering along full pelt for an hour, or indulging in longer, variably paced outings on the tourer. It takes a few successive days' riding to start smelling bad too. Unlike me.
At that point it washes up easily and dries quickly afterwards, probably thanks to its lack of bulk. Like me!
The £55 tag is high for a short sleeve baselayer – let alone a short sleeve one – though not unheard of. The Rapha Brevet Base Layer is also synthetic and slightly more at £60, while the Ashmei Men's Short Sleeve Baselayer is more still at £65, but also 65 percent merino.
However, there are very capable base layers for considerably less. The dhb Aeron Body Map Short Sleeve Base Layer is £30, for instance, while the Van Rysel Race Short Sleeved Cycling Base Layer is £24.95. None of these offer windproofing, though, so you have to factor in the cost of an extra layer.
The Craft Active Extreme X Wind SS Baselayer is very competent, lightweight and offers an excellent defense against chill. While it's at the upper end for price, the windproofing can be very useful under fleecy jerseys on rides where windchill is a bigger issue than actual air temperature.
Effective, light and comfortable base-layer, but pricey
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Craft Active Extreme X Wind SS baselayer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Craft says: "The Active Extreme X Wind SS Baselayer is a multifunctional baselayer for elite athletes when trying to train in windy conditions. The front of the top features specially developed wind panels that protect against the hit and the cold of the wind."
My feelings: it's a surprisingly thin yet competent baselayer, but relatively pricey.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Back: 100% Polyester
Front: 100% Polyamide (Nylon)
Side: 100% Polyester
Surprisingly thin, but feels rugged and washes well.
Good, and the panels seem very effective.
No obvious weak spots.
Just right, perhaps a little shorter in the sleeves than I might prefer, but not by much.
Slightly thinner than I'm used to, but the windproof panels do their thing capably, without feeling overly synthetic.
The windproofing adds value, but it's still priced on the high side.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washes very nicely at 30 degrees using minimal detergent.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I've been impressed by the windproofing's ability to keep dawn coastal winds out, and the wicking/moisture management when the temperature rises. It feels a little man-made to touch, but goes unnoticed when worn.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Thin, light and only noticed for its positive qualities.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The £55 tag is high for a short sleeve baselayer – let alone a short sleeve one – though not unheard of. The Rapha Brevet Base Layer is also synthetic and slightly more at £60, while Ashmei Men's Short Sleeve Baselayer is more still at £65, but also 65 percent merino.
However, there are very capable base layers for considerably less. The dhb Aeron Body Map Short Sleeve Baselayer is £30, for instance, while the Van Rysel Race Short Sleeved Cycling Base Layer is £24.95. None of these offer windproofing, though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? In a sale, yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Does exactly what it promises, but it's pricey for a synthetic baselayer.
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)