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The Lusso Women's Paragon Deep Winter Base Layer 2.0 lives up to its name. It performs very well in extremely cold conditions, provides first-rate protection without a great deal of bulk and the cosy built-in neck warmer proved to be a bonus on bitterly cold days. But I did find it a tight squeeze getting it over my head and I'm not convinced the cut is as female-friendly as it could be.
Our best cycling base layers buyer's guide rounds up our favourite men's and women's short- and long-sleeve base layers from around £20 upwards.
Recent conditions while not ideal for everyone have been optimal for testing Lusso's latest base layer – which, as its name suggests, is intended to shine on the very coldest of days. With a bite in the air, clear blue skies and zero chance of the mercury hitting anything more than 3°C, the Paragon Deep Winter Base Layer really impressed me on no-stop rides. Though when the weather did deviate from these conditions I didn't find the top quite so functional.
I've been testing a size medium, which is exactly where my dimensions put me according to Lusso's size chart (it's not me in the photos). Length-wise, I've no gripes, as both the sleeve and body length are fine. I could have coped with a couple more centimetres but neither were irritatingly short. The sleeves are noticeably tight, which might be considered a positive when you're pulling more gear on over the top – they simply won't budge.
But the rest of the fit was not ideal – at least that proved to be the case for me – and even just getting the base layer on proved a bit of a battle. The head opening is very small and it needed an aggressive pull to get it over my head – so watch out if you wear earrings.
I don't think I have a bigger-than-average head, so this might be even more concerning if you do – and I do wonder whether a few more centimetres around the neck circumference would affect its fit. It would definitely make getting it over your head much easier, and in the longer term it would also take the strain off seams and fabrics. At least the battle to get the thing on is worth the effort as you're rewarded with the top's well-judged neck-warmer.
I also had issues elsewhere, as while the fit around the waist is good, I found the tailoring up top a little odd. It's as if Lusso have cut the women's version in the same way as a men's, failing to account for breasts – so it feels like a sizing mismatch between the waist and chest.
Given that I followed Lusso's size chart, and have had no problems with its medium in the past, all of this is both surprising and a little disappointing.
Lusso has used Polartech's Powergrid fabric throughout. The interior has a waffle-like, micro-grid texture. It's soft and comfortable against your skin and also feels cosy around your neck. The seams are neatly finished and I haven't found them at all irritating, which is always a positive for a base layer. The single label, with washing instructions, is a soft, floppy affair and I didn't even feel the need to cut it off, as I never once felt it while wearing the top.
The base layer's interior works effectively to keep you warm in cold conditions – for the coldest rides I could get away with a single jacket over the top and still feel toasty warm. I never felt too cold or too hot and I never sensed any kind of moisture build up. If I added a less breathable outer layer – for instance if rain was forecast – and worked up a sweat and I then stopped for a cafe break, I rapidly cooled off and became cold. This was primarily because of a build-up of moisture that I hadn't really sensed while I was busy riding.
As for moisture management, man-made polyester is never going to help you retain your body heat as well as a merino-based fabric when it's damp. And it's also worth noting that the Paragon Deep Base Layer, like so many polyester-based layers, needs regular washing, so pretty much after every ride – as well as successfully keeping you warm, it does a great job of clinging to odours!
Lusso has taken a bit of a gamble by including a built-in neck warmer, as many will prefer one they can take off mid-ride. Given that most of my testing was done in consistently bitter conditions, I've never felt I was overheating or the need to take it off – at least during the ride. Indeed the interior fleecy microfibre is actually cosier than some of my rather cool-to-the-touch neck warmers.
However, on the odd occasion that I stopped for a coffee, I didn't appreciate the neck warmer quite as much, as it became stifling when I was in a warmer cafe. It also felt less of a benefit after the break too, as I was never fully able to uncover my neck.
In short, the Paragon Base Layer became a piece of kit that I only ever chose to wear when the forecast was for consistently low temperatures – and if I wasn't planning for a mid-ride coffee break.
Performance-wise, I'd say the performance of the Lusso Paragon Deep Winter Base Layer 2.0 is close to that of Assos's £110 Ultraz Winter LS Base Layer, which I reviewed a couple of winters ago when it was £105.
But while they're comparable in terms of the extreme temperatures that they can handle, the Assos Ultraz copes better with moisture than any other base layer I've ever used. At £60 the Lusso does cost little more than half the price, so you might consider the minor performance and fit compromises acceptable.
Indeed, even paying more than £60 won't necessarily guarantee you a good fit, as Emily found out when she tested the £80 Le Col Deep Winter Base Layer. While Emily appreciated it for its warmth and long neck, she felt the body came up too short for her to wholeheartedly recommend it.
Lusso's Women's Paragon Deep Winter Base Layer would benefit from some tailoring adjustments – the narrow head opening and sleeves could be real sticking points for many. This detracts somewhat from the top's excellent performance in cold rides.
It keeps you cosy on non-stop rides in freezing cold conditions and, if you like a neck warmer, the extended collar is a great feature. Granted, in combination with waterproof jackets, it's not up to the standard of a merino-mix base layer, but this is reflected in the Lusso's more affordable price.
Prise it over your head and it'll do a decent job of keeping you warm, but the tailoring could be more feminine
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lusso Women's Paragon Deep Winter base layer 2.0
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Lusso's website says: 'For ample warmth in the coldest of winter months look no further than the Paragon Deep winter base layer 2.0, with a neck buff sewn in.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Polartech Power grid fabric
Deep winter use
Stress on fabrics and seams (when pulling the top on and off) could begin to be show in the long term.
Not great, it's as if it's been cut for a man!
I'd advise sizing up if you consider your head to be large, or your arms are more muscular than average!
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems – but I found I needed to wash after every ride, as it holds odours.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Ideal when temperatures are stable, and very cold.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The excellent warmth it offered in very cold conditions.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Its tight neck! Pulling it on and off is a battle – I wonder if a couple more centimetres could be incorporated into the collar, without compromising comfort and the functionality of the neck warmer. And I wasn't entirely convinced that the cut is ideal for the female form either.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
One of the less expensive deep winter base layers you can buy – it's much cheaper than the Assos Ultraz Winter LS base layer and costs £20 less than the Le Col Deep Winter base layer. For riding in weather that isn't quite so extreme there are several decent options out there that won't cost you as much. These include the Craft Active Extreme that costs £45 and the £55 Specialized Seamless that adds some compression to the mix.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes – once I'd got it on.
Would you consider buying the product? Perhaps – if Lusso could address the fit
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unlikely
Use this box to explain your overall score
The top's ability to keep you toasty warm in very cold conditions is unfortunately overshadowed by some tailoring issues. These might not be a major issue for everyone, and will depend on your personal proportions, but Lusso might do well to get a 3.0 in the pipeline.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…