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Pearson's 'Skin in the Game' Long Sleeve Base Layer is made from a mid-weight merino wool blend – and fits like a glove (or a good-fitting baselayer). It doesn't wick sweat quite as well as synthetic base layers, but I've found that equally true for all merino base layers and, on the flip side, merino's odour-eating properties mean you can wear it for a whole week(ish) before the whiff beats you. And at £55 the price isn't bad either.
For its Skin the Game base layer, Pearson has specified an 80% merino, 20% nylon fabric mix. The idea is to retain merino's warmth and anti-smell properties while avoiding the durability issues you can get with 100% merino wool tops. Though as our best base layers buyer's guide shows, all sorts of materials – natural and manmade – can work well.
So far, I'm pleased to say the base layer isn't showing any of those small holes that are often the first sign of a fabric failing.
This merino-mix strategy has worked on other cycling tops I've had for longer, so I've high hopes this one will go the distance too.
I'd call this a mid-weight, long-sleeve base layer that's designed to keep you warm – and it does this really well. Pairing it with a decent winter jacket such as Stolen Goat's Climb and Conquer has kept me warm on rides where my Karoo computer was telling me it was six below freezing.
As with all merino base layers, wicking is not its superpower. When you stop for a mid-ride coffee, it looks and feels damp.
But unlike a synthetic base layer, a merino or merino-mix top will still keep you warm when it's damp.
Also, unlike a synthetic base layer, it laughs the stink of sweat away. 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.
A 'Smelly Helly' would have failed the test after half a day, with who knows what effect on my wife?
But both synthetic and merino base layers have their place, with merino or merino blends still my top choice for longer but less intensive activities, especially when it gets colder.
At 178cm and 77kg – on a good day – I'm usually a medium in non-Italian cycling brands. My chest measurement of 98cm is exactly what Pearson's size guide suggests for medium, and the base layer fits me perfectly.
The cut works well for me too, without any bunching up or tightness around the shoulders or armpits.
The Skin in the Game's £55 price is about par for a long-sleeve merino base layer.
The Altura Merino 50 Unisex base layer that Liam liked is a fiver cheaper, though you could spend the same on a synthetic base layer such as the Specialized Seamless LS Baselayer that Jamie found warm and comfortable.
As ever though, this being cycling, you could very easily spend a whole lot more. Santini's Grido Thermal Unisex Long Sleeve Base Layer that Adam thought 'near perfect' but expensive at £120 is now a whopping £150 – although for that money you do get a clever two-layer construction with merino on the inside and polyamide on the outside.
Pearson's Long Sleeve Base layer is a decent choice to eke a bit more warmth out of the winter jacket you already own. It's worth bearing in mind that like all merino base layers, it's not the best at wicking sweat away, though it does still feel warm when it gets damp. I found it worked best well for long, less intensive activities in colder weather.
Decent quality merino base layer that will keep you warm and comfy on less intensive cold-weather rides
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearson Long Sleeve Base Layer Iron Grey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
A line generally attributed to Warren Buffett, having 'skin in the game' means you have a stake in the outcome. Our base layers are so comfortable however, they eliminate risk – there's no chance you'll be cold or too warm. Performing almost as a second skin, merino wool is one of nature's miracles. As our grandfather, Arthur Pearson, liked to remark: 'Have you ever seen a cold sheep?' He might have added you rarely see a hot sheep either. Merino regulates temperature superbly, keeping you warm when it's cold and cool in the heat. Naturally anti-bacterial, high wicking and odour resistant, merino is extremely soft against the skin.
Pearsons iron grey base layer has a 'rib' construction that ensures a close fit (ensuring you get the most from merino's performance properties) and great stretch. This Long Sleeve version has deep cuffs, merrow-stitched for maximum comfort, and which double over to retain warmth. The base layer is finished with a Pearson Rose detail.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Comfort: Extremely soft and quick-drying.
Durable: Merino and nylon blend.
Natural: Our wool is produced sustainably using non-mulesed merino. ['Mulesing' is cutting off part of a sheep's skin without adequate anaesthetics.]
80% Merino wool
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The care instructions say wash at 30°C with similar colours, do not bleach, do not tumble dry and use a cool iron. Following these instructions there's nothing to report so far.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a merino base layer to keep you warm in cold weather on rides of lower intensity, it works very well. Though I wasn't quite so persuaded by Pearson's claim that it will also keep you "cool in the heat", or that it's naturally high wicking. However, that has also been the case with other merino base layers I've used.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It doesn't start smelling for ages, which is just what you want, and it keeps you warm even when damp – which is also what you want.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's not great at wicking away sweat, but in my opinion that's one of the inherent characteristics of merino wool.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Merino base layers cost from £50 upwards, so £55 is towards the lower end of the scale. You can easily pay the same or even much more for a synthetic base layer, like the Specialized Seamless LS Baselayer. Santini's Grido, which was already £120 when we tested it, now costs nearly three times as much at £150, though it does have a merino inner layer with a polyamide exterior.
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
Bearing in mind merino wool's inherent strengths and weaknesses, this base layer works really well and feels comfortable at a reasonable price. It doesn't quite do what it says on the tin, in that I didn't find it a high-wicking or that it kept me cool in the heat. I didn't find it that quick drying either. I wouldn't say those are problems with the top, and if anything are more to do with the marketing.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift