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Rapha base layers, keeping it warm and dry

product by :
Black, White (long, short, sleveless)

Reviewed by:
On 30 September, 2012
Last modified:14 October, 2012


I don’t know about you but I tend not to ride without a base layer unless it’s mega hot or I’m competing, otherwise I literally can’t leave home without one when on the bike, and especially when commuting.

What do I love about base layers? They’re great for several reasons:

  1. they keep you warm in the winter, and cooler in the summer
  2. they stop you from stinking after a sweaty commute
  3. they’re really comfortable
  4. they’re easy to wash and dry

What more can I say. Well, it can’t be just any base layer. Crucially, it has to be a 100% merino wool, and they come in many shapes sizes, textures and qualities. I’ve tried a few.

My favourite is the Rapha merino wool base layer. Those who know Rapha will be aware they’re gear tends to come at a premium price. However, whilst the brand has it’s critics, it’s fans will speak highly of the quality of their products. The secret to buying Rapha is to buy during their sales, normally around summer time (June)and I think in January (but not sure), where you can get  heavily discounted products. This particular base layer come in at £55 for sleeveless to £65 for long sleeve. Also available as a three pack for £140, saving £55. Not cheap.

These are my favourite base layers, mainly because of the fitted cut which clings to the body like a second skin. This is important for effective wicking away of sweat as well as comfort. They’re stretchy, so suitable for anyone, just get the appropriate size for your build.

When I mention they stop you smelling, this is absolutely true of most good quality 100% New Zealand merino wool base layers. There’s something about those New Zealand sheep combined with the environment in which they live that makes the wool extremely effective. Ride with a synthetic base layer or riding jersey and you know you’ve ridden it when you get home. With one of these you wouldn’t necessarily know it, at all.

As a real test I’ve even worn the short sleeve version at a three day camping trip, day and night without taking it off nor having showered – minging, I know – yet it only had a faint odour by the end of the weekend. That’s got to say something.

My only critisism is of the white version, which after constant use became fairly discoloured in parts, leaving an orangey yellow stain where it had been in direct contact with my rucksack causing more perspiration. That happened after a year of constant use despite being washed after every day’s riding.

Other merino wool base layers worth a mention include those from Embers Merino, an outdoors company that specialise in merino wool products.

The long sleeved top I purchased from here was as good at wicking and smell prevention as the Rapha version, and pretty much as good for comfort and fit. The biggest benefit is the lower cost. Whilst still not cheap, they represent good value at around £45.

Another that I’m keen to try is the Endura Baa Baa Merino Long Sleeve Cycling Base Layer Large Black available from Wiggle at around £37.


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