Best cycling base layers of 2022: The starting point for on bike comfort

A man wears the Rapha Pro Team Thermal base layer pulled up above his face
(Image credit: Rapha)

The best cycling base layers shouldn't be underestimated. The largely unseen base layer is often the foundation for staying comfortable on the bike whether that be helping us to stay warm or cool. 

When combined with one of the best cycling jerseys, a good base layer will help you stay comfortable and dry and really feel like a key layer of protection. Base layers can be used all year round by regulating body temperature and managing moisture build-up on the inside of your cycling clothing. 

Base layers are there to help move sweat away from your body, so ideally your cycling base layers should be a relatively tight fit and sit close to your skin. The base layer will trap a layer of air between your skin and the garment itself whilst wicking sweat away to the material surface to ensure you stay comfortable and dry. Choosing the correct base layer for warm or cold conditions will keep you comfortable and allow you to focus on the riding. 

In warm weather or when completing indoor cycling workouts, a lighter-weight base layer can help keep you cool by moving any sweat away from your body and helping it evaporate which will help keep you cool and comfortable. Sweat-soaked kit against bare skin can feel uncomfortable so an effective base layer should help minimise any discomfort. 

Base layers are probably a bigger consideration for most riders during colder weather to keep us warm and to also manage moisture, particularly during hard riding or longer climbing efforts. 

In the list below, we have analysed the pros and cons of the best base layers for cycling available right now, for warm and cold riding. This guide focuses on men's base layers so head to our guide to the best women's cycling base layers for women-specific options.

If you are not sure what you need or still need a little more help, head to our buying advice at the bottom of the page. We are committed cyclists at Cyclingnews with decades of combined experience. We've put these base layers to the test in various conditions, temperatures and riding intensities to do the hard work for you and ensure the base layers included in our guide are all up to the test. 

Best winter base layers

rapha pro team winter baselayer in black

(Image credit: rapha)

Rapha Pro Team Thermal

Best winter baselayer for intense cold weather riding

Specifications

Sleeve Options : Long Sleeve only.
Materials : 84% Polyester, 16% Spandex
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Premium fit, high neck 
+
Super warm 
+
Stylish detailing 

Reasons to avoid

-
It's warmth means it's not overly versatile

The Rapha Pro Team base layer is designed for riding and racing in low temperatures when the mercury is hovering around freezing. Perfect for a hard workout in very cold conditions or long winter hours in the saddle, the long-sleeve base layer has an unobtrusive bobbled internal finish that helps trap air and keep you warm. There is also a high neck to cover your mouth and nose or that can be folded over for extra warmth above your jacket or jersey collar. The Pro Team base layer makes for a stretchy, close-cut fit and is suited to a low-on-the-bike position. 

Be aware though, this is a base layer for seriously cold days, and while that's not a complaint in itself, it does restrict its use somewhat. You may need to buy another for the milder winter days. 

Endura baabaa base layer in Kingfisher colour

(Image credit: endura )

Endura Baabaa blend baselayer

Best base layer for relaxed riding or bikepacking trips

Specifications

Sleeve Options : Long Sleeve only
Materials : Lyocell 80%, Wool 20%
Colours : Five options

Reasons to buy

+
Super soft and comfortable 
+
Looks good off the bike 
+
Merino blend 

Reasons to avoid

-
The relaxed fit may not sit well under tighter jerseys 

The BaaBaa has featured in Scottish brand Endura's range for years. The BaaBaa blend baselayer uses a merino/synthetic mix and has a more relaxed cut. The merino / synthetic fibre mix isn't the most breathable, but it feels really soft against the skin and should keep you comfortable for extended periods if the intensity stays moderate. 

If you ride several disciplines this could be a great option, it could be worn for road riding, on its own with baggy shorts for mountain biking or even ridden in and then worn off the bike on a bikepacking trip, and the merino should keep it smelling fresh for longer. Available in five different colours the BaaBaa is a versatile option that could serve several different purposes. 

rapha merino

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Rapha Merino

By using merino wool, the Rapha Merino base layer is a versatile option that will keep you comfortable in a range of conditions

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short / sleeveless
Material: Merino wool
Colours: 10+

Reasons to buy

+
Versatility
+
Rapha customer support

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly baggier fit

The Rapha Merino is a long-standing piece in Rapha's clothing line and maximises on the natural properties of merino wool.

The Rapha merino base layer uses New Zealand Merino wool which has superb thermoregulation which allows it to keep you cool when the weather is hot and provides an insulating layer when it is colder. Combined with superb wicking and moisture management which dries quickly, the Rapha Merino is a very versatile cycling base layer.

It offers natural anti-bacterial and odour resistance, while the cut is close fitting but not tight, and has flat-lock seams throughout, it's available in sleeveless, short and long sleeve versions. 

endura translite base layer in sleeveless and short sleeve versions

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Endura Translite

An adaptable cycling base layer for all weathers from Scottish clothing specialist Endura

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Short / sleeveless
Material: 100% polyester
Colours: One

Reasons to buy

+
Warm and breathable
+
Anti-bacterial
+
UV protection

Reasons to avoid

-
No long sleeve option 

Scottish clothing brand Endura has designed its Translite base layer to cope with the wide variety of weather conditions that Scotland has to offer.

An extra-fine gauge material wicks moisture away whilst regulating body temperature. The material is rated to UPF 25+ to offer UV protection from the sun, which is a bonus if there is a risk of getting sunburned through your cycling jersey. 

An athletic fit keeps the Translite close to the body and it is constructed using flat-lock seams for comfort. An antibacterial finish is used to keep bad smells at bay, an issue that can often be found with man-made materials.

gore windstoppper base layer in black in sleeveless short and long sleeve versions

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Gore Windstopper

The Gore Windstopper keeps you warm and comfortable on cold days and chilly descents

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short / sleeveless
Material: 88% polypropylene, 8% elastane, 4% polyamide
Colours: White and black

Reasons to buy

+
Warm
+
Windproof

Reasons to avoid

-
The windproof membrane doesn't wick moisture away well 

When the weather starts getting colder the Gore Windstopper cycling base layer is in its element, whether it's being used to add some chill protection to a jersey on a cold day, or as part of a winter layering system. Sleeveless, short and long-sleeve options lend themselves well to this.

The front and shoulders are made from Gore's Windstopper membrane to protect against wind chill and offer some water resistance. This is combined with an open weave mesh on the rear and under the arms to disperse heat and wick moisture away. The Windstopper material doesn't quick quite as well as others so this base layer may be better suited to steadier rides. 

The Gore Windstopper has a form fit that offers a close-fitting shape to make the most of the properties of the materials whilst remaining comfortable.

dhb merino m200 base layer in short and long sleeve versions

(Image credit: Courtesy)

dhb Merino M200

dhb offers its versatile Merino cycling base layers with a range of warmth and sleeve options at a very competitive price

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short
Material: Merino wool
Colours: Three

Reasons to buy

+
Value
+
Versatile
+
Different material thicknesses

Reasons to avoid

-
 Doesn't dry quickly 

dhb's Merino M_200's natural wicking and thermoregulation merino wool create the foundations for a cycling base layer that will work equally well off the bike. 

Using flat-lock stitching, the cut is close to the body but not so cycling-specific that you can't wear it off the bike for other outdoor activities. The Merino M_200 suits being worn as a next-to-skin layer with a winter kit for cold days, or on their own for relaxed rides, commuting and touring when the weather is milder.

Made from superfine Australian merino yarn, the Merino M_200 is a mid-weight base layer that is suited to the colder months. M_200 refers to the weight of the merino wool and dhb offers a lighter M_150 version if you don't need as much warmth. The Merino M_200 is also available in a high zip-neck version for extra draft protection.

Best summer base layers

Castelli pro issue base layer in white in sleeveless and short sleeve versions

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Castelli Pro Issue

Well constructed performance base layer that will keep you sweat-free through a wide range of temperatures

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Short / sleeveless
Material: 100% polyester
Colours: White only

Reasons to buy

+
Still able to keep you warm on cooler days

Reasons to avoid

-
White will show dirt and marks 
-
Italian sizing means you might need to size up

The Castelli Pro Issue sits in the middle of Castelli's base layer range and is designed to offer comfort in temperatures between 10-25 degrees C which should make it ideal for UK summers.

Castelli has used a light 3D mesh fabric which draws sweat away from your body through capillary action to keep you dry and comfortable while riding.

The seams around the collar have been kept to a minimum as well as a flat hem around the waist to reduce points of irritation and allow the Pro Issue to sit flat under your cycling kit. The wide collar of the Pro Issue will play well with aero and tight-collared jerseys.

Le Col Pro Mesh base layers in black and blue colours

(Image credit: Le Col)

Le Col Pro Mesh

Race-ready base layer with a close aerodynamic fit

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short / sleeveless
Material: 85% Polypropylene, 10% Polyamide, 5% Elastane
Colours: Three

Reasons to buy

+
The high stretch makes for a close, comfortable fit
+
Great moisture management
+
Good airflow

Reasons to avoid

-
White option will be tough to keep clean

Le Col's Pro Mesh base layer looks very small when it comes out of the box, but don't be fooled, it's incredibly stretchy and provides the perfect second-skin fit. Constructed with aerodynamics in mind, it's a performance-oriented garment designed to keep you streamlined on race day.

Its hydrophobic material composition provides excellent moisture management and also helps to keep bad odours at bay. The mesh construction allows air to flow freely which keeps you cool during hard efforts, while the seamless design eliminates any risk of chafing for a comfortable fit.

Castelli miracolo long sleeve merino base layer

(Image credit: wiggle )

Castelli Miracolo Wool Long Sleeve

Intriguing merino blend mesh vest that's very versatile

Specifications

Sleeve Options : Long sleeve only
Materials : Merino / Nylon mix
Colours : One colour

Reasons to buy

+
Merino stays smelling fresh 
+
Super comfortable 
+
Wide temperature use range 

Reasons to avoid

-
Mesh can rip if taken off in a hurry

The Castelli Miracolo was first seen being worn by Tao Geoghegan Hart on the Stelvio in the 2020 Giro d'Italia. The mystery base layer drew attention on social media and for good reason. The Miracolo is a long sleeve merino blend mesh base layer that has a guide temperature range from 4C/39F - 15C/59F. It's minimalist and lightweight with a close fit. In the cold during hard efforts, it will wick moisture well and prevent overheating but can also be used with other layers to keep you warm. A versatile and useful base layer.

I pulled mine off after a few hours of riding recently and ripped the rear of the neck open, it was unlucky more than anything but a little more care when taking the Miracolo off is probably a good idea.

assos summer skin short sleeve base layer in white

(Image credit: assos)

Assos Skinfoil Summer

Highly breathable, the Assos Skinfoil is a high performing cycling base layer suited to hot weather

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short / sleeveless
Material: 97% Polypropylene, 3% carbon
Colours: Holy White

Reasons to buy

+
Super breathable
+
Sleeveless, long and short sleeve options 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Assos has designed the Skinfoil Summer to maximise comfort when riding in the warmest conditions.

Manufactured in a tubular knit, which it claims reacts to your intensity of sweating to achieve a cooling effect, the material combined with the low-cut neck is also designed to maximise airflow.

The fit is close and unrestrictive to provide an element of light muscle compression to help with fatigue. The arms are sewn directly into the armhole to help promote a full range of unrestricted movement  The Skinfoil Summer uses a seamless design to avoid any points of irritation. 

dhb lightweight mesh black

(Image credit: Courtesy)

dhb Lightweight Mesh

dhb's Lightweight Mesh cycling base layer's performance functionality makes more expensive options hard to justify

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Long / short / sleeveless
Material: 93% polyester, 7% elastane
Colours: White and black

Reasons to buy

+
Superb Value
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizing may not suit larger riders

dhb's Lightweight Mesh cycling base layer offers a performance base layer for warm weather at a very reasonable price. It's available in sleeveless, short and long-sleeve options like the Assos summer base layer, and in black and white.

By using an open mesh knitted fabric the Lightweight Mesh traps air between skin and jersey to regulate body temperature whilst wicking away any unwanted moisture. To keep the base layer fresh during rides a Polygiene anti-bacterial treatment has been applied.

The performance fit avoids bunching when riding without limiting freedom of movement and dhb has minimised the number of seams and used flat-locked stitching for comfort.

sportful bodyfit pro base layer in black

(Image credit: saddleback)

Sportful Bodyfit Pro

The Sportful Bodyfit Pro offers top-level breathability for riding in cold conditons

Specifications

Sleeve Options: Short / long sleeves
Material: 94% polyester, 6% elastane
Colours: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Pro-level design
+
Ribbed fabric to trap air 

Reasons to avoid

-
No sleeveless option 

Sportful worked with the Tinkoff Saxo team to design a base layer that could be used with its Bodyfit Pro kit for both training and racing.

Sportful has designed the Bodyfit Pro cycling base layer for high-intensity riding in colder conditions and uses a ribbed fabric to regulate body temperature and allow airflow for comfort when riding hard. The base layer is available in short and long-sleeved versions and employs TheroDrytex fabric improves airflow and the crew neck provides a little extra coverage and warmth. 

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight base layer in black and white versions

(Image credit: Craft)

Craft Cool Mesh Superlight

Comes with a well-earned reputation

Specifications

Sleeve options: Short / sleeveless
Materials: 70% Polyester, 30% Polyamide(Nylon)
Colours: Black, white

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent wicking capabilities
+
Lightweight
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Odours build up after a time

These hugely popular mesh base layers from Craft come with a well-earned reputation, as they offer excellent moisture-wicking properties for a great price. They're ideal for rides on hotter days, since the super stretchy open-mesh fabric provides effective cooling, and at just 52g it weighs hardly anything so you won't feel hot and bothered in it. It's available in sleeveless and short sleeve versions with two colour options. 

In terms of fit, it sits close to the body like a second skin, which is exactly what you want, but it feels super comfortable and doesn't irritate, thanks to the soft feel of the fabric and the flat-locked seams. 

What to look for in a cycling base layer

Base layer options can be very specific, but you can cover a wide range of bases with just a few well-chosen options. Start with a thin, lightweight option for warmer temperatures and a heavier-weight long-sleeve base layer for cold weather. By playing around with different clothing layering options you will learn what temperature ranges the base layers work best in and get a feel for what you prefer. 

What material is best for a cycling base layer?

Different materials play a big part in how a base layer will perform and the environments in which it will excel. These materials are generally split into two groups, man-made synthetic fabrics or natural materials.

Synthetic fabrics are often used for high-performance cycling base layers, suited to warm weather or indoor training, where sweat management and cooling effects are important. The stretch achieves a close fit to maximise wicking abilities to move sweat away from the body during a hard climb or during an intense Zwift session. 

Natural materials such as merino wool don't wick or dry as quickly, however, they allow effective thermoregulation across a wide range of temperatures, making them extremely versatile. When wet, natural fabrics like merino still retain their insulating properties which makes them perfect for poor weather climates. Natural materials are also more resistant to unpleasant odours from riding; ideal if you are commuting to and from work or doing multi-day rides away from home.

How should a cycling base layer fit?

The best cycling base layers should have a next-to-skin fit to offer maximum performance and should be the first layer next to your skin. Sitting close to the body will allow moisture to be wicked away effectively, and minimise any bunching which may cause discomfort when worn under other layers. 

High-performance race-focussed base layers will feature flat-lock stitching, a wide collar to fit beneath skinsuits, and a pre-shaped cut optimised for an aggressive riding position. For longer or relaxed riding, opt for a casual cut, which relies on the material's stretch to provide a close, comfortable fit on and off the bike.

Which length sleeve is best for a base layer?

Most cycling base layers will come in a selection of sleeve options. Generally, short or sleeveless base layers are used for hot or changeable conditions as they will fit comfortably under a regular jersey and can be paired with the best arm warmers or a gilet if temperatures are changeable. 

Long sleeves are the reserve of cold weather when you will be wearing other long sleeve layers all day. Pair with a long-sleeve-insulated jersey or jacket to keep your upper body toasty when the mercury drops.

What features make a cycling base layer good?

Some base layers will offer extra features to excel in specific conditions. Super thin mesh material side panels enhance breathability during max efforts in the hottest temperatures. 

Wind-proofing, water resistance, a high collar, or even a built-in balaclava hood are all important considerations if you are frequently riding headfirst into winter.

Tech writer

Tom joined the Cyclingnews team in late 2022 as tech writer. Tom has over 10 years experience as a qualified mechanic with 5 or so of those being spent running an independent workshop. Tom has ridden and raced bikes from an early age up to a national level on the road and track and has ridden and competed in most disciplines, even the odd bit of bike polo. Tom is as happy tinkering away in the garage as he is out on the road bike exploring the Worcestershire lanes.