The go-to Endura Merino base layer has changed. Firstly, while the original BaaBaa Merino base layer wasn't exactly your skin-tight, wear-it-under-a-tt-skinsuit base layer, it's now categorically the opposite - marketed as a two-up base layer cum-long-sleeve t-shirt by Endura. It's still reasonably form-hugging, however, and doesn't cause uncomfortable bunching when worn under a tight road cycling jersey.
The other major change, however, is the material. No longer does the Scottish brand offer its 100 per cent wool-constructed BaaBaa Merino base layer. Instead, enter Merino Blend. One part non-mulesed Merino to four parts Lyocell are sent to Endura's kitchen with the intention of being blended into a wonder fabric. But did the company succeed?
What's so special about it?
According to Endura, the "BaaBaa Blend L/S base layer combines the great temperature regulation and odour controlling properties of merino and the excellent moisture management properties of synthetic fibres".
In my experience, the temperature regulation is sufficient without being excellent. I've worn this base layer in temperatures ranging from -4 degrees Celsius (around 25 Fahrenheit) up to around 10 (50F), and the Endura base layer performs best at the lower end of this scale. At -4, paired with the Endura Pro SL tights, a Rapha Brevet jersey, and Endura FS260-Pro Nemo Gloves, I was anything but cold. In fact, I arrived to work at the end of a 13-mile commute a little sweaty.
Despite an 80 per cent reduction in merino, the odour controlling remains excellent - my work colleagues haven't yet subtly found an excuse to get out of the lift before their floor, anyway... More seriously, however, I tested this in an entirely unscientific way, by leaving the base layer unwashed for a week after a long ride and giving it the sniff test. It passed with flying colours.
Moisture management is a difficult one to quantify, especially with the multiple variables that can affect sweat rates (temperature, humidity, other clothing choices, exertion, the list goes on) but throughout a winter of commuting and training, it's been common to finish with a damp or patchy base layer, suggesting it's not quite up to scratch for everyday riding. Endura doesn't state an ideal temperature range for using this base layer, but I'd say it's best used when the temperatures are close to freezing or below.
Design and aesthetics
The Endura BaaBaa blend base layer is available in three colours. Black, Kingfisher (blue) and Rust Red. The non-mulesed Merino blend is said to offer soft, itch-free comfort, and a truer word was never spoken - it' velvet soft and forget-you're-wearing-it comfortable.
There are a few cute design cues that add to the quality feel and premium aesthetic, but of course, being a base layer, this only matters if you take Endura's advice and wear it as a long-sleeve t-shirt. For me, it's still too form-fitting to wear off-the-bike.
Is it practical?
Despite the excellent odour controlling properties, we'd still recommend you wash your base layer. Thankfully, it's machine washable and washing at a range of temperatures and durations has caused no problems. For what feels like a reasonably heavyweight material, it's also rather quick-drying, it's usually ready to go again within two days when hung indoors.
Of course, it's supported by the Endura Guarantee, which states: "All Endura products are guaranteed against defect within normal use excluding fair wear and tear, accident or misuse."
In the event of an accident, Endura offers a repair service at a minimum cost of £15.00, so if you were to have an accident and rip the elbow, or snag it on a nasty thorn while riding your mountain bike, you don't have to fork out for an entirely new base layer.
Despite knowing that it can lead to slight over-heating on the warmer winter days, I find myself reaching for the Endura BaaBaa Blend base layer for 75 per cent of my commuting and a good portion of my weekend riding too. When heading out the door on a wintery morning, that extra bit of warmth is hard to turn down.
Do we recommend it? Absolutely. To anyone looking for extra warmth on a commute or long easy road ride, a mountain biker hitting long descents, and any hardy individuals who want to keep on trucking when the temperatures hit zero. Although once the effort ramps up, I'd probably lean more towards something a little cooler.
Price: £44.99 / US$64.99 / AU$79.99
Material: 80% Lyocell, 20% Merino
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL