Base layers are a staple piece of mountain bike kit that every rider has in their cycling wardrobe, so getting the best one for your needs and budget is a must. Whether they are made of synthetic or natural fibres, both have their place and are good at wicking sweat and keeping you warm in winter. We've tested a fair few tops and here are our top picks...
[Updated 20th October 2020]
The best base layers we've tested:
Need to know: Base layers
For more information on the technology behind base layer construction and whether a synthetic or merino wool layer might work best for you, head over to our complete buyer's guide to base layers here.
Best base layers 2019
Below are all the base layers we have tested that score four out of five stars or above, making them well worth a look when you think about buying your next one.
Morvelo's Overland Dual Baselayer-Jersey fits like a jersey, features all the pockets you'd expect (and more), but is built from sweat-wicking baselayer fabric. It's comfy and works extremely well – both alone on hot days, and beneath other layers when the temperatures fall. It's tight, though, so watch the sizing.
While a base layer isn't perhaps the first item you think of with Nukeproof, this straightforward merino wool, long-sleeve base layer is a super soft, well-made layer that offers no-frills performance and comfort. Some downsides are that wool snags pretty easy, and isn’t going to hold up to crashes too well, but its usually underneath other clothing so mostly well protected. The pluses of the base layer are its simple construction, which minimises seams, so making it more likely to last a bit longer. The price is competitive, and coupled with the reliable performance of the fabric, the decent cut and build, its a good choice for your riding wardrobe.
Made from 100% premium 160gsm merino wool, the Alpkit Kepler is an excellent multi-sport base layer that claimed to deliver warmth, breathability, quick drying and odour resistance (within reason) and it delivers that pretty well as it turns out. The price is also competitive and it offers a great looking, well-functioning base layer for three seasons. It fast became our testers default choice of bottom layer.
Specialized have been delving into the world of cycle specific clothing for some time now and overall with great success. Their Merino LS Underwear baselayer is a fine example of this, it's warm, comfortably stretchy and worth the higher price. If like me, you like Specialized’s kit and accessories anyway, you won't be disappointed when you use their baselayer too. At £55 it’s up there with the best of the competition, well £5 more expensive than an Endura Baa Baa for example, but it performs just as well, and is even a little comfier than the competition.
dhb's Lightweight Mesh Base Layer is a hugely versatile bit of kit that's rapidly become part of my go-to riding wardrobe, whether it's under a jacket or jersey. It's well cut, a great price and the only downside is that it doesn't seem quite as durable as much more costly versions.
The dbh Aeron women’s short sleeved merino base layer is a great shoulder-season underlayer that washes well, dries quickly and has a soft feel against the skin. It retains its shape well too, though it's on the thin side for serious winter use. The humble base layer might be underrated in general, but it’s a key piece of kit an invaluable from September onwards. I’d honestly be happy with a drawer full of these simple short sleeved layers from dhb – they're versatile, hard-wearing and well-priced for merino at £38, especially when (as always) you'd struggle to ever pay RRP for a Wiggle product. At the time of writing, the Aeron SS is on sale at £28.50, making an absolute bargain.
The Morvelo Cols women’s SS baselayer is a lightweight, short-sleeved mesh top for use under any style of mountain bike, gravel or road jersey. It’s a great synthetic layer for use in hot weather or if you're sweating hard, but it’s not the cosiest for winter warmth.
The Alpkit Koulin Trail Tee is a base layer that can conceivably be used as a t-shirt too, wicks sweat from the rear panel well and is nicely shaped – and a bit of a bargain. The styling is undeniably more underlayer than actual t-shirt though.
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