How critical are cycling base layers in summer?
Cycling in summer is hot enough. Should you really be wearing a base layer, too?
BY MARK COHEN AT 02.11.2021
Look at the torso of the average pro cycling in the heat and you’ll typically notice one of the following: bare chests and jerseys, heart rate monitors, base layers, or some combination of the above.
With the temperature turned up to full, who’s got it right? The bare chested or the base layered?
There was a time most cycled in summer in a jersey only – open for a little airflow, closed for the rest. Then the base layer arrived, and with it, variants for every temperature and condition. For many cyclists, they’re now a staple.
Base layer believers say the science is simple: a layer dedicated exclusively to wicking sweat makes sense. For sceptics, the belief is that most modern kit is made with enough moisture wicking material to carry essentials, look good and be functional, too.
As this Cycling Tips article captures, “a thin base layer will wick the moisture from your body to the outside of the garment which will evaporate as the wind hits it.” (Evaporative cooling is a wonderful thing.) On this Trainer Road forum – a popular training-specific chat – the same is asked: when it’s hot, does it make more sense to ride with our without the added “heat?”
SUMMER BASE LAYERS: REALLY?
As most on Trainer Road (and elsewhere) conclude, there’s an advantage to riding with a base layer when the mercury spikes, and that’s airflow. With a base layer whose main job it is to pull away sweat from your body, you have created greater airflow and in effect, opportunity for water to evaporate. You’re only asking one thing of that precision-made top, and that is to take your sweat and make it go away.
When worn, the result is greater comfort for longer periods of time. But that’s just an opinion (mine). While I’ve adopted base layers on rides in both hot and cold, I only ride in the heat with one on. I find it more comfortable, but think they add more panache to kit overall. When my jersey is open, I get to show off my inner superhero and what I’ve done to prep for the ride.
IF YOU’RE GOING TO RIDE IN THE HEAT
Each cyclist has their own thermostat. I’m the guy looking for warmth on alpine descents no matter how hot and will always opt for not just a wind-cutting layer, but something insulated, too.
I also only ride with base layers (like the X-Light singlet I used for inspiration for this piece) when it comes to heat. Yes, I like the aesthetic, but I find layering works to keep me in the saddle for longer. If I ever overheat, I open my jersey for maximum airflow (and max evaporative cooling).
Once you find what works for you, you’ll be more inclined to ride no matter what the temperature is out.
Mark Cohen is a copywriter at ODLO and a recovering (but still very much current) cycling addict. He is 185cm, 76kg and in the X-Light singlet base layer, wears a size M.