Winter cycling can be a joy, and for most of the time it is, but it only takes one cold ride when you return home chilled to the bone to make you consider dedicating yourself to the turbo until warm weather rolls round again. But prevention is better than cure, and an assured way to avoid getting cold is by choosing the right kit for the conditions you will be riding in – and that starts with your base layer.
A base layer is quite literally the base of your riding kit. Take the GripGrab Expert Seamless Long Sleeve Thermal Base Layer for example: this high-performance thermal winter cycling base layer is designed for the coldest and most challenging winter rides – with the purpose of keeping you warm so that you keep on pedalling when the temperature falls.
Base layers like this, with seamless knit construction and a high-tech weave, provide the optimal combination of insulation and freedom of movement. There are no compromises here: it is a second skin to provide you with warmth, comfort and performance – so your temperature shouldn’t cause you to head home early.
Why should you wear a base layer for winter cycling?
The way in which a base layer keeps you comfortable when cycling in the colder months is three-fold:
- The first way is the most obvious: we layer up when it is cold, whether that is for a 100km bike ride or a walk to the shops. The second skin fit of a base layer such as the GripGrab Ride Thermal Long Sleeve Base Layer will help keep your core warm so that you remain comfortable and keep riding when the temperature drops. Winter base layers offer added insulation by trapping an extra layer of air between your body and the outside environment, keeping you warmer.
- The second way in which a winter cycling base layer can keep you warm and comfortable happens once you have worked up a bit of a sweat. That sweat, by its very nature, has a cooling effect that is very welcome on a hot summer's day, but can soon be a problem in the winter months. A sweaty torso will quickly be chilled by a long descent following a hard climb, but a moisture-wicking base layer will move perspiration away from the skin to reduce any discomfort caused by the rapid cooling effect of sweat.
- Finally, a base layer provides additional comfort in the winter months by avoiding discomfort potentially caused by irritating seams. Base layers such as the GripGrab Expert Base Layer use Seamless Technology to create a soft and supple layer with direct contact to your skin; this avoids rubbing and irritation from the heavier seams found on winter cycling jackets and outer shells use Seamless Technology to create a soft and supple layer with direct contact to your skin; this avoids rubbing and irritation from the heavier seams found on winter cycling jackets and outer shells.
Why choose a short sleeve or a long sleeve cycling base layer?
When deciding whether a long sleeve or short sleeve base layer is better for you, you need to consider the conditions in which you will be riding. Your comfort levels will depend on the range of conditions you need the winter cycling base layer to be used in. If you are likely to be faced with harsh winter conditions and constant low temperatures, then a long sleeve base layer is likely the best choice – as you know that you will always have it hidden under one or more other long sleeve layers of cycling kit.
However, should you be lucky enough to live somewhere with milder winters, then a short sleeve base layer could be the way to go. Paired with arm warmers and worn under a jersey – plus gilet when needed – a short sleeve base layer could be one of the most versatile pieces of kit in your wardrobe. This is because it can also be worn in the changeable conditions of autumn and spring, and then adapted to changes in the weather conditions and temperatures.
It is worth noting that wearing a long sleeve base layer with arm warmers is uncomfortable or awkward at best, due to the close-fitting profile of both the base layer and arm warmers. If you prefer to wear arm warmers rather than a winter jacket in the colder months, then it is best to opt for a short sleeve base layer.
Finally, when weighing up if you want a short sleeve or long sleeve base layer, you need to consider your own circumstances. Is there room in your kit drawer or bank account for the purchase of two winter base layers? If there is, then avoid any compromise and purchase one of each – to cover all eventualities: we recommend the GripGrab Expert Long Sleeve Base Layer and the GripGrab 3-Season Short Sleeve Base Layer for the ultimate in versatility.
How do you wear a base layer?
A base layer is normally worn next to your skin, to offer seamless comfort and moisture wicking performance.
However, the term 'base' layer can sometimes be reductive when it comes to explaining the versatility of these garments; there is also the potential to use them for further layering. Within the GripGrab range there are some base layers that could also function as a suitable mid-layer, such as the Ride Thermal and Merino base layers.
Using a base layer as your next-to-skin layer, with a second base layer worn over the top as a mid-layer is a great way to gain from both key benefits of base layers: moisture wicking performance and insulation.
Your inner base layer will act as a moisture wicking layer to move perspiration away from your body, while the mid-layer will trap warm air to help keep you at a comfortable temperature. Then, if you really overheat you can always remove a layer and keep it in your jersey pocket until it is needed again.
What is a Windbreaking base layer?
GripGrab’s range of Windbreaking base layers take the idea of windproof – that is, stopping the wind from reaching your skin – to another level. The Arrowind Windbreaking fabric is a warp knit construction that blocks up to 80% of windchill inducing air particles. However, the clever bit comes from the 20% that does get through: those air particles permeate the material, helping to dry perspiration and keep you comfortable.
Being a single layer, the windbreaking fabric significantly improves breathability and temperature regulation compared to two-layer windproof fabrics.
The most pressing question for any piece of kit is: when would you wear it? The most obvious scenario for a Windbreaking base layer is when you are trying to strip back the bulk of your kit and reduce the number of total layers; for example, a Windbreaking base layer could allow you to leave your gilet at home and wear just a short sleeve jersey, but still maintain a level of windchill protection on descents and cold morning starts.
What are the advantages of Merino Base Layers?
Merino wool can be seen as somewhat ‘odour resistant’ as the material takes on odours more slowly than other materials, increasing the number of times it can be worn before needing to be washed – which is very advantageous for bikepacking adventures.
The soft material of a merino base layer is naturally moisture wicking, acting in much the same way as other base layers in the GripGrab range by moving moisture away from your skin to help with temperature regulation and to keep you comfortable.
Unlike cotton, merino wool can still keep you warm even when it’s wet, whether the moisture is from sweat or rain. This is due to the wool taking a lot longer to feel wet as it can absorb significantly more moisture and so it takes a lot longer for it to start feeling cool. Tiny air pockets in the wool are warmed by body heat and retain that warmth as the fibres around them take on moisture.
What is the fit of GripGrab Base Layers?
GripGrab base layers are designed to have a slim-fitting profile, currently best suited to slim male body shapes. That said, the super high stretch in base layers such as the GripGrab Expert Seamless LS Base Layer will accommodate most rider bodies, male and female, thanks to the flexibility of the material.
Base layers with a next-to-skin, tight fit are usually those with more stretch as this allows the material to ‘map’ the rider’s body, giving a closer fit. A good example of this is the GripGrab Expert Seamless Lightweight Base Layer SS with its high-stretch fabric. The more relaxed fit of a base layer such as the GripGrab Merino Bamboo Half Zip Long Sleeve Base Layer lends itself to use as either a base layer or a mid-layer. This item is also a good option for off the bike wear, for example when hiking.
GripGrab Winter Base Layers can be divided into four categories. The first covers the Expert and 3-Season lines with features such as slim, next-to-skin fit and super high-stretch materials. Next are the Ride Thermal and Windbreaking options, which are again a slim fit but with a close-fitting, high-stretch material. The final range of GripGrab base layers is the Merino Blend and Merino Bamboo pieces; these have a more relaxed fit and utilise natural fabrics for a luxurious feel.
There is sure to be the perfect GripGrab base layer to fit your personal riding conditions and ambitions this winter.
View our complete range of winter base layers here