Tech Roundup - base layer special: 8 new tops from Altura, Bontrager, Craft, dhb, Frankly, Howies, Scott & Shutt VR…

A selection of timely new winter vests and why it's good to wear a base

by nick_rearden   November 4, 2011  

The manufacturers have blitzed us these last few weeks with news of an ever-more-impressive selection of vests or what we have learned to call base layers in the modern layering parlance. It's funny that; they must know us cyclists are never more motivated than the first freezing ride to rush to the bike shops for a cosy new winter warmer.

It's important to make the right choice as, second only to your shorts, the right base layer being next to the skin will have a huge effect on comfort. There are now 100% synthetic, pure natural and clever blends of both and all have their pros and cons, not least on price where the range runs from £25 to nearly £60. Our selection of eight here are all so new they haven't been reviewed yet but they're all in the works and in the case of the Scott Next2Skin Base Layer, due to be posted any day now. Watch this space but meanwhile in alphabetical order...

 

Altura Second Skin Base Layer £24.99

The Altura basic cycling garments are at the lower end of the price spectrum but tend to offer the really useful technical features without the bells and whistles.The brand tends to be stocked by big bikes shops with lots of fancy clothing which then display Altura as a good value 'house' offer. Apart from this cosier Second Skin base, there is also a lighter weight summer option called Transfer for £20 but we're naturally going for the warm option here and there are both men's and women's cuts. A fairly high percentage of elastane - that's the stretchy component in Lycra - 8% + 92% nylon means this base has a snug fit and we expect it to be a whiffier garment that needs a cool wash after every ride out but soft cottonish feel and seamless construction also means we hope it'll be super-comfortable.    

Details: zyro.co.uk

 

Bontrager B3 Base Layer £29.99

The Bontrager base layers are numbered B1 to B3 with the warmer B2 and B3 making it to these UK shores presumably assuming our cyclists could do with the help in our dank winter climate. To be honest the £27.99 mid-weight B2 is all we'll mostly need especially as they only come long-sleeved but we can personally vouch for earlier versions of the B3 which make excellent warm base garments for all outdoor activities including just loafing around in the winter outdoors with appropriate sweaters and coats layered on top. Soft to the touch in 100% polyester, the fabric is knitted to feel cosy inside and to wick away moisture with a smooth exterior to slip against top layers for comfort and easy removal.  

Details: bontrager.com

 

Craft Zero Extreme Crew Neck Base Layer £35

Not a well-known brand here but providing the kit for the Leopard-Trek professional cycling team raised the profile of Craft no end and it turns out they're a Swedish company that started off making warm winter base layers for all those icy, snowy sports the Scandinavians love so much. Craft kick off by saying that their Zero Extreme is "guaranteed to be the best fitting, best performing and most comfortable base layer yet," so that's encouraging. Craft say, "A hexa-channeled fibre against the skin enhances moisture transport and cools the body down, whereas a hollow fibre on the outside of the fabric offers insulation and transports moisture to the next layer." 

Details: craft.se

 

dhb Merino Long Sleeve Zipneck Base Layer £40.99

dhb is the house brand of online retailer Wiggle and they've gone full-on into luxurious 100% merino wool, offering crew and zip necks, long and short sleeves for men and women and even colour choices; the latter of which might be an issue if you're wearing your base layer as a leisure top. The first impression here is that the fit being long and fitted is more 'performance' orientated than 'leisure' - see Howies - but that's no bad thing. The feel is certainly nice next to the skin and fantastic claims are made for the natural anti-bacterial qualities of fine merino wool making it relatively sweet-smelling after exercise. 

Details: wiggle.co.uk

 

Frankly Mens Basic Crew Tee £59

Now here's an interesting one; a new Anglo-Australian company offering baselayers made from all-natural Neobi; "an organic cotton merino wool mix which wicks perspiration away from the skin to the outside of the fabric, keeping the wearer cool in the heat and warm in the cold." They say the 200-grams per meter weight will feel like a mid-weight tee shirt and is excellent for warm to temperate climates and for underlayers in winter months. Also claimed is minimal odour, long life and no chemicals; got to be worth a try although the more complex garments with polo necks and half zips range up to £85. 

Details: eu.franklyfrankly.com

 

Howies NBL Classic £55

OK, no introductions needed for Howies here but the NBL Classic in 100% merino wool has had a facelift and the slightly looser fit and colour choices suggest garments you'd be happy to wear indoors and layered out for leisure. Howies is one of those premium brands that attracts a Marmite reaction, some saying that £55 for a vest is ridiculous and others that for a garment you wash and wash over many years, it's good value. We forgive them a lot for their branding being quiet and understated; plus in the case of the NBL Classic, it's made in Fiji which has to be a first.  

Details: howies.co.uk

 

Scott Next2Skin Base Layer £49.99

Three different weights and textures in Meryl Microfibre are employed in complicated shapes; partly to help with articulation but mostly to do with being warm where you want warm and breathability - around the armpit area for example - where you want moisture to wick and evaporate fast. The flatlock seams and utilitarian appearance suggest a technical, performance-orientated garment; our Mat is just on the verge of posting his report. There are short sleeved and sleeveless options as well as fits for men and women, the latter a big issue for comfort if a base is to be worn with a sports bra.

Details: scott-sports.com

 

Shutt Velo Rapide Merino Perform Base Layer £39

Shutt have gone for a definite 'cyclist's cut' with a longer tail and a wool-synthetic blend called Merino Perform that they claim gets the best from both; "Merino wool on the inside face of the fabric with the robustness of polyester on the outer," is how they put it. Short sleeved only but the advantage is that armwarmers worn in lieu of sleeves give extra versatility for when the weather is feeling indecisive.

Details: shuttvr.com

6 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

.I'm no animal rights activist by any means but I was rather distressed to hear about the practice of mulesing on merino sheep, see http://www.kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-mulesing-and-what-are-the-alternative...
Perhaps road.cc could follow up this review with the various suppliers and see if any of them can give a lead on whether they have policies about this issue?

posted by fred22 [207 posts]
5th November 2011 - 23:48

like this
Like (3)

As it happens we've covered this before fred22, Howies do indeed have a policy on this - they're very much against it, indeed they used to talk about mulesing (and possibly still do) in their catalogue. Pretty sure Rapha don't use wool sourced in this way either, I'm also fairly certain that we've asked the question of dhb and Shutt in the past and neither of them use wool from sheep treated in this way either. We'll ask again though cos it is worth knowing, and my memory isn't what it was.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4136 posts]
6th November 2011 - 0:15

like this
Like (2)

Hooray for the baselayer, unsung hero of the wardrobe. I have that dhb top and like it a lot. It's long, with a slim cut and high collar: very comfortable and practical, and definitely less malodorous than synthetics. I wasn't aware of the ethical issue but hope Wiggle are doing the right thing here.

I also have an Endura, their cheapest I think, and that's been brilliant. It's very snug fitting, wicks well and remains as good as new after two years of abuse. It even survived having cardboard legs stitched to it as part of an insect costume. I sometimes cycle in it too.

Noli porcum linguere

captain_slog's picture

posted by captain_slog [267 posts]
6th November 2011 - 11:45

like this
Like (2)

captain_slog wrote:
It even survived having cardboard legs stitched to it as part of an insect costume. I sometimes cycle in it too.

Pictures or it never happened!

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
6th November 2011 - 20:47

like this
Like (2)

Pictures of me cycling? They do exist...

Noli porcum linguere

captain_slog's picture

posted by captain_slog [267 posts]
6th November 2011 - 21:48

like this
Like (3)

captain_slog wrote:
Pictures of me cycling? They do exist...

I think it was the cycling in an insect suit we all wanted Smile

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
7th November 2011 - 0:55

like this
Like (3)