A merino baselayer is always useful for when the weather can't quite decide what it's doing. They keep the body a stable temperature even if they get wet, they're comfortable to wear (for most people) and they tend to resist getting stinky in a way that synthetics never can. The Findra Marin Cowl Neck Stripe Base Layer comes with two bonus extras too: it's made in the UK – in Scotland to be more precise – and it looks fabulous.
The Marin Cowl Neck is made from lightweight super-soft merino. The really clever part is that it's knitted seamlessly, making for a stretchy and breathable top with no scratchy seams to rub or irritate.
Textured areas at the elbows are there as a design feature but also to help resist wear, and there's a more loosely knitted v-section at the front, too, below the cowl neck, to add extra ventilation.
Choosing a size was a touch tricky, as the online guide is a little unfathomable. I went for the 14-16 on the grounds that I didn't want it to only be wearable as a baselayer, but also as a standalone top, and when it arrived it fitted comfortably but slightly loose (and very loose on our model – that's not me!). The 10-12 would have been spot on for baselayer wear, I suspect, but quite neat on me for use on its own. The chest area is quite roomy and the hip hem very stretchy, so both sizes would be quite versatile for a variety of builds.
As a spring cycling top, coupled with a windproof gilet, it performed brilliantly. The weave of the merino, slightly looser than some others I've tried, made for superb breathability with no overheating or chilling off problems, even when working hard. The cowl neck was cosy without being over hot or constrictive, but could perhaps be too warm for summer use anywhere south of Scotland. The ventilation patch at the front of the neck kept just enough air flowing there to add to comfort too.
Looks-wise it's great, and made for very relaxed café visiting. I'd happily wear it commuting or mountain biking.
Although it felt quite fragile, and beautifully soft, it's actually surprisingly durable and tough, with no washing problems at all. It's definitely one to keep well away from Velcro though.
Price-wise, it's expensive for a baselayer but around the same price – and cheaper than some – high-end merino jerseys, so when you consider that it works as both and that it's made in Scotland from superb quality Italian merino, it's easier to swallow. It should also last for years, and of course it looks stylish too.
Gorgeous looking, comfortable and versatile – and made in the UK
road.cc test report
Make and model: Findra Marin Cowl Neck Stripe Base Layer
Size tested: 14-16
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at all female cyclists.
Findra says: "An essential long sleeve base layer for women who want to be comfortable and stylish both on and off the bike. This seamless lightweight base layer is made from super-soft 100% Italian Merino sports wool and feels incredible. Soft, stretchy and not itchy in the slightest. Merino Wool is the ideal fabric for cycling base-layers. It's natural wicking properties make it perfect for performance sports and ideal for cycling and running.
"Textured elbow patches provide detail and support. Integral knitted thumbholes give cover for the wrist. Extra breathability and comfort come from the textured detail at the nape of the neck. Contrasting trim detail at the hem and cuff add extra detailing.
"But don't be fooled by its style; this women's sports base layer has been tested to cope with any condition you throw at it and is perfect for eating up the miles on the tarmac or blasting round the trails with your friends."
Does just what it's supposed to.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Machine washable at 30
* Base layer
* Temperature regulating
* Wicking properties
* FINDRA Female Fit
* Integrally knitted cowl neck
* Textured elbow patches for added wearability
* Integrally knitted thumbholes
* Textured area at the nape to allow extra breathability and comfort
* Two colour style detail at elbow
* Contrast trim detail
100% Italian spun, merino sports wool
Available in sizes 6/8, 10/12, 14/16
Superb quality merino yarn and overall a beautifully finished garment. The seamless construction is impressive.
The slightly loose weave of the merino made it more breathable and versatile than many merino baselayers, and softer.
The wool and fabric itself should last a hugely long time but only if they don't get attacked by Velcro. The looser weave fabric does make it slightly more vulnerable.
Extremely comfortable with no itching at all and beautifully breathable.
It's not cheap, but it should last for years, and it's well made in the UK from high quality materials.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Style, fabric, softness, breathability, versatility.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly confusing sizing chart.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely, it would be a good investment for all sorts of outdoor activities.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A well-made and thoroughly-thought-through design with great fit, looks and versatility. An investment piece that should last for years and give good performance along the way.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.