Ashmei's Short Sleeve Baselayer is a great performer, no question, but its £65 cost will be prohibitive for many.
- Pros: Comfort, cooling and warming performance when required, breathability
- Cons: Cost
At its core is the boutique brand's blend of 65 per cent merino wool and 35 per cent carbon material, which carries with it a reputation for very high levels of breathability and comfort against the skin. I discovered as much with the more relaxed technical t-shirt, and it's here in a construction specifically for baselayer use.
The cut is very slim – just shy of skin tight – for a small silhouette underneath a jersey or jacket, and as a result is very snug to wear. The large on test fitted me perfectly without any restrictions or excess bunching around the waist, and given that I tend to mix it up between medium and large size baselayers depending on the cut, it indicates that if anything Ashmei's comes up slightly small.
Nevertheless, the combination of soft flatlock seams and the merino and carbon fabric means it fits incredibly comfortably, with no cutting or chafing under the arguably tighter areas around the chest. The crew neck isn't restrictive, while the cut of the shoulders (which are set inwards for a smoother line over the shoulder joints) means you get no annoying fit issues if you have wider shoulders, like mine.
I'm also a fan of Ashmei doing away with a traditional tag inside – it's simply appliquéd the washing instructions to the hem instead. That's not exactly revolutionary, but it does remove one more potential source for irritation in a baselayer designed to fit closely to the skin.
In terms of a cycling-specific fit, the rear is slight dropped to improve rear coverage, but the front doesn't ride up, which is great both when riding and when at the coffee stop. It also means you could easily use it for something like running too – hardly surprising given Ashmei's historical two-pronged focus on those two sports.
It's light too, at 130g in the large on test, while it doesn't gain very much weight if you're working hard and sweating through it thanks to that lack of bulk. It's great at wicking away moisture, and I found it returns to dry nearly as quickly as mesh-like baselayers.
It's also a flexible piece in terms of the temperatures you can use it in. The merino blend is cool and breathable when you need it to be, but can also add a decent level of warmth when you're not on the move or the temperature drops. Sure, it's no thermal baselayer and its main strength lies in keeping you cool, but it can help stave off cutting chills when you're stood at the side of the road unexpectedly for a while.
The design is clean and plain, but still with a little style in the two vertical lines on the back and subliminal Ashmei branding. I really like baselayers like this – you can wear it with any type of kit without clashing – and you can have it in four colourways: black, red, blue and the grey on test.
Also, despite warnings to wash it on a 30 degree setting (often an instruction to heed given the delicacy of merino wool), it has survived 40 degree washes without issue, and looks and fits as new afterwards. This means it's likely to last for a fair chunk of time, which is just as well given the high asking price.
I really like the Ashmei short sleeve baselayer. There's no doubting its high quality, while the fit and cut is spot on not only for cycling, but for wider use too if you wanted to diversify. It can wick moisture really well, as well as provide a thin defence layer against the cold, and I also like the fact that it's resilient in the wash despite the merino content.
Nevertheless, is it really worth £65? Put it this way: Rapha's equivalent 100 per cent merino baselayer is a fiver less, performing practically the same job (albeit with a 30g penalty in weight), while there are others that can claim to do the same job for even less. dhb's long-sleeve Aeron Merino is £35, for example, though Mike wasn't overly impressed with its performance. It's up to you if the comfort and performance of the Ashmei is worth the extra.
A brilliantly performing baselayer, but at a cost
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ashmei Men's Short Sleeve Baselayer
Size tested: L
Tell us what the product is for
Ashmei says: "If you have never experienced the wonder fabric that is Merino + Carbon, then we humbly suggest you jump in with our entry level top – the Short Sleeve Base Layer. Every cyclist and runner knows the worth of a great baselayer for both ends of the temperature spectrum and this piece won't let you down in the heat or in the cold.
"Ensuring you stay cool on balmy summer days, the Merino + Carbon fabric has incredible breathability and temperature regulation. The material actively wicks sweat away from the skin to the outer layer of the fabric to keep you dry. In addition, Merino has odour reducing properties, which means you will never face the daunting prospect of your pals complaining about your body odour after those long, endurance rides.
"For outings on cooler days, the beautifully soft, close fit of the Baselayer ensures that when you are on the drops there is simply no way through for cold air. That same thermo-regulation properties of Merino kick in to ensure you stay dry and warm when you wear the piece as a true Baselayer under an outer shell or Midlayer."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ashmei lists these features:
- Highly breathable, fast wicking fabric
- Crew neck, set-in sleeves, classic shoulder
- Longer cut for extended coverage
- Tonal striped signature branding at rear
- Fast drying, easy care
- Blended MERINO + CARBON fabric
- Super lightweight
- Sun protection of UPF 50+
- 65% Merino Wool, 35% Carbon [polyester]
Typical Ashmei quality here – despite the lightweight nature of the baselayer, it's sturdily made.
There's no doubt about it, the performance is excellent.
Despite the lack of bulk, it's held up well to repeated use and washes. I'll check back if that changes as I continue using it.
The very slim cut is perfect for use in a wide range of conditions. Perhaps long distance cruisers might like something more relaxed, or go a size up.
Sizing comes up slightly small in my opinion. If in doubt or between sizes (like me), opt for a size up.
Given it's not a mesh baselayer, 130g in a large is incredibly light. It stays light too.
Right up there with the most comfortable baselayers I've ever used.
At £65? Its performance is excellent, so it's not bad value, but it's hardly a bargain.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Surprisingly easy given the merino wool content. It stands up to 40 degree washes with the rest of my kit, no problem. If anything changes, I'll report back.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort, cooling and warming performance when required, breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, except the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Despite the price, yes I would.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Its a superb baselayer, no question. Just the value aspect drags it back.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding