The Rapha Winter Base Layer is a toasty merino offering with a unique design that'll help to keep you cosy.
When it comes to base layers, merino's king. The fine fibres make for a garment that's light, wicking and warm even when wet, without the itchiness associated with other, coarser wool variants. This winter base layer from Rapha takes all of those positives and combines them with a close, form hugging fit to create a base layer perfect for the very coldest of days.
Rapha are known for their quality merino base layers, and this winter base layer isn't going to change that perception. The 100% merino content and fine, 18.9 micron weave results in a garment with tremendous insulating power for its weight. Flatlock seams eliminate any potential areas of irritation from the design, as does the Raglan sleeve construction.
Styling is typical Rapha - classy and understated with just a couple of simple logos. As such, you can just about get away with wearing this off the bike if you've got the figure for it.
The fit is athletic and tight, as any base layer should be. The danger here is that any issues with the fit get amplified as there's no extra material to hide any poor design. Not so with the Winter Base Layer though, as I found the length in both the arms and body to be perfect for both on and off-bike use. The rear hem is dropped subtly to increase coverage when on the bike, but not overly aggressive as it make it look ridiculous off the bike. The arms are cut on the long side, enabling riders with a larger ape index (arm span to height ratio) to size down and get a tighter fit over the torso.
Despite the figure hugging fit, the inherent stretchiness of the merino used means that there is some wiggle room in the sizing. If you've enjoyed the Christmas period a little too much, don't despair.
Where the Winter Base Layer distinguishes itself from the crowd is the inclusion of the roll top neck – a sort of integrated Buff if you will. This is long enough to cover the entire neck and chin which makes a big difference in warmth. I was a little worried that the extended neck would cause some irritation out on the bike, but the softness of the material meant this was never an issue.
Due to the quality merino and the roll top neck, I found the Winter Base Layer to be ideal for the very coldest days. At temperatures of around 5C, I felt comfortable wearing just the base layer with a mid-weight windproof jacket over the top. For anything colder, the additional of a mid-layer and proper winter jacket has me pedalling comfortably down to -3C, or about the coldest it's gotten this winter down south.
As with all things Rapha, there is a premium to be paid over most of the competition, though it isn't outrageous in this case. Ultimately, if you're after something to keep you warm and dry in the coldest weather, you can't really go wrong with this one.
Warm, well fitting merino base layer that ticks all the boxes.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Winter Base Layer
Size tested: Small, black
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?
Described as "essential layering for extremely cold conditions", the Winter Base Layer is intended to keep you warm and comfortable on those days when, really, you should still be in bed with a hot cup of tea
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Soft, versatile roll neck
100% merino (18.9 micron)
Shaped rear hem for improved insulation
Excellent. The weave is so fine that it doesn't really feel like wool at all.
For its weight, it delivers a massive amount of heat. The roll neck is a great idea and adds a couple of degrees to its useable temperature range.
No signs of wear so far, despite a hard winter's use and subsequent washing machine cycles.
Despite its warmth, the Winter Base Layer is light and not at all bulky.
Whether it's the fit or the material, or more likely, both, the Winter Base Layer is like a second skin in that you don't notice it at all.
Expensive, but then it works and looks good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit and roll neck.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,