Base layers are rarely seen, except when summiting a mountain climb with jersey flung wide open, which means the bold and subjectively stylish Rapha Pro Team Data Print base layer will be a rare sight to anyone but the wearer.
The new base layer is part of Rapha's latest Data Print collection. A collaboration with a design studio, it's a unique design based on a Team Sky racer's data from a stage race, and features a series of chevrons mapping the rider's distance, elevation gain and Training Score Stress (TSS). It's applied to Rapha's new Aero jersey and Aerosuit. Oh and some socks too. It's a bold new direction for the clothing company, and is unlike anything they've created before. You'll either love the new aesthetic or...
Looks aside, the base layer is constructed from a synthetic mesh material with side panels made from a high-stretch material, with flatlock stitching throughout. It's a very close fit, figure-hugging is the best description, as it should be so the fabric can do its job of wicking sweat away from the skin. There's enough stretch that it's accommodating of any extra bulges, and there are plenty of sizes to choose from as well. As with all of Rapha's Pro Team clothing, it's designed to be a racy fit.
It's extremely comfortable, and the sleeveless version - a short sleeve version is available too - works remarkably well with tight fitting short sleeve jerseys, like the Rapha Aero jersey (well you'd hope - ed) , with minimal bulk around the upper arm area. It's a good length at the waist too so plenty to tuck into your bib shorts.
As it's a base layer designed for 'training and racing in hot conditions' I duly headed to some warmer climes to give it a proper test, and can confidently report that it does a top job of keeping you cool. The material is extremely thin and it's very meshy, and reduces the potential for overheating compared to regular base layers. Some people don't wear a base layer when it's hot but my personal preference is to wear one all the time, even in high heat, I feel a base layer better mops up excess sweat than a just a jersey. And it avoids bib strap chafing.
It's short on details, it's a base layer after rall, but Rapha has found space to add one of its favoured phrases from cycling's history to the chest panel. There are the now trademark Pro Team horizontal stripes at the base of the neck, just to remind others that you're wearing a Rapha base layer.
A £45 for the sleeveless base layer and £50 for the short sleeve base layer, it's the same price as the regular Pro Team versions, but it's right at the thick end of what we'd expect to pay for a high quality base layer. You don't have to look very far to find similar performing base layers for quite a lot less. None are available in this snazzy design though, but as I mentioned at the top, few people are going to see it other than yourself.
Unusual looking base layer but excellent hot weather performance, but it's not cheap... but you knew that
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer Sleeveless - Data Print
Size tested: black/white
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?
A base layer for training and racing in hot conditions, made from a synthetic mesh with high-stretch side panels to improve fit. When the skin is covered by sweat, the body's ability to lose heat is impeded. The Pro Team Base Layer works to wick sweat away from the skin, allowing it to evaporate faster and cool the body.
The construction and fabric of the Pro Team Base Layer is exactly as used by Team Sky, with flatlock stitching to prevent discomfort and chafing and high-stretch side panels to allow for a close fit. The hems are folded and bound for comfort against the skin. The chest panel is emblazoned with a phrase from cycling's history. The Pro Team Base Layer will keep the body cooler on hot days than wearing a jersey alone.
Please Note: The Pro Team Base Layer's sizing is race-tight. Please select your regular jersey size or, if you would like a more relaxed fit, choose a size up.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Breathable synthetic mesh
High-stretch side panels
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? There are cheaper alternative
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Pricey but offers top performance and the fit, and the comfort next to the skin, is excellent. The Data Print design isn't for everyone but anyone bored of plain black or white base layers might find it a novel, if expensive, alternative. On performance it's a 9 - it loses a mark though on price. Some might want to deduct another for the design but style is a very subjective thing so I won't.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.