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Sportful's Bodyfit Pro Women's Long Sleeve Base Layer mirrors its short-sleeved version: think tissue-paper-thin fabric that the pros pull on for a race. Upon seeing and first feeling the vest it would be easy to confine it to a 'race kit' drawer, but testing it out has convinced me it has a very useful place in the winter kit wardrobe.
You might initially wonder what on earth you've got for your money when you feel the weight of the top and see just how thin it is. Everything about it is minimalist – there isn't even a baseline hem, just an over-sewn, very thin strip of silicone. I was expecting this stitching to fray but it has held up so far and is showing absolutely no signs of weakness, even after excessive wearing and washing in a relatively short period of time.
The top actually fits really well (it's not me in the photos – small model wearing a medium top). It has plenty of length to cover the base of the back and there is ample arm length too. I would say that I have a longer than average torso, and the medium was perfect for me.
The neckline is sufficiently high to offer protection against potential rub from a stiff-necked outer layer, as well as against draughts – the material is doubled up here. It is not too high to be irritable or constrictive though.
My only niggle was with the sleeves, which had a tendency to roll up if I hastily pulled on a jersey with tighter lower arms/cuffs – a compact, narrow worm-like roll... annoying! Sportful tells us 'the fit is ergonomic and fits perfectly with other Bodyfit products' but I am not sure investing in all Sportful Bodyfit kit is a feasible solution to my niggle. Just remember to hold the sleeves when you pull on a jersey; not too difficult really.
Sportful is very specific that the Bodyfit Pro top performs best in cold temperatures when used under a wind-resistant outer layer. Some outer layers are so effective at keeping you warm that a baselayer just needs to manage that warmth and sweat rather than keep you warm too; the Bodyfit Pro does this brilliantly. Don't expect it to keep you warm on its own when temperatures really dip if you don't have the windproof outer layer and aren't working hard – that's not the intention!
On a three and a half hour steady ride in temperatures around 4-5 degrees I never once felt cold with a windproof outer, nor did I feel any build-up of moisture against the skin. It is not restricted to this combination though. It works well as a first baselayer of two. It is also ideal combined with a non-thermal jersey for riding or racing at a high tempo for a short period in temperatures between about 5 to 8 degrees; I was dry and comfortable throughout such efforts and my torso never felt cold, or overheated.
Whatever you choose to combine it with, it will ensure that you do not get a build-up of sweat inside, or a damp feeling against your skin.
The grid patterned, lofted polyester that traps warm air but allows moisture escape is presumably what makes the layer so effective, but this results in one of the biggest negatives: it holds bad odours. You definitely need to wash it after every use, it's not one for commuters to wear two or three times a week without washing. Thankfully, its dark colour means it's not begun to look faded or discoloured after so many washes.
At £45 it comes in at the more expensive end of the price scale, but if you want a layer that will perform in a variety of winter training sessions and races then the Sportful BodyPro won't disappoint.
Floaty feel and weightlessness belie its effectiveness in biting temperatures – but you will need to wash it after each wear
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Bodyfit Pro Women's Base Layer LS
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful doesn't say anything about the women's base layer on the feature page of its website – I was directed to the men's verson and told the only difference was the cut. Sportful says it's 'the choice of pro riders when they do not want to chose between staying warm and eliminating sweat. Updated fabric adds increased warmth and resistance. This means that you can put in big efforts without having to suffer a damp baselayer chilling you down afterwards, it's also much more adaptable in changing temperatures. Like all BodyFit Pro products the fit is ergonomic and fits perfectly with other Bodyfit products.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
There is some further elaboration on the Blog section of Sportful's website; 'Our BodyFit Pro baselayers use our specially developed Thermal Pro fabric, which is a grid patterned lofted polyester that traps warm air but lets moisture escape. The BodyFit Pro fit is ergonomic and fits perfectly with other Bodyfit products.'
From the product's label:
30 degree wash
Do not tumble dry
Neat and no irritating seams.
Excellent when used as recommended – under a windproof/softshell jersey or jacket. Performs well with non-thermal jersey for a short, sharp training session or race.
It's very thin and flimsy feeling, but has stood up to general wear and wash. This has only been for four weeks though.
Great. Sleeve and body length spot on for me.
Tested a medium and it hugged the torso well. As ever, sizing is variable among all manufacturers; I can sometimes get away with a small but know that with most Italian branded cycle tops I need a medium.
Soft against skin and no irritating edges or seams.
Pretty expensive in comparison to some out there – you can certainly get a much more substantial baselayer for the same amount of money, but if you are serious about training and/or racing in winter then this is worth investing in.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine, comes out virtually dry!
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Effective performance – kept me warm and I felt no chill. Because it's dark there is no discolouration through excessive washing that often occurs with pale undervests.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sleeves prone to rolling up when pulling on a jersey with extended tight cuffs unless you hold them in place.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they are serious about training and racing throughout the winter months, yes, definitely.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Not a great quid to weight ratio, and you need to care for it well to avoid snagging its fragile-feeling fabric, but it is an excellent layer that does everything it promises to.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, getting to grips with off-roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…