Metier has used the latest wonder material, graphene, to control body temperature in its new Element baselayer. The theory sounds plausible but in reality I can see very few benefits over baselayers a third of the price. It does fit nicely, though.
- Pros: Well cut, compressive fit
- Cons: Removes sweat from the body but doesn't dry very quickly, high price
We've seen graphene appearing in all sorts of applications since it was recently 'discovered': things like tyre treads or the soles of high-end running shoes, mostly because of its unbelievable strength and the fact that it is so thin it's also incredibly light and flexible.
Metier has used it here more for its thermal conductivity though. The pattern you see on the baselayer is the graphene printed to the fabric and the theory is that it engages with your body's hotspots to dissipate heat throughout the circuit, to either keep you cool on hot rides or warming you on cooler ones.
While we may not have the exceptional temperatures we saw back in the summer, it's still knocking around the high-teens to low 20s here. On each ride I've done in the Element it has becoming overwhelmed with sweat quite quickly, making the whole baselayer wet, and even when opening my jersey zip to get some wind flowing through it refused to dry to a decent level.
I like the close cut of the Element and the mild feeling of compression, but with it sitting so close to the body everywhere it means that you feel the wetness every time you move. It wasn't pleasant.
With chillier early mornings it has kept me warm and not been so much of an issue, but whether that heat is being transferred around my body via the graphene is very hard to quantify.
What I'm basically saying is that it doesn't feel to be doing any different a job than other similarly fitting non-graphene baselayers in my collection.
There are things to like, though.
As I mentioned, I like the slim fit, and that compression element to the fabric doesn't feel overly restrictive if you aren't exactly the lightest rider in the group.
The seams down each side have been bonded rather than sewn so you have nothing protruding against the skin, although those around the neck and arms are left as normal.
The fabric is also anti-bacterial so you can wear it a fair few times before washing it, which makes it ideal for a short tour or if you are a regular commuter.
Value-wise, at £80 it is at the expensive end of the market, and as I personally didn't find the whole graphene thing much of a bonus I wouldn't see myself paying for it.
The Ashmei baselayer recently tested got excellent marks for its sweat wicking and quick drying, and even that was considered expensive at £65. Dave tested the £82 X-Bionic Energy Accumulator winter baselayer back in 2016 and gave it 9/10 – but he did say the performance was 'best in class'.
Something like the dhb's Blok baselayer is just £20 and is an excellent performer in the summer. It hasn't got the cold weather capability of the Metier, but for the same money you could buy a separate winter baselayer and still pocket some change (Lusso's Thermal baselayer is £35 and very good according to Mike Stead).
On the whole the Element is a decent piece of clothing when it comes to form and fit, but it just doesn't deliver on its promises for me.
Nice fit and ideal for chilly mornings but doesn't deliver on its cooling claims when the weather is warm
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Metier Element Race Layer Short Sleeve
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Metier says, "The short sleeve Element Race Layer is the first base layer in the world to use Graphene G+ technology. The application of Graphene when printed onto fabric creates a unique performance environment which is incredibly effective at controlling the core temperature of your body - either dissipating heat in hot weather, or retaining heat in the cold."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Core Temperature Control
Seamless bonding for greater comfort
High degree of breathability
Bacteriortatic and therefore reduces odour
Quick drying for rider comfort
Made in the UK
Sizing was exactly as the chart says. Available in sizes XXS to XXL.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You need to wash it in its own bag on a 30-degree heat.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a summer baselayer it's too warm and doesn't breathe very well; it's slightly better in cooler weather.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Doesn't live up to the graphene claims.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't many other baselayers on the market for this kind of money, even the likes of Ashmei and Rapha are cheaper. Dave did test the X-Bionic Energy Accumulator back in 2016 and that was £82 – but he did say the performance was excellent.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
For the money this baselayer would have to be near-perfect to take on the competition, but it just doesn't deliver on its technical claims.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.