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The Lusso Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer looks an attractive proposition at nearly half the price of some close rivals. It's a bit of a mixed bag, though: it provides brilliant warmth considering its weight, but its ability to wick moisture is less impressive. I'd say it's best suited to low-intensity winter rides or gentle cold-weather commuting.
On the grounds of increased durability and lower cost, nearly all of my baselayers have been synthetic. However, the benefits of merino are undeniable. This natural wonder textile offers huge amounts of warmth per unit weight, with the added benefit of not retaining odour.
Lusso isn't alone in aiming to get the best of what both nature and science have to offer by mixing merino and polyester, here in a 35%/65% split, and I have to say that it feels great. It's soft against the skin, but thinner and lighter than most baselayers with a higher merino content that I've come across. The polyester part prevents sagging of the material and means the baselayer can be closer-fitting, and it retains its shape even after washes.
The baselayer on test was a small, and was a bit tight under the arms for me. I measured myself as a small-medium on Lusso's size guide, and as Doreen from Lusso suggests in the comments below, medium would have suited my dimensions better. (It's not me in the photos.)
One thing that was immediately apparent was the high neck, the likes of which I haven't used on a baselayer before. As you can see in the photos, it's best described as a V-shaped turtle neck, high at the back with an overlap and taper at the front. Presumably it's designed to keep heat in without restricting breathing, and out on rides this certainly was the case.
Not surprisingly because of my confusion over the sizing (see the comments, below), the baselayer was shorter than most I've tried, but the sleeves felt a good length, and despite not being any more elasticated than the top itself, the cuffs held them in place well.
The hem at the bottom is double layer and then stitched, which makes it quite thick, so depending on where this sits could create an unsightly line under bib tights or shorts. On me it sat just above my hip bones so wasn't an issue, but on a shorter torso it could mean a fair bit of material sitting on a moving joint.
After multiple uses it was apparent that the wool component means it doesn't retain odour anywhere near as much as my previous synthetic garments, and even on sub-5°C rides the warmth was impressive. Despite its 187g weight, Lusso's offering seems easily a match for a decent 200gsm+ merino in terms of how warm I felt.
Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed with its wicking ability. Most hard efforts would leave me feeling clammy and sweatier than I have using alternative baselayers. I even ditched my outer layers but to no avail – it only confirmed my suspicions.
In composition at least, the Lusso baselayer is very similar to the Pactimo High-grade wool baselayer that Ashley tested last winter. In order to make it more breathable, Pactimo added mesh sections to the rear of the shoulders, and while climbing I couldn't help but wish that Lusso had done the same.
On a more positive note, the Lusso base does feel as if it's built to last and the polyester content adds enough resilience that you can get away with a 40-degree wash (low spin, though) despite the recommendations for a 30-degree delicate cycle. Just don't put it near Velcro. Having tested multiple Lusso products, I've always been impressed with their durability and the brand's high-quality craftsmanship.
Overall, it's a good baselayer for providing warmth on cold rides – but only if you aren't putting in huge amounts of effort. Up the intensity and its inability to wick away sweat can leave you feeling clammy.
Great warmth for its weight, but wicking ability leaves something to be desired if you're upping the tempo
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lusso Merino L/S Base Layer
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Riders who want maximum warmth in the deep winter without the bulk of a thick baselayer. Adding polyester to a merino blend means that durability should be increased and it's easier to live with day to day.
Lusso says, "The Lusso Merino L/S Base Layer has been designed to be a close fitting garment that still retains its breathability, featuring odour resistance and high wickability so you don't overheat even on the hardest rides.
"This Merino/Polyester mix retains its shape and prevents sagging, combining the best of what both nature and science have to offer.
"Its Super soft and comfortable against the skin
"Designed, cut, sewn and packaged in Manchester"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lusso lists these features:
35% Merino / 65% Polyester
Flat Lock and Over Lock Stitching
Brilliant warmth, not so brilliant wicking.
Looks built to last; stitching is flatlock and overstitched for longevity and washing has had no effect.
It has more of a performance fit than some merino baselayers, which I like. I also liked the high neck design to keep in warmth.
I measured myself as small/medium on Lusso's chart, and should have worn a medium not small. Follow the guide and you should be fine.
Much lighter than a full merino baselayer offering similar warmth.
Sleeves and torso were comfortable – tightness under the arms was my own fault for opting to test a size too small for me.
The price certainly looks good on paper, but the performance is below that of both synthetic and merino baselayers I've used.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The synthetic element makes it far easier to live with than standard merino wool; machine washing is fine and it has retained its shape well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfect for slower rides, but efforts even on cold days cause sweating which it doesn't wick away.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The warmth to weight ratio, and the soft feel of the material.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Its wicking ability was disappointing. The double material cuff at the bottom is unsightly under shorts and could be uncomfortable for some.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
On paper, £40 is a really good price for a merino baselayer – Howies' classic long sleeve baselayer costs £55 and Pactimo's very similar high-grade wool baselayer is £70 – but that needs to be backed up by the performance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Only on a few easy and particularly cold rides.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? To a select few.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Impressive warmth without weight and bulk, but unless you're just pootling along this baselayer fails to wick away moisture as it's claimed to, leaving you clammy and sweaty.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
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, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...