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Rapha Winter Base Layer



Warm, well fitting merino base layer that ticks all the boxes

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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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. 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)

Raglan sleeves

Shaped rear hem for improved insulation

Flatlock seams

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Excellent. The weave is so fine that it doesn't really feel like wool at all.

Rate the product for performance:

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.

Rate the product for durability:

No signs of wear so far, despite a hard winter's use and subsequent washing machine cycles.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:

Despite its warmth, the Winter Base Layer is light and not at all bulky.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:

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.

Rate the product for value:

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.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 20  Height: 190cm  Weight: 70kg

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,


For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.

Add new comment


Steven_L | 11 years ago

I'm starting to think it's my washing machine as any merino top I've owned has absolutely reeked. As did any synthetic base layer, to be perfectly honest.

Mind you, I've never stumped out for anything too expensive as using the bike day and daily, I'm used to falls and the occasional crash. This could be part of it.

bike_food | 11 years ago

I've never got the wiff factor thing. I arrive back from a long ride and chuck stuff in wash, i've never stunk so bad during a ride i've actually noticed let alone thought I must do something about my clothing.
I have a 20 mile commute and hang stuff up around my desk during day, i've never owned anything merino and nothing has ever smelled.
When does this lack of wiff come into play?
I guess we're all different and some will pong more than others.

bikecellar | 11 years ago

I always like a lower neck on a base layer even on the coldest days you warm up when climbing. Best buy for me was (autumn 2011) 3 primark thermal vests zipped at the neck, thumb loops and good long body and long arm fit for the bike @ £7 a pop total £21  39

jackh | 11 years ago

The dhb merino long sleeve has a good design with a very high neck which unzips when you get warm. The merino is not as nice as howies or Rapha stuff, but still very good at around half the price.


It's a wooly jumper, and it gets wet and stays wet in use.

True, but I find merino stays warm even when its a bit damp and wicks very well. It's not as good as a synthetic for wicking, I agree, but it is hugely superior on whiff factor. I've found Sportswool combines the properties of both quite nicely. There are some interesting antibacterial fabrics out now with silver threads etc. in them which could be interesting for a baselayer.

11speedaddict | 11 years ago

This is true Crikey
i literally have dozens of merino base layers and they are super to wear all day or even sleep in them !
But as riding base layers on long days they will get damp and take considerably longer to dry than synthetics.
They are great in the sense of not whiffing though.
i reckon you are better off with Rapha s merino collar / Buff and a normal base layer because often you warm up and can remove the buff.

crikey | 11 years ago

Merino, after its heavily promoted emergence as the base layer to end all base layers, is falling out of favour. It's a wooly jumper, and it gets wet and stays wet in use.

It doesn't work as well as synthetics to keep you dry, which is the whole point.

pedalpowerDC | 11 years ago

Also, I appreciate the arm length/body size they use. I'm fit with really long arms (16.5 - 37 XXslim dress shirt), and the Rapha stuff comes the closest I've found to fitting me right (outside of custom-sized kit from someone like Vie13). With most of their stuff, large gives me enough arm and is a bit big on the body, and medium is race fit with maybe 1-2cm of missing arm length.

pedalpowerDC | 11 years ago

Yes, this is the best winter riding product I acquired this year. I wanted to get another for me and an XXS for my girlfriend, but, alas, they are out until next year. I feel fortunate I managed to snag one of them.

Joselito | 11 years ago

Good testing regime of a year though.

Vili Er | 11 years ago

You're a wee bit late roadcc. This sold out last year and is now removed from Rapha's product list!

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