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The dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer is brilliant for cold winter rides. It's also good value at £45 and an excellent option if you want to ride comfortably in deep winter.
The onset of winter has always meant layering up if you want to carry on cycling, and arguably the most important factor in colder weather is the baselayer. As the first garment against your skin, it needs to insulate and keep you warm, but also wick away moisture effectively so that you avoid getting cold as it gets overwhelmed.
Unlike many winter baselayers that feature a merino wool blend (often with some cotton or polyester material), this dhb design has a 100 per cent wool content.
It's 'ideal as a first layer in cold conditions or as a single layer in milder conditions', according to dhb. I found it performs best on colder days.
Its thermal properties are excellent, offering up warmth from its natural fibres but without 'blocking in' the heat. You can wear it indoors with the central heating on in your bib tights before a ride and not get too hot, yet step outside having donned a single softshell-type outer later (I've used a Sportful Fiandre Light Wind Jacket for the most part in testing) and not suddenly feel the chill, even when the temperature is hovering only a few degrees above freezing.
Normally in such conditions I'd look at wearing a baselayer, thermal jersey and a windstopper gilet, but the dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer has demonstrated to me that a high quality baselayer under a single outer layer can be more than enough in all but the craziest of temperatures.
I've recorded air temperatures of -1.4°C on my Garmin so far this winter, and this baselayer, matched with the Sportful outer layer, has been the perfect solution. By the time I'm home after a 50km early morning spin, the baselayer is damp, having been working hard to wick sweat away, but to me that shows how effective it actually is at insulating, and then getting rid of the moisture when it needs to. It's damp, and I'm not.
Of course, the downside to this is that, if I ventured out in, say, 8°C or higher and did anything like a tempo-paced ride, I'd be sweating visibly in the time it takes to arrive at the first climb. Living in Bath, that never takes very long...
The fit is excellent. The sleeves are long enough and don't really pull up when leaning forward on the bars, just a little on me, but I am quite lanky, while the rear features a slightly lengthened tail. That doesn't come at the cost of a too-short front either: I have a long body, so sometimes I get a bit of 'pull up' when I stand up straight, exposing skin between the base of my bib section and the bottom of a baselayer, but there's not a hint of it here.
The neckline is generous – I have relatively wide shoulders, so sometimes find that the fabric gets pulled outwards, giving a sense of strain around the neckline. dhb's seems to have mitigated this with the cut, and the merino fibres have enough give to sit comfortably.
The large on test was a practically perfect fit for me, sizing up properly and as I'd expect if I were buying online. It's cut quite slim, but there's no restriction.
It's very well made, too, with high quality stitching and seams throughout – no hint of fraying or unthreading in the couple of months I've been using it, and even though it's a recommended 30 degree wash, I've had no issues washing it on a 40 wash with my other kit.
It's good value too – it does have some well-rated rivals for around the same price, including the £40 short sleeve Craft Active Extreme X (which scored 9/10), and the £44.99 long sleeve Endura Engineered Base Layer (8/10), but neither of those are merino.
If you want merino, full or a blend, you can spend a lot more – I tested a very good 31% wool option from Pactimo a couple of years ago and that was £70, – and although Lusso's Merino L/S Base Layer, made with 35% merino, is cheaper at £39.99, Jamie wasn't overly impressed with its breathability.
The dhb's full wool construction does mean you'll likely be wearing something else when spring comes around, so it's not as versatile as some.
If you're planning on getting outside in the coldest air this winter, dhb's long sleeve merino layer will keep you warm with ease. It's a great layer in the lowest temperatures, and its 100 per cent merino construction is a real luxury at this price point.
Brilliant for colder winter riding – highly recommended
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
dhb says: "An ultra fine mid weight merino base layer for effective insulation and natural technical performance in cold conditions. A warm, comfortable and versatile layering piece to see you into winter."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
dhb lists these features:
- Versatile base layer for all sports and outdoor activities
- Mid weight 200gsm merino wool base layer for natural technical performance
- Provides outstanding thermal regulation across a range of climate conditions
- Ideal as a first layer in cold conditions or as a single layer in milder conditions
- Superfine grade 18.5 micron merino yarn for high level comfort against the skin
- Natural odour resistance, wicking properties, and breathability
- Fits close to the body
- Abrasion free flatlocked seams
- Australian wool from a guaranteed non-mulesed source
Construction is genuinely excellent, and the flat seams are still like new after a month or so of testing.
In cold conditions and without riding at a hard tempo it's brilliant.
So far, it's coming back from the wash like new and doesn't snag as easily as you might think.
I have no real complaints here. It pulled up slightly on my arms, but I am quite lanky.
Sizing is just about perfect – I'd be confident buying this baselayer online.
At a smidge over 200g it's not the lightest baselayer by any means, but that's not really what it's for.
The 200gsm fibres are very comfortable against the skin. Combined with the flat seams and great cut, I can hardly fault it.
£45 for a 100% merino wool baselayer is good value versus blended rivals costing more, though it's perhaps not as versatile as some.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Surprisingly well. Anyone who's washed a wool garment in their time probably has a horror story to tell, but this baselayer stands up to 40°C washing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly. A little warm at times, but if you dress accordingly then it's very, very good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The warmth as a single layer, the good fit, value, and 100% wool content.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, but this isn't a layer you're likely to wear on mild spring or autumn days.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Some well-rated non-merino rivals include the £40 Craft Active Extreme X and £44.99 long sleeve Endura Engineered Base Layer. Lusso's Merino L/S Base Layer, 35% merino, is £39.99 but not so highly thought of.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? For a deep winter baselayer, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Although slightly limited to being a deeper winter baselayer in my experience, that's just about its only restriction; for the price, quality and performance, it's exceptional.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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I regularly do the following types of riding: