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Pas Normal Studios' Sleeveless Base Layer is a supremely comfortable bit of kit that does what such a layer should. One thing to bear in mind, though, it seems to have been designed to perform optimally with PNS's own bib shorts, and teaming it with anything else might leave you feeling a bit short changed in terms of coverage.
I tested a medium – my usual size in most things – but could easily have worn a large. This is pretty much unheard of for me, so check the size guide as you might need to size up. Sizes run from XXS-XXL.
The cut is minimal – the arm holes sweep forward in a good way, and the neckline is low and certainly not in danger of showing, even with a skin suit type collar, but there is very little to it in terms of length.
Most of the time, I've been teaming the layer with Pas Normal Studios' Essential Bib Shorts (full review to come), a combination that brings out the best of both the shorts and vest. The main body of fabric on the shorts is very high reaching, so complements the shorter-than-average cut of the baselayer.
With shorts that have a lower cut at the front, I experienced a gap between the end of the vest and the start of the shorts. If you have a longer than average torso, or like to be able to tuck your baselayer well into your shorts, this is definitely one to avoid. There's no drop at the rear either, so an aggressive position might mean even less coverage for the lower back.
The 94% polyester, 6% elastane mix makes for a stretchy fabric that feels soft against the skin.
Overall construction is clean and tidy without a loose thread in sight. Seams are all flatlock and, along with the hems, have just as much stretch as the main body. All this means the layer is pretty much invisible to see, and it hardly feels like you're wearing it.
It's available in five different colours, including black and white, which is great, though the branding at the rear may not be for everyone – and it's a little contradictory to PNS's claim that this is an 'invisible layer' (if you combine it with a less than opaque jersey).
In terms of doing what it is designed to, I'd say PNS's claims are reasonable. The lightweight mesh is breathable and helps move moisture away from the torso. It doesn't do it better than any other I've tested, but it's certainly more comfortable than some.
My main gripe is that, in combination with some bibs – let's not even consider waist shorts – it's not offering coverage for the lower torso, so you're not benefiting from its performance as you would if it was longer.
Here it is combined with the Assos Dyora RS bib shorts.
I don't have any gripes about the cut at the upper end, in fact I've loved the sharp tailoring at the front of the shoulders and the low cut under the arms. It's clearly been design with a road bike position in mind – reaching forward to the hoods or drops doesn't create any gathering, so breathability remains optimal.
Recent mild conditions have been ideal for the layer, when you need a little more than just a jersey, but covering the upper arms/armpits might be a bit over-bearing.
The baselayer does perform well, but as I said above, no better than others I've tried – some of which are a fair bit cheaper.
Craft's £30 Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless layer springs to mind as being a great performer, and very comfy. (Jez tested the men's version a few years back and loved it; as did Mat the previous version.)
If you are willing to spend more and want length, Anna rated Megmeister's Drynamo when she tested it last year. It's gone up to £54.99.
If the PNS was longer in the body then I'd have zero hesitation in recommending it; it's seriously comfy and does what a baselayer should. However, for optimal performance you'd need to rely on PNS's shorts or similarly cut designs, such as Cafe du Cycliste's Mathilde; if you're happy to do that, it's a worthwhile investment.
Exceptionally comfy and does what any decent baselayer should, but the cut is niche and won't be for everyone
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pas Normal Studios Women's Sleeveless Base Layer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pas Normal Studios says that this is a 'fundamental accessory for effectively dispersing heat and maintaining an optimal body temperature'.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Pas Normal Studios lists:
Lightweight mesh fabric to disperse moisture
Road to Nowhere branding down the back
Central Pas Normal Studios chest logo
Material: 94% Polyester, 6% Elastane
Made in Lithuania
Very lightweight fabric that needs to be looked after; maybe a laundry bag could prolong its condition.
It's quite short in the body, though whether this is a problem will be personal preference and won't be as much of an issue if you team it with PNS shorts.
Use the size chart. If you are long in the body, this might be one to avoid.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I was getting a couple of wears before washing; the fabrics don't hold odour as badly as some.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Does what it claims – wicks and dries out.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Cut and comfort around the shoulders.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Short length and branding on the rear.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Up there with premium brands such as Megmeister, but there are cheaper options from the likes of Lusso and Craft.
Did you enjoy using the product? With PNS shorts, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unlikely, unless they owned PNS shorts.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Optimal comfort and performance but the latter arguably depends on the layer being combined with PNS shorts, or similarly cut ones. The sizing provision and cut are restrictive.
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…