You may have seen us talk about baselayers a bit more recently. As part of our Social Purpose, we’ve been rethinking our materials and developed some better technology for the layer closest to your skin. You might ask, “What makes a baselayer important?” And, “How does the material of choice can change your comfort on the bike?”
First, keep in mind a baselayer is a great tool that can modify the equipment you may already have for a wide range of conditions. It just depends on what those conditions are and your stable of apparel.
“Baselayers act as buffers,” says PEARL iZUMi physiologist Robert Pickels.
He stresses that baselayers need to be skintight. “Baggie baselayers are a no-go. You will be leaving almost all of the benefits on the table with a frumpy or flappy baselayer,” Pickels adds. So the best advice is don’t size up even if you think it’s tight. Besides, only your closet mirror will see you in that skintight beauty.
The key to being warm, comfortable, or warm and comfortable is protecting the micro-climate of the body from the outer elements. Using a baselayer will optimize the micro-climate around your skin from chilly mornings to the harsh conditions of winter to keep you riding.
Let’s appreciate the function of sweating, which is a natural response to dissipate heat and cool the body at harder efforts. Sweating is a highly effective cooling process for humans because of the latent heat of evaporation. A lot of energy is consumed when sweat is transformed into a gas. But sweating isn’t the only way to regulate heat or cold.
Three Types of Transfer
- Evaporative transfer: cooling of body heat through sweat
- Convective transfer: temperature transfer through an air current
- Conductive transfer: temperature transfer through direct handoff
Pickels believes evaporative and convective are the best transfer options for cycling. A conductive transfer can be precarious on a ride when a layer loses its insulating property, like when a wind jacket sticks to your sweaty arm on a cold descent. The cold external air is rapidly pulling heat from your skin and moisture making for a chilling experience. Sometimes this conductive transfer happens faster than the other two options, and for a good reason.
The transfer efficiency is the rate in which heat is moved from the skin. To cool the body, the transfer of dissipating heat needs to occur as close to the skin surface as possible. Thus the need for the tight-fitting baselayer. Evaporative and convective transfer is pulling heat away from your body to prevent it from overheating, which is great in the summer but maybe not so great when the temperatures drop.
Our technical cycling jerseys are perfectly capable of wicking and spreading moisture in sweltering conditions because we choose the best fabrics. Plus, we get hundreds of wear-testers to push designs to the limit to confirm the fit and function. In extreme heat, a baselayer may not be appropriate for ideal transfer efficiency because the evaporation is further from your skin, and your jersey zipper is more effective. For all those rides except that of extreme heat, baselayers provide a wide range of temperature regulation in cool to warm conditions, without necessarily making you warmer through buffering.
Buffering conditions to consider for building your kit for a ride
1. Cool Morning Start – For days when the temperature isn’t low enough to require a jacket, especially as the day progresses, adding a baselayer will provide a buffer from the ambient temperatures by adding a functional layer of protection on the body.
2. Sweaty Climb to Cool Descent – A baselayer will wick the moisture away from your body to the jersey layer to allow for evaporation and prevent you from getting chilled on the earned return.
3. Cold Weather Conditions – You want to be as dry as possible when riding in colder temperatures, making a long sleeve baselayer ideal. The last thing you want is wet skin in cold weather to increase the potential conductive temperature transfer.
There are different weights and materials to leverage for layering. And by adding or subtracting layers between your baselayer and outer layer, you can adjust these micro-climates to solve nasty or tricky riding conditions. We call it the System of Dress, we’ll explain that in-depth in our following blog post.
We’ve developed a range of baselayers to help you kit up for almost any ride, regardless of the weather. From the thinner polyester Transfer Baselayer to the Merino Thermal Long Sleeve Baselayer, there’s a buffer that’s right for you.
Polyester and wool work uniquely when it comes to moisture management and insulating properties. For our Merino wool baselayers, we’ve incorporated responsibly sourced wool and recycled polyester technical fibers into a unique construction. This plated construction positions the polyester next to your skin for maximum wicking while the wool faces out for superior insulation. Our Transfer Baselayers are designed to pull moisture away from your skin and transfer it to the jersey or outer layer for evaporation and thermal comfort.
Benefits of wool in baselayers
Provides insulation when wet. Dries slower, which leads to less evaporative heat loss. Actively releases heat as it adsorbs moisture vapor. Better for higher humidity situations in cool to cold temps.
Benefits of polyester baselayers
Dries faster. Better for moderate conditions for increased sweat transfer. Transitional piece for those days where the temperature swings.
And there you have it. A baselayer is a pretty flexible tool to have in your kit drawer for a vast range of conditions. As the seasons change consider your baselayer based on the effort you’re going to put into the pedals and the ambient temperatures to pair with those outer laters for the best thermo-regulation and comfort. No more working up a lather on the climbs to freeze on the rewarding descents back to the coffee shop.