When I first began cycling seven or eight years ago, I didn’t get the idea of base layers. The idea of a warm layer on a cold day is straightforward enough, but I struggled to understand why you might layer up on a warm day. It’s largely to do with sweat, I now understand.
On a warm day, a good base layer under your jersey will wick the sweat away from your skin and actually help you keep cooler. On a cold day, when you need the warmth of a layer against the skin, you still want it to wick the sweat. That’s why a base layer designed for the job is a much better bet than something that isn’t. A cotton t-shirt, for example.
I was delighted recently to get the chance to test the new sleeved base layer from UK brand This-is Cambridge. Regular readers may have gathered I’m a fan of TIC. Their hand made caps – the product that made their name – are lovely luxury items, and they’ve developed in recent years to include socks, jerseys, arm warmers, and now base layers.
There is cheaper cycling kit out there than TIC products, but I’ve always found them to be high quality and long lasting – I own three pairs of their socks, which have held their shape, colour and comfort impressively, and a casquette which is a cut above your standard cotton cycling cap.
The base layer, at £38, is not cheap, but again the quality is high.
It is made of a mesh-like material, similar to the kind of thing Rapha, among others, produce. The website suggests it stretches in four ways, to facilitate a proper fit, and I would agree that it’s lovely and comfortable. I tested the large which, as the warning on their website suggests, is ‘aggressively’ cut. It’s tight, in other words.
I have a medium build at best and found it to be absolutely skin-tight, but once on the bike I had no sense of any pinching or over-tightness anywhere. It feels flyaway light and delicate, yet with sturdy seems and a quality finish. Very comfortable.
There is no doubt I could easily wear an x-large but, despite initially worrying it was too small, the race-fit of the large definitely works. My only gripe would be that I’d prefer bit more length in the body – not a problem when tucked into bib-shorts, but more about personal taste.
Clearly the mesh material is designed to work in warmer conditions and, although I’ve not been able to test it in genuinely warm weather, I’ve certainly worked up a sweat on some of the warmer autumnal days recently. The wicking quality seems to work, with little in the way of tell-tale moisture transferring to the inner of my jersey.
I’ve also recently worn it more than once as a single layer beneath a light jacket in temperatures which dipped down to single figures, and found that it’s clingy tightness trapped that little bit of warmth needed to allow me the feeling of riding light and racy, in cooler conditions. It’s not a winter base layer by any stretch, but for my taste it does give that bit of versatility.
Style wise I tried the white with grey stripes, which has a nice understated look to it. Less understated is the pink version, for those who like to push the boat out a bit. They also do a sleeveless version.
See the website for base layers and more, at www.this-is-cambridge.com.