The first step to successful winter dressing is choosing the right base layer.
These garments perform two important tasks: they sit close to the skin, transporting moisture away from the body to prevent chilling and they are also designed to trap air to help keep you warm.
An ideal base layer should sit unnoticed under your winter mid-layer and work in conjunction with the rest of your layering system.
A lightweight base layer is an extremely versatile garment and should be standard wear in any cyclist's wardrobe. If you're an active, sweaty rider go for a base layer with good moisture management.
If you like to ride at a more sedate pace, then warmth and the thicker insulating base layers are more suitable. Of course the best solution is to find a compromise between the two.
Here are six of the best base layers we've tested and will be wearing this winter.
Vangard Elite MTS Shirt 469 | £21.99
The best feature of this base layer is its ability to keep you dry.
The fuzzy polyester fibres immediately move perspiration away from your body even when you're working hard on the toughest climbs. It's pretty warm too. The cut is skin-tight but the fabric is so soft and stretchy that it's not at all restrictive. With flatlock seams throughout, raglan sleeves, a high neck and the labels stitched to the outside, this is a superbly comfortable top. We also highly rate the version with a windbreaker front panel (£34.99).
Craft Pro Zero Extreme Crew S/S | £20
This lightweight polyester shirt is ribbed and very elastic, especially across its width, so it stretches comfortably around your body for a close fit.
It's excellent at channelling moisture away from your skin and adds a good amount of insulation when required. Plus, it doesn't hang on to odours after washing like some base layers can. There are no labels to cause discomfort while the only seams are in the raglan shoulders and they're flat-stitched. A high-necked long sleeve is also available for just £2 more.
DeFeet Un-D-Shurt L/S | £27.99
The acrylic fabric used by DeFeet (yes, the sock people) is beautifully soft.
It's also exceptionally springy so it doesn't bunch but stays in contact with your skin when you move, effectively drawing moisture away and drying quickly when you work up a sweat. The cut is close with a long body to prevent draughts but we'd prefer a higher neck. You don't get tons of insulation so you'll need a good jersey to provide the warmth. Also available in short sleeve (£23.99) and sleeveless (£19.99) versions.
Prendas Ciclismo Comfortec 1000 L/S Undervest | £19.95
We've used base layers made from this Comfortec 1000 polyester lots in the past and they've always done a fine job of shifting sweat and never become waterlogged.
The fabric is lightweight and stretchy and the cut is snug so you can get a good body-hugging fit, while the fairly open weave helps trap a layer of air next to your skin for warmth. The design is basic but this is one of the most comfortable tops out there. Also available as a short sleeve option for £15 or sleeveless for £14.50.
Howies NBL L/S Base Layer | £50
A great, soft and cosy base layer, made of 100% merino wool.
Extremely light and breathable, it wicked fantastically and never left that clammy damp feeling. Merino wool is a low-odour material, and even a six-hour ride left this top odour-free. The crew neck is high which keeps your skin from touching your outer layer - welcome when it's colder. It's a very snug fit and contours the body really well. The sleeves are also fitted and the double-fold cuffs block unwanted drafts. So comfy and fitted is this top that you could also use it casually as a sporty complement to a pair of jeans. Men and women's versions.
Protective L/S base layer | £27.95
If you're looking for state of the art technology in your base layer then Protective is the one.
It uses 'Multisensor Silver', which is a double layer material which wicks well and contains silver ions that allegedly inhibit bacterial growth, keeping the top odour-free. We liked the soft touch allied with the tighter elastic, yet unrestrictive fit. The washing instructions are woven into the seam fabric, preventing chafing from labels - a nice touch. Protective says it's hi-tech, and it certainly gave a hi-tech performance. Men and women's versions.