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cooler with or without base layer?

Jan 27, 2010
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this question has been bothering me for a long while.

in the hottest weather (25C+), do base layers really work?
can a base layer + summer weight jersey possibly feel cooler and/or more comfortable than a summer weight jersey alone?

it does seem hard to believe, but i couldn't help noticing that this now seems to be the fashion in the TdF (finishing the climb on a hot day with jersey flapping open to reveal a base layer). what is the reason for this? is it sponsorship?

i can't make my own mind up (and the weather isn't often consistently good enough to find out!)
 
Mar 19, 2009
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The synthetic jersey creation created this need for baselayers I think. Wool used to be the norm, and it really didn't need a baselayer. Back in the 80's, Swiss-Tex jerseys were fantastic, no baselayer needed on those either. Now, jerseys have de-volved, and most people prefer a baselyer for comfort.

Yes, a base layer can help via evaporate cooling. Depending on the material, it can also help you stay warm.

Myself, I prefer Defeet Un D shirts. They're a micro acrylic which really works fantastic in the heat or cold.
 
May 12, 2009
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Seems kind of doubtful to me. Jersey fabrics are pretty good these days. At least as good as the wool of the 70s.
I've tried various fabrics here in Salt Lake in the summer (95+ Farenheit, and it's pretty hard for me to imagine that two layers of anything are better than a good single one.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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It depends on the environment.

Sweat on your skin cools your body by using your heat to evaporate the water drawing heat out of the body.

In a hot dry climate wicking the water away too quickly means there isn't enough moisture to draw an adequate amount of heat out of your body. So in a case like that it's better to go without a base layer.

In a hot humid climate too much water can be present on the body which can actually make the core temperature rise to try and burn it off. In some cases the moisture in the air can condense on your body and add even more to the water. In a case like this wicking it away from the skin is the best.

So if it's high humidity use the base layer, if it's low don't. Try to keep sweat on the skin, but not so much that you are drenched, a thin layer of sweat is ideal for cooling.
 
I don't like base layers in the heat, but I live in a dry environment where the humidity can be 10% when its 95 degrees. Technically a base layer should help reduce road rash because the two layers can slide over each other--at least that is what I was always told. I don't race anymore, so crashing is not a huge concern.
 
Apr 5, 2010
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galaxy1 said:
this question has been bothering me for a long while.

in the hottest weather (25C+), do base layers really work?
can a base layer + summer weight jersey possibly feel cooler and/or more comfortable than a summer weight jersey alone?

it does seem hard to believe, but i couldn't help noticing that this now seems to be the fashion in the TdF (finishing the climb on a hot day with jersey flapping open to reveal a base layer). what is the reason for this? is it sponsorship?

i can't make my own mind up (and the weather isn't often consistently good enough to find out!)

Are you sure that you're not seeing bib shorts under flapping jerseys?

A very light wool t-shirt or tank top under your jersey will soak up sweat and help regulate your skin temp consistently. This should lead you to sweat less and be able to consume less water on your ride without dehydrating. Only an issue if you are on a limited water supply for your ride with no refills available. That's the theory. In my experience it seems to work. Cotton fails.

Also, it is in general way more comfortable.

Cheers!
 
May 20, 2010
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justme said:
In a hot humid climate too much water can be present on the body which can actually make the core temperature rise to try and burn it off. In some cases the moisture in the air can condense on your body and add even more to the water. In a case like this wicking it away from the skin is the best.

Well said!

I referred to your comment and this thread on our blog post, hope you don't mind. :)
 
It also helps to be wearing a base layer in the event of a crash because the jersey has something to slide over when you eat the black stuff, thus producing a slightly lower level of friction. There will always be road rash but it could be a bit less severe, depending on the how you fall from saddle-mounted grace.

I would also offer that today's synthetics provide much better support for wicking than processed natural materials even in very hot conditions, provided that you're willing to spend what it takes. The success of your choices often depends on the humidity of the air in your locale. In proper desert conditions, for example, cotton is an actually extremely effective fabric whereas for most temperate climates it's totally anathema. :)
 
Mar 19, 2009
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I'll add that in very low humidity and high temps, I wear cotton A shirts, the very thin ones, under a jersey. The moisture absorption in this case does help cool you.

Of course, this goes against all the BS we've been fed by the synthetic industry that cotton is somehow bad for active sports. Look at the people who live in deserts, they aren't wearing anything synthetic.
 
justme said:
It depends on the environment.

In a hot dry climate wicking the water away too quickly means there isn't enough moisture to draw an adequate amount of heat out of your body. So in a case like that it's better to go without a base layer.

In a hot humid climate too much water can be present on the body which can actually make the core temperature rise to try and burn it off. In some cases the moisture in the air can condense on your body and add even more to the water. In a case like this wicking it away from the skin is the best.

Well in order for moisture to condense on your body the air temperature would have to be above your body temp (37 Celsius or 98 f). That is some hot weather! No amount of wicking will help in this case as the temperature of the water on your skin will be to low to evaporate. You will just be soaked.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Watching the Tour, I see most of the riders with their jersey un-zipped and no base layer!
I have been using a base layer for several years, maybe I will try to go without and see how it works. It's been 90 degrees, I do wear 'arm coolers', they do help keep my arms and even my core cooler.
 
If base layers worked then why would we open our jerseys to get the air on our skin? Wouldnt we just wear a jersey made out of base layer material?

Ive riden in jungles in malaysia, accross Australia mid summer and most of the mountains in france and the best is no shirt or a jersey flapping in the wind if you need a bit of sun protection for your back.

Base layers? Its like them 'odor free' cool max socks that just stink even more after a wet ride..:cool:
 
May 9, 2009
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justme said:
So if it's high humidity use the base layer, if it's low don't.

I think exactly the opposite! The base layer is designed to wick up and spread out your sweat on your skin so that you are cooled as the water evaporates. The cool(er) water is what cools you down.

But in really humid weather, there is so much water in the air that very little evaporation can take place. Your best bet in these conditions is to cool your body not by evaporation, but by convection, and the best way to do that is to have as much skin as possible directly exposed to the air.

Evaporation is much more efficient at cooling you than convection, so humidity sucks!
 
A

Anonymous

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Just give it a try

galaxy1 said:
this question has been bothering me for a long while.

in the hottest weather (25C+), do base layers really work?
can a base layer + summer weight jersey possibly feel cooler and/or more comfortable than a summer weight jersey alone?

it does seem hard to believe, but i couldn't help noticing that this now seems to be the fashion in the TdF (finishing the climb on a hot day with jersey flapping open to reveal a base layer). what is the reason for this? is it sponsorship?

i can't make my own mind up (and the weather isn't often consistently good enough to find out!)

A base is not expensive, you can always use it sometime. Me, I don't like the feel of the bib straps on bare skin so any base helps there.
 
Aug 10, 2010
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galaxy1 said:
this question has been bothering me for a long while.

in the hottest weather (25C+), do base layers really work?
can a base layer + summer weight jersey possibly feel cooler and/or more comfortable than a summer weight jersey alone?

it does seem hard to believe, but i couldn't help noticing that this now seems to be the fashion in the TdF (finishing the climb on a hot day with jersey flapping open to reveal a base layer). what is the reason for this? is it sponsorship?

i can't make my own mind up (and the weather isn't often consistently good enough to find out!)

Absolutely, a base layer specifically designed for hot weather will always keep you cooler in warm conditions, rather than just wearing a jersey. Craft Base Layers for example were always used by Team Saxo Bank in the Tour de France even on the hottest day, this one to be exact:

http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/craft-cool-mesh-superlight-sleeveless-base-layer-373.html

Remember, a jersey will most often be designed with perhaps more attention taken over the graphics than the technical properties, whereas a summer base layer is totally designed to remove sweat and increase breathability, despite its synthetic construction. Even the top level jerseys, whilst much better at moving sweat than their lower priced counterparts, are dwarfed by the abilities of a technical base layer like the one above.

That being said, a natural fibre base layer, merino for example, or winter weight base layer is definitely not for hot conditions. Ok, merino is particularly good at moving sweat, but the inherent characteristics of the fabric are not designed for hot rides.

Hope that helps!
 
fruitbat said:
Absolutely, a base layer specifically designed for hot weather will always keep you cooler in warm conditions, rather than just wearing a jersey. Craft Base Layers for example were always used by Team Saxo Bank in the Tour de France even on the hottest day, this one to be exact:

http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/craft-cool-mesh-superlight-sleeveless-base-layer-373.html

Remember, a jersey will most often be designed with perhaps more attention taken over the graphics than the technical properties, whereas a summer base layer is totally designed to remove sweat and increase breathability, despite its synthetic construction. Even the top level jerseys, whilst much better at moving sweat than their lower priced counterparts, are dwarfed by the abilities of a technical base layer like the one above.

That being said, a natural fibre base layer, merino for example, or winter weight base layer is definitely not for hot conditions. Ok, merino is particularly good at moving sweat, but the inherent characteristics of the fabric are not designed for hot rides.

Hope that helps!

+1 for the Craft base layer, despite needing a bank loan to buy it. :) I wear one when hiking and it's ideal for hot hot hot. No need for newspapers on the descents either. ;)
 
fruitbat said:
Absolutely, a base layer specifically designed for hot weather will always keep you cooler in warm conditions, rather than just wearing a jersey. Craft Base Layers for example were always used by Team Saxo Bank in the Tour de France even on the hottest day, this one to be exact:

http://www.alwaysriding.co.uk/craft-cool-mesh-superlight-sleeveless-base-layer-373.html

Remember, a jersey will most often be designed with perhaps more attention taken over the graphics than the technical properties, whereas a summer base layer is totally designed to remove sweat and increase breathability, despite its synthetic construction. Even the top level jerseys, whilst much better at moving sweat than their lower priced counterparts, are dwarfed by the abilities of a technical base layer like the one above.

That being said, a natural fibre base layer, merino for example, or winter weight base layer is definitely not for hot conditions. Ok, merino is particularly good at moving sweat, but the inherent characteristics of the fabric are not designed for hot rides.

Hope that helps!

I don't need sweat removed. It's 95 degrees and like 15% humidity (or lower). I want the sweat to evaporate on my skin.
 
Aug 2, 2022
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If you're heading out for a long run and want to stay as cool and comfortable as possible, the answer is a base layer. The base layer is a thin, long sleeve, tight-fitting piece of clothing that you wear under your running clothes. Depending on the intensity of your run, you may also want to consider a running vest. This may also add an extra layer between you and your body.
The alternative is a base layer shirt, a thin piece of clothing that wicks moisture and that you wear under your everyday shirt. The best base layer tops I have owned are usually made with natural fibers like bamboo and silk, which are more comfortable against my skin.