Motorbike Summer Baselayers
So the bike's polished, the paniers mounted and the leathers are nicely prepared for your two week touring journey around Europe.
But what to wear below your leathers that's cool and dry and above all, comfortable in the saddle for hours a day, that is a more of a dilemma. But you should never leave this bit un-addressed.
If recent years are anything to go by then future touring is going to be hotter, sweatier and more un-bearable. But stripping down to a tee shirt and shorts in the saddle is not really a sensible option. Safety should always be your priority.
Had you noticed that everyone seems to focus on "thermal" layering for under bike gear? Yes that's important and we can talk until we're blue in the face on that subject, but what about when it's hot. That's rarely addressed but equally important.
So what can you do that allows you to be comfortable without over-heating that can be worn below your bike leathers and without packing loads of tees for when the temperature is hitting 40+ out there?
Well we think we have a few answers for you but first let's explore some facts.
You "WILL" sweat regardless of what you do and you should not attempt to prevent this happening. In fact do exactly the opposite. Drink more and sweat more, it's simply the only option.
But sweat and bike leathers don't go well together as we well know. Sweat is salty and leather and salt don't like each other. You can't prevent sweat from reaching your leathers but you can certainly reduce its effect.
You need to wear a suitable warm weather Baselayer next to the skin that helps manage moisture, is not too warm and dries easily. You can still wear underwear but a good Baselayer can "replace" underwear so you don't need to wear two next-to-skin layers if you don't want to.
You "could" simply throw on a pair of cotton boxers and a cotton tee as many do and throw the leathers on. But cotton retains moisture and binds up and you certainly don't want to be 200km into a 3000 km ride and have a touch of chaffing going on!
Below we offer up a few options that just might make your road trip a little more tolerable.
What is it? It's a blend of Merino Wool fibre encased in a synthetic wrap to add strength, durability and performance.
Icebreaker is "the" master of Merino development and undoubtedly the king of wool underwear. But wool is all too often disregarded as a summer wear item so we need to dispel this perception first of all.
Wool is a natural fibre and performs exceptionally well in both hot and cold conditions. It is widely regarded as the best thermal regulating fibre on the planet and will serve you well in all climates.
As a Baselayer below your bike gear, Icebreaker has hit the nail right on the head with this one. It evolved from their run range of 260GSM winter base layers that offer extra thermal defence in cold conditions for runners.
The BodyfitZONE 150 is a lighter but still durable fabric that is only 150GSM in weight and works a treat.
The garments are "Zoned" with a lighter fabric at key sweat areas of the body such as the centre back, chest plate, below the bust, elbow creases, lower back and behind the knees.
The Corespun technology is a primary fabric of Merino Wool with a spun synthetic wrap of Nylon and some Lycra for added stretch. This gives the wool fibres a superb strength for this kind of use whilst not compromising on the wool's known performance.
Naturally odour resistant due to the Lanolin content in wool and perfectly suited to days in the saddle. It dries really fast and is ready for the next day no problem and you should be able to go a week or more without the need for washing. Have a read of our Tees on Test article that covers this exact subject in some detail.
What the garment will do is retail a lot of unwanted moisture and stop excess sweat reaching the leathers thereby controlling your body's moisture production. But as soon as you expose the garment to the elements, it's like magic and dries so fast you can physically see it working. Seam structures are very fine indeed and with an independent gusset structure, you'll stay comfortable in the saddle no problem with or without underwear.
It comes in a long sleeve crew or half zip and full leggings or in a capri legging which sit above your boot line. The tops also have a dropped tail hemline which is a nice feature as this helps keep the lower back covered. Nothing worse than getting off the bike only to find you've got lower back sunburn!
Certainly not the least expensive garment you could wear but in our humble opinion, one of the best layers you'll ever buy for bike touring. Expect to pay around £160 for a set but consider this a long-term investment.
If you wanted to compliment these with underwear, Icebreaker does a range of 150GSM 100% Merino Wool underwear for Men and Women too. But another great option in this same category comes from Artilect with their A/SYS-1 Base Layer Range that combines Nuyarn Merino Wool with a core of synthetics in the same way as Icebreaker but with a unique twist that offers superior moisture control.
What is it? F-Dry is a synthetic based range of ultra-light Base Layers from Scandinavian brand ODLO.
So....Polyester and Polypropylene. That is the basic structure of F-Dry. Mainly Polyester with around 8% Polypropylene. In a nutshell, one moves moisture, the other gets rid of it.
You can read up on the key differences of these two amazing fibres in our Polyester v Polypropylene article.
The key areas here are lightness, cool, dry and sun protection.
Firstly it is unbelievably light. The structure is very cleverly designed with a very light waffled effect that has the added benefit of keeping moisture off the skin and moving it away very fast. This helps to keep the body cooler as air passes over it but under leathers of course, there is very little air movement to help evaporate the moisture to help keep you cool. That's just the way it is but nevertheless the F-Dry does work even without the desired airflow.
ODLO also applies its Silver Ion fabric treatments to the garments that help prevent the build-up of bacteria that can cause fabric odours. Silver is excellent at stopping bacteria clinging to the fibres and so it is highly effective at preventing smells meaning your F-Dry will last longer without the need for washing.
That said, is it as good as wool? It's not bad but wool wins in our book. One final plus point is that the F-Dry has a 40+ UPF factor to keep sun off the skin which is very useful. This is where synthetics win every time over wool it has to be said. Good price points but only made in Short Sleeve, Long Sleeve and Leggings. Expect to pay around £70 a set so yes, it's about half the price of the Icebreaker and you could take away two sets just to cycle them round for the same price.
ODLO also does underwear in this collection.
OK so the Solen range is the HH collection and is a pretty good attempt at becoming more ethical whilst maintaining quality and performance.
Simply put, the Solen is an advance on the HH Lifa Polypropylene fibre that has been around for ages but using 60% recycled fibres PLUS....coffee grounds! Yes, coffee.
S-Café is a new concept that takes coffee grounds which would usually be thrown away and integrates the coffee into the fibres of the garment to offer a natural long-lasting barrier against bacterial infestation.
You cannot smell it and it doesn't wash out. It's held within the fibre but it is very effective.
Lifa has been around for decades and works extremely well. The HH Lifa has lived in the outdoor sector for as long as we can remember and is still going strong.
But this is something new and HH should be applauded for attempting something brave and new and have done a pretty good job.
This range is a more relaxed fit than any of the others mentioned here and can happily be worn as an outer layer as well as a base layer.
The downside of the Solen range is that there are no bottoms. The tops work very well and we're pretty sure bottoms will follow in due course but for now.....tops only.
As an ethically produced garment, you expect to pay a premium but don't shy away from that aspect, it's the way the industry is going and in our opinion, the way it needs to go. One day in the near future, you will find a massive proportion of clothing is of a recycled nature and we will have to pay for it.
It also uses a fraction of the water to produce it and the dye process is a dry-dye so absolutely no chemicals get back into the food-chain which has to be a good thing.
Finally, its 50+ UPF sun protection which is the best UPF from our tested products here. This coupled with being a tee as well as a Baselayer, will have some great appeal to many.
Expect to pay around £40 for a long sleeve and £30 for short sleeve. There are also Polos and a light hooded version at around £50.