Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Winter Clothing Shootout: Part 1: Base Layers

I've read mountain bike action since the early nineties. I loved their shootout articles. Time for my own.

Winter Clothing Shootouts:
Part 1: Base Layers

Layering is one of those cold weather dressing strategies you hear about often. Some like at icebike favor a more one shot deal. Regardless you I've collected several different 'base' layers over the years and thought I'd share my thoughts on them with you.

The ratings criteria is as follows:
Wicking capability
Chillability - some wicking stuff chills me when exposed to air which is fine in summer not fine in winter.
Pose-ability (How well these clothes show off your muscles in the event that you have to have a pose off in front of the mirror or on the trail head)

1) The old standby Polypro
I've had some of these Polypro base layers for more than 15 years.

You can find polypro stuff for under $10 and sometimes for under $5

Wicking - OK
Not the greatest at wicking but when they get damp they don't suck the life out of you like cotton

Chillability- I have some mid weight stuff that is really warm. One thing I like is that if I warm up some and have to take my jacket off that having polypro on my arms exposed to the airs doesn't make them super chilly like the underarmour type stuff

Pose-ability- OK. Usually they are not cut tight around the arms so you can't show off the guns as much. Thin ones though have good pose-off potential.

You can never go wrong with polypro, but there's been a lot of advancement in clothing technology over the years and you can probably do better. They do have that static electricity buildup that can knock you across the room when you take them off so be careful. And some have that stank factor of holding in smells.

2)Duofold Varitherm

*note this is the VARITHERM product. I got it here. I also got another duofold product that has the IDENTICAL tag but feels different. It is reviewed next. I think the main difference is the varitherm has some hollowfibers which trap air.

Cost- Good $9 or less on sale

Wicking - Good

Chillability- These feel fine when exposed to the air/wind.

Pose-ability - Decent. These have 4 way stretch whatever that means. But they are not cut tight in the arms.

Overall I am really impressed with the Varitherm. For the money it is a great value.

3) Duofold stretch Crewneck
Bought this here

This has the same exact tag with same % poly and % lycra
as the varitherm but it sucks compared to the varitherm

Cost- Good

Wicking- Bad. Just felt clammy in slimy in this

Chillability - I feel chillier than the Varitherm when it is exposed to air

Poseability -Good these have some stretch to them, but aren't cut too tight


Tk3 is a clone of the underarmour stuff. Cut really tight with that compression type fabric. Put them on and you immediately want to play football or other varsity sport. My wife got these at a local running store and the cost is up there compared to polypro but you can find them on ebay for $10.

These ones are their winter weight which is like a midweight fabric.

Cost - Ok unless you find them on ebay then good

Wicking - Great. These do not get damp

Chillability - High. At first I didn't know how to use this stuff. I'd put it on and then have a short sleeve jersey on and go out and my arms would freeze. If there is the slightest bit of air flow across these they cool you down. Keep that in mind with how you layer with them. But they keep me pretty warm when fully covered up.

Poseability - High. One of the selling points of underarmour type clothes is that they show off your muscles. Don't wear these alone if you have a gut. I spend an extra 5 minutes in front of the mirror when I wear these.

One thing to keep in mind is that these compression style fabrics always create a little bit of muscle tension when you are in the cycling position. And I've noticed some slight fatigue over a long ride.

5) Craft Sleeveless crew
Craft is the stuff of cycling legend. Guys like Jeff Kerkove and Mags swear by this stuff. It is clear that these are cycling specific clothing. With longer tails so that they don't untuck when you are leaned over on the bike.

In a word this stuff ROCKS. And really does live up to what they say. First I'll discuss their typical fabric and then the gold standard their windblocking base layer.

The only knock on this sleeveless crew is that they must have taken the fabric from the sleeves and put it into the torso because it is LONG. I mean like hanging down to my knees long. I've got a short torso so it seems even longer.

Cost - You pay a premium but nowhere near Assos stuff. Got it on sale at sierra trading post.

Wicking - great

Chillability - not a problem

Poseability - For the sleeveless crew- OFF THE CHARTS Not so much for the body because it is not super tight and not super thin, but anything sleeveless just screams for a throwdown poseoff at anytime anywhere.

And the Craft logo on the around the neck just says so-Pro.

6) Craft S3 Turtleneck
I bought this on clearance direct from craft here

It is cut long in the back but overall the torso isn't as long as the sleeveless one. It has a layer of windproof fabric on the front. Put it on inside and it feels like someone turned on a heater. It is real easy to overdress with this on rides. Simply put AMAZING.

Cost - You can buy 5 Varitherms for the retail cost of this.

Wicking - Great

Chillability - none

Poseability - Not good. The windproof fabric hardly shows any body contour. The arms are tight but the black hides the definition.


Craft is the best by far. Worth the cost. Look for it on sale. The Duofold Varitherm is a great value but I don't understand how a similar Duofold product with the same matieral combinations feels so different. The T3K is good for warmth if it is totally covered up and is better for poseoffs.


At 3:24 PM, Blogger mags said...

Great post! Very interesting topic indeed. Since I'm a brain-washed Craft addict, I have to mention their Smartwool products. Although Craft market these products under their cross country skiing line, it's well worth a try for cyclists in cold climates.



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