If you've thought about buying some layers before then you know how many options, materials, colours, sizes, and seasonal designs there are. Which is why we're going to give you the brief buying guide to motorcycle base layers including only the info that matters... Seasons - Materials - Sizing
Layering up isn't just for when it gets cold, proper base layers come in winter and summer/warm weather options with different materials and technology inside. Always consider the seasons you're riding in before grabbing the first base layer you see, they do different things.
For Winter/cold weather riding there's a few things you want from your base layers: warmth, dryness, and comfort. Dryness doesn't mean waterproof, that's something for your outers but with base layers you're looking for an efficient way of moving moisture i.e sweat and condensation, away from your skin because if left on it will actually help to cool your body down which isn't what you want in sub 10° motorway runs. Most layers that do this pulling AKA wicking, will also have a system to prevent bad odours coming from the sweat and making your outer gear smell.
Staying warm is the biggest factor for winter and getting a good base layer will mean there's less need to wear more layers on your ride making it more comfortable. Warm bases are heavenly in the cold but can be hard to find so check out our materials section below to find out what you should be looking for.
For Summer/Warm weather riding you might not think you need a base layer, but there is good reason to wear a layer underneath especially in the hottest weather. Summer base layers are designed to be thin and lightweight and provide a comfortable layer between your skin and outer gear. If you wear leathers then sweat is a big problem underneath and these base layers work to wick the sweat away from your skin and break it down to stop your leathers smelling. By doing that they help regulate your body temperature so you stay at a steady temp to prevent fatigue while you ride.
The confusing bit... without getting in to all the different complex materials and composites that exist we'll just explain the two most common ones out there so you can choose the right material for you.
Merino Wool - An excellent option for breathability allowing moisture to move away from the skin, whilst having a low weight-warmth ration meaning these base layers are usually lighter and thinner than others. It's not the most high-tech but Merino Wool does have natural anti-bacterial properties to prevent odours building up and making your gear smell. Ideal for winter!
Polyester & Polypropylene - We've put them together because the have similar benefits as base layers. Being synthetic materials means they can be manipulated in the way they're used to be suitable for either winter or summer layers. Because they're more modern than Merino Wool base layers made from the 'Poly's are more efficient at actively wicking moisture away from the skin and regulating your body temperature.
Every brand has their own way of building layers with both the Merino and the synthetics so each one will perform differently but it's good to know what to expect from each material when you're next looking at motorbike base layers.
When it comes to picking your size most brands supply a size chart with chest sizes etc. but a good thing to note when you pull your layers on for the first time is that having them too big is no good. Base layers, and especially for bikers should be tight to the skin to perform at their best, loose parts might leave big air pockets or allow the air outside your layer to get underneath and change the temperature.
Obviously going too tight is an issue aswell, but that is personal preference so if you feel like the layers are so tight they'll make riding uncomfortable then go up a size. No matter how stretchy and high tech the material is, if it's too tight then once you bend your knees or lean over your tank your going to feel restricted.
Motorcycle base layers shouldn't 'feel' like anything on you they should be like a second skin that you forget you've got on after a while.
What to look out for
Don't buy cheap. It's tempting and we've all done it before but buying good motorcycle base layers is a worthwhile investment that will last you thousands of riding miles, unless you decide to go for some cheap thermals from the supermarket. Most base layer kits come in two pieces with tops starting around £25 and leggings around £30.
Try to get seamless or as close to seamless as possible. Seams can be itchy and make you hate your base layers so always look for thin base layers with minimal or seamless construction.
There's a huge choice of base layers from all the usual motorbike clothing brands that can end up costing you the arm and the leg you need to ride, but if you take some of the info in our buying guide you should find good, effective base layers that won't break the bank.