The 11 Best Base Layers for Cycling in Winter

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Best Base Layers for Cycling in Winter

11 of the best base layers for cycling in winter, produced by the warmest clothing brands.
Merino wool base layers, synthetic fabric, and mixed fabric.

During our recent bikepacking trip in the Himalayas we were able to appreciate like never before, the importance of a good thermal base layer for cycling. A quality winter base layer makes the difference, feeling protected from the cold and not wet with sweat even when riding in cold temperatures is probably the most important single thing while cycling in winter.

A base layer for cyclists is the first layer next to the skin during cycling activities, particularly in cold weather conditions. It is typically made from moisture-wicking and insulating materials such as merino wool, synthetic blends, or thermal fabrics. The primary purpose of a base layer is to provide comfort, regulate body temperature, and manage moisture during winter rides.

As you cycle, your body generates sweat, even in cold weather. If this sweat remains close to your skin, it can make you feel cold and uncomfortable. Base layers are designed to wick moisture away from the skin, moving it to the outer layers of clothing where it can evaporate more easily. This keeps you dry and helps regulate your body temperature, reducing the risk of catching the flu.

In this guide, we have selected the warmest winter base layers produced by the best cycling clothing brands. To offer a more complete overview we have chosen both merino wool base layers and synthetic fabric and also a mix of the two.

Some of these products have a baseline layer for women while others are unisex. We will soon write a guide dedicated to the best base layers for women.

And remember, buying winter clothing in the summer is not a bad idea at all, the prices are much lower and many companies are trying to empty their warehouses to make room for new collections.

The Best Thermal Base Layers for Cycling

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Best Base Layers for Cycling in Winter

Whether you’re preparing for winter commutes, embarking on a multi-day cycling tour, or simply seeking comfort during chilly morning rides, our guide will provide invaluable insights and recommendations to keep you warm, cozy, and ready to conquer the road ahead.

But before moving on to the products, let’s talk about the materials: Merino Base Layer or Synthetic Base Layer? Which one is better?

Merino Base Layer for Cycling vs. Synthetic Base Layer for Cycling: Making the Right Choice

As you embark on your quest to find the ideal base layer for cycling, one of the fundamental decisions you’ll encounter is choosing between a merino wool base layer and a synthetic fabric base layer. Both options boast unique properties and advantages, catering to different preferences and cycling conditions.

Merino Wool Base Layer

Luxurious Comfort and Natural Performance

Merino wool base layers are renowned for their luxurious softness, offering unparalleled comfort during extended rides. The fine fibers of merino wool are much softer than traditional wool, making it non-itchy and gentle on the skin. Cyclists who prioritize comfort and enjoy the sensation of natural fibers against their skin often find merino wool to be a delightful choice.

Thermal Regulation for Diverse Conditions

One of the standout features of merino wool is its exceptional thermal regulation. This natural fiber has unique insulating properties, effectively retaining body heat during colder rides while also providing breathability to prevent overheating in warmer conditions. This adaptability makes merino wool base layers a versatile choice for cyclists who tackle varying weather conditions.

Moisture Management and Odor Resistance

Merino wool excels at wicking away moisture from the skin, ensuring you stay dry even when you’re sweating during intense cycling sessions. Moreover, this remarkable fabric possesses natural antibacterial properties, which combat odor-causing bacteria, making it a great option for multi-day rides or those who prefer not to wash their base layers after every use.

Synthetic Base Layer

High Performance and Quick Drying

Synthetic base layers are engineered to deliver high-performance moisture-wicking capabilities. The synthetic materials used, such as polyester or polypropylene, effectively draw sweat away from the skin, accelerating evaporation, and keeping you dry during intense rides. This quick-drying ability is particularly beneficial for cyclists engaging in high-intensity workouts or cycling in wet conditions.

Lightweight and Easy Maintenance

Synthetic base layers are typically lighter than their Merino wool counterparts, offering a lightweight feel that minimizes bulkiness under your cycling jersey. Additionally, synthetic fabrics are easy to care for and can be machine-washed without concern for potential damage or shrinkage, making them a convenient choice for cyclists with active lifestyles.

Affordable and Durable

In general, synthetic base layers tend to be more budget-friendly than merino wool options. Moreover, synthetic fabrics are durable and resilient, retaining their shape and performance even after numerous washes and prolonged use.

The Verdict

Ultimately, the choice between a merino wool base layer and a synthetic base layer boils down to personal preference and specific cycling conditions. If you prioritize luxurious comfort, natural insulation, and odor resistance, merino wool may be the ideal choice for you.

On the other hand, if high-performance moisture management, quick-drying capabilities, and budget considerations are at the forefront, a synthetic base layer might be the better fit.

Note: Temperature recommendations serve as general guidelines, as individual cyclists perceive temperatures differently based on various factors. Your unique riding style, whether involving high-output efforts or low-intensity training, alongside the type and weight of your base layer or long-sleeve jersey, can significantly influence the effective temperature range.

As such, your personal experience may lead to extending or decreasing the recommended temperature range, allowing you to tailor the base layer’s usage to match your specific preferences and conditions.

The 10 Best Winter Base Layers for Cycling – Synthetic Fibers + Mix + Merino

Best Base Layers for Cycling in Winter

1. Castelli Flanders Long Sleeve

synthetic base layer

castelli winter base layer

around 80 USD

Ideal For: extending your winter jacket temperature range.
Temperature: -2°C – 10°C / 28°F – 50°F
Fabric: 100% polyester – SottoZero Fleece multi-denier polyester
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: Castelli suggests hand washing only
Colors: 2 (Black, Grey)

Castelli, a historic Italian clothing brand founded in 1876, is almost always a guarantee. And it certainly is this time: with the Castelli Flanders Long Sleeve cycling base layer, you’ll be dry and warm during your winter/cold riding thanks to the excellent insulation.

This model is available in 6 sizes, from extra small to XXL. Check the Castelli size guide to be sure of the right size for you, even if they are quite standardized, a medium size in Italy may be larger or smaller than a medium in another country. The fit is comfortable, it is not a compression base layer.

The mesh armpit insert helps ventilation and thermoregulation.

Note that both the male and female Flanders base layers are not windproof or waterproof, so do not forget your rain jacket.

Another good Castelli thermal layer is the Prosecco Tech Long Sleeve, a bit cheaper, around 50 USD, and also 100% polyester.

2. Endura BaaBaa Blend Long Sleeve Cycling Men’s Baselayer

synthetic + wool base layer

warmest winter base layers endura

around 70 USD

Ideal For: winter riding
Temperature: around 0C
Fabric: 80% Lyocell, 20% Wool
Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: yes
Colors: 3 (Black, Blueberry, Paprika)

The base layer utilizes soft Merino wool sourced from sheep raised without the practice of mulesing, a method deemed cruel by numerous animal welfare organizations, or just common sense. Instead, they adopt more humane approaches to prevent infection.

This ethical choice not only ensures kindness towards animals but also offers a gentle touch to your skin, providing unparalleled comfort without any scratchiness. Additionally, the naturally odor-resistant properties of the wool, coupled with its lightweight design, deliver ample winter warmth for a truly cozy experience.

3. Giordana Mid Weight Long Sleeve

synthetic base layer

thermal base layer for cycling

around 50 USD

Ideal For: fall/mild winter riding
Temperature: 4°C – 15°C / 40°F – 60°F
Fabric: 100% Synthetic
Size: S, M, L, XL
Machine Wash: hand wash only
Colors: 1 (White)

The thermal base layer features an innovative Dryarn™ fabric, meticulously engineered to swiftly wick moisture away from your skin, promoting instantaneous evaporation that ensures you remain consistently dry and enveloped in optimum comfort throughout your cycling escapades. Its inherent anti-bacterial properties further enhance the experience, providing an added layer of freshness during prolonged rides.

Crafted from a tubular knit microfiber material, this base layer is thoughtfully designed to sit snugly against the skin, expediting the movement of moisture away from the body, thus bolstering its efficacy in keeping you dry even during the most demanding cycling sessions.

The midweight construction of this base layer demonstrates a strategic approach, skillfully limiting the number of ventilation panels to precisely regulate your core temperature. This level of temperature control is especially advantageous when riding in temperatures ranging from mid 60°F to low 40°F, ensuring you stay adequately insulated without compromising on breathability.

4. Rapha 100% merino Base Layer

Merino base layer

thermal base layer for cycling

around 45 USD

Ideal For: extremely cold riding
Temperature: 4°C – 15°C / 40°F – 60°F
Fabric: 100% New Zealand Merino
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL
Machine Wash: yes
Colors: 1 (Grey)

Unlike Rapha’s regular base layers, the Winter Base Layer boasts a heavier-weight yarn. It features a roll-neck design that can be worn conventionally for standard insulation, or with the neck pulled up over your face, providing the same functionality as the renowned Rapha Winter Collar.

To ensure maximum comfort, the Winter Base Layer is equipped with raglan sleeves, preventing any discomfort caused by bag straps rubbing against your skin. Additionally, the implementation of flatlock seams guarantees a chafe-free experience throughout your ride. Embrace the cold with confidence, unparalleled coziness, and performance for your cycling adventures.

The Winter Base Layer is meticulously crafted from 100% New Zealand merino, utilizing an 18.9-micron yarn for an unmatched level of softness against your skin. This natural fiber is not only incredibly gentle but also itch-free, possessing excellent moisture-wicking properties and inherent resistance to odors.

5. Green Rose Merino Base Layer

Merino wool

green rose merino wool

around 45 USD

Ideal For: extremely cold riding + winter camping
Temperature: N/A
Fabric: 100% Organic Merino Wool Fabric
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
Machine Wash: yes, temperature not higher than 40°C
Colors: 7 (Black, White, Petrol, Light Blue, Grey, Khaki Dark Green, Brown)

Green Rose is a small company based in Vilnius, Lithuania, they produce and sell organic and natural clothes using hemp and merino wool as the main materials.

They proud themselves of using only natural products, no chemical colors whatsoever and we can confirm their clothes really feel great on the skin and do not cause any irritation, even to someone like me who also had allergic type of reactions to wool.

You can have a look at our full Green Rose Merino Review here.


synthetic base layer

best base layer for cycling in winter

around 46 USD

Ideal For: extremely cold riding
Temperature: N/A
Fabric: Front 84% Polyester, 16% Spandex – back 91% Polyester, 9% Spandex
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: yes
Colors: 3 (Black, Dark Red, Dark Navy)

The Pro Team Thermal Base Layer is tailored for high-tempo riding and racing in freezing or near-freezing temperatures, drawing inspiration from the Deep Winter Base Layer and infusing it with Pro Team technical innovation.

Constructed from a polyester fabric with a subtle bobbled texture against the skin, this base layer effectively traps air to provide exceptional warmth while maintaining its quick-drying and fast-wicking properties. This ensures that even during intense efforts and sweating, moisture won’t hinder your cool-down process.

Enhancing visibility under dark skies, reflective bars are printed on the neck, while the tall snood covers up to the mouth and ears when worn high. As with all Pro Team products, the base layer is designed for a low on-the-bike position, empowering you to ride at full throttle throughout the winter.

7. Le Col Base Winter Long Sleeve Base Layer

synthetic base layer

best base layer for cycling in winter

around 100 USD

Ideal For: Winter ridings
Temperature:  -5 to 5C 
Fabric: Inner fabric is 100% Recycled Polyester, Outer fabric: 88% Polyester and 12% Elastane.
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: Machine Wash at 30°C / 86°F
Colors: 1 (black)

Introducing the Winter Long Sleeve Base Layer, a carefully engineered garment designed to keep your core warm even on the coldest days. Designed to sit close to the skin and worn under your jacket as part of an effective layering system, this Winter base utilizes the innovative Polartec® Alpha™ on the interior layer and Polartec® Powergrid™ Fleece on the exterior, ensuring unrivaled thermal protection.

Ergonomically tailored for a snug fit, this base layer boasts a lightweight, low-bulk construction that guarantees optimal warmth retention, even when temperatures plunge into negative territory. The combination of Polartec® fabrics strikes a perfect balance between warmth and minimal bulk, delivering unparalleled comfort during your cold-weather rides.

Initially developed for the U.S. special forces, Polartec® Alpha™ is engineered to regulate comfort in dynamic conditions, demanding unwavering warmth and breathability amidst extreme temperature variations without necessitating layer removal. These qualities resonate perfectly with the needs of cyclists braving the chillier months.

On the other hand, Polartec® Powergrid™ features a patented grid construction knit, elevating both warmth and breathability while concurrently reducing fabric mass. This ingenious design makes it an ideal choice for crafting high-performance cycling apparel, ensuring you stay cozy and comfortable as you conquer the winter rides.

8. POC Essential Layer LS Jersey

synthetic base layer

best base layer for cycling in winter

from 50 USD

Temperature: N/A
Fabric: polyester/elastane 
Size: S, M, L, XL, XXL, XSM
Machine Wash: N/A
Colors: 3 (hydrogen white, light base light blue, uranium black)

Layering properly is the key to staying warm. On the road or the trails, in a race, or on any weekend ride, this long-sleeve jersey is the ideal base layer for any ride in cooler conditions.

With a close fit, the lightweight base layer provides high breathability and exceptional wicking properties, which are vital for staying warm, dry, and comfortable on any kind of ride.

Developed for a close fit against the skin, the jersey features flatlock seams for exceptional comfort and stretch panels on the side to ensure the jersey moves with you. A small POC logo features on the chest.


synthetic base layer

thermal base layer cyclist

from 26 USD

Temperature: N/A
Fabric: 100% Polyester
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: N/A
Colors: 1 (trekking green)

DHB incorporates fabrics from American innovators Polartec® into their winter baselayers, such as this performance long sleeve crafted with Power Dry™ – a remarkable fusion of hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibers.

The Power Dry™ bi-component knit ensures continuous evaporation, preventing this race-fit baselayer from becoming saturated and effectively regulating your core temperature. The high neck design of this winter warmer also aids in warding off the cold.

The Aeron Polartec Long Sleeve Baselayer is perfected with the superior strength and flexibility of ActiveSeam technology, guaranteeing an excellent performance fit every time. These strategically placed seams provide supreme comfort while riding.

Polartec® is renowned for creating the most cutting-edge performance textiles available today. Originating as the original synthetic fleece, Polartec® now offers a collection of over 300 diverse fabrics, specially designed to keep you warm, dry, and, above all, comfortable during various outdoor activities.

10. Isadore Merino Deep Winter Baselayer

Merino wool + Synthetic fabric

cycling thermal base layer merino

from 115 USD

Temperature: Zero and sub-zero temperatures
Fabric: 40% Merino wool, 60% Polyamide
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash:
Colors: 2 (purple, black)

Despite its surprisingly thin appearance, the Merino Deep Winter Baselayer is exceptionally warm due to its intelligent blend of Merino wool and Polyamide. This seamless knit garment features a longer torso for maximum coverage and a turtleneck design to prevent chilly winds from reaching your chin.

The longer arms with thumbholes provide added protection for your wrists against persistent wind. The chest area is reinforced with an ultra-thin and elastic membrane fabric that acts as a barrier against the harshest winds.

This base layer offers a snug fit and includes thumb loops to keep it securely in place. Additionally, it boasts an extra-long turtleneck to provide even more warmth and protection during cold weather activities.

11. La Passione SML Long Sleeve Merino Base Layer Black

Merino Base Layer

The 11 Best Base Layers for Cycling in Winter 3

from 42 USD

Temperature: N/A
Fabric: 95% Wool – 3% Polyester – 2% Elastane
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Machine Wash: 30°C
Colors: 1 (black)

This winter base layer by La Passione is the epitome of quality and performance. Made in Italy, the attention to detail and craftsmanship is unparalleled.

When it comes to facing the cold, this base layer excels, providing perfect insulation to keep you warm even in the harshest of winter conditions. The incorporation of a high neck, extending up to 5cm, offers additional protection against the biting chill, making it an ideal companion for those frosty days.

Excellent adherence to the body, akin to a second skin. The garment effortlessly molds to your body’s contours, providing a snug fit that enhances both comfort and performance. Thanks to its extreme elasticity, this base layer adapts flawlessly to all body types, ensuring everyone can benefit from its exceptional qualities.

The central Hold the Line logo on the front adds a touch of style and branding to this already impressive piece. With a clear focus on functionality and aesthetics, it truly stands out from the rest.

The Secret To Warm Winter Cycling? Layer Up!

Layering is the key to staying warm and comfortable while cycling in cold winter conditions. It allows you to adjust your clothing as needed during the ride. If you start to feel too warm, you can peel off a layer or unzip your jacket.

It’s essential to find the right balance between staying warm and preventing excessive sweating, as sweating too much can make you colder once you stop moving. Here’s a guide on how to effectively layer up for winter cycling:

  1. Base Layer: Start with a moisture-wicking base layer that sits directly against your skin. This layer helps to keep sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and preventing chills.
  2. Cycling Jersey: your regular jersey, breathable and moisture-wicking.
  3. Arm warmers: provide temperature regulation, sun protection, and portability. Combining leg and arm warmers with base, insulating, and outer layers allows for comfort in varying winter conditions, adapting quickly to changing temperatures without excessive clothing.
  4. Insulating Layer (Softshell): The insulating layer is responsible for trapping your body heat and keeping you warm. It could be a fleece or thermal jersey, or even a lightweight down jacket, depending on the temperature.
  5. Hardshell (Windproof and Waterproof Outer Layer): Protect yourself from the elements by wearing a windproof and waterproof cycling jacket. This outer layer will shield you from cold winds and potential rain or snow.
  6. Layering Accessories: Consider adding extra layers to your core, like a gilet or vest, that you can easily remove if you get too warm during your ride.

Additional gear for winter:

  1. Leg Warmers: Leg warmers are tube-like garments that can be easily rolled up or down your legs, providing additional warmth and protection. They are typically made of thermal and moisture-wicking materials.
  2. Cycling Tights or Pants: Opt for thermal cycling tights or pants to keep your legs warm during the ride. Look for ones with windproof panels in the front to add extra protection.
  3. Gloves: Cold hands can be uncomfortable and affect your grip on the handlebars. Wear insulated and windproof cycling gloves to keep your fingers warm.
  4. Headgear: A lot of heat escapes through your head, so wearing a thin beanie or a thermal cycling cap under your helmet can help retain that warmth.
  5. Neck Warmer or Buff: Keep your neck and lower face protected from the cold by using a neck warmer or buff. It can be pulled up over your chin and nose if the temperature drops.
  6. Cycling Shoes and Toe Covers: Insulated cycling shoes or shoe covers are essential to keep your feet warm and protect them from cold wind. Toe covers can be added for extra insulation.

Wrap Up – Winter Base Layers for Cycling?

By wearing a base layer during winter rides, you create a foundation for your clothing system that actively manages moisture and temperature, keeping you comfortable and better equipped to focus on your cycling performance. It forms an essential part of layering strategies to stay warm and dry during cold-weather cycling.

Gearing up for Winter? Check also:

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