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Hunt about online in dedicated (obsessive?) bike forums and you’ll find heated debate about whether to wear base layers under or over your cycling bibs.
The arguments for and against are, I suspect, from people who possibly have too much time on their hands.
For me? Well, it was actually quite a long time into my cycling life before I even knew what ‘base layers’ or ‘bibs’ even were. Hopefully that’s done nothing to detract from my image as a bike guru…? Ahem…
For the avoidance of doubt (and just to prove that I do know a little about cycling) these two are items of bike apparel:
- Base layers are the undergarments that go on your top half, also known as vests, undershirts, compression tops, etc.
- Bibs or bib shorts are basically tight-fitting cycling shorts with straps attached to go over your shoulders and keep the shorts from falling down as you ride, like these.
Both are very handy pieces of kit.
Also, just to dive into the whole under-the-bibs or over-the-bibs argument. In my opinion, there’s only one way to go – under the bibs. I could go into all of the many reasons why I feel it’s the right option, but….
Let’s just say, that bathroom trips are a heck of a lot easier (for ladies and gents) when you’ve got the bib straps over the base layer.
Shall we move on?
Quick Answer: Baleaf Short Sleeve Compression Shirts
Okay, so we’ve defined the bike kit that we’re talking about. And we’ve discussed how to layer it up. Next step is to look at the options for base layers and see some examples of the best available out there today.
There are a few different styles on offer for base layers, and a couple of features to look out for.
First up, is the arm length. Here, you have 3 choices:
- short sleeve,
- or long sleeve
Partly it’s a personal preference thing as to which you go for. If you find yourself wearing tank tops most of the time, then they’re probably the best type to go for when you’re on the bike as well.
There’s also a question of the temperature that you’re going to be riding in. In summer you’d normally be going for a sleeveless option, rather than the long-sleeved. Some folk also prefer the less constricting feel of a tank, as opposed to the long sleeve.
With a garment that has direct contact with your skin, you need a fabric that is sweat-wicking and breathable. For the winter I also like to have a good seal between my cuffs and my gloves – so my preference is a long-sleeved shirt with thumbholes and I’ve included a ladies base layer with these so you can see what I mean.
Okay, let’s have a look at some of the best options for cycling base layers.
My Top Recommendations
Let’s get into the detail on each of the base layers:
We’ll start off with the shortest sleeved tops (i.e. no-sleeved tank tops) and work our way down the arms to arrive eventually at the long-sleeved tops.
Firstly then we have this women’s tank top. Bpbtti have designed a great base layer here with this top that is made from an open mesh fabric this is highly breathable and wicks sweat away fast from your skin, keeping you dry as you cycle.
It’s a good length for cycling and feels soft and comfortable for all-day use. Plus, being a tank top, it won’t restrict your upper arms and shoulders, so you feel freer.
There are two color options (black and white) and a bulk buy 2-pack, all at very good prices.
A gent’s tank top which is perfect for cycling and wearing under your bibs.
This is a pack of 3 of these shirts because, if you ride more than a couple of times a week, then it’s useful to have a few of each piece of kit. Otherwise, you’ll keep finding that your favorite top is always in the laundry basket.
Moving over the shoulder and down to the upper arms, we have the short-sleeved cycling tops.
This one from Opna comes in a wide range of sizes (from XS to 4XL) and a fantastic number of colours. Made from sweat-wicking fabric, it feels light and roomy, allowing your body to move as you need it to.
The gent’s top from Baleaf is a base layer that is designed as a compression top, keeping your muscles warm and safe.
It wicks moisture away quickly, keeping you dry and comfy, and the smooth fabric and flat stitched seams prevent chafing.
I mentioned thumbholes at the top of the page, and the ColdPruf base layer is the one on this list that has them. Thumbholes come into their own in the wintertime, as they keep your cuff tucked into your gloves, and avoid that chilly slice of wrist.
The fabric is soft, comfortable, and wicks moisture away. Plus it drops down low at the rear, so it’s great for wearing on the bike as it won’t ride up when you bend over the handlebars.
If you’re looking for a women’s long-sleeved base layer WITHOUT thumbholes, then this one is a great option.
All of the base layers on this list show that you don’t have to pay a fortune for a good quality bike undershirt, and the TSLA top is another fantastic value piece of kit.
This top is moisture-wicking and also fleece-lined, so ideal for keeping you warm and dry on chillier rides.
Final word on cycling base layers
In my opinion base layers are an essential piece of kit for cycling and team up well with your bib shorts.
Grab yourself one of these great buys, put them UNDER your bibs, and go out and tear up the roads.
Stay warm and dry.