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What’s a Base Layer?

5 ways to be more comfortable while running or cycling


Ah, the base layer.

This garment is as misunderstood, probably, as cyclists shaving their legs (it’s not about speed—or, at least, not primarily about speed). When you started cycling or triathlon you bought a set or two of shorts and a jersey, added some cycling-specific socks, and rocked those fingerless gloves you stole from your mom or dad, right? Only after a year or so of riding did you notice that most athletes seemed to wear some sort of meshy underthing, visible when they zipped down their jerseys. They seemed to wear them in all conditions, hot or cold, and once you saw them somewhere, you saw them everywhere. Jeez, you thought. This activity just keeps getting weirder. Yes, as with some religions, riding a bike has its own underwear.

But why? They must know something you don’t know, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

Here are the five reasons cyclists and triathletes wear baselayers.


Sweat management

whether in hot conditions or cold, moving sweat away from your skin is important. If it’s cold out, sweat against your skin will chill you, despite what you’re wearing on top, and if it’s hot the presence of sweat will inhibit evaporation, so you want to get that moisture away from your body where it can evaporate and help to cool you down. A light, meshy baselayer achieves that in both conditions.


Temperature stabilizing

a good baselayer will actually help you stay cooler in hot conditions (although adding a layer may seem counterintuitive in the heat) and if it’s cold outside you can use thicker and thicker baselayers to keep your temperature steady.

base-layer-img-4 wattieink


adding a small layer in between you and your jersey allows those two garments to slip against each other instead of against your skin, removing any possibility of chafing.



there will be moments when you want to zip down your jersey, or maybe remove it if you’re warming up, changing your outer layer, or training indoors. A good baselayer helps give you a little cover without bulk. And if you’re wearing a baselayer as your run top, you don’t have to be the shirtless guy, or the lady shamelessly rocking her sports bra in public.



layers provide options, yeah? A great baselayer can complement your kit the same way an excellent pair of socks or the right pair of gloves can provide a touch that wasn’t present before. Zip your jersey down slightly to show off the baselayer’s logo or its design, reminding your riding mates just how together you are. If the fashion world thinks “hat/shoes/handbag,” the cycling world considers “helmet/baselayer/socks.”

So go and have a look!

Pick up a few baselayers to add to your underthings drawer, and join all of the other cultists, wearing their cycling-specific underwear.


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