If you’re anything like me, one of the worst things about cycling in cold weather is that it means you have to forego your stylish summer jerseys in favour of winter jackets and tights. Or, if you insist on racing in temperatures below 10c, you have to accept either being cold and aero or warmer and distinctly non-aero.
Well, Spatzwear think they have found the answer with their new ‘Race Layer’ base layer. In their own words: “Designed to offer the warmth of 2-3 traditional garments without the extra weight or bulk. Perfect for both racing and training, it is developed to sit close to the skin - ideal for use under modern aero jerseys. It is warm, dry, aerodynamic and incredibly comfortable.”
As the early season Time Trials have been especially cold this year, I thought I’d put Spatzwear’s claims to the test and so I’ve been trying the ‘Race Layer’ for the last couple of weeks in both training and racing.
Spatzwear says the Race Layer is manufactured to sit tight against the skin and features ‘revolutionary inner textures’ to trap a layer of warm air while still transporting sweat away.
The size small is certainly a good fit for me; tight but not overly restrictive. It’s noticeably thicker than any other base layer I have (including those that claim ‘thermal’ qualities), but because it sits so tight against the skin, that doesn’t mean it’s overly bulky.
The arms are designed to come down to the elbow if you want the coverage of your upper arms, or the material can be ‘concertinaed’ to fit under a jersey. There’s no sleeveless option as yet.
The material reminds me of a base layer I had from 110 percent play harder a few years ago, like a micro-knit mesh. But you can see that different panels have different textures and amount of ‘give’ with the chest panels having noticeably more substance (which makes sense as your chest will catch the most wind).
The Race Layer is designed for racing, so of course I had to try it as such. To my surprise, it did indeed fit under my Velotec skinsuit (which isn’t exactly baggy!) although I’m not sure I would try it under my Endura D2Z Encapsulator suit, which has noticeably tighter (less stretchy) arms.
I also found that the Race Layer worked extremely well under a Rapha Pro Team Training jersey, but trying to get it under the same sized Rapha Pro Team Racing jersey made it uncomfortably tight. Now that said, the racing jersey is pretty darned tight at the best of times. I’d probably bear the tightness for racing, but for training I opted for the slightly looser-fitting jersey over the top of the Race Layer (see photo).
What is undeniable is that it’s warm, very warm. Racing at less than 5 degrees C the Race Layer did a good job of keeping my core warm. Likewise, I was able to comfortably wear a short sleeve jersey with just the Race Layer underneath at 12-13 degrees (with no arm warmers, either). I did get some strange looks from all the other cyclists in their jackets and full-length tights!
One note is that the Race Layer is not particularly windproof. Now that’s not a criticism as I doubt it was intended to be (mesh never could be!). But it does mean that, if your top layer isn’t windproof, then the base layer won’t add too much extra protection against particularly biting winds.
At nearly £55 (plus postage), this is not a cheap base layer. But it is very, very effective, whether you want to use it to wear less bulky winter kit during colder rides or be a bit more comfortable when racing cold TTs, crits or cyclocross events.
Personally, I’d like there to be a sleeveless version available, which would fit better under a skinsuit (you can see in the second photo the ribs of the Race Layer arms through the skinsuit).
Overall, I’m really impressed with the Race Layer and I can see it becoming an everyday go-to until the British temperatures get up above 16-17 degrees. At least now I can wear my summer jerseys and get some vitamin D on my arms without freezing to death!
You can order the Spatzwear Race Layer on their website at www.spatzwear.com.