Having invested in my first Rapha kit, I set around sorting a complimentary baselayer, and the only way was merino. The Rapha jersey was a long-sleeve, slightly heavier weight, winter version, so to increase the versatility I was after a long-sleeve and a short-sleeve base. The Rapha baselayers, lovely as they might have been, were heading well north of £100, so it was time to shop around.
Plenty of cycle outlets and companies are offering merino-mix garments, and my previous port of choice has been GroundEffect (the New Zealand based cycle clothing business), but nothing jumped out when I was searching and I’d had Chapeau Clothing in the back of my mind for some time as a UK-based clothing brand. And so, after a trawl of the likes of Wiggle and Planet-X, I ended up at Chapeau, and ordered the two baselayers.
I went for XL sizes and, as with many of the premium brands, they’re good ‘long’ fits – they sit low on the hips and the long-sleeve covers your wrists. They are a little tight round the neck, but I’m quite twitchy about that sort of restriction, and it didn’t seem uncomfortable.
Straight out of the bag the Chapeau base didn’t have that silky smooth feel of a good synthetic baselayer, and felt decidedly itchy and a bit stiff. But that vanished with an initial wear and a wash, and the bases have been pleasant to wear against the skin since those first washes.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to apply a little more TLC when washing these – so no throwing them in with your smalls and the kids muddy jeans. I’m going to wash them on a general lycra/gym wash, so light on washing powder and no conditioner – that should be a kinder care regime.
With the abysmally wet weather we had in January, the base layers’ first proper outing was a week’s skiing in France. That proved to be the perfect test for the ‘merino hype’ – the base layer went on at 07.30 in the morning, didn’t come off until 18.00, survived a full day of full-on skiing and après-ski beers, and was repeated again the next day. The merino was miraculous and at the end of the second day was still wearable.
I’ve since got some spring rides in with the Rapha jersey and the two baselayers, and the combination is plenty warm enough – on one morning ride I had to strip off the base layer, as I was starting to melt, but it was fine enough to roll up and slip into a back pocket.
My base layers cost £68 for the two (one long-sleeve, one short-sleeve) in January 2014, and I seem to remember that that was an offer – as the current prices are £45 and £40 for the long and short sleeve layers respectively. Looking at Wiggle, where their (non-sale) base layers are around £20, and even a 2-pack of their higher spec DHB Corefit layers is £52, it looks that even at £45 the Chapeau base layers are good value.
I’ll update this post as we move through spring and into the summer… are they truly four-season items?