Dartmoor Merino Base Layer
We haven't had a bad Winter this year in weather terms (speaking of the South only here!). There has been a few commutes in where our legs, even with leg warmers on, turned numb and ice cold red patches have expanded on our skin. We never leave home without the usual thermal gear; thermal cap, neckie, gloves and of course a base layer. It really does depend on what your body requires in terms of thermal needs. Most bodies will direct blood away from the tips of your body (feet, fingers, ears, nose) so that heat can be kept in the core systems which is why it's these body part are the first to freeze up. It's difficult in cold weather to judge your body's internal temperature. You are at as much risk of over heating compared to freezing. So when throwing a baselayer under your jersey, it's important to look into it's performance when the cold begins to win. Although their market is for the runners, we've put Iffley Road's Dartmoor Merino baselayer to the test on our commutes and early weekend rides...
As packages go, the only thing missing was that it was delivered by a limo driver with a rolled out red carpet! Folded smartly, I thought I had picked up a suit and instead of getting active, I was getting ready for a prom! Before we say thumbs up though, the eco warrior in us will argue is this needed? In a world where we are conscious of what we are using, packaging is one area where all brands and companies should be looking at to do their bit. We're not criticising Iffley Road because (and we will get to the price tag soon!) if you're paying a premium price, you will be expecting a premium product but you do question is it needed. Just to throw another example out there, we treated Mrs Notinthepeloton to a new perfume and the box it came in was funky and very eye catching, the bottle was about a tenth of the size of the box and it was surrounded by the messy shrivelled up paper filling stuff?! At least the baselayer filled up the box it came in and you could reuse the box for a smart shirt.
For this test, it shouldn't matter too much that we are testing a runner's baselayer as a cyclist. It just needs to make sure it's going to keep me warm during this bitterly cold commutes. There's no way of describing it any other way, it's thin. Don't be expecting a full on wool knitted top made my Grandma! It's made from merino and if you're wondering what the fuss is about, it's basically premium wool. You see merino on Winter clothing and it's a selling point. Do believe the hype though, we have been wearing merino socks and compared to regular wool or cotton, it's more comfortable in cold temperatures. A faux pas many riders will choose to do is to wear double socks, this can have the adverse effect of slowing blood circulation because of the added compression, you want heat to your toes don't you not DVT?!
Currently in our wardrobe is a mixture of textures when it comes to baselayers. We have a couple of Tenn's nylon style tops, Planet X cheaper mixture of cotton and nylon and Le Col's merino baselayer. The Planet X gets a lot of wear just as we find it quite comfortable to wear but the wicking from the sweat is horrendous, it would often be drenched very quickly so we will be interested to see how the Dartmoor racks up against this criteria.
In terms of design, apart from a small but smart branding on the rear of the neck, you wouldn't know who the designer is. Granted, a baselayer is worn underneath so why spend time and money on this area but we've learnt if you look good, you feel good. For the price of this baselayer, I want to be reminded of who I am wearing, I can't say I get that feeling here.
We didn't need to wait for the weather to turn at the moment as every morning is a frosty one. So on went the Dartmoor. It is very light. You do wonder how something that weighs as much as a feather gonna' keep you toasty?! It's not tight fitting but it's not loose either, we are wearing a medium and without sounding modest, we are probably bang average in mostly every category so if it's a good fit for us, it's a good fit for the average Joe! I thought I'd throw the baselayer into the deep end by just wearing a regular long sleeve jersey over the top. Now, apart from when you're getting out of the saddle, you don't really create much upper body movement when riding but there was no sign of chafing or rubbing, you kind of forget it's there. The main area I was focusing on was the after phase - how it dealt with sweat. A little damp when I got to work but in no way drenched. We usually stick the kit on the radiator to dry off but this is a review at the end of the day, we treated it badly and left it in the rucksack. Happily to say though, it was dry. The merino or the way it has been woven did a good job. Nothing worse and it's risky for your health putting on a cold soaking baselayer, that's how you punish your immune system and catch colds.
'Beast From The East'
Chopping and changing baselayers each day, you get a sense actually where your money is going with the Dartmoor. Even the wife has commented how well it washes (we split the chores, all equality here!). You're definitely thrown into a false pretence as you've probably seen thicker cling film, but the quality and softness of the merino shines through.
As mentioned before, it soaks up sweat and moisture well, the nylon baselayers I wear are often damp and if not dried out, cold to put on which is not what you want on a ride home. That's not a problem for the Dartmoor and it may sounds silly to say but it smells like it's just come out of the washing machine. It dries so well and that's exactly what you want if you're wearing it for multiple rides during the day.
Well the ultimate test was upon the horizon, 'The Beast From The East'. sub zero temperatures forecast for the whole week, we made sure the Dartmoor was ready to go. We didn't take any chances though and layered up with a long sleeve jersey, rain jacket, long bib tights, camping socks, overshoes, fleeced neckie, thermal cap and winter gloves. Felt more ready for an Artic stroll then a commute to work!
-4C we believed the weather app had claimed it was but the ride felt more fresh then baltic. Once again, we forgot we was wearing a baselayer, it's a comfortable fit, not tight hugging but also not flappy so you can feel the creases. Only thing we noticed this time was the garment was a tad more damp then usual, this could of been due to 3 layers rather but small price to pay when you're cycling in Siberian type weather.
We have to mention the price. It's £95. It's a lot. It's a baselayer. No hiding it, there's cheaper options out there. It clearly has it's pros, it's comfortable, it dries well, even keeps a fresh smell after use. It's a good baselayer. Is it £95 good? Honestly, if you were to buy one, it's an investment because it will outlast cheaper versions. Put it this way, the nylon ones we use from Planet X were £10 a couple of years ago, we still wear them but they are soaked after a ride and at a rest stop, that's not what you want, your core body temperature will drop considerably and you're more likely to catch a cold as the sweat cools on your warm skin. The Dartmoor won't do that. So if you're looking for a premium baselayer and you really don't mind sacrificing taking your partner out for a nice meal in the process, the Dartmoor argues a good case for a place in your wardrobe.