Base layers are an inexpensive but essential piece of kit in extreme weather. A good base layer wicks away sweat in hot conditions, keeping you cool and comfortable under your protective gear.
When the temperature drops, thermal base layers trap body heat while wicking away the sweat that can cause chills.
Here are a few of the best options on the market. We’ve focused on gear for colder weather (more appropriate for UK riding), and our list includes something for every budget.
Best Motorcycle Base Layers Reviewed
Rukka Mark Thermal Set
This machine-washable set from Rukka is 100% polyester. This makes it excellent at wicking moisture and regulating temperature.
This is not a particularly thick base layer. But it does provide surprising thermal insulation. The wicking properties mean that some people even wear this under their gear in summer.
Reviews mention many riders choosing this set as underwear for summer months. The polyester prevents the waterproof inner layer of your jacket and pants from sticking to the skin, causing sweating and discomfort.
The construction is rock-solid, with the garments holding their shape cycle after cycle. Rukka is known for its durable, high-quality gear. This set might cost a little more than some cheaper options. But it should provide years of temperature regulation in a range of temperatures.
- Quality, durable gear
- Cheaper sets available
Extreme Racing Thermal Base Layer
This inexpensive full-suit solution should be enough for even the coldest weather.
The one-piece design means you avoid losing body heat from uncovered sections around your middle (a vital area to keep warm).
The cotton-lycra blend material is stretchy, insulating, and has decent wicking properties. Two-way YKK zipper means bathroom breaks are hassle-free – even in tight, public toilets, etc.
Double-over lock stitching ensures the suit should have a long life cycle. These seams also sit flat against the skin, meaning no irritation from friction.
The material used here is a little thicker than some of the hi-tech offerings with hollow fibres. While this makes this full suit a little bulkier and heavier than some of the other examples, it keeps you warm.
Some reviews even mention using this set as a base layer for winter skydiving.
- Warm, full suit
- Thicker than some base layers
DXR Warmcore Long Sleeve
This lightweight, long-sleeve top from DXR provides a lot of insulation for the price. Its compression fit makes it snug and comfortable without feeling too tight or restrictive.
This design uses ‘hollow fibres.’ The idea here is that by featuring some tiny air pockets, the top is more effective at retaining body heat.
The principle makes sense. And it’s the same reasoning behind wearing many layers in cold weather. It’s as much the air pockets between the layers that prevent the cold from penetrating as it is the fabric.
Light thermal quilting in this top’s crucial areas also helps you retain body heat and keep the chill away. This is an excellent product for any outdoor activities – not just motorcycle riding.
- Reputable brand
- Comfortable but snug fit
- There are warmer winter base layers out there (for more money!)
DXR Warmcore Pants
This set of pants from DXR uses the same elasticated, compression fit as the long-sleeve top reviewed above. And like their matching counterpart, these pants represent great value. They are moisture-wicking and warm, featuring the same hollow fibres that effectively trap heat next to the body.
Same comfortable, compression fit as the long sleeve top from DXR. The material is stretchy enough not to pinch or feel tight while staying close to the skin (where base layers are most effective).
The legs on these pants are long. We assume this was a design feature to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes. For average-height riders, these may bunch a little at the ankles.
- Quality gear at a reasonable price
- Warmer pants are available (at a price)
Dainese D-Core Thermo
The D-Core range from Dainese represents the company’s most advanced base layer technology.
This motorcycle-specific thermal is made from 100% recyclable material and features padded areas where it comes into contact with the armour in your jacket. Its seamless construction means maximum comfort – even when worn for extended periods.
Its anti-pill, tear-proof finish means you should get years of life from this top. An anti-odour, anti-bacterial treatment also helps you feel clean and fresh under your jacket.
The seamless construction means this thermal is about as comfortable as this kind of garment gets – recommended.
- Warm as they get
- Super high-quality material and finish
- Extra touches like padding over armoured points
- Pricey for a base layer
Rukka Outlast Shirt
This shirt from Rukka’s Outlast series regulates body temperature in a variety of conditions. Believe it or not, the thermal regulation here is provided by the action of thermocules.
These molecules in the fabric change from a solid to a liquid state under changes in temperature. The energy to begin this process is absorbed by your body heat. Once your body begins to cool down, the energy is reabsorbed by the skin.
This sounds very complicated but is experienced as a comfortable sensation of thermal equilibrium – not too hot, not too cold.
The hi-tech nature of this top means it’ll cost you significantly more than some of the others on our list. But its performance and many pages of positive reviews speak for themselves.
- Top-end performance in a broad range of conditions
DXR Ladies Warmcore Pants
These lightweight pants feature a compression fit that moulds to the body without feeling restrictive. Hollow fibres create an air gap, further retaining body heat and insulating against the cold from outside.
The fabric also does an excellent job of wicking moisture away from the body in warmer conditions, too – wonderful when getting on and off the bike while touring.
Key areas of the pants are also fitted with thermal quilting. This does even more to retain body heat. The comfortable, unrestrictive fit makes these suitable for any outdoor activities – not just motorcycling.
- Comfortable and cosy
- Good wicking properties
DXR Ladies Warmcore Long Sleeve Shirt
This top uses the same materials and design principles as the pants featured above. Together, they make an excellent thermal base layer. The same hollow fibres are included here to increase thermal insulation. Areas of thermal quilting also reinforce key areas.
The highly-breathable fabric is also moisture-wicking. It will keep you feeling dry, even when the temperature suddenly increases. This shirt and the matching pants are made in an unrestrictive, women-specific cut. This makes them great for all kinds of outdoor activities.
- Toasty and well made
Care, Considerations, and costs
Effective layering is the best way to trap body heat in cold weather.
In warmer conditions, a base layer that wicks moisture away from the skin keeps you cool, dry, and comfortable.
There’s no need to break the bank when purchasing this kind of item. But thermal gear for the coldest months will typically cost a little more due to the added materials and demands.
Cotton feels great against the skin. For this reason, it’s what most of us wear as a base layer most of the time.
But there are two problems with cotton for motorcycle riding.
- Poor wicking: It isn’t very effective at drawing moisture away from the skin and out to the other side of the fabric.
- Poor insulator when wet: Once your cotton t-shirt gets wet under your riding gear, you risk getting chills.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and polypropylene are most commonly used for their wicking properties.
Merino wool also has these desirable properties but is usually more expensive.
Some base layers use ‘air pockets’ that are effective at trapping heat in winter and allowing air to circulate in summer. This variety can be used year-round.
Spend a little more and get the Rukka Thermal Set; it offers the best balance between quality and price.