MTB Gloves

MTB Base Layers

MTB Clothing

I’ve never been much of a fashion victim and less so when it comes to the clothing I wear for mountain bike riding. But one thing I do pay attention to is making sure I have the right clothing that fits the season and delivers what I need in terms of comfort and durability. Of course, what you will need depends also on your local climate and the protection you will need from local hazards.

I saw a video recently featuring a young woman out on one of her local trails in Arizona where there was a lot of cactus growing. She was dressed entirely for hot-weather and completely unprotected for the crash into several cacti that left her looking like a pin-cushion. The removal process was long and painful.

Mountain biking is hazardous, and we can’t always protect from every eventuality but with well-designed clothing, we can do plenty to help and keep us on the trails.

Winter is Coming

OK, I hear you, it’s summer where you live. I live in the south of France and the temperature has dropped from 40 Celsius in August to single figures and frequent rain showers in the last two weeks. It’s been snowing above 2000 meters and it won’t be long before it lands in the lower valleys. Shorts, top, knee and elbow pads are no longer enough. New challenges await.

Base Layers

Unless I can see that rain or snow are going to fall, I wear two layers of clothing and carry a third in my pack (waterproof jacket). The base layer is worn against the skin with a layer over the base. Each has a purpose, and the layers work together to wick away sweat, hold in heat, and keep out the elements.

What is wicking?

All base layers should be made from wicking materials and not cotton because it has no wicking capabilities and typically absorbs moisture, making you feel wet and cold. Positive wicking fabrics draw sweat away from the body and direct moisture to the middle and outer layers. The surface area of wicking materials is greater than cotton and enables moisture to evaporate.

How should a base layer fit?

To work efficiently, the fabric of a base layer needs to fit close to the skin and base layers are typically designed to do just that. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to extract the moisture. On a warm weather ride, I prefer to wear only a base layer because it’s light, allows airflow and it’s comfortable and it still extracts the moisture.

Temperature control

If you too like to ride hard, mountain biking is strenuous and more so in wintry weather when exposure to the cold can more easily lead to injury. Cold weather exposure weakens muscles and they become more susceptible to injury. Base layers are designed to keep your core muscles warm and working optimally as well as throwing out moisture.

Base layer weights

You can find a base layer weight for every season to accommodate your activity levels and the local temperature.

What to look for

The dhb Merino Long Sleeve base layer provides outstanding thermal regulation across a range of climate conditions.dhb Merino Base Layer

It’s manufactured from the highest quality, super fine Australian merino wool and is soft, comfy and itch-free. The inner core of the fibre is hydrophilic (water loving) while the outer surface is hydrophobic (water repelling), allowing it to absorb a greater amount of moisture before it feels wet compared to synthetic fibres.

Traditional wool is still used to fashion base layers, but the older fabric has been replaced by merino wool which features exceptionally soft fibers. Lightweight and soft on the skin too. Unlike synthetic materials, wool relies more on moisture absorption rather than wicking. A base layer of merino wool can hold 30% of its own weight in water absorption before the wearer is able to notice it on their skin. Even while soaked with sweat, the dhb merino construction allows the material to breathe and the unique outer-layer repels the moisture.

During cold weather riding it makes for the perfect next to skin first layer. It effectively traps warmth whilst still maintaining breathability and a comfortable body temperature. The natural breathability of the wool results in moisture quickly evaporating when the fibres can’t hold any more, helping you maintain your temperature and avoid overheating during more intensive and vigorous efforts such as sprints and hill climbs.

Maintaining warmth in cold weather and helping maintain a cooler, dry feel when it’s mild this merino base layer is versatile enough to cater for any type of condition during any season so you wouldn’t need a different one for every season.

I expected it to itch. It didn’t, so that was a bonus. On the downside, it is slower to dry than other fabrics, it can shrink if washing instructions aren’t followed and is prone to moth damage if not safely stored. On average, it’s more expensive than base layers made from other materials. But don’t let that put you off, this really is an excellent product that makes a positive difference. I wear mine for skiing too!

Black Friday

Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC) have started early this year with remarkable offers worldwide for each week during November. You can pick up a dhb Merino base layer in all sizes for 37% less than the usual price. Click on the banner and then the flag, top right of CRC’s site to change to your local currency and availability. Be sure to use the size guide if you decide to go for one of these. Remember, a snug fit is essential to effectiveness. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right, CRC’s customer service is excellent, and they have a 365 day returns policy.



Please note that if you do buy from CRC, I will receive an affiliate commission, but this does not affect your buyer rights or the price you will pay. You can read more about this by clicking on “Affiliate Links” on the right side of the main menu here at justridemtb101.

Comments and Questions

Your comments and questions will always receive a prompt response. Please leave them below and in doing so, you may well be helping somebody else.

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14 thoughts on “MTB Base Layers

  1. This is very awesome I must say and it is also great to see that you can show this awesome importance of using a base layer. I have never work any before when going mountain biking anf like the woman you saw, there are also cactus on some part of the path I ride. I should get this from CRC. The black Friday offer is one I should take advantage of. Thanks for this.

    1. Thank you Henderson, I’m pleased this post helped. There are plenty of great offers out there at the moment and if you need any suggestions, I’m always glad to help. Watch out for those spiky things! We have some around here too. They often rush past in a blur, I aim to keep it that way 🙂 Best regards, Steve

  2. Yeah The dhb Merino Long Sleeve base layer provides outstanding thermal regulation and that’s what I ll suggest for anybody going for a ride on the mountain  it’s less very affordable and most of it all very protective  If I dont have this and I wanna go for a ride I ll rather stay back it’s just the best plus its provide a thermal regulation  that’s  so fantastic  it’s just the best thanks 

    1. Thank you, Rose. You echo my thoughts on this base layer perfectly. Stay safe, stay comfortable, happy riding. Steve C

  3. This is a really interesting and helpful article, I’ve been biking for a while and it’s really fun for me but what scares me sometimes when I get to ride with my friends is the location, they love taking challenges  and trying out risky mountains. I love the base layer, it is a very good thing to have for safety and thanks for explaining in details what it should be made with for the sake of quality. I’ll share this with my friends and we’ll get some.

    1. Hi Andrea, Thank you for your positive comments. the dhb really is a great base layer and so long as washed & cared for as per the instructions, it will look after you in all weathers. I understand your friends buzz at risky mountains but get them to share their skills so you develop the confidence to do the same. You can also check out some MTB skills posts here too. I hope they help. Best regards, Steve C

  4. Hey thanks for the awesome post!  I absolutely hate this time o the year.  I hate the cold.  It drives me crazy.  I have never heard of wicking though.  I will have to find some proper clothing for my base layer.  Honestly, all I have ever wore was cotton shirts and a coat over it.  Thank you for the advice!

    1. Hi Jessie, thank you for your positive comments. Cotton has it’s place but not so much when it’s cold out there. All kinds of sports people wear base layers for the reasons I mentioned but there is also a good argument that they are simply great winter clothing too. Best regards, Steve

  5. I have a friend that loves mountain biking and was wondering what to get him for Christmas, this would be a perfect idea! I would have never even thought about wearing layers for mountain biking, but it down make a lot of sense. Thank you for the idea, I will look at the selection at Chain Reaction Cycles now!

    1. Hi Travis, I’m pleased you found a gift idea for your friend. Just be sure to get the correct size. Snug fit works best and he will enjoy the benefits. Thank you for your comments. Best regards, Steve C

  6. Bike riding is a hobby that requires delicacy in some aspects, especially when choosing an outfit. One has to take into the consideration the weather for the day before she barrels out of her home and towards her destination. Base layer shouldn’t be too heavy, so that you will be able to move your limbs properly. I’ll also advise people not to wear outfits that makes their joints still as it will make it difficult for them to move, which can lead to a crash.

    1. Hi Amanda, Thank you for your comments. Yes, there is plenty to consider if bike and rider are to work effectively together. Too heavy, too tight or ill-fitting clothing is never a good thing and may well spoil the ride. Clothing is so well designed and manufactured today that getting it right is not much of a challenge. Best regards, Steve C

  7. What made it really difficult for me to go on trials without layers was the last accident had on a bike trial in Colorado, it was kinda much and it was because I didn’t have my protection on. This is a good idea and I think MTB base layer is of good quality because that’s the most essential feature to look out for. I’ll look into it soon and add it to bucket list. It’s nice reading through.

    1. Great comments, thank you Wildecoll. Yep, I have one of those bucket lists 🙂 You can always find cheaper but often we get what we pay for. Best regards and ride safe, Steve C

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