From baser layer tops and waterproof outer layers to thermal layering and wind-proofing: here's everything you need to know about motorcycle base layers and staying covered this Autumn/Winter.
The Autumn/Winter season in the UK is notorious for its unforgiving weather conditions and unpredictable temperature drops. Even just commuting to work will likely see you encounter fog, single-figure temperatures, and sunshine in the morning, then 50mph winds and rain showers on the way home. Not even mentioning frost or, forbid the thought, snow!
Choosing motorcycle clothing that can handle these drastic changes in temperature and conditions can be difficult (and expensive!), but the best way to keep on top of temperature, comfort and humidity regulation is layering. Layering has worked for hikers, skiers and climbers for years, and this is no different when it comes to motorcycling, whether your touring, commuting or every-day riding.
Effective layering means you can stay cool on a motorcycle when it's hot, stay warm when the temperature drops, and be dry and comfortable regardless, all with the same few items of kit. Don’t suffer the effects of global warming, and wise up on your base layers - here is everything you need to know.
The ideal base layer will maintain your body temperature when worn in a certain season or climate and wick away moisture (sweat) from your skin to prevent damp. As the bottom layer within a jacket or trouser, its the base layer's job to retain heat in the winter and inhale cool air during the summer, while controlling the sweat you build up from your ride.
Staying dry on your bike is essential, no matter the weather conditions at the time. The build-up of moisture next to your body will stop your natural-cooling system, otherwise known as perspiration, from working when you're hot, and this will draw away vital body-heat quickly when it's cold.
This can be done through various fabrics and technologies, the most common being synthetic textile and merino wool.
Cotton as a technical base layer is unsuitable to be worn under your waterproof layers, as the material can absorb up to 10 times its own weight in water/perspiration and can take AGES to get dry. So ditch that old Ramones T-shirt: your base layer should be made of a temperature-regulating fabric that's naturally breathable, moisture-wicking, and anti-bacterial.
When it comes to sizing, your base layers should be tight-fitting so it traps air next to your skin and insulates the body when cold. This should also be the same for your Summer base layers, as this will allow air to come into contact with your body, and expel hot air. With this in mind, you should buy a size that you normally wear, as the base layer will come up slightly smaller to be tighter to your body.
Dainese D-Core Thermo Top & Leggings RRP £59.95 + £49.95
➤ Made from abrasion and tear-resistant elastic fibres.
➤ Active moisture management system controls sweat and keeps you dry.
➤ Ideal for year-round temperatures from -20°C to 10°C.
If you're after an everyday base layer for Autumn/Winter, the Dainese D-Core Thermo range are top choices in this regard. A pair of long-sleeve garments intended to wear underneath your motorcycle jacket and trousers, the D-Core Thermo top and leggings are packed with a number of features that make this a far more effection option than a T-Shirt.
Suitable for temperatures ranging from -20°C to 10°C, the D-Core Thermo is equipped with 3D Frame armour that provides thermal insulates and retains optimal body heat. The garment's active moisture-wicking technology prevents sweat build-up and odour, while air grid design encourages moisture evaporation. The elasticated fibres of the jacket are soft yet strong, being resistant to abrasion and tearing, and are combined with lightweight armour padded at the vulnerable parts of your upper torso.
On top of this, the fibres of this Dainese base layer are environmentally friendly and also
Proskins All-Season Top & Leggings RRP £39.99 + £39.99
➤ Ultra-light 4-way stretch textile is very versatile and comfortable on your skin.
➤ Moisture management wicks away moisture when hot and traps moisture when too cold.
➤ Regulates your body temperature to 37°C.
For sports-performance purposes, the Proskins All-Season layers are a fantastic set whether you're on a track day, racing or even at the gym! The garment choice for many WSBK and BSB riders, including Infinity Motorcycles sponsored Leon Haslam, the high-performance Proskins layers are ideal for wearing under leather suits.
These Proskins garments have a micro-climate system that keeps your body temperature regulated to 37°C. An anti-bacterial solution that includes traces of silver inhibits the build-up of odour, that in combination with the moisture management system that wicks sweat away from the body, extends the life of the base layers for more usage. The ultra-light, 4-way stretch material of the layers make it easy to wear and layer up without feeling restrictive and provides full freedom of movement.
Also available is the Knox Dry Inside range: a melange fabric layer installed with Hydrocool and Silverplus technology (basically it has effective fast-wicking, drying and anti-bacterial properties!) This results in an extremely comfortable, close-fitting base layer top and leggings ideal for battling the changing weather.
Next up are mid-layers, which you may or may not choose to wear, but are a smart decision especially for Winter. The more layers you wear, the more air is trapped against your skin to insulate your body heat, and is far more effective than one singular thick layer.
The optimal layering system consists of a base layer, mid-layer and an outer layer. For example, you can wear a Summer base layer intended to wick away moisture, with a thermal mid-layer over the top to retain warmth.
The mid-layer can be made of wool, polyester fleece, down or synthetic fabric: but whatever it is, it should be thin enough to sit comfortably under your leathers or your textile suit. This is so you retain the flexibility to steer your motorcycle without feeling constrained and be breathable enough to work with the base layer to wick away moisture.
If your budget is tight, you don't have to go for full-body coverage, just a top will do - the logic of this being if your core is warm, your extremities will be too. When the temperature rises, just take it off and wear only your base layer under your outer layer.
Rukka Down-X Jacket + Trousers RRP £189.99 + £129.99
➤ 110g Duck-down filling insulates temperature effectively.
➤ Can be stored in a convenient bag when unused.
➤ The jacket can be easily converted into a vest by removing the sleeves.
With this in mind, the Rukka Down-X is an ideal thermal suit to see you through the winter chill. The mid-layer can be worn underneath a thin motorcycle suit or worn by itself and is great for retaining heat.
Filled with 110 grams of duck-down (90% down and 10% feather) stowed away in small pouches throughout the jacket and trousers, the garments are super-warm and comfortable, yet extremely lightweight. Storable in a small bag and easily convertible into a vest – the Rukka Down-X jacket and trousers are a top of the range mid-layer for the upcoming winter months.
Knox Urbane Pro Shirt RRP £189.99
➤ High-tenacity nylon and arrow mesh makes the shirt abrasion and tear-resistant.
➤ Fixed Micro-Lock armour covers your upper body with malleable, CE protection.
➤ Stretch mesh panels allow for breathability, flexibility and added comfort.
If you're after something with a bit more protection, the Knox Urbane Pro is a fantastic bit of kit designed specifically for that need. This shirt keeps CE approved armour close to the body for the best possible protection and abrasion resistance and is a perfect mid-layer under a warmer outer jacket.
Integrated into the shirt is Knox's self-developed Micro-Lock armour that contorts to your body's movements, and hardens upon impact - no matter the temperature you're riding in. This armour can be found on the shoulders, elbows, and back, with the option to add an additional chest protector if desired. Stretchy mesh panels either side of the shirt allows you to move without restriction, while also letting in a cool stream of air in the Summer (you can just throw on another layer during the winter months). With storage pockets throughout, and thumb loops to prevent your cuffs rolling up while riding: the Urbane Pro is a fantastic mid-layer that protects and prevents injury.
We’d recommend the Knox Cold Killers range which is a perfect versatile option. The Wind Buddy softshell jacket is super comfortable with a velboa fleece interior, a high collar designed to reduce cold drafts of wind down your neck while riding, and a windproof and breathable membrane for all-season comfort. Lightweight, warm, 100% windproof and stylish to boot: the Cold Killers are a perfect option for male and female riders alike.
Another great option for tackling the cold are the EDZ Microfleece mid-layers, acting as a warm layer in between a base layer and jacket. Providing warmth without the bulk, EDZ provides a great addition for your winter arsenal.
Obviously, when you’re considering layers, you need to think about the jacket, as you’re going to wear on top of everything. It needs to be abrasion-resistant to the road, as well as provide protection against the harshest weather conditions. It’s also the one layer everyone sees, so you’re going to want a jacket that is also visually stylish!
Although it can be argued that leather suits are by far the most protective and is naturally windproof and breathable, textile suits are catching up in terms of safety and are much more versatile to deal with the varying temperatures and conditions spring can throw at you. Things to look out for are waterproof, breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex and Alpinestars' Drystar; these will help control moisture, and keep the rain out too. Also, keep an eye out for a thermal lining; some of these are detachable, allowing you to take it off when it gets warmer, and put it on when the frost hits.
As a general rule, a good quality touring or adventure-focused suit should be: A. Waterproof, B. Breathable, & C. Insulating. It should go without saying that an outer layer should protect against... the outside. Rain, heat, cold - these should be things your jacket should protect you from, and a decent versatile jacket should be the highest layer on your checklist.
Rukka Kalix Jacket + Trousers RRP £549.99 + £469.99
➤ Gore-Tex Pro 3-Layer laminate suit that is completely waterproof and breathable.
➤ Rukka's own D30 Air limb protectors with a pocket for an optional back protector.
➤ Detachable thermal lining, zip-operated air vents and zipper for connecting jacket/trousers.
The Rukka Kalix is an outstanding outer layer, with everything you can want from a durable motorcycle jacket/trouser.
The Kalix is an outstanding Gore-Tex outer layer from one of the most respected brands in the motorcycle industry, Rukka. With a reputation for creating long-lasting products that are weather-resistant and protective for whatever the road throws at you, the Rukka Kalix is a prime example of an outer layer that can seal out the elements while being durable enough to resist abrasion.
The jacket/trousers are made from abrasion and tear-resistant Cordura 500 materials, with a 100% waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex installed into the inner layers of the garments. Rukka's self-developed D30 armour can be found at the limbs, while a back pocket allows for an optional back protector should you want one.
Mesh inserts on the front of the jacket allow a comfortable stream of air to keep you cool during the warmer months and can be closed via opening the zips found either side of the jacket reveal mesh inserts that can allow for a comfortable stream of air to enter the jacket, allowing a steady amount of airflow in between the zipper and mesh inserts for comfortable airflow on sides. Also featuring a variety of pockets, a detachable thermal liner, as well as a soft neoprene collar on the jacket that connects with the helmet, blocking the wind from entering in through neck; this Rukka combo is a premium versatile outer layer pair ideal for the cold seasons ahead.
Most textile suits have features and fabrics are becoming more and more sophisticated, but we recommend the Rukka Niraj Jacket & Katuh Trousers; the Dainese Cyclone Gore-Tex Jacket & Trousers; or the Alpinestars Andes V2 Drystar Jacket & Trousers, in particular.
Base Layer Headwear
While base and outer layers protect the majority of your body, oftentimes these don't provide total coverage from the climate. Your skin can be left exposed in between the helmet and jacket or between your glove and jacket sleeve, which will not only result in a loss of heat but the penetration of cold air to your body.
You can fill the gap between your helmet and jacket with a good neck tube or balaclava like the Alpinestars Tech, Buff Neckwear, EDZ All Climate Balaclava. These are affordable and small enough to stash in a pocket or your luggage, so you can choose depending on the conditions.
If you're after a premium option, you can't buy much better than Buff. Their machine-washable neckwear provides all-around thermal comfort and prevents the build-up of bacteria. Not to mention the variety of styles and materials available, and you're bound to find the Buff that suits you.
Buff Neckwear RRP £21.50 +
➤ Made from 100% natural and comfortable Merino wool
➤ Lightweight, stretchy and super soft!
➤ Moisture-wicking, Anti-bacterial and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified
Buff’s headwear can be worn in a large number of different ways to provide the level of comfort and weather protection that is important to you. They will shield you against the cold, sun, wind or dust and will keep you protected even in rapidly changing weather.
Buff’s neck and headwear are made from different material depending on the specific weather conditions they are built to tackle. The standard Buffs are made from 100% polyester microfibre, which resists wind while being breathable and moisture-wicking. The High UV and Visor Buffs are made to keep you super comfortable in the heat and so are made from Coolmax Extreme which is faster and more efficient at wicking moisture. And for seeing you through super cold conditions the Polar Buff Thermal Pro uses Polartec Thermal fabric which minimises heat loss.
EDZ All-Climate Balaclava RRP £14
➤ Made from a lightweight, performance polyester that is durable but soft.
➤ Perfect for summer and winter use.
➤ Moisture-wicking and fast-drying.
The All-Climate balaclava by EDZ is exactly what it says on the tin. This high-performance balaclava can be worn in both hot and cold temperatures to wick moisture away and keep you comfortable under your helmet. The thin polyester material is fine as silk while durable to last years of use and has a three-panel design that prevents leaving a mark on your forehead.
The same rules go for your gloves as for your bike outer layer – aim for a textile gloves that can deal with varying temperatures and conditions like the Alpinestars Primer Drystar, Rukka Virium Gore-Tex and Knox Covert gloves and if you can, carry an extra pair with you so you can swap, if the conditions change or if your main pair gets wet. You can't go wrong with Alpinestars, Rukka, Knox gloves.
This goes same between your glove and jacket, or between your boot and trouser leg, as a decent inner glove or sock would provide additional warmth in the colder seasons. We recommend the Racer Silk Inner gloves or the Held Winter socks.
Protecting exposed skin from the extremities of winter is essential, and while layering is integral for winter-riding, it’s important to factor your choice of glove into the equation. Often a rider’s afterthought, your hands bare most of the weather's brunt as they are positioned the furthest away from your body, and are at most risk of freezing over while you’re steering!
Racer Silk Undergloves RRP £13.99
➤ Made from 100% silk.
➤ Ideal as a thermal lining within a hardshell glove.
➤ Flexible and unrestrictive.
Already own a pair of waterproof gloves but think they could be warmer? These silk gloves by Racer could be the answer: designed to be worn underneath a more durable and protective outer glove, these inner gloves are slim, flexible, provide additional warmth similar to a thermal, and comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
They’re also an economical choice and can be combined with your summer gloves for additional insulation rather than spend a premium on a winter-specific glove.
The Racer Silk gloves are a perfect add-on to your basket for just £13.99 in-store and online.
Richa Arctic Gore-Tex Gloves RRP £119.99
➤ Leather/Textile gloves with Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane and inner thermal lining.
➤ CE approved knuckle armour and palm sliders.
➤ Comfort stretch panels and double velcro cuff.
If weatherproofing is the most important aspect of a Winter Glove, then Richa Arctic Gore-Tex gloves rank among the best!
Designed for combatting the cold and treacherous, these Richa gloves boast a totally waterproof Gore-Tex lining that seals out the weather while an inner thermal lining keeps your hands well insulates throughout your journey. Made from a mixture of goat and cow leather with comfort stretch Keprotec, the Arctic's are super comfortable to wear while CE-approved knuckle armour and palm sliders provide effective abrasion resistance. Stretch panels and a velcro cuff fasting provide long-lasting comfort.
The Richa Arctic Gore-Tex gloves are available today for just £119.99 in-store and online.
If you're after a motorcycle glove for the Winter, we definitely recommend giving a read of our Best Winter Motorcycle Gloves article.
Apply similar rules to your boots; look for touring and adventure-styles like the Daytona Road Star, Alpinestars Web GoreTex and RST Paragon II, that have waterproof and breathable fabrics and layers built-in. Also invest in some proper riding socks like Alpinestars Racing Socks, Oxford's High Tech or the Sidi Faenza that will work along with them.
With so many different kinds of boots available, there are a lot of factors to bear in mind when shopping. A leather or textile boot will affect flexibility, while a motocross or sports bike boot will offer protection against different kinds of falls.
Sizes don’t necessarily translate the same across brands either, for example, Daytona boots fit big to size, while Dainese boots are skinnier along the bridge, but both stock European sizes.
We recommend measuring your shoe size, so you have a base idea of your fit before deciding. You can try before you buy by walking into one of our 15 UK stores and asking one of our friendly, expert staff for advice, or you can take advantage of our returns and exchange policy to find the right size for you.
Sidi Road Socks RRP £19.99
➤ Gradual Compression along the foot and ankle.
➤ Elasticated cuff for enhanced control and longer life.
Made to wear underneath your motorcycle boots, the Sidi Road socks are specially developed to enhance comfort and feel to your boot. These calf-length socks a gradual compression along the bridge of the foot, and an elastic central band so you.
TCX SP-Master Gore-Tex Boots Sale £169.99
➤ Soft-touch microfibre touring boots with Gore-Tex waterproof lining.
➤ CE certified with ankle retention system, heel guards, PU shift pad and ergonomic shin plates.
➤ Interchangeable anatomic comfort bed and ultra-light rubber sole.
The SP-Master boots by TCX are just the thing for commuting and touring in style, sporting a sleek racing look and an abundance of comfort and waterproofing that will keep you sorted until Spring!
These boots have a soft-touch microfibre construction, with a breathable Gore-Tex liner for complete waterproofing peace of mind. The boots are CE certified to protect you in a pinch, featuring a strong PU ankle retention system, heel guard, shift pad and an ergonomic shin plate for optimal foot protection and abrasion resistance. In terms of comfort, the SP-Masters are a dream to wear, boasting a lightweight, compound rubber sole and an interchangeable anatomic footbed that's easy on your feet! For a personalised fit, the SP-Masters have an elastic zipper that allows for easy and swift fastening and a velcro closure that feels snug against your calf.
Overall, these TCX boots are ideal for combatting the elements and protecting your feet for many winters to come!
You're now wised up on base-layers! If you found this guide helpful, share it around with your fellow biker! If you want to read up on more guides, you can read up our guide on Gore-Tex here, or you can read up on last year's best Winter motorcycle gloves.
This article was written by Jonah Son, Website & Content Executive at Infinity Motorcycles, and edited by Tom McManus, Website Administrator at Infinity Motorcycles.