Our recommendations and everything you need to know about motorcycle base layers, mid layers, and thermals for cold and hot weather.
The UK’s coldest months of the year are notorious for their unforgiving weather conditions and unpredictable temperature drops, from single-figure temperatures and fog to 50mph winds and rain showers – all of which can occur in a single day. And that’s not even mentioning frost, hail, or, forbid the thought, snow!
Choosing the best motorcycle clothing to stay on top of your temperature, comfort, and humidity levels can be difficult - especially if you're likely to be using the same few items of kit – but the first step to getting it right is by layering effectively.
Like all outdoor activities this time of year, base layer clothing is essential for dealing with the changing weather and temperatures: staying warm when the temperature drops, but also keeping cool when the weather starts to warm up. Plus, you need to be dry and comfortable if you're commuting an hour a day or going on a long-distance tour.
In this Base Layer Guide, we recommend some of the best motorbike thermals and mid-layer clothing to wear through Autumn and Winter, regardless of your budget.
(Last Updated: 14 October 2022).
You can use the key below to skip to the corresponding section:
- Rukka Mark Thermal Set
- Halvarssons Comfort Sweater & Bottoms
- Oxford Advanced Base Layer Top & Pants
- Forcefield Tech 3 Base Layer Shirt & Pants
- Halvarssons Djurmo Fleece Jacket
- Rukka Down-X 2.0 Jacket
- Knox Urbane Pro MK2 Shirt
- Keis J501 Heated Jacket
The ideal base layer will maintain your body temperature when worn in a particular season or climate and wick away moisture (sweat) from your skin to prevent dampness.
Staying dry on your bike is essential, no matter the weather conditions. 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 textiles 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 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 insulate 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.
Rukka Mark Thermal Set
➤ Made from soft and lightweight polyester
➤ Maintains body temperature and moisture wicking
➤ Comes in a set of top and bottoms!
One of our go-to base layer options is the Rukka Mark Thermal Set. Packaged with the top and leggings in one convenient package, you’re set for the colder months ahead!
These Rukka thermals are made from 100% polyester, which is comfortable and lightweight for wearing underneath your exterior layers, year-round. With natural moisture-wicking properties, the top and bottoms are great for maintaining your current body temperature, whether worn in the winter or summer.
Both garments are machine washable and quick-drying, so a quick wash on Sunday after a week of wear will make you ready for the week ahead.
Honestly, there isn’t much else to say. And for £34.99, for BOTH garments, you’re getting a bargain!
Halvarssons Comfort Sweater & Bottoms
£79 + £69 RRP
➤ 61% Merino Wool and 39% Outlast® construction
➤ Temperature regulating treatment
➤ Restores heat and transports moisture
Perfect for 365-day wear, these medium-weight garments from Halvarssons can be worn as a base layer or mid-layer under your waterproof jacket/trousers, and are made from a combination of soft Merino wool (61%) and thermal-regulating Outlast material (39%).
Merino wool is grown by Merino sheep that graze the Australian and New Zealand highlands. Their natural fibre fleeces are regarded as some of the softest and finest, which are capable of withstanding temperatures ranging from -20 C° up to +35 C°. With modern-day spinning technology and fibre treatments, Merino wool makes for an outstanding natural material that is thinner, warmer and softer than regular wool, making it perfect as a base layer material, where these garments sit closer to the skin.
Outlast is a patented heat management technology, which utilises ‘phase change’ materials to absorb, store, and releases heat for optimal thermal comfort. These Outlast thermocules are applied to a textile material, forming a natural heat buffer against your body which react whenever your activity level changes or if the outside temperature increases or dips.
When you start to get hot, the Outlast thermocules change from a solid form to a liquid, giving you a comfortable sensation of thermal equilibrium, to release humid air and cool you down. When you begin to cool, these thermocules change from a liquid back to a solid, passing on the heat energy generated when you were warmer, back to your body, to keep you warm.
Outlast has been proven to reduce sweat by up to 48% compared to regular materials, so these garments are designed to prevent overheating and wick moisture away from your body. With natural moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties.
Oxford Advanced Base Layer Top & Pants
£24.99 + £19.99 RRP
➤ Slim-fit, multi-season base layers
➤ Moisture wicking and thermal
➤ Seamless construction with flat-lock stitching
Made from a combination of comfortable polyester and stretch elastane for a close fit, these base layers are designed to release moisture from the body to prevent sweat build-up, whilst also maintaining your core temperature in colder months.
Featuring a seamless construction for a longer-lasting, high-quality product, this lightweight shirt and pants are fast drying and long enough at the torso to be tucked into your motorcycle trousers without riding up.
Forcefield Tech 3 Base Layer Shirt + Pants
£72.99 + £52.99 RRP
➤ BeCool thermoregulation and Dryarn fast-drying construction
➤ Produced on a seamless loom – higher quality and longer lasting
➤ Ergonomic compression fit
The ultimate solution for comfort and functionality, these base layer garments are made from engineered yarns, produced in a seamless loom, and woven with BeCool mesh and lightweight Dryarn fabrics.
Most garment failures occur due to seam failure; seamless weaving is a specific knitting technology that uses specialises circular looms to develop garments that adapt perfectly to the body, with no sewing, no seams, and no stitches, resulting in a stronger, higher quality garment.
Woven in with the garment is BeCool: a lightweight, perforated mesh fabric that allows for maximum airflow, as well as Dryarn, which is primarily used in athletic gear. Weighing 32% lighter than wool and 34% lighter than polyester, Dryarn textile provides higher levels of breathability and insulative properties than both, keeping you cool in hot weather and warm when it's colder.
This Forcefield shirt features compression-fit areas to reduce muscle fatigue, the inside material is soft and massaging over long periods of time, and the material is anti-bacterial to prevent a build-up of odour.
You can check out the full range of base layer tops and bottoms here.
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 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 regular leathers or textiles as more often than not they do not have armour (excluding the Knox Urbane Pro MK2).
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 is 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.
Halvarssons Djurmo Fleece Jacket
➤ Soft tech PE stretch knit construction
➤ Good heat-restoring properties
➤ Perfect as a second layer or under your motorcycle jacket
Fleece is the obvious choice for a warm mid-layer under your durable outer layers, and the lightweight, cosy, and flexible Halvarssons Djurmo is a great option.
This technical fleece is made from synthetic Tech PE stretch, which sits closer and more comfortable to your body so you can throw on your usual waterproof jacket without feeling confined.
The knit has an almost herringbone knitted pattern and a high neck collar, which is smart enough to wear casually by itself. The synthetic material has excellent heat-storing properties, as well as minimal weight and a lot of stretch for flexibility.
With two pockets and a dual zip front closure, Halvarssons have a smart lightweight jacket on their hands, and could be yours for £74!
Rukka Down-X 2.0 Jacket
➤ Down jacket with 110g filling (90/10 down/feather)
➤ Can be worn as a standalone jacket
➤ Easily storable in its own small bag
Autumn nor winter would be amiss without a good puffer jacket. Puffer jackets provide a unique balance of warmth and lightness, unlike other casual jackets, with their quilted and insulative fillings, such as down feathers or synthetic fibres, helping trap body heat to keep you comfy and toasty.
Rukka’s proprietary Down-X 2.0 jacket is a great example of this kind of jacket. Extremely warm and cosy, this jacket is filled with 110 grams of down feather (90/10 down/feather ratio), which is an excellent insulator – the down creates thousands of tiny air pockets which trap warm air and retain heat, thus keeping you naturally warm as a result.
The weight-to-warmth ratio of this jacket makes it a great standalone garment, with its cool matte finish, hand warmer pockets, and front zip closure. It's even compact enough to be stored in its own small bag!
Of course, the Down-X is an ideal mid-layer for your abrasion-resistant outer jacket. Rukka actually include the Down-X 2.0 as standard in their higher-end Gore-Tex jackets for comprehensive comfort.
Knox Urbane Pro MK2 Shirt
➤ Class AA-rated armoured shirt with stretch nylon + mesh outer
➤ Fitted with CE level 2 back protector + level 1 shoulder and elbow armour
➤ Can be worn standalone or underneath your waterproof/thermal jacket
Armoured shirts are an unorthodox option to wear underneath your outer layers, but when you think about it, they do make a lot of sense.
Protective riding shirts are lightweight and usually slim enough to wear under your outer layers, are made from stretchable materials that allow for a lot of flexibility, and house malleable armoured plates to protect the high-contact areas of your upper body.
In this regard, Knox’s Urbane Pro MK2 is one of the best-armoured shirts on the market. Extremely popular during the summer season, this Class AA-rated garment is made from high-tenacity stretch nylon and breathable arrownet mesh, with fully CE-approved, close-to-the-skin Micro-Lock back, shoulder, and elbow armour and a security belt loop system to secure the shirt to your jacket.
Its lightweight, protection, and breathability make it the most complete standalone garment for upper body protection during the hottest days of the year, but as a mid-layer, your wearable combinations multiply tenfold.
Because of its slim profile, the shirt can fit under virtually any outer layer, allowing you to wear a weather-resistant outer jacket to keep you warm and protected from the weather while retaining the integral CE-rated protection of the armoured shirt. The approved abrasion resistance of the garment means you can wear your favourite jacket over the top, while being safe in the comfort of being protected should the worst happen.
In true Knox fashion, they offer a brilliant seasonless shell designed to work in tandem with your Knox armoured shirt: the modular Knox Dual Pro 3-in-1 jacket. It's described as seasonless because it incorporates three separate layers to tackle all manner of weather conditions: the jacket features a soft-shell outer with a waterproof 10K membrane, a warm micro fleece interior backing, and a quilted Thermolite Plus interior lining.
Worn with the Urbane Pro MK2 as a mid-layer, you’re ready for whatever the weather and road throw at you!
Keis J501 Heated Jacket
£179.99 - £200 RRP
➤ Premium heated jacket, perfect for winter motorcycle riding
➤ Uses thermal heat pads for advanced heat radiation to the upper torso
➤ Powered by bike battery for use on the bike, or by a portable battery pack for use off it
Regular insulative clothing such as fleeces or base layers work by trapping body heat when you are warm and retaining this temperature for when you're cold. Heated clothing on the other hand is powered to generate heat when you have none, keeping you warm when you face the coldest temperatures.
Keis are one of the leaders in heated technology in the motorcycle industry, making even the coldest rides enjoyable with their range of jackets, gloves, insoles and more. Introduced in 2017, the Dual Power J501 jacket is one of their most popular garments, thanks to its lightweight, versatility, and optimal heat control.
The garment uses the latest micro carbon-fibre panels to provide the heating, emitting an even distribution of heat across your chest, kidneys, collar, and arms. Compatible with the Keis Heated Controller, the jacket’s heating technology is more reliable, thinner, and flexible than earlier versions, and provides complete upper-body comfort.
Constructed of softshell fabric, the Keis jacket incorporates a lighter, slimmer design ideal for wear as an inside layer or an outer jacket. Flexible for rider movement on and off the bike, the elasticated side panels allow for the perfect fit for both men and women. Bear in mind for a snugger fit, you may need to order a smaller chest size.
The Premium Heated jacket is complete with all the required wiring and easy-to-follow instructions for anyone to use, as well as dedicated zipped pockets for cable and controller to keep your system organised. This Keis long-sleeve jacket also includes a standard heat controller for convenient climate control on the motorcycle.
You can check out the full range of mid-layers here.
A note about OUTER LAYERS...
Obviously, when you’re considering layers, you need to think about the jacket, as you’re going to wear it 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.
Please check out our previous articles on the best outer layers here:
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 through to your body.
You can fill the gap between your helmet and jacket with a good neck tube or 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.
Oxford Thermolite Balaclava
➤ Made from a lightweight, performance polyester that is durable but soft
➤ Thermolite insulation
➤ Moisture-wicking and fast-drying
Balaclavas are a motorcyclist’s best friend. They help to keep hair out of your face when riding, prevent sweating into your helmet padding, and to help regulate your body temperature. Plus, you look like a ninja!
As a thermal base layer, the Oxford Thermolite is perfect for a variety of weather conditions. The balaclava is made from 4-way stretch textile to comfortably wrap around your head and incorporates insulating Thermolite in its structure.
Thermolite is a synthetic insulative textile that offers superior warmth without the bulk of other materials, such as down. Utilising polyester hollow-core insulators that trap warm air within the material, Thermolite provides exceptional warmth and moisture-wicking properties and is machine washable and dryable to boot.
This high-performance Oxford 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.
Alpinestars Neck Warmer
➤ Made from double-layered fleece
➤ Lightweight, stretchy with a one-size-fits-all
➤ Moisture-wicking, embroidered Alpinestars logo on the front
Ideal for covering your exposed neck between your helmet and jacket, this fleece neck warmer resists chilly winds to keep you warm throughout your ride.
Made from double-layered comfort fleece, this neck warmer is moisture-wicking to prevent overheating and sweat build-up, with stretch material to fit over your head and sit comfortably around your neck.
You can check out the full range of neckwear here.
The same rules go for your gloves as for your bike outer layer – aim for a textile glove that can deal with varying temperatures and conditions like the Richa Arctic Gore-Tex, Rukka Virium Gore-Tex, and Alpinestars Andes V3 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.
For dealing with the colder seasons, a decent inner glove will provide additional warmth to prevent your fingers and hands from getting numb. Your hands bear most of the weather's brunt as they are positioned the furthest away from your body on the bike, and are at the most risk of freezing over while you’re steering!
Often a rider’s afterthought, 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 the glove into the equation.
Rukka Offwind Inner Gloves
➤ Constructed from silk
➤ Gore-Tex Infinium membrane for 100% wind protection
➤ Can be worn under your existing gloves or separately for hiking
Made from comfortable silk and designed to fit under your existing gloves, the Rukka Offwind gloves create a thermal windproof layer to protect you against the chilliest winds, thanks to their Gore-Tex Infinium construction.
Gore-Tex Infinium is a totally windproof and weather-resistant softshell membrane, which is lighter, thinner, and softer than regular Gore-Tex. These garments prioritise breathability and stretch but still offer protection against all but the worst weather conditions.
These Rukka gloves can be worn as a base layer to your motorcycle gloves, or worn separately for walking or hiking!
Keis G102 Inner Gloves
➤ 12V Dual Power heating for use anywhere, anytime
➤ Lightweight stretch material for use under your outer gloves
➤ Can be powered by your bike's battery or portably by an independent battery pack (sold separately)
The Keis G102 inner gloves are designed to be worn underneath a pair of bulkier winter gloves or even your regular waterproof gloves. The G102 are super-low-profile to be as unobtrusive as possible when you have them on – they will not feel like you are wearing a tonne of fabric wrapped around your hands and you will still have full responsive feedback from your bike’s controls.
Unlike the garments you do not need a layer between the heated glove and your skin, this is the same for all Keis gloves.
The G102 are made from a lightweight, stretchy material that gives them a tight and close fit on your hands. The gloves come with all the wiring you need to get them set up, the specific glove Y-lead is superbly designed to thread through your clothing without getting in the way, and though a heated controller does not come with the gloves, Keis say that you will not really need one.
You can check out the full range of neckwear here. For the best gloves to wear during winter, check out our article here.
Apply similar rules to your boots; look for touring and adventure styles like the Daytona Road Star, Alpinestars Web Gore-Tex, and RST Paragon II, which have waterproof and breathable fabrics and layers built-in.
Also invest in some proper riding socks like Alpinestars Racing Socks, Oxford OxSocks, or the RST Tour Tech socks 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
Alpinestars Racing Road Socks
£19.99 - £24.99 RRP
➤ Available as either low-cut or knee-high socks
➤ Ribbed design at the heel and ankle to reduce bunching
➤ Woven with moisture-wicking Coolmax to keep you dry
Made to wear underneath your motorcycle boots, the Alpinestars Racing Road socks are specially developed to enhance overall comfort and fit.
The Alpinestars socks are woven with Coolmax for moisture-wicking properties, but these socks are also integrated with a Nostatex silver yarm sole for an anti-bacterial, odour-resistant base.
The heels and ankles are ribbed to reduce the socks falling down, and areas of the foot feature mesh to release humid air. The elasticated cuff prevents the socks from riding down, and the Coolmax yarn helps to keep your feet dry throughout.
RST Tour Tech Socks
➤ Knee-high cotton/nylon sock with elasticated top.
➤ Padded Achilles, shin and heel for additional comfort and protection.
➤ Woven with moisture-wicking Coolmax to keep you dry.
Made to wear underneath your motorcycle boots, the RST Tour Tech socks are specially developed to enhance overall comfort and fit.
These knee-length RST socks are double-layered at the toes, shins, heels and Achilles for long-term comfort and increased grip. The elasticated cuff prevents the socks from riding down, and the Coolmax yarn helps to keep your feet dry throughout.
You can check out the full range of socks here.
AND THAT'S ALL FOLKS!
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.
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This article was written by Jonah Son.