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.
BASE LAYER TOPS
Staying dry on a bike is vital in all conditions, as a build-up of moisture next to your body will stop your natural-cooling mechanism (perspiration), from working when you're hot and will draw away vital body heat quickly when it's not!
Ditch that old Ramones T-shirt: cotton can absorb up to ten times its own weight in water/perspiration and takes forever to dry. Your base layer should be made of a temperature regulating fabric that’s naturally breathable, moisture-wicking and resists bacteria.
The Dainese D-Core range are a pair of long-sleeve tops constructed of elasticated fibre resistant to tears and abrasion. They have active moisture management and breathable technologies and on top the most comfortable layer to wear under a waterproof outer layer.
The Knox Dry Inside range is 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.
For sports-performance purposes, the Proskins All-Season layers should be your number one selection. BSB rider Leon Haslam (sponsored by Infinity Motorcycles btw!) wears a high-performance combination of Proskins layers for all his races. Ideal for wear under leather suits, the jackets and leggings combo allows for optimal temperature regulation, moisture management and all-day comfort. On top of that, Proskins garments are treated with an anti-bacterial solution of silver which inhibits the build-up of odour and allows for an extended lifetime of usage.
Dainese D-Core Thermo Top & Leggings | £59.95 + £49.95 Proskins All-Season Top & Leggings | £39.99 + £39.99
Next you’ve got the mid-layers, which are designed to trap warm air next to the body when the temperature drops. Your mid-layer can be wool, polyester fleece, down or synthetic, but whatever it is, it should be thin enough to sit comfortably under your leathers or textile suit and breathable to work with the base layer in wicking away moisture.
With this in mind, the Rukka Down-X is an ideal thermos suit for the winter chill. The jacket-and-pants combo is filled with 90% duck down and 10% features stowed away in small pouches throughout, which ensures a super-warm, yet comfortable and lightweight fit. 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.
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 your base layer only.
We’d recommend the Knox Cold Killers range which are 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 perfect option for male and female riders alike.
The EDZ Microfleece mid-layers are another option for talking the cold, acting as a warm layer in between a base layer and jacket. Providing warmth without the bulk, EDZ provide a great addition for your winter arsenal.
Rukka Down-X Jacket + Trousers | £155.99 + £129.99 Knox Cold-Killers Wind Buddy + Trousers | £84.99 + £54.99
Obviously, when you’re considering layers, you need to think about the jacket 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. Als,o 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.
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.
Take the Rukka Niraj & Katuh combo for example: constructed of abrasion-resistant and anti-tear Cordura 500 materials, the jacket and trousers are 100% breathable and installed with a wind and Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, have D30 reinforced protection found throughout, and allows 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.
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 Niraj Jacket + Katuh Trousers | £399.99 + £249.99 Dainese D-Cyclone Jacket + Trousers | £399.99 + £249.99
While base and outer layers protect the majority of your body, often times 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 | From £14+ EDZ Balaclava | £14
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 get 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.
Alpinestars Primer Drystar Gloves | £89.99 Racer Silk Undergloves | £13.99
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.
Daytona Roadstar Gore-Tex Boots | £359.99 Alpinestars Racing Socks | From £14.99
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 on everything you need to know about Gore-Tex here, or you read up on last year's best Winter motorcycle gloves.
This article was written by Jonah Son, Website & Content Executive at Infinity Motorcycles