Group test: men’s summer base layers

Men's summer base layers group test 2024.jpg
From left to right: Sportful Pro Short Sleeve Base Layer, Madison Roam Isoler Mesh Short Sleeve Baselayer, Rapha Men’s Lightweight Base Layer and Stolen Goat Men’s Hofmann Ibex Base Layer
As the weather heats up, it’s time to break out the summer cycling kit. Media relations manager Joshua Gill test rode lightweight base layers from Stolen Goat, Rapha, Sportful and Madison

The timing of this couldn’t have been better. Coinciding with the summer solstice and the first seriously hot day of 2024, this was a perfect time to put these summer base layers to the test.

Although not for everyone, in the right situation and environment, a summer base layer can act as a great addition to your cycling wardrobe. Whether you need an extra layer on cold mornings, some modular options for bikepacking or it’s just too hot for a jersey, you’ll find out below if a summer base layer is right for you and what option might best suit your needs.

All layers were tested on rides of varying length, in the same week, with similar temperature ranges.

1. Stolen Goat Men’s Hofmann Ibex Base Layer

Price: £40
Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL, XXXL
Colour: Multi
Available from: Stolen Goat

The only sleeveless base layer on the list, the Stolen Goat mesh top was a lightweight good fit. The length was slightly longer than other base layers, but provided no excess material that might otherwise bunch up when tucked into bibs.

The colourful design was a nice pop to the common two-tone colour scheme of most jerseys, but what stood out most, was its ability to remain breathable while also wicking sweat.

This came out with me on a 40-mile ride on the solstice, across the gravel and dirt of New Forest. When I got back home, I was surprised to find it didn’t smell of sweat and I could have worn it a few more times before washing. Potentially making this a great option for bikepacking!

Verdict: Playful pattern with a practical purpose.

Stolen Goat Men's Hofmann Mesh Base Layer, a multi-colour sleeveless base layer

2. Rapha Men’s Lightweight Base Layer – short sleeve

Price: £60
Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL
Colour: Black
Available from: Rapha

Coming out as one of the most expensive base layers on the list, this short-sleeve mesh top did the best job of keeping me sweat free. It actively wicked away sweat as I pushed up hills and baked in the hot heat of the midday sun.

The fit was superb, clinging tightly to my body without constricting my arms or creasing under my jersey. It also ended up being the base layer I felt least self-conscious in due to its form fit and close mesh pattern.

It kept me cool enough under direct sunlight, although I did end up removing my jersey to enjoy its cooling benefits more. This would be a perfect addition to anyone’s bikepacking checklist, as it’s so versatile. It can pack away easily because it’s small and lightweight.

It can also be worn as a top on the hottest days and as a temperature regulator on humid and/or slightly colder mornings, saving the need to change or pack a bulkier jersey or base layer.

Verdict: Sleek, breathable and stylish!

Rapha Men's Lightweight Base Layer, a short-sleeved black base layer

3. Sportful Pro Short Sleeve Base Layer

Price: £60 (£30 at time of writing)
Sizes: XS, XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL, XXXL
Colour: White
Available from: Saddleback

Noticeably snugger than others on this list, the Sportful base layer performed well, but the tightness of fabric contrasted the stetch of the other base layers that I reviewed this week. Especially around the chest.

Lightweight and breathable thanks to the mesh design, this layer performed well on both a morning and evening ride under a regular jersey. It did also bunch up under the arms due to the longer sleeve length but remained comfortable throughout the ride.

Verdict: A bit pricey, but does the job.

Sportful Pro Short Sleeve Base Layer in white, worn by a male model with a beard and also wearing black bib shorts

4. Madison Roam Isoler Mesh Short Sleeve Baselayer

Price: £24.99 
Sizes: XS, XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL, XXXL
Colour: White
Available from: Madison

At £24.99, the Madison base layer offered excellent value for an all-year-round base layer. The stretchy fit conformed to my body well enough, ensuring that draughts only snuck under my arms and at my sides, making it ideal for slightly cooler weather.

The quick-drying, moisture-wicking material is impressive, and kept me dry during intense uphill climbs, but during a hot day it doesn’t perform as well as the others on this list.

There was little to no irritation or chafing and it did feel like one of the more comfortable base layers on the list. This would be a welcome addition to anyone’s bikepacking wardrobe.

Verdict: An affordable all-rounder, better suited for British weather, but not hot days.

Madison Roam Isoler Mesh Short Sleeve Baselayer in black

Overall verdict

Summer base layers are certainly not for everyone, and I would only recommend them to people who might really enjoy their benefits. I was sceptical to begin with before testing these layers out, but I was pleased to learn they do have a time and place depending on your riding style and the weather forecast.

Having one or two summer base layer tops for hot climates, intense workouts, or long tours is ideal, otherwise you might be better off picking up a lighter jersey.

With that out of the way, all four base layers performed well, with some standing out for their ability to keep sweat away or keep your temperature well regulated. I really liked Rapha’s base layer for its sleek look, form-fitting feel and its ability to keep me cool and sweat free.

Madison was the lowest price on test and was a bit of a standout. Despite being the heaviest/thickest, it has more year-round appeal. Something to really consider with British weather.

Looking for women’s summer base layers? Read our group test.

Our test promise

At Cycling UK, we are proudly independent. There’s no pressure to please advertisers as we’re funded by our members. Our product reviews aren’t press releases; they’re written by experienced cyclists after thorough testing.

How to choose the best summer base layer


Base layers are meant to fit under your jersey so you want them quite snug, but not so tight that they feel uncomfortable. You’ll want plenty of room around the armpits to allow for breathability. As with all cycling kit, if you can it’s best to try before you buy.


This is very personal: do you want something longer in the body that will be visible under your jersey? Or do you prefer something that fits entirely under a jersey?


Choose a lightweight, breathable fabric. Mesh is good for breathability. Natural fabrics like wool will be too heavy – all those on test were of a technical synthetic fabric designed to wick away wetness.


The length of the sleeves will affect comfort and wearability. Too long and they’ll get in the way of short-sleeved jerseys. You might want to consider sleeveless, vest-style options that avoid the issue entirely.


For something that’s worn so close to the skin, comfort is paramount. It’s not just about fit – you want something that’s stretchy and moves with your body. It needs to fit under your other jerseys without being restrictive. Avoid anything scratchy, too.