I distinctly remember a time where a base layer was nothing more than an afterthought, save a few exceptions. Yet now, for some unknown reason, all I can envision are golden hour images of meticulous pre-ride preparations followed by the flickering light of riders’ silhouettes dancing with the setting sun, unzipped jerseys filled by the wind…

Oh wait, now I remember why.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Leave it to Rapha to rewrite the marketing manual voor base layers. I take that back, they wrote the manual voor base layer marketing, as one never existed. The question is, does it live up to their self-induced hype?

The Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Of course Rapha would find a way to differentiate their Pro Team Base Layer ($75—sleeveless/$80—short sleeve) from the masses beyond the fit and technicalities expected from one of their garments.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

The PTBL is dripping with aesthetics. If you’ve been a fan of pro cycling in the last couple decades, then you’ll know the genesis of the text on the front. As Mapei’s Franco Ballerini crossed the line in the 2001 edition of Paris-Roubaix he unzipped his jersey exposing a simple message imprinted upon his base layer—”MERCI ROUBAIX.” It was his laatste race as a professional and a tribute to the race that made him a legend.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Taking it one step further, Rapha created another version (sleeveless) with the infamous saying, “VOUS ÊTES DES ASSASSINS” (YOU ARE ASSASSINS). A declaration from the mouth of Octave Lapize towards some Tour officials during his ascent of the Col d’Aubisque (or the Tourmalet if you ask Wikipedia).

Enough fuggin’ history, how does this lacy little number work?

Pro Team Fit

As with most of Rapha’s products, the Pro Team Base Layer is well fitted. They claim it’s race tight, and while I’d agree, it’s definitely not as tight as some of the compression base layers I’ve ridden in the past. I think the best description I have for the fit of this garment is once I’ve put it on, I don’t think of it until I’m taking it off. For me, it’s the perfect length—not too long (like so many others) and not so short it pulls up above the front of my bibs.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Rapha used stretch Lycra panels along the sides to enhance the aggressive Pro Team cut. So it’s safe to say it’s not simply a thin tube of lycra. Or worse, a wicking gauze muumuu.

Base Layer Performance

As near as I can tell, it works. It gets swamp-ass hot here in #BikeDC—apparently not yer typical base layer ride environment. All too often, you’re apt to witness scrawny and not-so-scrawny alike, jerseys unzipped exposing pasty white, hairy underbellies.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

In fact, I recently was lambasted on Twitter voor admitting donning a base layer during a particularly gruesome stretch of upper 90s/high humidity weather here in the DC Metro area. Yet,  upon reflection I realized it wasn’t even an issue.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Admittedly, I’d unzipped my jersey so it could Mayo in the wind as I crushed tarmacometers and honestly, it looked pretty freaking epic to gaze down and see the “convicts of the road” stripes and Octave’s quote. But more importantly, I recall the refreshing sensation of air upon the mesh as it began to dry—otherwise known as WICKING. The base layer was doing its job, and was doing it well. I even experimented riding sans base during the same stretch of weather mentioned above. Needless to say, I enjoyed the feeling of the mesh better than the plastic wrap effect of sweat soaked lycra. It should be noted I was constantly aware of my nipples *without* the base. This would be considered a negative.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer

Final Thoughts and Rating

From the moment it arrived, Rapha’s Pro Team Base Layer’s been on heavy rotation. And by heavy rotation I mean every ride. Extremely lightweight with a tailored fit and a highly effective wicking performance, this base layer should be on your radar if you’re looking for the best with a healthy dose of aesthetic seasoning.

PRO FACTORS: Fit, performance and aesthetics—everything needed to justify purchasing.
OPPORTUNITIES: Price—it *is* $75 for a non-merino base layer.
RATING—97.5%: (4.75 stars) This base layer kills it.

What I'm Riding: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer


Web: Rapha Pro Team Base Layer
Twitter: @rapharacing & @rapha_n_america
Facebook: Rapha Facebook

  • Tyler B

    As a fellow DC-area rider, I don’t get the haters. There is no combination of heat / humidity that a good base layer doesn’t make more comfortable. I’m partial to the Craft superlight sleeveless, which my gf calls “sleazy discothèque shirt”

  • ZipZinger

    one question, I’ve got an upper body that’s slightly larger than your average cyclist (lacrosse player) but I’m only 5’11. With the large classic rapha jersey i have great fit chest/shoulder/arm wise but it is a tad long on me. What size base layer would you recommend? (the large defeet un-d-shrt fits similar in that is is a bit long on me, although by no means is it really tight to my body)

    • Cycleboredom

      Apologies for the late reply. You’re probably going to experience the same issue with this. Although, it’s not as long as other base layers I’ve tried. I’m guessing that sizing based on chest size will be the most sensible option. It would probably be too tight if you sized based on length.

  • redvers

    I have always struggled to find summer kit light & cool enough for hot summer days.
    Most synthetics, even from top brands, really don’t wick very well, despite the claims, and once the temperature goes over 28C they just become ‘boil in the bag’ junk.

    However a pleasant surprise this year, I went for the Rapha short sleeve pro team base layer and the Mavic helium top. Light weight, cool & airy, a fantastic combination, both seem to insulate and
    wick beautifully and have that ’just right’ fit.

    I agree totally with Boredom’s point that you really only notice the Rapha base layer when you
    putting it on or taking it off, otherwise it just seems to disappear, always a sign of quality kit. Great review & Merci Roubaix!

    ZipZinger: I’m 6 foot plus tall 44” chest but sometimes have the same problem, a lot of tops are just too long, there seems to be an obsession with covering everyone’s arse. I went for the XL Rapha base layer and find the length to be spot on.

    • Cycleboredom

      Late to my own party. Thanks for the comment. This base definitely helps make jerseys feel light and airy. I’m suitably impressed. Of course, it would be awesome if I could get my hands on some of the other marquee brands (Assos, Castelli, etc.) and compare.