The primary objective of summer base layers is to help keep you cool and dry when riding by wicking moisture away from your skin and dissipating it via the outer garment’s direct airflow - from a vent or mesh, for example – or by a breathable membrane. For the latter, it’s the temperature difference that generates the movement, from the hot (inside) to the cooler (outer) side of the membrane.
In order for a summer base layer to be successful, it needs to contact as much of your skin as possible – to maximise the moisture-wicking effect – and potentially spread that moisture as wide as possible across its surface area to be removed via either of the processes above.
While maximum skin contact is desirable, there are several ways to achieve this: it can be a loose fit, making contact in key areas; it can sit against the skin in a tight-fitting form; or, like these summer layers from Dainese, they can be designed with a compression fit. This means they are intended to sit tightly against the skin to maximise that contact while having a variety of materials or textures to help support the muscles during riding and prevent fatigue.
There are several other manufacturers who also produce compression-fit base layers with varying levels of success and on lightweight layers such as these, the actual benefits from a compression fit, as opposed to simply a tight, sculpted fit, can be debatable. There are heavier examples that you can genuinely feel supporting various parts of the body while in use but these are very lightweight so while they are comfortable to wear, their compression and support function is not as effective as others.
Out of the box, they come up small, as do most layers designed to be a compression fit – they seek to squeeze you in, after all. As a result, you need to choose your size carefully; I went for my normal size in base layers and they were very tight and tricky to get on. Once on, they were okay – tight but not overly so – but this did mean that there was maximum contact between the material and my skin.
Incidentally, I like to wear tops with full-length sleeves as I prefer the feel inside jacket sleeves and against shoulder and elbow armour, for example.
Even when fitting tightly, the material – a combination of Dryarn and Elastene – didn’t feel thick enough to offer any real benefits in terms of its fit, other than that full contact; I didn’t feel any real support, for example. However, having said that, during use, they did wick plenty of moisture away from my skin and were definitely better than wearing say a cotton T-shirt which would simply retain any moisture that it removed from the body.
As a result, my skin felt dry and cool when wearing a jacket with a membrane. I tested it with the vents closed, relying on just the membrane and with its vents open, removing moisture by direct airflow and it was possible to feel the damp areas with the vents open, as the direct air flow removed the moisture and caused a cooling sensation.
These summer base layers from Dainese do what they say on the tin; they wick moisture away from the skin and dissipate it from an appropriate outer jacket, to help keep you cool and dry.
They purport to offer muscle compression through their construction, but I didn’t feel any real benefit and they appear to be too lightweight to provide any significant support.
They fit well – tight against the skin – and are very comfortable but there is more effective compression fit examples out there. And there are also cheaper examples available too.
Good skin-tight fit
Comfortable when on
Effective at dissipating moisture
Not so effective at muscle support