When moto traveling for distance, there is one accessory you should seriously consider. Decide what you want to wear as a base layer. It doesn’t matter if it is going to be hot or cold. Either for the transfer of heat away from your body or retention of heat, a base layer will assist in efficient temperature control.

Base Layer Materials

There are two major types of materials that handle this duty well. Both polypropylene and merino wool do their jobs very well. That’s not to say there are not any other good base layer materials, but polypropylene and merino wool are the best that are widely available.

What’s The Difference?

There’s a lot of discussion on which of the two materials is best. It’s kind of like determining which oil is the best for your bike. But there are some knowns about each material that can help you make the best decision for you.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene garments must be snug fitting to work best.

Positives:

  • Arguably the best at wicking moisture
  • Quick drying
  • Durable, washable fabric does not wear out quickly
  • Comes in different weights for different activities

Negatives

  • Can retain odor
  • Needs a snug fit to work best

Merino Wool

Merino wool garments can be looser fitting.

Positives:

  • A natural fiber that is not itchy
  • Washable and won’t shrink
  • Moderately durable
  • Doesn’t have to be snug to the body to wick
  • Comes in different weights for different activities
  • Naturally odor resistant (not odor proof)

Negatives:

  • Can become saturated and lose some moisture wicking ability
  • Wears out faster than synthetics

So which material is best for a base layer? For me, it’s polypropylene. When traveling on the bike, certain attributes are important to me. First, it has to be washable, dry quickly, and be durable.

You’ve probably heard it before but you can wash your poly underwear and socks in a river/sink in the evening and have them be totally dry when you are ready to go the following morning. Merino wool takes somewhat longer because it is a natural fiber.

If you sweat a lot, polypropylene keeps wicking. Merino wool can ultimately become saturated and at that point, it’s not doing its job well.

Finally, it’s quite durable and that’s good if you are going on an extended trip and don’t want to worry about the material wearing out or losing its wicking ability.

That’s not to say that merino wool can’t be a great base layer, but for moto related activities in hot or cold, polypropylene is the most efficient and easiest to maintain.

There are manufacturers that make combination merino wool and polypropylene base layers. Whether the provide the best and/or the worst of both is debatable.

What works best for you?

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