Gore Windstopper Base Layer

Gore Base Layer

Of all the pieces in a cyclist’s wardrobe, the item that is most often overlooked, the piece that is most likely to be underestimated for its value, is the base layer. Done well, a base layer can make hot days feel like spring and wintry days as pleasant as sitting on your couch. I’ve recently been wearing two base layers—one with long sleeves and one that is sleeveless—from Gore that feature Windstopper barriers.

I’ve tried a fair number of wind-blocking base layers over the years and they have been uniform in their effectiveness. But they’ve all had one serious liability: Once you get good and sweaty, they cling to you and feel rather clammy. It’s not exactly an endearing quality.

I need to back up a second. Ideally, when dressing for cold temperatures, it’s most helpful to have any wind block layer laminated into the outer-most garment so that warm air can be held in the loft of the inner layers. That is without doubt the best way to layer for riding in cool weather. So, that said, why even bother with a base layer that puts the wind block mere millimeters from your skin? Well, I’ve learned over the years that these things can be handy for rides where you really don’t need that outer layer, but every now and then a descent or an open farm field the wind howls across can make a long-sleeve jersey and traditional base layer not quite enough. I’ve done races where I didn’t want to wear a jacket or vest, but needed an extra little something for that first hour. Bingo.

And then there’s the simple fact that I’ve been sent some really attractive long-sleeve jerseys by Rapha and Road Holland, and I’d rather show them off than some jacket that’s going to make me too warm. Most wind-blocking base layers will add another three to five degrees in range to your traditional LS jersey with base layer.

Now here’s where the long-sleeve Gore Windstopper base layer is different from every other wind-block base layer, such as Castelli’s: The Gore adds a thin layer of polyester between you and the Windstopper. At low heart rates, low enough that you don’t sweat much, wind-blocking base layers are perfectly comfortable. The trouble is once you go hard and start sweating, they cling to you like Saran wrap. It’s kinda gross, if you’ve got the presence of mind to think about it. Usually I found that I was just uncomfortable, but I’d experience a full-body yuck as I pulled it off later. To combat this, I’d often add yet another ultra-thin base layer, at which point you start wondering if maybe the vest wasn’t a better idea, but for years my team vests were pocketless and the thought of fishing under the vest to get to food kept me using wind-block base layers in those early spring races.

By adding that thin layer of polyester to the Windstopper, Gore’s base layer feels like every other base layer I own, but when I get sweaty, it doesn’t cling to me. The Windstopper layer is added to both the arms and the chest, but just the half that faces the wind, so overall it remains an incredibly breathable base layer. While I’ve got other long sleeve base layers, since first using this, I have to admit I have yet to use one of the others. The single biggest factor tipping matters in its favor is that I can go downhill without suddenly being chilled to the bone.

Gore offers the base layer in short-sleeve and sleeveless versions. While I haven’t tried the short-sleeve version, it seems to make a bit more sense to me because if conditions are cold enough to warrant the Windstopper layer, then I’m going to be wearing arm warmers with that short-sleeve jersey and I’m going to want coverage for the tops of my arms, that little bit left bare between the end of the base layer and the start of the arm warmer. That said, I have used the sleeveless version and have found it great for those days where a short-sleeve jersey, arm warmers and a traditional base layer just isn’t quite enough.

As base layers go, these things aren’t cheap. The long sleeve has a suggested retail of $79.99, while the sleeveless variety is only $59.99. That said, the wonder of Google can deliver one of these devices to your doorstep at a pretty healthy discount. Unfortunately, the depth of the discount available online makes this a product that isn’t terribly beneficial for bike shops to carry—who can compete with those prices. And ultimately, that is the conundrum that Gore faces. They really aren’t that well known for their cycling apparel and unless bike shops really get behind them and stock their stuff, that isn’t likely to change.

Still, the advantage may be theirs; I can’t think of a cyclist who couldn’t benefit from owning one these.

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  1. thrash

    As you know I was FAR too underdressed for a 37 degree low Saturday but I had this exact product on as a base and the chest was warm. ALWAYS a base layer – even in summer.

  2. boroboonie

    Best piece I’ve ever owned. I went from one to four this season. Only thing I would add is a quarter zip so that when you’re really putting out a strong effort, you can vent the neck area to help with breathing. I’ve got a weird thing where I get claustrophobic on hard efforts in the winter when my neck is too tight due to a combination of my helmet strap being too tight and a collar from a jersey or jacket being snug around my throat. One could argue not to go hard in the winter, but whatever…

  3. boroboonie

    Secondary comment, I agree about GORE as a brand. In my opinion they make a fantastic material that all industries have come to use. They saw how successful the material was and then decided to make bike stuff. Their baselayers and accessories are phenomenal, but at the end of the day they’re not bike people and I don’t think they fully understand how bike apparel is supposed to work. They have a long way to go before their day to day pieces and outerwear are worth the price.

  4. David B

    I have boots and a rain shell (non-cycling) with Gore-Tex and they’re great. I also own a Craft baselayer with a Windstopper membrane on the front and like it a lot.

    However, both of my two attempts to purchase gear specifically by Gore Bike Wear quickly ended with the printing of return labels – without even getting anywhere near the bike.

    Of course it’s entirely possible that Gore got this one right, but generally speaking I’d suggest that reviews might carry a bit more weight if they were not all 100% gushing.

    1. Author

      Boroboonie: When you look at the prices for some of the Gore Windstopper base layers available online, I think it’s hard to be critical of the value.

      David B: I’m critical of products when I need to be and as gushing goes, I’ve been far more upbeat in some other reviews. The base layer is a pretty simple item and with these I didn’t find anything to criticize other than the short sleeve unit being more appropriate for my use than the sleeveless one. I respect that one of RKP’s readers had issues with the fit, but that wasn’t my experience. Would I spend $50 (online) for the long sleeve base layer? In a heartbeat.

  5. Wsquared

    I have been sold on Gore Windstopper since it was originally introduced as XCR. I had an XCR wind shirt that I literally wore out.

    My current favorite is the Craft Active Windstopper crew neck long sleeve base layer. I wear it all time on cool/cold days. I especially like it under a jersey on a windy day. I prefer it over less breathable jackets. This shirt features Windstopper sewn on the outside of chest area only, over Craft’s mid weight “Zero” base fabric. It’s like having a breathable built in wind vest. I find the ribbed Zero fabric to be warm, dry and breathable over an exceptionally wide temperature range. Some of my 100% coverage Windstopper garments can get uncomfortably warm if the temp spikes upward. Not a problem with the Craft. Since the Windstopper coverage is chest only, on really windy days I add Castelli Nano arm warmers which do the job nicely. The Craft runs around $70, but is frequently “on sale.”

  6. Jim Couch

    Years ago I had a similar piece from Exte Ondo – Windstopper with an inner polyester layer. Wonderful piece of kit, now long gone. Glad to see there are replacements available!

  7. Andrew

    David, what was the issue for you to return the two Gore items?

    I received a sleeveless Gore Windstopper base layer as part of a sponsorship deal this winter. I’ve only had a few chances to use it, but it definitely helped on a couple long days that started below freezing and went up almost to the 50’s, with a lot of varied efforts over the course of the day. My only issue was that it was fairly difficult to put on- normally tight base layers aren’t an issue, but since there doesn’t seem to be any elasticity built in (even in the non-WS back panel), there was a lot of shimmying involved to get it over my shoulders.

  8. David B

    Andrew, one was a jacket which was as breathable as a plastic shopping bag; the other was a jersey with an absolutely ridiculous cut (I have a few jerseys, from $25 to a $195 Rapha, and they all fit me fine). Aside from the fit, the jersey, without a full zip or a zipped pocket, cost something like $70 online!

    My Windstopper base layer (called Craft Pro Zero WS) is as easy to put on and wear as any other Craft – I have a total of 5 their base layers. The only difference is that the membrane, which is only sewn on along the perimeter, makes a crinkling/rustling sound, which I don’t mind at all.

    Padraig, $50 for a winter base layer is a very good deal, no question about that.

  9. Wsquared

    David B —

    I have had a similar experience with Gore. I bought a Gore WS jacket a few of years ago. I got it on sale, but it was still over $100. Even with only a thin base layer, I sweat uncomfortably at anything over about 25 degrees. Doesnt breath well at all – my base layer gets damp. The cut is a little weird with very long sleeves for the size. I thought it was just me. I should have returned it.

    I have a Castelli Zoncolan jacket that has a variant of Windstopper that they developed with Gore that’s a lot more breathable. I wore it the other day in about 35 degree weather in the wind. Kept me warm and my base layer was still bone dry when I took it off. With the Gore I would have been damp. As someone pointed out, it seems like other manufactures sometimes do a better job of implementing their fabrics than Gore does.

  10. Mark

    I have the sleeveless version and I really like it. My favorite jersey is a long sleeve wool Campy jersey, but the wind cuts through it, so that baselayer is great when the wool gives you enough ‘cosy’ and you just need to keep the wind off your chest.

  11. Sam

    I have a lot of Gore Cycling garments and most are of the cold weather, wind stopper variety. I can see where a wind proof base layer would be beneficial, especially in the 40*-50* temperature range, but instead chose their OZON L/S thing. The front of the sleeves and torso are wind stopper, while the whole backside of the sleeves and torso are standard breathable Lycra.

    Same sort of idea, though I find the half and half feature better for the same conditions as the above base layer: more versatile and I imagine more breathable due to the full back ventilation, while maintaining the soft fuzzy under layers when needed.

  12. BrianB

    I haven’t yet jumped on the Summer base layer band wagon but am interested in trying it. Can you suggest some good ones?

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