Layering 101 | Why layering is the best approach
So, why are we talking about layering.
“Shouldn’t I just be buying an all-season jacket, it has a waterproof liner and a thermal liner all in one garment?”
This is a question we get all too often from fellow riders here at R.Co, we thought we would take the time to explain the benefits of layering on the bike and you might be surprised to find some of what you need already in your wardrobe!
Before we get into the “nuts & bolts” of layering on a bike, I’ll start by saying there are many ways to approach layering and today I’ll just be covering the basic principles and providing some examples of how I use layering on the bike here in Australia. I’m based in Sydney but these principles are applicable anywhere, its just a matter of adjusting material weights to suit where you live!
If we simplify it, we are looking at three key layers. These layers are the base layer, the mid layer and lastly the outer layer.
Base Layer - Moisture Wicking & Core Temperature Control
Summer or Winter, base layers are your friend. In the warmer months they assist with pulling sweat away from your body and aid in evaporative cooling. In the cooler months, it keeps moisture off your skin and reduces that cold clammy feeling you might get with a cotton or polyester shirt.
You’ve got two main choices in base layer, Merino Wool or Synthetic. Synthetic is the cost effective choice as they are cheaper and last longer. However, Merino Wool is still my go-to choice, its big benefit is that it is naturally anti-bacterial and odour resistant which means its the better choice for those trips where carrying less matters.
These garments are available in different GSM’s (think of them as thicknesses), 150gsm is fantastic all year round in the northern end of Aus but stepping up to something 200-250gsm in the cooler months down south is often a great choice.
Now that we have covered the base layer, things get interesting. My approach to Mid Layer changes based on the time of year, so let’s see how it looks for me.
Think Lightweight. Think Breathable.
Mid Layer - Abrasion Resistance & Impact Protection
Generally speaking for the summer months, my mid-layer is actually my outer layer 90% of the time. This could be a vented textile jacket or a Motoshirt, anything that provides me with around CE AA protection and has level 1 protectors in it. I really want this garment to breathe and allow a healthy airflow whilst covering my protective needs.
Outer Layer - Wind and Water Control
In summer, this layer rarely comes out for me. A laminated waterproof or waxed cotton throw over that only comes out for 2 reasons.
- It’s raining sideways and I don’t want to get wet, quite self explanatory.
- Early morning departures and late night arrivals. Nothing worse than being out on a long ride and wishing you had something to knock off the wind chill. A throw-over is the answer. (If you don’t have specific motorcycle wet weather gear, use a sports/hiking wind stopper jacket over top in the mean time)
Time to rug up.
Mid Layer - Thermal / Insulation Boost
Now that it’s winter time, I am looking for a mid layer that is easy to take on and off throughout the day with a sole purpose of regulating my core temperature. In a lot of cases this will be a vest as I don’t struggle with cold arms but this may be a long sleeve merino jumper (250gsm+) or even a regular sweater for you.
Outer Layer - Abrasion, Impact, Wind and Water Control
Being winter, I am happy for my protective layer to be a little on the warmer side. This presents itself in a few different ways depending where I am headed and how long for but 90% of the time it will be a Motoshirt or Leather Jacket (I’ll change my mid layer based on which outer I have on).
These are both warm enough for the speeds I’ll be travelling at and although they don’t offer waterproofing (Motoshirt is actually Teflon coated but in heavy enough rain you’re getting wet) I can always throw a waterproof over the top.
The end result is that every day in the saddle is different, by locking yourself into a “do it all” jacket you’ll never be happy. Set yourself up with some good quality base layers, a mid layer or two and a couple of shirt / jackets and you’ll be unstoppable!
Now get out there and show us how you do layering.