Costco has Merino baselayer pants ($20-ish) and tops ($30-ish) that I'm trying out now. I can't find the men's version online but they do have them in-store; I got mine at the Pentagon location. Costco has the women's version online so you can at least see the specs. They are 11% merino, 84% polyester and 5% spandex, and are a bit looser fit than cycling jerseys. But once underneath another layer it doesn't seem to matter.
I bought them for non-cycling use but I'm going to try them riding anyway. I'm really only interested in evaluating the tops, as I'm not going to wear the pants under shorts. I have as benchmarks a Craft baselayer which is a standard, and the Bontrager Hoodie Baselayer (which I think I may have mentioned here). So far I haven't had the chance to try them on any really cold rides, but so far they seem to be high-quality. They seem to be doing the job about as well as those two (more expensive) options but I would say the Costco baselayers are a bit thinner with less insulation. As the temps drop I'll have to see how they compare.
By the way let me take this opportunity now to (once again) shill for the Bontrager Race Hooded Long Sleeve Jersey. This is the niftiest, toastiest and warmiest baselayer I've used. The hoodie is perfect under-helmet for complete protection without being overly thick and sweat-trapping. They have them at Spokes Etc. and I may have to buy another as backup.
I have a merino version of this I got from realcyclist.com a while back and it's my favorite winter item. I can't wear it much above 45 degrees since my head is a furnace, but below that it's the best.
Originally Posted by krazygl00
I recently got a Smartwool long sleeve merino base layer from Sierra Trading Post for $32. I ordered a size smaller than usual to use for cycling cause it seems like every top, or whatever brand, I've gotten in merino is generously sized. They have tops and bottoms in the $50+ range, but if you sign up for their emails you get specials where you can take another 20 to 35% off the price, making them almost reasonable. They also have a couple other brands of merino and are a good source for wool socks.
The base layer is most important for me. Go for long-sleeved and thermal. Worry about the wind on your top layer. Tights work best for me even though they're obviously not the best in the wind.
But if it's below freezing - I'll add another layer like a fleece jacket and jogging pants to that and I'm usually fine.
Most important of all: Shoe covers.
I ordered a bunch of stuff that's merino wool online to try out. I think this may be the answer for me. And each one still cost less than a new Ultegra cassette!
You won't notice any difference until it gets really cold. Then the magic happens - it'll get just as soaked as the tech stuff but you'll stay warm. I should have said one other thing - read reviews and buy quality wool. Smartwool, Icebreaker, Ibex, any of the Backcountry house brands (Stoic, Cutter) are all good based on personal experience. I have one wool baselayer by some generic brand that, when it gets wet, makes me smell like sheep. Even more than I usually do.
Originally Posted by vvill
Well, I'd argue that he'll notice one thing immediately no matter what the temperature is...no sweaty armpit death swamp smell.
Originally Posted by DaveK
For the cyclist on a budget, a nylon windbreaker and a pair of nylon wind pants provide a lot of bang for the buck. Less windproof but more breathable than Goretex Windstopper. With sufficient insulation underneath, it will get you through cold dry conditions. Cold and wet is another story. I save my good stuff for harsh weather. It lasts longer that way.
Cool. I already noticed the benefit on one commute (had a immodestly priced Capo merino layer on) - that's why I took the plunge and bought more stuff. Yeah I've heard good things about SmartWool, Icebreaker, etc. Buying this sort of stuff is definitely not something I'd do without reading some reviews.
Originally Posted by DaveK
I have a ...North Face *gag* 65% merino tee on right now. Lack of stink is a good attribute even off the bike. Another reason I don't mind spending some more on these items.
Originally Posted by TwoWheelsDC
Edit: It's even cheaper than when I bought it now:
$27 for what seems to be a pretty good merino shirt. Wore it under a thermal jacket on a ride this afternoon and was just fine. No stink, only a little sweat, no chills. Impressive for how lightweight it is .Only complaint is the fit is a little loose for me so not the perfect baselayer.
Last edited by vvill; 11-14-2012 at 10:44 PM.
some of the best money I've spent on cold weather gear was for a simple cotton/lycra neck gaiter for when it dips below 35 or so. Just that little bit of cover for my neck goes a long way in keeping the rest of me warm and comfy