Decathlon Van Rysel Essential Cycling Base Layer – bargain base-ment option

You really can’t go wrong with this comfortable, functional base at the price of a couple of inner tubes

Long-sleeved cycling base layer
(Image: © Sean Fishpool)

BikePerfect Verdict

It’s not fancy, but it’s warm, dry and durable, and it looks fine. Do you really need to pay five times as much for an alternative?

Pros

  • +

    Versatile light-midweight base

  • +

    Wicks as well as most

  • +

    Two-year warranty

Cons

  • -

    Unashamedly synthetic

  • -

    Only three size options

  • -

    Limited stretch

  • -

    Arm seams are not flatlocked

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We'll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

I’m generally a big fan of kit from European outdoor-active behemoth Decathlon. Occasionally they miss the mark, but generally you get the sense that it’s designed by people who actually use it. It’s rarely flashy, but it tends to be functional and durable, and sometimes with neat details like the cuff flaps on their Rockrider All-Mountain Waterproof Jacket, or the trash pocket on the Rockrider Slim-Fit Softshell Mountain Biking Jacket.

The Essential Cycling Base Layer from their cycling sub-brand Van Rysel is a case in point. It does the basics of being as dry and breathable against the skin as most of the pricier alternatives in our buyer’s guide to the best winter base layers, and it feels just fine. It’s only got three sizes each for men and women, so you might not get the exact fit you want, but for us it was an easy to wear all-rounder.

Long-sleeved cycling base layer

You could size down for a more skintight fit (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

Design and specifications

The Essential Cycling Base Layer is made from a flat-woven 100 percent polyester wicking fabric. Like all wicking fabrics, the fibres contain microscopic channels to lift sweat away from the skin to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate or move to the layer above.

There’s a little natural stretch in the fabric, but no added elastane or specially woven stretch panels, so if the slender fit is too slender, you’ll probably want to go up a size rather than battle against it. Like a lot of base layers, the body is seamlessly woven. The seams around the arms and shoulders are flat locked, and the main arm seam is not, not that we noticed in use.

Long-sleeved cycling base layer

It comes out of the wash almost dry enough to wear (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

Performance

The Essential Cycling Base Layer only comes in three sizes, and with a 36in chest I went for M/L (38-39) rather than XS/S (33-36). This suited me fine. It wasn’t skintight against the whole body like stretchier models, which would give better wicking and warmth, but it wasn’t loose or draughty like a T-shirt either, and it didn't end up with  clammy flappy patches. Opting for the slightly bigger size meant that the sleeves were a generous length and there was plenty of body length to tuck in, both welcome ingredients in a comfortable base. (It’s worth noting that some reviewers on the Decathlon site who opted for a smaller fit found the body a bit short.)

I did most of my testing in mid- to late spring, in temperatures from just above freezing to 8-10C. Even under a rain jacket on the borders of overheating, it stayed surprisingly dry.

It feels unashamedly synthetic – not horrible and shiny, but not silky or soft, and not super stretchy…  but it’s also the sort that comes out of the wash almost dry enough to wear. I also appreciated the way it was slim fitting enough without being skintight. If I wanted maximum performance I’d go for a more snug option, but I don’t always want to peel myself into something for an everyday ride.

It’s not a ‘warm for its weight’ base like the textured Rapha Pro Team Thermal or the brushed Giro Chrono Base, but it certainly isn’t heavy, it’s just… normal in a good way.

Long-sleeved cycling base layer

It’s a straightforward flat-weave fabric throughout (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)

Verdict

If you’re on a budget or you just want an extra everyday base for a bit more laundry flexibility, you’re going to be happy with the Essential Cycling Base Layer. It hasn’t got the frills or the stretch fit of pricier alternatives, but it’s warm and dry against the skin, it’s well made, and it’s a tenner!

Tech specs: Van Rysel Essential Cycling Base Layer

  • Price:  $14.99 / £9.99 / €11.00
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 164g (M/L)
  • Sizes: Men’s XS/S, M/L, XL/2XL, Women’s 2XS/XS, S/M, L/XL (The women’s version may be listed on the Decathlon site as the ‘100 Women’s Long-Sleeved Cycling Base Layer’)
  • Materials: 100% polyester
Sean Fishpool
Freelance writer

Sean has old school cycle touring in his blood, with a coast to coast USA ride and a number of month-long European tours in his very relaxed palmares. Also an enthusiastic midpack club cyclocross and XC racer, he loves his role as a junior cycle coach on the Kent/Sussex borders, and likes to squeeze in a one-day unsupported 100-miler on the South Downs Way at least once a year. Triathlon and adventure racing fit into his meandering cycling past, as does clattering around the Peak District on a rigid Stumpjumper back in the day.


Height: 173cm

Weight: 65kg

Rides: Specialized Chisel Comp; Canyon Inflite CF SLX; Canyon Aeroad; Roberts custom road bike