It’s easy to understand why long underwear should be worn underneath motorcycle clothing in cool weather. And very cold weather calls for thick polypropylene underwear or windproof underwear for maximum protection from the elements.
But hot weather? There are a couple of different theories for why one would want an underwear layer under leathers or textiles when riding in hot weather.
First of all, leathers and nylon can get pretty sticky in these conditions when worn against bare skin. When the temperature reaches about 70 degrees (F) or so, a cotton T-shirt and cotton underpants are the only liner needed when wearing a perforated leather jacket and pants. But when the temperature jumps to the plus side of 80, leather can get rather uncomfortable, perforated or not.
A layer of soft fabric between the rider’s skin and the leather can help, because the layer acts as an offset to keep the leather from resting directly on the skin, allowing air to circulate and preventing the sweaty skin from sticking to the leather.
In fact, some of the motorcycle underwear specifically designed for hot weather use is designed with ribs to provide maximum offset. Some of the underwear products are made from a type of fabric that wicks away moisture (draws moisture from the skin to the outer layer of fabric), which can also add to the comfort factor.
There are several different types of so-called “under-leather-wear” that claim to keep the rider cool in hot weather. I’ve seen the ads for these products, but I never thought much about them until recently. The weather here this summer has been brutal, with relentless 95-97 degree (F) days, ultra-high humidity and no relief at night, and I needed something to wear under my sticky leathers.
But how could wearing more clothes — and long underwear at that — keep me cooler in hot weather? It sounded like there either had to be a scientific explanation or maybe it was just another motorcycling urban legend. There was only one thing to do: I had to try a set for myself and see.
The polypropylene used in many of these under-leather-wear garments is designed to wick moisture away from the skin. That’s also the claim for the EDZ Technical Performance Wear “all season base layers” underwear, but the one-piece suit shown here is made from 100% polyester.
It was my understanding that polyester has one of the poorest wicking abilities of any fabric, but apparently its ability to wick moisture depends upon how the yarn that makes up the fabric is manufactured and how the yarn is woven together to make the final cloth.
EDZ’s all season base layers (a nicer way of saying “underwear”?) attracted my attention based on the positive reports from several UK-based motorcycle magazines. Motorcyclists aren’t the only ones to use EDZ base layers; they are also used by mountain climbers and divers. Divers? Yep, they use the base layers under a drysuit when diving in cold water.
Sizing and Fit
I ordered the one-piece size XL, which fits my 5’11” (180 cm) U.S. men’s size 43 body perfectly.
The material has a silky feel and it has a reflective sheen. It’s also slightly transparent (not apparent in the photo on the left), mostly due to the relatively open weave.
The suit has a one-piece zipper that extends down the front from the neck to the crotch, and it’s very easy to slip into the garment in only a few seconds. The entire size XL suit weighs 10-3/8 ounces, or 293 grams.
One thing’s for certain: the silky/slippery fabric makes it much easier to slide in to or out of a set of leathers or textile motorcycle riding outfit.
That’s one of the biggest benefits of wearing this type of garment, and may be the only reason some motorcyclists (and many motorcycle racers) will purchase the product.
I’ve been using the underwear — uh, I mean “base layer” — recently during our sultry weather and I’ve run some subjective comparisons by wearing the same outerwear with and without the base layer underneath.
I don’t notice much of a difference in body temperature when I first put on the underwear. The fabric is thin and stretchy and not like a heavy “long john” type of winter underwear. The garment definitely breathes and allows the air to flow through. However, wearing the base layer under a set of leathers does make it seem hotter, especially when I’m messing about with the bike in the garage before getting underway.
I also notice that I do feel warmer when when the bike is stopped and I’m wearing the base layer underneath my perforated leathers or perforated textile outfit. However, as soon as I get underway and the air flow starts I really don’t notice much of a difference.
I’m not sure how much moisture the fabric actually wicks away from my skin. The fabric is thin, so it’s not like the moisture is pulled from underneath to the outer layer of the garment. The fabric seems to work efficiently at absorbing the sweat, and once underway, the air that flows over it gives a cooling effect as the moisture is evaporated.
The problem is in the areas that do not have a direct air flow, such as the back of the legs, the back and the crotch. The fabric can get a bit overwhelmed with moisture and it can start to feel sticky.
The other problem is that the base layer really does need to be washed after every use because of all the moisture it absorbs. It’s much better to have the underwear absorb the sweat, rather than the leathers or textile fabric, and this is one of the primary benefits of wearing the base layer.
I have mixed feelings about this product. It’s rather expensive for what is basically a set of polyester underwear, especially with the recent poor exchange rates between the dollar and the pound.
I feel cooler when I’m wearing the underwear and the bike is moving and the sweat is being evaporated by the air flow over the fabric. But the parts that don’t get air flow seem to be warmer and stickier than when I’m not wearing the base layer.
The slippery fabric definitely helps when sliding in or out of leathers, but it also adds a strange feeling when moving around on the bike. The leather or textile pants feel like they’re sticking to the seat while the underwear slides over the inside of the pants, so it’s harder to adjust position when riding the bike.
If the product were about half the price, I’d buy a couple of pair and use them more frequently. I’ll also report back when the weather gets cooler to see if they help keep me warmer.
wBW Review: EDZ All Season Base Layer Motorcycle Underwear