One of the nice things about living between Chicago and Milwaukee is that our summers are usually pretty mild. However, last summer was one of the hottest on record and there were many days I had to go riding at 5:00 in the morning just to avoid the heat. This year has not been as hot, but the humidity has been unbearable. As a result, I have looked at ways to stay cool while cycling in hot weather and one of my favorite “discoveries” has been the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt.
The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt is a base layer—an extremely lightweight sleeveless shirt that you wear under your regular cycling jersey (or running jersey if you are so inclined). The shirt is made of 95% Polyester and 5% Lycra and woven into a lightweight mesh. Since the shirt is slightly “puffy” it forms a thin airspace between your skin and your jersey and Craft claims that this shirt will make you feel 6 degrees cooler than you would otherwise feel.
How well does the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt work? Well, while you are moving it is incredible, but if you stand still in the direct sunlight for very long you will begin to heat up (so keep moving). The idea behind this product is that if you wick moisture away from the skin and then run air over it the process of evaporation will cool your skin down. This shirt has flat seam contour construction that reduces chaffing and the fabric resists odors (but when you get home your regular jersey will still stink).
The first time I wore this base layer was on a day when the temperature was in the 90’s (33 degrees Celsius) and the humidity was around 85%—it felt like I was riding directly into a hair dryer that was set on high. I wasn’t sure if the shirt was doing anything for me until I stopped at a rest area—after a quick “nature break” I got back on the bike and it felt like the temperature dropped by several degrees! If you unzip your jersey about halfway it will scoop in a lot of air and make the process of evaporation cool you down a noticeable amount. When I got back from my ride I immediately ordered a second shirt so I would always have a clean one to wear!
The Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless Shirt comes in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL) and appears to be true to size. This shirt retails for $45, but I was able to get mime from Amazon.com for under $39. Craft also offers this shirt in a style made for women.