by Brian Hancock
In Michigan, the temperatures are dropping fast, so in an effort to figure out how to best stay warm during ’cross I’m putting a few baselayers to the test. Today, I’ll review the Louis Garneau SF-2 LS Plastron baselayer and will have a review of the Louis Garneau Compress R LS baselayer in a few days.
Training and racing in cool weather can take a toll on your body, so the folks at Louis Garneau developed a wind-proof baselayer that is designed to keep your core dry and keep the wind chill down despite the ever-worsening conditions.
The SF-2 LS Plastron baselayer uses a waterproof and windproof polyurethane membrane attached to the chest and arms of a mesh baselayer. Despite the outrageously long name, each of the components actually stands for something. SF-2 is code for “Supra Filo 2”, which is the main fabric of the baselayer. SF-2 is very lightweight stretchy material – more on the end of something you’d wear on a brisk spring day. But paired with the polyurethane membrane, it’s amazingly warm as the temperatures fall near and below freezing.
Unlike other windproof baselayers that only use the anti-wind membrane on the chest, Louis Garneau’s long-sleeved model adds the protection to the front-facing portion of the arms as well. This front-side only protection not only helps keep your forearms and fingers warm while rolling through wind-swept grassy fields, but it also lets the back of your arms breathe as you work up a sweat, counting down to the bell lap. Amazingly, wearing this did not feel like wearing a garbage bag on my chest, despite the fact that the plastron fabric is not terribly stretchy.
The windproof and waterproof front layer provides good coverage down to just below the belly button. The SF-2 fabric extends a few inches below that, but the overall body length of the garment is well thought out – not long enough to bunch up in your skinsuit, but not to short as to leave any of your front side unprotected.
Baselayer sizing can be all over the board. Depending on the brand, I wear anything from a stretchy medium to an extra large. At 6’3” and 190 lbs, my main issue with most baselayers is usually arm length. This is especially evident in long-sleeved baselayers, where full shoulder to wrist coverage is important. For me, the XL size from Louis Garneau fits nicely. The SF-2 LS Plastron provides good coverage all the way to the cuff, which sits just above my wrist. The shoulder seam to cuff measurement is 28” without stretching the fabric. Let’s face it, if you’re worried about windy, cold ’cross conditions, the last thing you want is bare skin between your skinsuit and your gloves.
The only way I would improve on the SF-2 LS Plastron would be by adding a taller collar. Something in the one-inch range above the current seam would be a nice addition under a skinsuit. If the temperatures are cold enough to wear a windproof layer, it might be worth considering a bit more neck protection.
Even though the season is over for the year, there’s still riding to be done, and you should be prepared for next year’s cold temperatures and nasty weather. (Remember how cold it was in Louisville for Masters Worlds!) And while there is a miniscule chance, it’ll be 70 degrees and sunny at Badger Prairie Park in Madison next year, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Stuff one of these baselayers in your race bag and you won’t be disappointed. Stay tuned for a review of the Compress R LS, coming soon to Cyclocross Magazine.
Louis Garneau Website