Review: Craft Zero Extreme base layer
This is Fabian Cancellara’s base of operations. Yes, the World Time Trial Champion wears Craft from head to toe to base layer. So does the entire Leopard Trek pro cycling team.
If that endorsement of the new Craft Zero Extreme isn’t enough for you, keep reading. If you believe the mantra that form follows function, then Craft went full gas with this base layer.
This technical-wear clearly isn’t based on looks, just an obsessive freak commitment to the process of wicking and thermo- regulation. It’s a fusion of two fabrics: ZERO and COOL combine to keep you from soaking in your own crockpot of sweat.
The gauzy white hexa-channeled COOL sections wrap the upper back and shoulders and armpits. It’s a butterfly shape that Craft says will also increase the easy range of motion. The cuffs are also done with the fabric — which does make you look a bit like a Victorian lady in lace, only you’re on a race bike, climbing like an animal and not over-heating.
The Grey ZERO sections of the Zero Extreme keeps the chest, arms and lower back warm. The whole thing fits like they took a body mold but without the shrink-wrap sensation. We put that down to the responsive elasticity of the fabric along with the body mapping Craft has done in the lab.
The Swedish company is highlighting the “butterfly winged shape,” in particular. Now, no self respecting macho guy with a high lactate threshold says to his training buddy, “this gauzy butterfly thing works great.” But that’s what he’s thinking and we’ll thumbs that up.
We’ve worn the Zero Extreme as our base layer on cool weather road rides here in Northern California for the last few weeks. We also decided to give it the full Nordic stress-test by slipping it under the jacket for downhill skiing.
Testing notes: This garment feels smart and the venting under the arms and especially the cuffs worked well. You know the heat and moisture transfer are top rate when you don’t have to regulate temps by constantly zipping and unzipping your outer layer.
We actually wonder why the butterfly wasn’t changed to a sting ray — a more aggressive creature — and a tail of COOL fabric could have run down the spine.
There’s a terrific balance between the close anatomical wrap of the fabric and the “give” it has when movement is required. This base layer mimics your motions big and small. We’re guessing Fabian Cancellara goes for that, too.
We pause for a marketing slogan assesment: we get the feeling that Craft is not only ramping up the fabric technology but the advertising is first rate. “Gear for every degree” and “Where athlete meets atmosphere” are both very smart theme lines. Nike had the best products and best message; Craft is playing that game well.
Our only negative observation is more a question of longevity. The Zero Extreme base layer is super thin and lightweight — even lighter than Leopard Trek’s Andy Schleck. The design brief insisted on high performance, not the ability to last season after season.
For this level of thermo-regulation, that’s a trade-off many riders will be happy to make.