Review: Pearl Izumi thermal apparel for women

I have been wearing Pearl Izumi cycling clothing for nearly two decades. It is straightforward stuff that holds up well over time, and the company offers many items at a more affordable price point than several of the smaller boutique brands. So I was more than happy to spend the fall riding around in the Sugar Thermal Tights and ELITE Thermal Hoody, two items that excel in cool temperatures.

ELITE Thermal Hoody – $120

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If you’re not one to dig into reviews, I’ll summarize this one for you in one sentence: Since I received the ELITE Thermal Hoody a couple of months ago, I haven’t taken it off.

At first, this garment seems exceedingly minimal for its price tag. No side or chest pockets, no thumb holes (which is fine; I don’t like them, anyway) and no fancy mixing and matching of materials. What it does have is warmth without weight, incredible coziness and multi-sport versatility for those of you who are also runners, hikers, climbers, etc. Or, just wear it all winter around your uninsulated house at 5,600 feet, as I am also doing.

Layered under a windproof jacket, the ELITE Thermal Hoody is comfortable on the bike in a wide range of temperatures—down into the 30s for hard efforts on the road or trail and up into the 60s for cruising around.

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The hoody is made of thermal fleece with a smooth outer face that has proven to be moisture-wicking, as claimed. The shoulders are reinforced with slightly thicker fabric and are so far holding up under my penchant for riding everywhere with a pack. The fitted hood is ponytail compatible and fits under a helmet, and the rear zippered pocket is extra large and deep. My only minor complaint is that the zipper pull is tiny and hard to find with gloved fingers.

This garment has a flattering fit that’s more designed for moving around in everyday life in that it’s not tailored for an aggressive, hunched-over cycling position. The length satisfies my long torso and long arms.

If, like me, you dislike anything pink, know that this hoody also comes in a pleasant green and reliable black. Retail is $120 and sizes range from XS to XXL.

Sugar Thermal Tights – $85

The Sugar Thermal Tights are soft, stretchy and just plain comfortable with no weird fit issues, and the six-panel anatomical construction means no seams to rub the inside of your thighs. The tights are on the longer side, which I appreciate. Though I have short-ish legs, I’d rather have a little spare fabric than cold ankles. Ankle zippers allow for venting on warm days. The wide waistband is soft and forgiving. My only (very minor) complaint is that the tights have a big tag in the back, rather than printing the garment info directly onto the fabric.

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The Women’s Tour 3D Chamois is labeled as being for “enthusiast to intermediate riders” that ride one to five times per week. I found the chamois a little thin for my preferences of rock-hard saddles and longer rides. On the flip side, because the chamois isn’t diaper-thick, the tights fit nicely under a pair of soft shell pants for my winter fat biking adventures and don’t feel awkward when walking around a coffee shop after a ride.

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The suggested temperature range of 55 to 65 degrees is just about right. I rode the Sugar Thermals down into the 40s on sunny days and felt chilly at first (the fabric is not windproof), but comfortable once my muscles warmed up. If you’re exerting yourself under the sun, I think you could move the temperature range toward the colder side about five to ten degrees.

The tights have a small reflective design on each calf and come in all black or black with a big, “screaming yellow” panel down the back of each leg. The panel’s placement isn’t the most flattering to the figure but slimming fashion is not the reason you buy high-viz clothing, now, is it?

The tights come in sizes XS to XXL and retail for $85.

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