By Adam Newman
Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Vest – $80
Ah yes, the cycling vest, or gilet if you’re so inclined. It’s an exceedingly useful but often overlooked bit of kit. Rarely does the ambient temperature or your body remain static throughout a ride, so on goes the jacket, off goes the jacket, on goes the jacket, etc. A vest like this is perfect for the cruise down to the start of the group ride, the chilly descent down the backside of the mountain or the ride home after a post-ride beer.
I like this version because it’s a little nicer looking than the all-one-color style you usually see. Since so many of the times I’m wearing a vest are that annoying border temperature between warm and cold I appreciate the vented back panel and big back pocket to stuff my hat or gloves into as things warm up. Unzipped you’d hardly notice it’s there. Plus it packs into itself so it’s always handy when you need it.
There’s nothing really mind blowing about this version of the classic cycling vest, but it certainly checks all my boxes.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero WXB Jacket – $165
Pearl Izumi was one of the first brands to offer high-vis cycling apparel and considering how sketched out I am riding on the roads these days, I’m glad it’s back in style.
I can’t even tell you how bright this jacket is. There’s no way to capture its retina-searing pinkness in a photograph. Pearl Izumi says its molecules actually vibrate in sunlight. I have no idea if that’s true but staring at it too long might result in your brain jiggling.
Part of Pearl Izumi’s BioViz line—read more about BioViz in our story on page 40—this jacket isn’t just bright, it’s practical too. A thin, waterproof layer, it’s perfect for keeping in your jersey pocket just in case. The long tail and extra long sleeves mean it will keep you covered and won’t slow you down. Because of its slim fit I wasn’t able to layer it over a heavy sweater or anything—this is for go-fast rides only. It also doesn’t offer much in the way of features—there’s no pockets or anything—but sometimes less is more.
Like many true waterproof jackets, the temperature I’d ride this at is lower than you might expect, as it breathes, but not super well. Be careful when temperatures rise as you’ll end up soaked from the inside in your own sweat.
This jacket is also available in Screaming Green, and in a short-sleeve version. Dunno how that works. I’d also love to see this color make its way onto a more relaxed-cut version for layering over street clothes for commuting.
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Pearl Izumi has partnered with us to giveaway a pair of P.R.O. Escape Bib Shorts! Enter to win below.
The all new P.R.O. Escape Shorts were engineered from the ground up with one goal in mind: all day in-the-saddle comfort. Luxurious fabric with minimal seaming hugs your body like a second skin. Raw edge leg openings create a smooth transition from short to skin that looks and feels great. The new P.R.O. Escape 1:1- Chamois uses a patented two-piece design to deliver support without bulk, and only the best materials and construction to maintain breathability. But when you ride in these shorts you won’t think about those details, you’ll forget about what you’re wearing and focus on the road ahead. If you haven’t tried a Pearl short recently, now is the time, and if you’re a devoted Pearl rider, these will be the most comfortable shorts you’ve ever worn.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.