Thursday, May 5, 2016

Pearl Izumi: Jersey and Bib Short Review

There isn’t much question if Pearl Izumi is one of the best companies in the sports industry today… because they are! I cannot argue on that. But how it all started is worth mentioning in my opinion.

Every company has their own humble beginning and Pearl Izumi is no different. The idea began in Tokyo, Japan more than 50 years ago by a man named Kinji Shimizu. The year was 1964 when one of his sons, Hiro, was racing for the Japanese national team at the Asian Cycling Championships. The race director had ordered jerseys made of cotton and one special jersey. In order to be fair with his cyclists, he had everybody’s name on a piece of paper in the helmet. He drew one name from the helmet and Hiro’s name was pulled. Hiro won the special jersey, a jersey that was made of 100% nylon. Kinji’s support for his son’s cycling career drove him to create cycling apparels made of the same material and perfected it along those years. Pearl Izumi started producing cycling apparels and later extended it to running and triathlon.

I reviewed one of their products last month, the Pursuit 5” Short and you can read my full review here. This time it’s a bit different, they gave me a chance to review their cycling apparels and I’m very excited on this new opportunity. I received the P.R.O. Escape Jersey and the ELITE In-R- Cool Bib Short a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been testing it since then. So let’s dive in on the details:

Image Credit: Pearl Izumi
Materials
·       87% Minerale™ polyester
·       13% elastane / UPF 50+
·       Technology: Minerale
·       Mesh Inserts: 100% polyester mesh
·       Upper Body: 80% polyester 20% elastane/UPF 40+
·       Technology: coldblack®, Imported
·       Weight: 157 g/m2

Features
·       P.R.O. Transfer In-R-Cool® fabric for optimal moisture transfer, dry time and odor absorption.
·       Patent pending anatomic Speed Sleeve construction.
·       Sleeve/Shoulder panels use P.R.O. Transfer fabric powered by coldblack® for optimal cooling and reflective sun protection.
·       Full length zipper for venting.
·       Three back pockets plus additional external storage for quick, easy access.
·       Reflective elements for low-light visibility.

Image Credit: Pearl Izumi
Materials
·       80% nylon
·       12% elastane
·       8% polyester / UPF 50+,
·       Technology: coldblack®
·       Leg Band: 88% nylon 12% elastane,
·       Colored Lower Panels: 82% polyester 18% elastane, Imported
·       Weight: 258 g/m2

Features
·       ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool® fabric powered by coldblack® provides superior cooling and reflective sun protection.
·       Anatomic multi-panel design.
·       Direct-Vent mesh bib provides superior ventilation.
·       Mesh bib upper provides stability with comfort.
·       Folded ELITE Transfer fabric at leg opening for soft stretch comfort with Silicone for added grip.
·       ELITE 3D Chamois® is pre shaped for cycling comfort.
·       Reflective elements for low-light visibility.
·       9" inseam (size medium)

Fit and Functionality
Well it’s been two weeks now that I’ve been testing the Pearl Izumi’s cycling apparels and I got to say that these will satisfy your lust (cycling speaking, that is) and will surely change your perspective on how much the cycling apparels have evolved over the years.

When I first got these, my initial reaction was “wow”. I was amazed with how soft and sleek the materials are for jersey and the bib. Over the years that I’ve been cycling, I pretty much tested a lot of different varieties of jerseys and shorts and I can say that they are not created equal. Pearl Izumi has always been one of the best choices for me when it comes to cycling apparels. Pearl Izumi surely incorporated “fashion and function” on their new trend of apparels. With the new trend of cycling apparels, this is definitely a make or break for them and I think Pearl Izumi delivered this with flying colors.

The JERSEY: Visually inspecting the jersey, the material they used for the shoulder and chest really stood out because it is quite unique. It’s so sleek and smooth that wind can easily slide thru it, which makes perfect sense since these are the biggest parts of our body that are always exposed to the wind. This type of material is similar to the time trial suit worn by pro cyclists which main purpose is to eliminate or lessen the wind drag. The vent (mesh material) was strategically placed along the heat zones (side arms and back) to easily dissipate heat and wick the moisture out quickly away from the body. Pearl Izumi has incorporated this coldblack technology for cooling effect and sun protection. Coldblack? that’s kind of like oxymoron to me. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning since black color, as we all know, absorbs a lot of heat. But this was a complete opposite on what I thought when I tested this on one of my rides and the temperature was above  80oand the humidity was high. I was really surprised that I didn’t even bother to zip down to ventilate and it feels cool to the skin as they claim. Oh, speaking of zipper, the thing I liked most was the full length zipper that is soft and flexible. This is much better than having a ¾ zipper which some brands still utilized. I still don’t understand why some still used the ¾ zipper when it doesn’t give you the full benefit to ventilate on hot rides especially on summer. Kudos to Pearl Izumi on this.

Most of the jerseys we know have 3 pockets, well this one has 5 pockets. Pearl Izumi was able to squeezed in two more decent size pockets at the back of the two tapered side pockets where I can stash small items like gels and energy chews. I like this idea since I’m not a big fan of the saddle bag and most of my cycling essentials are stored and kept in my jersey. But either way, I’m pretty sure that you’ll appreciate that extra storage on the long run, whatever your preference maybe.

When it comes to fit, all the greatness of the material is nothing if it doesn’t fit right. Well this is not the case on the jersey I tested, which is expected from a brand like Pearl Izumi. The fit is true to size and it moves along with my body. I personally like the race cut and form fitting jerseys, which eliminates the flapping of the materials as I fly down the road.

As for safety, Pearl Izumi wants us to be safe so they added some reflective materials that will make you visible to motorists especially during low light conditions.  

The BIB SHORT: Pearl Izumi didn’t stop on the jersey. As we all know the bib and the jersey need to complement each other and I was not disappointed at all. This is one of the most comfortable bib shorts I ever worn. If you are not familiar with the bib short, it has straps that slings over the shoulder. Over the years that I’ve been cycling, I found it more comfortable than the regular cycling shorts. The straps eliminate the bunching of the material along the waist which could sometimes lead to some blood flow issue along that region. Now that we have taken that out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty details.

It is too obvious that Pearl Izumi did take a lot of time in designing the bib. It has the appropriate amount of compression all around the legs that I immediately felt when I put it on. The material was so soft, supple and feels very comfortable on my skin. The silicone leg gripper has a soft stretch and it stays in place all throughout my entire ride. It also has the coldblack technology that provided cooling effect on my legs.

The bib straps are one of the nicest things that I’ve seen from Pearl Izumi. As a cyclist, this is one of the things I consider since this is always up against my skin. The straps are made of super soft and breathable mesh material that I basically didn’t even feel that it was there when I was riding.

Image Credit: Pearl Izumi
Now let’s tackle everybody’s biggest concern when buying a bib or the regular short…the chamois. In my opinion this is the most important part of the cycling short that could make or break your riding experience, it’s either you like it…or not. Pearl Izumi used the 3D anatomic chamois which has a variable density of 13mm and conforms to the contour of your behind. I no longer have the “beginner’s butt” (no pun intended) but it’s still nice to have to get that added support and padding when the road turns bad. There is a wickedly rough section along on one of my routes that we nicknamed the “Paris-Roubaix” and having this kind of chamois is the difference between night and day. Trust me it does makes a big difference to have a nice chamois especially on longer rides like a century where you will be sitting for many hours on the saddle.

My Verdict
I no longer race my bike but I still want to go fast on most of my rides, and these apparels are meant to deliver you to the line ahead of everybody. The construction, quality and fit of these high-performance cycling apparels are something to dig for and you will not be disappointed on its performance. I highly suggest that you give it a try and feel the difference it can bring to your rides. Whether it be a short ride or a century, these will help you get there.

The price? Well it’s definitely on the high side. The P.R.O. Escape Jersey cost $140 and the ELITE In-R- Cool Bib Short is $135. But you need to realize that cycling is not a cheap sport. It’s a very demanding sport that demands high quality performing materials and I truly believe on the saying “you get what you paid for”. Pearl Izumi has been on this business for more than five decades and they know exactly what they’re doing. So the price for me is really justifiable. You cannot put a price on comfort and performance on something that you love doing.

You can purchase these apparels directly on their website or at retail stores near you.

Thanks again for reading and don’t forget to wave when I see you on the fast lane.

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