Hey folks, a while ago I did an intro to some of the new Pearl Izumi gear and I’m back with a full report! I had high hopes for them, as I’ve had good experience with their stuff in the past and they seem to have come through for me again.
Let’s begin with base layers. As stated before they sent me both a long sleeve and short sleeve base layer. I was super excited because the front features merino wool to keep you warm as the wind blows, and the pits and back have a very wicking, kind of fish scale-like texture to pull the sweat away from you. I feel like this was super well thought out because I know I definitely end up with the sweat-back while wearing a Camelbak or back pack, and too much of that “pulling away cooling you” sensation is kind of a not-so-awesome thing in the winter. It keeps you feeling pretty well balanced and the temperature regulation is probably the best I’ve seen, definitely the best blended fabric one I’ve used. Prior to this I used a lot of 100% merino base layers which were good and regulated well but they did hold onto moisture. After some over dressed commutes and longer rides I did find myself to be less damp, although slightly more chilled if I took my bag off my back. It’s a trade off I’m willing to make to stay more comfortable while actually moving.
I appreciated the length on the sleeves for the short-sleeve. Like I’ve said in the past I’m notorious for pushing up long sleeves as soon as I get too warm and this has me covered to the elbow. I’m not a huge user of the thumb loops on long sleeve base layers because I wear them snug (you should too or they won’t work properly) so mine don’t roll up if I’m pulling another layer on. I think another reason I avoid them is although I understand the idea of trying to bridge that wrist-to-hand gap/cold air draft danger zone as intended, sometimes the fabric is too bulky or they’re not long enough so they’re uncomfortable with hands resting on the bars, or they cut into the webbing of my hands. Pearl gets bonus points for making them stretchy and ribbon-thin but also pretty tough. I made it a point to use them to see if I could tear them but they held fast. I also tested to see if they did that uncomfortable/cut into the webbing thing to my hands and not only did they not hurt my hands, I didn’t even notice them! Stoked.
I would say the only downside to this magical blend is that they do need to be washed sooner than my standard all-wool base layers due to the synthetic materials, but not nearly as often as a 100% synthetic base layers. Cool thing is though when you need to clean your goods (inside out, cold water, gentle detergents, and hang dry OBVIOUSLY) they dry quickly.
Rating: 4 out of 5 crispy bacons
Next up let’s talk about the Launch thermal jersey. Initially due to our mild winter I had some trouble finding weather cool enough to warrant wearing a fuzzy-inside jersey but just as I was expressing my sadness about it, the temps dropped right off so I had to skip using it as a single layer and went straight to using it with a base layer for days that hovered around the high 20’s lower 30’s. Definitely can use this in deeper cold with a wind shell to cut the chill if need be.
In this more mountain oriented jersey, if you want the looser enduro-fit you’ll need to size up because this fit me like a soft and cuddly glove in the true-to-size XS. Again, I wear things close to skin so the synthetics (this is 100% polyester) can do their thing and keep me warm and dry. Although not the most wicking, it is warm but knowing it’s in the Select side of the Pearl Izumi family I kind of saw that coming. (**Pro tip, Pearl has 3 levels of gear Select, Elite, and Pro. Select varieties tend to have less panels, a more relaxed fit and less bells and whistles, so if you’re new to gear it’s a good place to start. Elite starts to get more exciting fabrics, flat lock seams which are good near the sensitive bits, and Pro gets all of goodies usually more warmth, less bulk, and a tighter fit… The more you know!)
I kind of always want pockets, and that was the only thing this jersey was “lacking,” but I’m totally not going to hold that against them. The day I was dying for pockets was a tough fat bike race with a lot of climbing. If I wanted snacks (I always want snacks) I should have worn knickers. That’s on me. The style of this jersey means no pockets, so again, if you are perma-hungry like me BYOP, bring your own pockets.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tasty bacon strips
GLOVES! I’m super picky about gloves, but who isn’t in Minnesota. Here’s where I get weird about trying to tell y’all what to do with your hands because everyone has varying levels of circulation. What I learned with the PRO AmFIB Super Glove is that they are good for normal winter (read, maybe around 15-25 degress) but if you want to go down to comfortably zero you’re going to need a liner. I can take them down to a “feels like -15” or so and my fingers won’t fall off but after about 5 miles they get a chill.
Fortunately I have some thin wool liners and was impressed with the depth of cold they went to. I was happy to see the longer gauntlet with a cinching wrist tie to keep the cold (and slush! and water!) out. Although they held a little bit of moisture when my hands were sweating they definitely never got soggy like some other gloves I’ve had in the past which is important because that can really lead to chilled hands later if that sweat stays put.
As far as on-the bike modulation goes, they did feel like a well-insulated glove when I was moving to quick pull a brake lever (aka a bit bulky in the fingers) but if that’s what it takes to keep me from putting the pogies on, I’ll take it.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 sizzling bacons – only because I wanted them to go to deeper cold than zero, or to at least zero without a liner. They might work better for you because full disclosure, I used to be a smoker and have not the greatest circulation.
Last but not least, we’ve got the Elite Softshell MTB Shoe covers. These were a great transition shoe cover from fall to winter and they allowed me to ride my regular mountain shoes down to about 30 degrees with a thick sock.
Like most shoe covers, these are water resistant but not water proof so they were good on snowy days when it was hard packed and fast, great for commutes, as any kind of foot-down business would have ended up with cold soles and damp feet.
The fit was pretty good, I am pretty tiny (38 shoe) and the size small fit great. I’d be lying if I wasn’t worried when they arrived because I usually go a size up to accommodate the bulkiness of a mountain shoe but these are a relatively stretchy material so when I slipped them on then went over the toe-box of my shoes pretty easily. If you have wider shoes you may have some trouble with these, but I feel like that’s pretty standard with shoe covers anyway.
The velcro on the back was good for my skinny ankles, and appeared to give enough room if you had thicker ankles too.
The placement of the tread-holes is pretty spot-on (please pardon my old mud) with no interference with the cleat or bunching of the fabric which is problem I’ve experienced in the past.
After a few rides the Kevlar on the bottom by the toes started to fray which kind of surprised me but I guess some hike-a-bike and general stomping around will that but I didn’t expect it so soon.
Although not a very Minnesota-winter shoe cover, these would be perfect for places that got damp or chilly winters but not super cold or down pouring. (If you live in a place like this, let me know and I’ll visit you, it sounds rad.) These were a staple for me in this year’s extended autumn weather and I’m excited to break them out again when it warms up again.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bacons in the pan
Overall I’m a pretty big fan of Pearl Izumi’s new gear, especially the base layers and would definitely recommend all of these items to folks who were looking for a way to keep warm!