Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket Review
First Thought of the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket
I received some very nice and warm Christmas presents this year in the form of warm gloves and this Pearl Izumi jacket. If getting out and riding my bike wasn’t a good enough excuse, I now ‘have’ to go because I am ‘testing’ the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket. This piece of highly technical, warm, and form fitting apparel will surely make my ride more about the workout and scenery, and less about the cold, wind, and snow or rain. Here in Denver and the Front Range of Colorado, there are only a few days when riding your bike is really not a good option (depending on your level of Hard Core-Ness of course). The beautiful sunshine pokes through on most days which will quickly dissipate any road moisture, be it snow or ice. January did bring a few of those icy days when crushing a longer ride wasn’t a good idea, but some clear days provided the perfect setting for my ability to take this jacket out on multiple rides.
Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket Technology Systems and Features
- Cool comfort
- Contoured, shaped sleeve hem for an anatomically correct fit
- Full-length internal draft flap seals in warmth
- Collar tab holds jacket together when venting
- Collar tapers from front to back for on bike ergonomics
- 360 degree reflectivity
“The Devil is in The Detail”: A popular idiom, but it is something Pearl Izumi has taken great strides in doing. At first glance, this looks like a solid warm piece of cycling apparel which will protect you from the elements. When I got a chance to take the Pearl Izumi Elite out on numerous rides is when I found out how critical the little things can be.
Zipper pulls. I know, that doesn’t sound real exciting, but take a close look at the above photo (Nicely enlarged above for your viewing pleasure). The front pull zipper has an extension which then connects another piece of pull string to extend it even more. Have you ever tried to grab a zipper with gloves, mittens, or lobsters on? Well, good luck with that! I was able to open or close this zipper as needed to accommodate my effort level or a simple direction change to combat the bone chilling wind.
The left front chest zippered pocket is perfect for your cell phone. The great thing is that it does NOT have a small internal slit for your headphones to thread through…… And now for your public service message…. That’s right! You shouldn’t be listening to music while riding. Focus on the road and your surroundings! The media pocket zipper is rather simple, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Really, there’s no need to check your stock ticker or answer your wife’s call. To me, time on the bike is almost like a spiritual experience. It’s just you, your legs, your lungs, the road, and in my case a dynamic mountain backdrop. Be it by yourself or surrounded by friends. Don’t be the one getting caught checking your Strava KOM status on the descent.
The rear stuff pocket is large enough to hold the essentials: banana, energy bar, spare tube, brass knuckles (kidding), air cartridge, or hand hotties. The zipper in this case is actually tucked away with a string tab to be able to pull. This is where I did find the only small downside to this jacket. When trying to pull it open or shut, the zipper wouldn’t easily pull across with one hand. I would have to hold the fabric with both hands, so the zipper would pull smoothly. Depending on your body’s girth and the size of your jacket may determine if it is taut enough for you to be able to pull it with just one hand.
The sleeve cuffs are longer, significantly longer actually. In addition, they are very snug and tight, but not so much though that you can’t take them off because of the stretch elastic. Both features stop any wind from sneaking in, and allow for your gloves to slide over without any bunching.
The front pull zipper isn’t completely sealed as you would see in some ski jackets. What this Pearl Izumi Elite Jacket does have is a completely waterproof backer strip that keeps you nice and dry (see photo above of zipper detail).
Performance of the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket
My first chance to take this jacket out was in more of a commuter way. Temperatures were in the single digits, but feeling cooped up, we had to get out. Hence, a trip to the library and Rec. Center with the little ones was in order. Having recently sold my car, the only feasible way to do that is by bike. My girls were bundled up and quite cozy in the completely enclosed bike trailer while I was left to brave the cold, wind, and snow. It was actually quite liberating, but the looks I got from motorists ranged from surprise and disbelief to WTF. With a simple base layer, and thin fleece, my outer layer performed quite admirably. It took me a minute to get over the cold shock, but once I got moving, the insulating qualities from the jacket started to kick in. By the time I actually got to the library, I was nice and toasty (note to self: a balaclava is a good idea for next time to keep my face warm).
Second test, a neighborhood Cross Country Ski (one of these days, a ‘real’ bike ride will happen, I promise). With a good 8 inches of snow, the chance to mix up my workout regime was prime for some cross training. Again, temperatures were hovering around the 0 degree mark, and I kid you not, within half a mile, I was super warm. The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell was doing its job keeping the cold windy external air out while the one spinal vent allowed me to dump some sweat and heat. Now, cross country skiing is one of the more aerobic workouts you can think of, and before long I was truly sweating heavily. From now on I will use my Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell for its intended purpose, but it was great to see how well the Jacket worked in a cross training capacity.
Yes, a 30 degree day with clear roads, and I jumped at the chance to get a ride in with friends. In order for me to meet the group of pretty hard core riders, I have to leave my house at 5:35. It’s dark and definitely cold these days. I have some entry level lights that provide enough coverage for me to see and be seen. The reflective properties of the Pearl Izumi Elite added a nice extra layer of visibility to hopefully keep me safe on the roads. As a larger group the safety in numbers thing does work to our benefit, but there are times when riding alone does happen either getting to the meet up point, or getting popped off the back when the pace gets up there while I am still in off season or base mode. I stayed warm throughout, and did have to unzip when things got grippy as the pace line was averaging 30 mph for a section through a local State Park.
Mid-January has actually blessed us here with almost a week of 50 degree temperatures, and I took full advantage. When you add in the wind and 30 plus mile per hour mountain descents, this Elite Softshell was definitely a welcome addition. The venting in the back and the collar tab came in handy when climbing. It allowed me to open the zipper to provide some airflow while keeping the jacket together.
And finally, numerous rides on a local favorite called the “Airport Loop” has seen a host of winter conditions to put this jacket to the test. A recent ride had temperatures in the mid 40’s and one of those beautiful Blue Bird days here in Colorado. The sun beating down made for quite a warm day. I wore one simple base layer, and did decide to wear my Elite Softshell. I wasn’t pushing it to the max, but I warmed up quite quickly. Then I changed directions and the wind took hold. Factor in that the sun was setting quickly behind some wispy horizon clouds, and the temperatures dropped precipitously. I was super glad I had this jacket. I zipped up nice and tight, and managed to make it home without getting any kind of chill whatsoever. It does go to show that the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is truly meant for colder and windier day, and because of it I’ve been out on more rides had this jacket not been part of my winter riding arsenal.
I know we need to be visible on the bike, and sometimes that does mean going loud and bright when it comes to bicycle kits, be it jackets or jerseys. From a stylish and look standpoint, I like simple and basic. I have the Black color with a few white reflective highlights, and I like it a lot. This is a jacket that will see many seasons of actions because it has a classic look to it.
Body: 100% polyester
Weight: 258 g/m2 10,000 mm waterproof/ 3000 g/m2/24-hour breathability
Panels: 65% polyester 35% S.Café® polyester
Available colors: Mykonos Blue/Black, Screaming Yellow/Black, Black, True Red/Black
Final Thoughts on the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket
This is really a sweet winter riding jacket. It has kept out the cold and wind while providing a streamlined fit to keep everything nice and tight and as aero as possible. Adequate storage in the pockets and plenty of visibility along with a host of technical features will see to it that you don’t really have to worry about anything other than staying safe on the roads. The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket is a perfect companion for Winter and Spring riding, so you can get a jump on the summer racing season.
For more information on this and other fine cycling outerwear please visit: www.pearlizumi.com