So winter slammed the door shut on our local riding scene with a BANG pretty much the day we punched out the first of the Winter Gear review pieces this past November. Up until then it had been unseasonably mild: warm and dry; so that was a bit of a shock. We can typically ride pretty much all through the dark months of winter, less a couple truly miserable days. Not so this past winter: after that first snow storm/ice storm, we got hammered with over 90” (205cm) of the white stuff, and it came to stay. And stay. And stay. Consequently, we got a bit of a slow start to our spring riding—hence the somewhat tardy delivery of this summer clothing review piece.
This is the fourth review of this kind I've done for Pinkbike and by now, most of the readers know the drill, so I'll keep the tech weenie talk to a minimum by stating that most of the garments here use some kind of 2 or 4-way stretch material; that's typically just a polyester and elastane (lycra) blend. Some fabrics have more elastane than others, but that blend of materials is the norm for nearly all the performance apparel fabrics. If there’s a particular fabric with a fancy trademark name that does something amazing, I’ll touch on it, but at the end of the day this review is about how the clothes tested in real world riding.
For this clothing guide, I requested trail riding/enduro kits from Sombrio, Leatt, Pearl Izumi, Ion, Flare Clothing, DHaRCO,100%, and O’Neal. All are reputable companies, even if a couple are new kids on the block. I requested the kind of apparel that matches my riding style: light park duty to all day epics vs. full blown DH gear or XC race skin suits—no one wants to see me in a skin suit, believe me! I asked for the styles and colors that I like (although in the case of the 100% I’ve been told that orange is NOT my color), and was sent clothing samples for the review based on what was in stock and that matched my style/size preferences first, color preference second.
I stand 5'9" (175cm), weigh 165 lbs (75 kg) have a size 32/33" (81-42cm) waist, a 40" (102cm) chest. Typically that translates to a size M short and M top. But as I've learned the hard way, always try it on at a store or check the size chart before you buy (or order online). Since I can't photograph myself easily (nor am I particularly photogenic on a bike; I get down the hill alright but I've been told I can look a bit spastic), I rely on free agent Justin Fernandes to be my "Stig"—we match up exactly in sizing, and he's a way smoother rider than I'll ever be, meaning you get to see how the clothes actually fit when being ridden hard.
The process I take in testing all this gear is pretty straightforward: I test each kit on two rides with a minimum of 60 minutes in the saddle. Usually I ride longer, but that's my baseline for a test ride. For the clothing, I look for fit first, function second, and then durability. I only check the price tag when I'm writing it all up. Since I don’t ride park much—maybe 10 days out of the year? Or race DH, I tend to prefer semi-fitted garments that breathe well because more often than not I’m pedaling up as well as down. It’s safe to say that I ride bikes a bit more than the average person and I'm not rolling in cash, so if I'm buying, I prefer stuff that will last a season or two of hard riding mixed with the occasional crash. As a result, my take is simple: if something fits perfectly, breathes amazingly well, but is likely to shred the second I kiss the dirt, I’m generally not interested in running out to purchase it (although I will gladly test it). I'm more about dollars and sense: even if something fits like it was tailored to me, performs like it was handed down from on high, and will outlast extensive time on a bombing range, if it’s out of my budget, I’m going to look elsewhere or wait until it's on closeout and hope that my size is still available.
With the technology that’s going into bike clothing these days—what with fabrics that are light weight, durable, breathable, and wick well—it’s hard to find someone making something truly awful. As a consequence, all the gear I tested here is pretty good, leaving me hard pressed to rave over one kit more so than any other, or toss one under the bus. But I have my likes and dislikes, so I’ll put a comparison chart at the bottom for quick reference with a best buy and a top pick. SOMBRIO
Sombrio is a North Shore, BC, based mountain bike clothing company that was originally founded by Dave Watson and Andrew Shandro, among others. Watson eventually bought out his partners and in turn eventually sold Sombrio to Sugoi (a Dorel Industries brand). Sugoi has kept a bit of a hands off policy with Sombrio, as in it leaves Sombrio to do its thing, which is create stylish clothing suitable for heavy park days and DH racing as well as clothing for all day epics.
Badass Short $100 USD
Sizes: XS-XXL (tested size M)
Colors: Black (tested) and Surf Blue
The Badass short features a standard fitted design and is touted as Sombrio’s as a bit of a do it all short. It’s something of a minimalist short, featuring only what you need and not much else. It has external Velcro waist tab adjusters and fastens with a single Velcro reinforced snap. There is a zippered pocket on the left thigh with a key keeper/lift pass loop nestled inside as well as another discrete stash sleeve within that’s directly against your thigh so as to keep whatever you stash from bouncing around too much. This sleeve is a bit too small for a phone but suitable for a multi-tool. It also has a zippered mesh-lined pocket on the right rear hip. It features a 14” inseam and is constructed from a DWR treated “quatrro flex lite” fabric. The short is cut a bit shorter behind the knee to prevent fabric bunching when wearing knee guards. It does not come with a chamois liner short.
Despite the cut of the Badass short being touted as standard fit, out of the gate I found the cut to be slim with no excess fabric to flap or snag my saddle. On the trail it performed perfectly; it moved well when pedaling or rallying technical trails, and the 14” inseam provided adequate coverage even on overgrown trails with brush slapping my thighs as I pedaled along. I tend to wear minimalist knee guards like 7iDP or G-form, and with the higher cut behind the knee, I had no issues with them binding when pedaling. In very short order, I found these to be a short I was reaching for time and time again. They also didn’t necessarily look like a mountain bike short, so I didn’t feel like a bike nerd when stopping into my local watering hole for a beer or when grabbing a post ride bite.
Ridgeline Jeresy $65 USD
Sizes: XS-XL (tested size M)
Colors: Gray Melange (tested) and Surf Blue
The Sombrio Ridgeline Jersey is a quarter zip short sleeve jersey constructed from a polyester and elastane fabric treated with “Chill Mesh” technology: a Xylitol treatment applied to the perforated mesh fabric to help cool you as well as wick sweat away from your body. There is a zippered back pocket over the right kidney.
The Ridgeline Jersey fit nicely: loose, but not too loose. There’s a slight drop tail on the jersey that gives a bit of coverage over your shorts when in a riding position—nice for keeping dirt spackle off your lower back. It breathed well, but I had no way to measure what, if any, “chill” effect I was getting from the Xylitol treatment. But it didn’t stink up at all. The kidney pocket on the back right hand side was able to easily accommodate a phone. The flat stitching and the fabric moved well over my base layer piece as well as glided smoothly underneath a shell when it was chilly out.
I rode in this kit multiple times, and had zero complaints on fit or function. The fabric has just enough elastane in it to move well, with or without a hydration pack on. I’m not really a fan of being the man in black and gray, and Sombrio offers this kit a red short/red and blue jersey combo as well. FLARE Clothing Co
Flare is a UK based relative new-comer to the mountain bike apparel world. They got their genesis in 2012, seeking to answer that typical “Why can’t we find affordable, good clothing for riding?” question and began making prototypes in 2013. All apparel minus their custom kits is now manufactured in Portugal to take advantage of advances in textile manufacturing and a skilled workforce, and while their line is small, they are growing.
Flare Stage Enduro Short £80
Colors: Black (tested), blue
The Stage Enduro short is constructed of a nice 4-way stretch fabric with a reinforced seat panel for durability and a mesh liner the length of the inside. It has external Velcro waist tab adjusters, an MX style snap fastener over the burly main zipper, and two zippered hip pockets easily large enough for a smart phone. It has a 14.5” inseam as measured, and there are v-shaped cuts at the cuff to help accommodate knee guards.
This short is touted as being both water and abrasion resistant, and I will testify that due to its burly construction, it should do both with aplomb. Consequently, it’s not a light weight dance partner of a short, either. The fit IS good, however, and while it is a slightly looser fit than I typically prefer, it didn’t snag the saddle in technical sections of trial or flap annoyingly when descending at speed: all good in my book. But that burly construction means that it is heavy, and while there’s no question that it will withstand a crash or six, it’s not the short I’d be reaching for during an all-day adventure unless there’s a chairlift involved. I did, however, appreciate the straightforward design and its performance while pedaling, despite its mediocre breathability. The mesh lining inside insured that the short never bound up on my chamois or my knee guards. Overall, I was impressed with the fit and durability but would likely only wear this on days in the bike park or when lift assisted as it didn’t breathe as well as I’d like for long rides.
Flare Stage ¾ Sleeve Jersey £50
Colors: Orange/Teal (tested) and Gray/Blue
The Flare Stage ¾ Sleeve Jersey is a crew necked 100% polyester design with a lighter weight mesh panel on the back for breathability. It has a slim fit with a drop tail to add a bit of coverage to the lower back when riding.
This was a super slim fitting jersey, and in hindsight, I should have checked the size chart more closely and requested a size L; my 40” (102cm chest) is typically a size M, but it sits squarely in size L on Flare's fit chart. Still, despite the snug fit, it moved well and breathed well. It wasn’t flat stitched but it didn’t snag on my base layer or chafe my skin. The colors were a bit flashier than I’d normally want, but I can’t fault the performance and it is available in the less “notice me” Gray/Blue colorway as well. ION
Ion is a relatively young company with roots initially based in watersports apparel and equipment for everything from SUP to windsurfing to wake sports. In late 2012, Ion took their approach to fun, functional apparel and equipment to mountain biking, and they’ve been going at it ever since with a broad range of clothing and practical gear as well as protection. They sponsor a variety of MTB athletes, most notably the Yeti Enduro team with Richie Rude and Cody Kelly, but also including Antoine Bizet, Mike Hopkins, and Julia Hofman.
Ion Scrub_Amp Short $125 USD
Sizes: S-XXL/30-38 in whole sizes (Tested S/30)
Colors: Black, Combat Red, Lime Punch, and Stream Blue (tested)
The Ion Scrub_Amp short is Ion’s top tier short. The 4-way stretch material is constructed of a double weave fabric that’s treated with Repellen_SI, a DWR type of coating, to help ward off water and mud. There are external Velcro waist tab adjusters, a hanger hook on the back inside the waist, and a Velcro reinforced single snap waist closure. The short doesn’t really have a fly; rather it uses a lycra flap to allow easy on/off, but no threat of having a blown zipper ruin your day. There are two zippered hip pockets—the right one has a small, light-weight neoprene sleeve inside it for your phone. Seams are triple stitched for durability. As measured, it has a 13.5” inseam. For ventilation, there are laser cut holes on the insides of the thigh. It does not come with a chamois liner short.
The fit on these shorts was perfect. It felt almost tailored—I didn’t even have to cinch down the waist. There was no sag or loose cloth to snag the saddle or flap like mad when riding, but at the same time they offered complete freedom of movement. The shorts breathed well, too, preventing “crotch pot” cooking of my privates on extended climbs. I never crash tested the shorts but the fabric of the short had a reliably robust feel to it despite the lighter weight of the short. Overall, they are everything I’d want in a short in the way of fit, function, and durability. My only real nit pick was the large branding on the left side of the short; I prefer a more understated look to my gear. And while they are a bit more costly than other shorts in the review, they also feature most of the bells and whistles one would expect at this price point, plus they have a great fit.
Ion Scrub_Amp ¾ Sleeve Jersey $85 USD
Sizes: S-XL (tested L)
Colors: Black, Combat Red, Dark Night, and Stream Blue
The Scrub_Amp ¾ sleeve Jersey is a bit of a split personality: the body of the jersey uses a DriRelease (a 14% cotton / 86%polyester fabric blend designed to mimic the look and feel of cotton but with the breathability and wicking performance of polyester) front panel and a 100% polyester arms and back panel that’s been treated with “Sanitize”, an anti-stink compound. It has a standard crew neck, a goggle wipe on the right hem, and a slight drop tail. Seams are not flat stitched.
Again, great fit. I particularly liked the snug cuff on the sleeve that kept the ¾ sleeves from riding up when riding. And these are true ¾ length sleeves, so they give great coverage from sun and brush when riding. And while the sleeves are a touch snug, they still have enough give to accommodate light weight elbow guards should you want to walk that way. The DriRelease front panel felt good next to skin, and the Sanitize treatment seemed to work because the jersey didn’t stink up at all during my two test rides. LEATT
Leatt is a South African based company that got its start tragically in 2001 when Dr. Chris Leatt witnessed the death of a moto rider and began working on prototypes of the now famous Leatt Neck brace. We all know where that development led, don’t we? Since then, Leatt has come out with helmets, hydration packs, a variety of protective pads and guards as well as apparel. All designed in conjunction with medical doctors and biomedical engineers.
Leatt DBX 3.0 Short $70 USD
Sizes: XS-XL (tested size L)
Colors: Black and Brushed (tested).
The Leatt DBX 3.0 Short is a softshell short designed for all day riding. The main body of the short is constructed with a four-way stretch material with a water/dirt resistant treatment, but it has a panel of 500D 3 layer in the seat area for durability, and a mesh stretch panel for mobility across the lumbar portion of the short. There are external Velcro waist tab adjusters, a two snap waist closure, and a single pocket on the right hip. It has a hanger hook on the back. The legs of the short are pre-curved for riding position and cut for use with knee guards. As measured, they have a 14.5” inseam. It does not come with a liner chamois short.
The waist fit on these is exact, as in if you are a hair over size in the waist, size up or muffin top. Be warned. My 32/33" waist was a no go for a size M, so I sized up to an L and had zero issues. There’s a soft, brushed fabric on the waist that has a nice next to skin feel. The knee opening is definitely roomy—I had no issues with knee guards not fitting or binding at the cuff. The back panel makes the short move freely and the pre-curved nature of the legs meant that the short moved nicely with my body: zero issues with hooking the saddle in technical terrain, even on a nasty over the bars I took during a ride. Which also somewhat settled the durability question. My only nitpick is that the short doesn’t breathe as well as some others. Still, for the price, this is a fantastic deal, making it my best value pick by a whisker over the O'Neal Pin It III shorts.
Leatt DBX 3.0 Jersey $45 USD
Sizes: XS to XL—XXL in black/gray (tested size M)
Colors: Brushed (tested), Black Gray, Black Blue, Black Gray, and Black Green
The Leatt ¾ sleeve jersey is comprised of MoistureCool fabric, a 98% polyester / 2% other blend of mesh fabric that has air channels woven into it. It has flat, overlocking seams, a V-neck collar, a goggle wipe on the back right side (over the kidney) that doubles as a sleeve pocket, and the neck is compatible with a Leatt neck brace.
The fit on this is pretty spot on, although the sleeves aren’t really a true ¾ length, coming down only to my elbow, but that’s ok with me. The jersey otherwise was exactly as described by Leatt: comfortable, breathable, and wicking. I don’t have a neck brace so it was impossible for me to test that compatibility, but I trust that if they make the neck brace as well as the jersey, that they will likely play nicely. I didn't use the inner sleeve pocket, either, as I prefer to stash keys, etc in my shorts vs. a place where a pack strap might cause it to dig into me. DHaRCO
DHaRCO (Down Hill Aussie Riding Collective) is a relative newcomer to the mountain bike clothing game but they have their priorities in place by sourcing smart fabrics and utilizing functional, surf lifestyle inspired riding apparel. Their motto of “No Ordinary Life” is meant to reflect their belief that “mountain biking creates an amazing lifestyle. Whomever you are in the day to day world, when you get on the bike life is just awesome. Any stress of the day is gone. Biking gives you a sense of freedom, adrenaline, good times with mates. Not to mention the amazing places we explore, the people and the respect for nature that it creates.” Indeed.
DHaRCO Men’s Gravity Short $99.95 USD
Sizes: S-XXL (tested size M)
Colors: Lava Red (tested), Fern Green, Chain Black
The DHaRCO Men’s Gravity short is semi-fitted but utilizes a 4-way stretch material in its construction to allow full freedom of movement. There are external Velcro waist tab adjusters, a soft, brushed material lining the waist, a Velcro reinforced 2 snap waist closure, and two pockets: one on the left hip and one at the base of the spine (smaller and suitable for a car key or lift pass/credit card). The inseam measures to 13.5”. A liner chamois short is not included.
The fit of this short was similar to the Sombrio. It moved well when pedaling or pin balling through rock gardens; I never came close to snagging the knees or the crotch while riding, and had zero issues with knee guard compatibility. The left hand side pocket was a bit of a bummer as I am right handed, but whatever. The short breathed well, too, even though I was wearing a bib chamois liner short. I never crash tested them, but the short just has that no nonsense kind of construction and feel to them that oozes durability.
I’d definitely grab these for an all day ride or an afternoon in the bike park. And the surf inspired design doesn’t scream "bike dork!", either, making post ride apres activities a bit more civilized.
DHaRCO Tech Tee $49.95 USD
Sizes: S-XL (tested size M)
Colors: Black Logo (tested), Party, X, and Blue Logo
DHaRCO sent both their Short Sleeve Riding Jersey in Atoll Blue as well as their Tech Tee in Black with a logo'd front. If I'm not wearing a 3/4 sleeve jersey, my go to is typically a tech tee, so I opted to test DHaRCO's Tech Tee instead over the jersey and I have no regrets at all (although although their SS Jersey is quite nice). Their Tech Tee, like the Ion jersey, is made using DriRelease fabric, and has a nice, semi fitted cut to it. Other than that, it is a plain jane tech tee.
The fit of the size M was right on the money. And even with the logo on the front, it looked more like a cotton t-shirt than a technical garment, but more importantly, against my skin, it felt exactly like a cotton tee-shirt, but it breathed and wicked like a technical garment. And as advertised, it didn’t stink up, nor was it clingy with sweat the way a 100% cotton tee would have been. It didn’t offer the extra protection a ¾ or long sleeve jersey would, nor did it breathe as well as a jersey with mesh venting; but I was overall pretty stoked with both the performance and the working man's simplicity of this garment. Home run in my book. O'NEAL
O’Neal has been around since the 1960s as an MX clothing and protective gear manufacturer and distributor. Bike gear was a natural for them and they’ve been relying on Greg Minnaar for feedback since first sponsoring him, as well as big mountain free ride legend, James Doerfling.
O’Neal Pin It III Short $80 USD (without chamois; the “Helter Skelter Inner Short” sells separately for $40)
Sizes: 28-38 in whole sizes (tested size 32)
Colors: Black, Gray, Red (tested), and Green
The Pin It III Short is an MX inspired short (how can you not notice the" X marks the spot" crotch mesh/gusset thing that seems to be the norm on all MX inspired shorts?!?!?) but with a definite trail riding bent to it. It uses a zip fly with a snap closure and ratchet strap cinch to fine tune the waist fit. There’s rubber gripper inside the waist of the short to make sure the short stays put, as well. Four-way stretch material and mesh panels are widely used in the construction for freedom of movement. The crotch is seamless and utilizes a tougher fabric for durability. The short also utilizes mesh inside the legs for ease of movement over one’s under layers and knee guards. Last but not least, there are two zippered pockets on the hips and two zippered air vents. The short came with a Helter Skelter chamois attached but I was unable to find that option on the website (or this color; that was on the European website). The inseam as measured came up to be 12.5”.
Shockingly light weight, but loaded with performance is the main thing I had to say when testing these. These shorts fit ok—they ran a bit big in the waist; but the waist cinch made for a nice, secure fit; I’ve had Velcro adjusters release on me or snag my jersey in the past, and then come undone mid ride—not a worry with a ratchet cinch! The leg vents made a definite air flow through the shorts when riding on a hot day. And the flex and stretch of the fabric allowed complete, unhindered movement while riding. Despite the shorter inseam, there was no gaper gap with G-Form or 7iDP knee guards.
The included Helter Skelter liner chamois short that came with the Pin It III was of mediocre quality, in my humble opinion. It breathed poorly and it felt as if I was wearing a wet diaper 30 minutes into a ride vs. the supportive feel and wicking nature of a quality chamois. I could not wait to get it off me as soon as possible.
I could only find the short available as a stand alone item for $80, and the Helter Skelter inner short as an accessory for an extra $40; I’ve no idea how I got the two as a single item. But that’s great news for consumers, as a short that’s as packed with features as this at such a low price is a great deal. This only just missed being my best value short by a whisker, and that was based mostly on the fact that this may not be as durable as the Leatt short; I wasn't able to do a long term test on either but while the O'Neal has better breathability, the Leatt just feels a bit more solid and offers a bit more coverage.
O’Neal Pin It III Jersey $50 USD
Sizes: S-XL (tested size M)
Colors: Green, Red (tested), and Gray
The Pin It III Jersey is a v-necked jersey constructed from a 100% polyester fabric with mesh panels under the arms for breathability/venting. It’s got flat locked seams for comfort against skin and a discrete zippered pocket on the back of the right side over the kidney. There’s a subtle graphic on the right side of the chest.
The Pin It III jersey had a tight neck opening, making it hard to pull over my head, but once on,the neck didn’t bother me. It breathed reasonably well and moved reasonably well, even with a hydration pack on. It didn’t stink up at all during the two 90+ minutes rides I wore it. I never used the pocket as I typically wear a pack or a fanny pack, and anything in a pocket like this will dig into my side, so I’ve no opinion one way or the other with that. All in all, it was decent jersey that did exactly what it was supposed to and nothing more.100%
100% is another MX Cross-over brand. The original brand was started by Drew Lien back in the early 80s. He created a few widgets for MX racing—brake line protectors, thicker number plates, etc. Nowadays, for MX the company only really makes goggles. But, a lot of their athletes train on mountain bikes and road bikes. Sensing an opportunity, 100% stepped into the cycling scene, first with eyewear about two years ago; but they have quickly moved into full face helmets, gloves, and apparel, and their initial forays into MTB are looking good. But how does the clothing perform?
100% Celium Short $169 USD
Sizes: 28-38 in whole sizes (tested size 32)
Colors: Tie-dyed Blue, Tie-dyed Black, Solid Cone Zone (tested), and Solid Astro.
Stripped down and race day light, these were by far the lightest pair of shorts in the group of shorts that I tested, but despite the light weight, they are loaded with features. They have a half fly à la the Fox Attack Pro shorts tested last year, with no zipper and a single, discrete snap waist closure for a clean look. Adjustment duties on the waist are handled by a unique, shock cord system. The short is constructed of a 4-way stretch fabric with laser cut ventilation on the inner thigh and hamstring. It features two zipped pockets: one on the right thigh and one on the left hip. All seams are welded for comfort vs. stitched (this minimizes hot spots). There’s a TPR hanger hook on the rear of the waist. The Celium short is topped off with a removable, premium chamois with laser cut perforations for breathability. As measured, the shorts had a 13.5” inseam.
Well, as noted earlier, orange is really NOT my color, but then again, neither are 100%’s tie-dye options or the “Solid Astro” colorway. But regardless of color, I can’t fault 100%’s Celium shorts. The fit is perfect. The inseam is a tiny bit short for my tastes, but there’s no gaper gap with knee guards on and you don’t feel as if you’re swathed in a pair of “man-pris” when not using armor, either. Along with the tailored fit, they move freely no matter how aggressive you are on the trail, or what kind of awkward shapes you’re making as you flail through a bit of unexpectedly technical terrain. The shock cord adjusters translated into one handed, on-the-fly, waist adjustments vs. having to pull over mid-ride and grab a Velcro strap or tug on a ratchet of some kind. The shorts breathed well, too—not sure if that’s the laser cut holes or the light weight fabric, but either way, it meant that I wasn’t sweating my b----s off when riding, even though I tested this short with temps in the mid 80s F range (28C or so). The Celiums came with a well-ventilated chamois, too, removable with a pair of scissors vs the snap in/out variety; but it performed well, with zero hot spots or chaffing during a pair of lengthy rides with extended climbs.
Pretty much this short performed flawlessly. My only concern was the crashability aspect: they are so light weight that I have to wonder about durability in the event of a hard landing. And I definitely would opt for something different from 100%’s line up for lift assisted riding.
100% Celium Jersey $69 USD
Sizes: S-XL (tested size M)
Colors: Heather Blue, Heather Black (tested), Solid Black, Solid Cola
The body of the short sleeve Celium Jersey is constructed of a 4-way stretch microbial (anti-stink) mock mesh fabric with laser cut venting between the shoulder blades for breathability. It has a V-neck and flat stitched seams for comfort. There’s a generous drop tail for coverage in the rear. A goggle/glasses wipe is included on the left hem.
Like the short, this was the lightest jersey in the test group. It had a nice stretch to the body, and while it was a snug, it didn’t at all feel clingy; rather it moved exceptionally well, even with a pack on. I rode the piss out of this jersey on some hot, muggy days, too; and I never found breathability to be an issue despite the heat and humidity; not sure it was the laser cut venting or just the light nature of the fabric, as I had a pack on for both rides. Nor did I have any sweat induced funk develop, even though I tossed it in my laundry bag to ferment for two days right after a fairly aggressive ride.
I personally prefer a longer sleeve to a jersey—this almost felt more like a road cycling jersey. But from a performance standpoint, I can’t fault this jersey at all. I have no doubt that this jersey will last a season of hard riding, but as with the short, I am somewhat suspicious of its durability in a crash. As Keith Bontrager used to say, “Strong, light, cheap; pick two.” Or in this case, maybe pick one. PEARL IZUMI
Pearl Izumi's story starts in 1950 in Japan with a man named Kinji Shimizu who rode 38 miles every day to deliver 90 lbs of clothing to a neighboring village. In 1964, his son made the Japanese national team and came home with an Italian made cycling kit. From there, Kinji started an obsessive drive to create better cycling apparel designs, and Pearl Izumi, the “fountain of pearls” as it translates, was born.
Pearl Izumi Launch Short $135 USD
Sizes: XS-XXL (tested size M)
Colors: Avocado/Black (tested), Eclipse Blue/Black, and Black/Black
The Launch short is designed to be a mid weight, durable short with a relaxed fit for all day riding. The rip stop four way stretch fabric has a DWR treatment to help repel water. There are internal Velcro waist tab adjusters as well as belt loops, allowing a rider to choose how, exactly, they want to fine tune the fit. The zip fly is closed with two Velcro reinforced snaps. There are three zippered pockets: one on each hip and a cargo pocket on the right thigh. It comes with a snap out chamois liner short with Pearl Izumi’s more premium 3D Tour Chamois pad. It’s rounded off with a 15” inseam.
These are a pretty comfy short, but they are definitely a mid-weight short, coming in right behind the Flare Stage in this test group of shorts for overall heft. Despite that, the fit was pretty good—roomy, but not so roomy as to flap an inordinate amount on high speed descents. And the ability to dial in the fit at the waist with either a belt or the inner waist band adjusters was nice. The included mesh liner short was comfortable and performed like a champ: zero hot spots or chafing and excellent breathability. But the Launch short itself didn’t breathe particularly well, due to the heavier fabric and lack of venting options. Additionally, no matter how much I cinched the waist, short of hiking them up to my belly button, there was a definite sag in the crotch. This wasn’t a problem when riding with the saddle dropped, but on multiple occasions I hooked the back of the saddle when by simply throwing a leg over it to mount up, which was kind of annoying. I'd think that was just me, but my body double encountered the same issue. Overall, I liked the short but not for all day pedal adventures; rather I’d use these as a light duty park short or lift assist adventures ala the Portes de Soleil or Whistler's Top of the World to Khyber Pass route.
Pearl Izumi Launch ¾ Sleeve Jersey $75 USD
Sizes: XS-XXL (tested size M)
Colors: Blue Mist/Eclipse Blue, Citron/Avocado (tested), and Black/Smoked Pearl
The Launch ¾ sleeve Jersey, like the Ion Scrub_Amp ¾ Sleeve Jersey, is a true ¾ sleeve jersey. It is constructed of a 100% polyester “transfer” fabric to wick away sweat. It has a v-neck collar and a drop tail for coverage of the lower back when in a riding position. It has a semi fitted form vs the previous season’s more relaxed fit. There are no pockets or goggle-wipes.
I liked this jersey a fair amount but it’s definitely a pretty fitted cut; if you’re right at the high side of a size, you might want to size up. It breathed and wicked reasonably well, and didn’t stink up at all during a couple of two hour rides. It moved well against my skin, too, as well as my base layer.
I’ve compiled my notes on performance to the two charts below. Included in them are my top picks as well as thoughts on best value. Have a great summer of shred!