Winter is never far from these shores and while we may now be less than a month from the change of the clock and the official start of British Summer Time, balmy, sun-soaked days feel a long way off.
With this in mind, we called in some warm kit from Japanese-American brand, Pearl Izumi, which we’ll test in the weeks ahead in the hope of staying alive until conditions improve.
Bib-tights, a long-sleeve base layer, and a soft shell outer layer will comprise the outfit.
Let’s take a closer look.
P.R.O Softshell 180 jacket
More robust than a jersey, soft shells offer protection from the elements but with greater breathability than typically found in garments dedicated to either keeping out rain or cheating the wind.
This offering is from Pearl’s flagship P.R.O range. Its principal component is polyester, 13 per cent of which is a blend of the stuff known to Pearl Izumi as ‘Minerale’ and for which they claim enhanced weather-beating properties.
There’s a surprisingly large ‘Napoleon’ pocket on the chest and a deep, zip-topped pocket on the tail, divided internally into two segments. The latter doesn’t fill us with hope (the need to unzip a rear pocket while riding seems like an unnecessary complication) but we’ll reserve judgement.
More inspiring is the collar, which fastens with a popper, allowing the rider to lower the zip for ventilation without the jacket billowing. Further ventilation comes from Pearl Izumi’s ‘Direct Vent’ panels (the black bits), sewn in the side panels, where they extend to the arm pits, in the centre of the back, and above each wrist.
Inside, there’s a soft, brushed lining that looks warm and comfortable, a silicone hem and zip guard. There are also two internal ‘mitts’ that begin just above the wrist and which are held in place with a thumb loop, offering some protection to the hands for days presumably too warm for gloves.
We can say immediately that the fit is excellent. It’s long in the arm, like many Pearl Izumi garments in our experience, but this has traditionally proved a boon when on the bike with arms bent (shorter sleeves would of course ride up and expose the wrist). The fit across the body is close, but thanks to the fabric, shows no signs of being restrictive.
Our test jacket is in a rather fetching red and black, but other colour schemes are available: black and red, white and black, and mustard and black.
The Pearl Izumi P.R.O Softshell Jackets comes in five sizes, from S to XXL, and costs £129.99.
Transfer Long-Sleeve Zip Neck base layer
The ‘Minerale’ polyester used in the “Direct Vent” panels of the P.R.O Softshell 180 jacket accounts for more than half of the fabric of this base layer.
It’s fleece-lined and has claimed thermal properties, so we’d suggest it’s one for cooler days. Pearl Izumi recommend it for use in a wide temperature band of +/- 15 degrees, perhaps worn as an outer layer at the upper end, and as part of a layering system at the lower.
The three-quarter, eight-inch zip ends at a high collar, which Pearl Izumi say tapers from front to back. At the rear, there’s a long drop tail.
The Transfer Long-Sleeve Zip Neck base layer comes in five sizes from S to XXL, in black or white and costs £44.99.
Select Thermal Cyc bib tight
Select is the entry point to Pearl Izumi’s range and these bib tights sell for £89.99. Have we discovered a bargain or a false economy? Testing will reveal all.
Early signs are encouraging. The shoulder straps and back panel are made from lycra, not polyester mesh, but are perforated, promising a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario of comfort and breathability.
The fabric in the legs offers an impressive amount of stretch. Pearl Izumi make claims for warmth and wicking, and we’ll be testing both. The legs end with an eight-inch zip to the ankle and a silicone hem gripper.
At the front, there’s an additional panel, presumably intended to cover the ankle. This is a new one on us, and we’ll report on its ability or otherwise to offer additional protection from the elements.
Pearl Izumi call the insert a Tour 3D Chamois. The padding is 13mm deep at the sit bones, and it’s shaped in the classic ‘loveheart’ profile.
Our initial concerns centre on the leg length. Our 5’10” test pilot is a medium size in other brands, but the legs of these tights are a little too long, causing wrinkles in the fabric. We’ll see how they fare on the bike.
The Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Cyc Bib Tight is available in black, and in four sizes, from S to XL. It costs £89.99.
We’ll be testing all three garments in the weeks ahead. Check back soon for a full review.