Light, comfortable jersey and pants for steamy summer rides
Pearl Izumi is an integral part of the global bicycle culture. In recent decades their iconic symbol was worn proudly on the jerseys of Tour de France winners, world champions, and top riders. The company, which was actually founded in Japan, established itself in the United States in the 1980s, and a few years ago returned to Japanese hands after being purchased by Shimano. Aside from the vast line of riding gear for road and mountain bikers, the company also offers professional running equipment, including a large line of shoes, clothes, and triathlon suits.
For this steamy summer, we were provided a lightweight set of clothes designated for trail riding. So for the sake of our devoted readers, we activated our sweat glands for a comprehensive test in the uncompromising heat and humidity of summer. We tested both the Divide jersey and the Canyon shorts.
The Divide is a loose-cut and relaxed riding jersey, which nevertheless does not resemble typical freeride shirts; in fact, it would not look that odd even if we were wearing it while out for a hike. The shirt is made of polyester fabric with “inRCool” and “Ice-fil” technologies, which provide the fabric with a high wicking factor and certain cooling abilities. In addition, inside the sleeves lies a mesh fabric for even higher evaporation. A long front zipper on the front of the shirt (nearly 30 cm long) was very useful on hot days for flowing air to cool the chest in the soup-ish conditions of June and July. The Divide is equipped with a relatively small back pocket with a zipper, as well as a small cloth for wiping off sweaty sunglasses, which is attached to the seam of the shirt.
On the trail
Though it is a loose-cut riding shirt, the line of the back pocket has a kind of internal strip which makes it slightly tighter than other similar shirts. This required some getting used to, but after we became accustomed to it, we found it very useful, especially when the shirt is drenched in sweat. The Divide’s fabric wicks very well indeed but we found it too thick for hot summer days, during which we were not really impressed by its proclaimed cooling capabilities. As a matter of personal taste, this writer does not favor back pockets when it comes to riding anything but cross-country, so we didn’t really find it especially useful. In contrast, the wiping cloth worked well.
The Divide boasts high-quality fabric and is very comfortable. We would have preferred the fabric to be a bit thinner, but generally speaking, we liked the cut and the relaxed look.
For better: comfort, wicking fabric, long zipper in front
For worse: Fabric slightly too thick.
The Canyon shorts are light baggy pants designated for trail riding, with a thin and especially comfortable fabric. They bear a straight cut and come at a medium length, ending approximately 10cm above the knee. The pants come with an internal, removable chamois, made of light, seamless mesh fabric with medium-thickness pad. The Canyon includes two open front pockets and a single side pocket with a zipper. They stay in place via button and zipper, just like the pair of jeans you have in your closet, and can be exactly fitted by adjusting an internal Velcro strip. As Pearl Izumi are known as relatively conservative designers, the Canyon can be found in , black ,orange a new blue version should be out soon), without any stylish graphics or color combinations. As a matter of fact, for all purposes they can be worn as (very comfortable) casual pants.
On the trail
The Canyon’s cut is very successful. The pants sit relatively loosely on the rider’s body, but still close enough to not get in the way and/or get snagged on the saddle. The closing mechanism’s lack of sophistication is genius in our eyes – no buckles to open and no special buttons which wear out. The Canyon remains snug on the body in any situation, even without the help of an external belt, as is often required with allegedly-sophisticated mechanisms that are not always successful.
The Canyon’s fabric is very light and has a water-repelling capability (“Transfer Dry”). Thus, aside from the fact that it feels airy and very pleasant to the body, it also remains relatively dry even in the heat of a mid-summer ride. The pants have “only” three pockets, which is an advantage since you don’t need to ask yourself what to do with all those pockets, as is the case in some other models. The down side? You’ll have to live with a relatively simple look.
The Canyon’s chamois is very comfortable. The ventilated fabric works great with the outer pants, and we did not feel any special heat build-up. While the pad is of medium thickness, we found it adequate for most of the rides we took it out on.
The designers at Pearl Izumi have proved once again that they know what they are doing. Perhaps they don’t conform to the latest fashions, but the company manufactures riding gear that is more comfortable and functional than most riding sets we’ve worn. The Canyon became one of our favorite riding pants thanks to the features of its unique fabric and the ease of its use. Even the conservative black look was very well received, especially because it fits most jerseys.
For better: excellent fabric, cut, ease of use
For worse: the conservative style may not be very rider’s cup of tea