It’s really amazing how much a good set of clothes disappears while you’re riding trails. It’s likewise astonishing how obvious the bad set becomes when it’s not working right. Pearl Izumi has been in the cycling apparel game for more than 50 years, so they should be getting things right at this point. After two months in some of their latest mountain bike gear, we can tell you, they are.
Pearl sent us a hodgepodge of their newest Summer 2016 gear. We’ve been riding in the Summit Jersey and Summit Gloves, the Journey Short, and the X-Alp Launch II shoes all over Colorado, from the dusty hardpack of North Table Mountain, to the surfy gravel of Captain Jacks, to Buffalo Creek and out west to Eagle’s amazing trail system. With a few nitpicks, we’re pretty stoked on each piece.
X-Alp Launch II
Mountain bike shoes generally fall into two categories. There’s the XC-style shoe with three straps, maybe a ratchet or a Boa, and some tread glued onto a stiff sole. Then there’s the flat shoe with broad, flat, sticky rubber soles and a skater aesthetic. Ne’er the twain shall meet, right? The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II is the lovechild of an XC shoe and a trail runner, giving you almost-XC stiffness and performance, but with walkability and traction.
Pearl Izumi breaks their mountain bike shoes into two lineups – the X-Alp and the X-Project. X-Alp is the more casual line while X-Project appears more race-focused. The X-Alp Launch II tops the X-Alp line without breaking the bank. It features a Boa closure up top and a single strap across the forefoot. Between the two, and the superb, deep heel cup, you get a solid connection with the shoe.
Sole stiffness is good, even though Pearl adds EVA foam (running shoe stuff) to the midsole for cushioning. The rubber outsole provides good traction in almost all conditions, but does get overpowered by gooey mud. Durability seems good – we haven’t noticed significant wear on the soles after over 100 miles ridden. And, we’re not concerned about the uppers, either. Despite accidental rock kickings, they show no signs of abnormal wear. Other than dirt, some abrasions on the soft EVA midsole are the only sign that the shoes have interacted with the trails.
Our only gripe with the shoes, which may well be user error, is that the Boa closures don’t seem to be centering the tongue, even with effort to do so. It ends up being offset to the outside on our feet. This offset doesn’t seem to alter performance and all and isn’t uncomfortable.
At $160, the X-Alp Launch IIs are a good value. We think they hit a sweet spot for most riders with both function and price. Available for both men and women in multiple colorways – search for the best price with our Gear Search Tool.
The Pearl Izumi Summit Jersey is about as basic as it gets, but adds some nice details that bump up performance. In a nutshell, the Summit Jersey is a tech-T. It features Pearl’s Transfer Fabric, a polyester weave designed to wick moisture away from your skin so it can evaporate and keep you cool. At an MSRP of $40, you’re in a good price range.
To the tech-T base, Pearl adds a side vent at the hem and a longer tail to keep you covered when in riding position. The neck has a slight V to it, which doesn’t change function, but looks nice. Graphics are relatively subtle, as far as bike jerseys generally go, with a logo on one side of the torso and the brand name on the other.
We found the Summit Jersey to be a great, entry-level jersey that doesn’t skimp on performance. Even in the hottest weather, it manages to wick and cool you off a bit. Fit and cut are spot on, and we appreciated the extra length in the back.
With the Journey Short, Pearl wasn’t really aiming at technical mountain bikers. They were trying to create a short that works for everyone in every situation. For the most part, it works. And, at $75, you get a short that gets the job done well.
The mens’ Journey Short features a 12″ inseam and a detachable liner with Pearl’s 3d Tour chamois. We really appreciated the internal waist adjustment system and the liner short was comfortable and had enough padding. We also like that the fly closure is a jean-style button instead of a snap. It’s much more secure.
Pearl says they designed the Journey to have boardshort aesthetics, which works for the most part, except that they added open pockets. Where are the zippers? We haven’t lost anything yet, but why risk it? Boardshorts have zippers on the pockets – or at least velcro – because things fall out of open pockets.
In sum, the Journey Shorts work well, ride well, and can sneak into town without looking too bikey. Men’s and women’s versions available, with a definite difference in the womens’ version – they didn’t just pink and shrink. Find the best price on a pair with our Gear Search Tool.
This’ll be short, we promise. The Pearl Izumi Summit Glove fits well, protects your hands, and doesn’t overheat. A neoprene section over the outer knuckles helps if you tend to punch rocks. There isn’t much padding, but you should be riding with good grips on your handlebars.
The gloves were a bit long for us, but we have short, wide hands. With gloves, fit is always an issue. Try them on before you buy. Also, in our testers, the labels were scratchy, to the point where we couldn’t wear the gloves for more than 30 minutes. A quick slice with some scissors fixed that and everything is hunky dory now. MSRP is $35. Grab them at the best price with our Gear Search Tool.