Pearl Izumi Winter Kit
Words by Chili Dog // Photos by Ryan Gladney
Chilly mornings, the smell of pumpkin spice in the air and girls in UGG boots can only mean one thing – fall is upon us. Ditching our highly ventilated jerseys for some thicker threads, we reached out to Pearl Izumi for some cool weather riding gear. The Colorado based company knows a thing or two about bike clothes, tracing their origins back to the 1960’s. The new Versa line is designed to function like technical bike clothing, while retaining the styling of normal clothes. At first glance, the Versa jacket and shorts look more like a casual waterproof outer layer and shorts than techy bike gear – and we love it.
We’ve put the Versa kit through its paces over the past two months, riding in everything from cold to downright hot weather. While the thermal jersey is a very winter specific item, the jacket and shorts are perfect to wear year round. We even rode the Versa shorts for an 80-degree bike park session as the ultimate breathability test. Thanks to the subdued look, the jacket is also pretty flexible and can double as an outer layer for hiking or just cruising around town in crappy weather.
Versa Barrier Jacket
Perfect for chilly morning rides when the trailside bushes are covered in dew, this jacket is just enough to take off the edge. The water and wind resistant Versa Barrier fabric with DWR finish won’t keep you dry in torrential rain, but it’s more than enough to block out puddle splash, light mist and wet leaves. It’s also got a hood that fits perfectly under a helmet as well as hidden hand mitts in the sleeves. Zippered pockets are easy to access but keep your phone or other important belongings dry and protected. The breathability of the fabric is also a plus, since more often than not you’re cold at the start of the ride, but warm up on the climb. For riders that find themselves on pavement to get to their local spots, the jacket also has reflective tape to improve visibility. Offered in a black/grey two tone and an olive green, the subdued looks are a welcome departure from the typical highlighter bike kit.
Launch Thermal Jersey
Ideal for days when a jacket isn’t enough to keep you toasty, the long sleeve Launch Thermal Jersey is the perfect under layer. It’s constructed with multiple layers and a thermal fleece fabric that retains heat while wicking moisture. Pearl Izumi rates the 100% polyester jersey for 45-60 degree weather, but we’d actually push that a little lower, especially when combined with the Versa Jacket. This was actually the piece of the kit we used the least during our fall testing simply because it was so warm. Once true winter hits though, that warmth will be welcomed with open arms. The fleece liner makes it extra comfortable too. There’s also a built in sunglass wipe so you can keep your eye protection clean when the mud really starts to fly.
Out of the three pieces of kit, we found ourselves reaching for the Versa shorts most often. It makes sense, given the versatile and breathable fabric design that works just as well on an 80-degree afternoon as it does on a 40-degree morning. The casual look means that they fit in no matter where you are. We even showed up to meet friends at a trailhead only to be asked if we forgot our riding shorts. Despite the low-key appearance, these shorts still pack everything you’d expect from a technical set of bottoms. The Transfer Versa fabric, treated with DWR, breathes well yet packs the same water resistant coating as the jacket. The short’s durability is also impressive. I took a good fall that ground my leg into a slab of granite, yet both my skin and the shorts made it out with zero visible damage. The zippered pockets provide ample space for even large cell phones, while keeping the contents secure. Small details, reflective elements and a snap closure with a quality zipper round out this excellent short and make it a go-to selection. Pearl Izumi offers the shorts in two neutral colors: tan or grey.
The Wolf’s Last Word
When it comes to riding in the shoulder seasons, it can be tough picking the right kit. After plenty of testing, we were more than happy with the Versa line’s ability to strike the balance between breathability and protection from the elements. However, instead of the water resistant coating, it would be nice to see a truly waterproof coating on the shorts and jacket. While the current DWR coating does bead water, it’s no match for a true rainstorm or heavily soaked trailside brush, relegating it to shoulder season use in wet regions instead of being a true winter barrier. Of course, if you live in an area like SoCal, the Versa line is all you’ll need for the winter. We were also major fans of the subdued, casual styling. In our minds, that versatility also helps justify the cost of the shorts and jacket since they can be used on hikes or other outdoor adventures off the bike. Combined with Pearl Izumi’s excellent build and durability, the Versa line is a solid kit.
Men’s Versa Short: $100
Men’s Launch Thermal Jersey: $75
Men’s Versa Barrier Jacket: $140