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Extended Review: Pearl Izumi Women’s Pro Mesh Jersey and Shorts

We take a close look at our tester's favorite bib short/jersey combo for the 2021 summer season. These budget basics feel not-so-budget.

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Review Rating


Basics

A basic lightweight jersey and shorts combo that's surprisingly attractive and well-designed for coming from a budget brand. Simple shorts are made of thick and soft material, while the high-visibility jersey is nearly all SPF-protected mesh.


Pros

Super soft material
Very lightweight
Surprisingly premium feel for the price

Cons

Odd rubbing from the tags and a few small spots
Some slight rolling around the waistband of the shorts


Size Reviewed

S/S

Brand

Pearl Izumi


Price: $132 shorts, $113 jersey

The Basics

The jersey (and to a lesser extent the shorts) had a large upgrade on Pearl Izumi’s Pro line, and it really took both to the next level.  The jersey’s a very fine mesh, what they’re calling the Transfer Mesh Fabric, with sun protection built in, made with their proprietary wicking and cooling fabric—and 64% recycled polyester. They also claim that their GoFresh technology means you don’t have to wash between rides, but I just smelled mine and I wouldn’t suggest that.

The shorts are a basic cycling short, but in the best sense. There are supposedly just seven panels of fabric in these shorts, making it fairly seam-free. The chamois is on the thicker side, and isn’t in as many panels and sections as many models. It’s really just one pad with gradient degrees of thickness from the middle to the edges, sewed on top of the shorts for movement.

At 5-foot, 2-inches, I wore a small in both and that fit perfectly—for the snug form-fitting feel we’re going for.

The Good

I love these shorts. It’s hard to describe exactly the texture of the Italian fabric—46% nylon, 38% polyester, 16% lycra—but they’re buttery soft and smooth. It’s a combo of slight compression and comfort, but the lack of detail and over-engineering actually works in their favor. The laser cut (common on high-end cycling shorts) also means the legs are seamless at the bottom with just silicone grippers to stay in place.

While the shorts are my favorite, the jersey also hit the sport. The mesh isn’t overwhelming, though it might not be for some people—ie. yes, if your sports bra stands out, your riding buddies will notice; but they won’t be able to read what it says. What sold me on the jersey though, again, were the updated touches. It has longer sleeves that are form-fitted, but don’t squeeze your biceps. (It sounds dumb, but the tiny tubes that cyclists wear on their arms can be annoying for us swimmers.) There’s a slight collar—again, my preference—and it’s lower in the back to provide coverage, but the collar isn’t so high you feel like you’re in the 90s and the back isn’t so low you feel like it’s sagging behind you. They

Additionally, while I can confirm the ‘no need to wash between wears’ is probably an exaggeration, the sun protection built into the jersey and back seemed to work just fine—because I get sunburned even when it’s raining and I had no problems.

The Not-So-Good

One of the dangers of super lightweight mesh summer kits is that you risk getting cold in the still cool mornings. And there were certainly a couple times it felt brisk, but once I was moving it wasn’t too bad. Pearl Izumi claims there’s a sweat-activated thermoregulation property, and certainly it felt like you could hit hundreds of miles in 100 degrees and be fine.

While shorts are uber comfortable and soft, I did have a few problems with the waist band rolling over—as can be the case with non-bib shorts. There’s a thick band around the waist to help prevent this, but it still happened some. That band also seemed to hit at just that spot on your stomach where it always looks unattractive. I’d also caution that some women might want more variation in their chamois thickness throughout and more movement.

The biggest problem for me were simply the tags in the shorts and jersey were excessively large and then rubbed and got in the way. It seems dumb, but it gets very very annoying.

Conclusions

If you’re looking for a solid summer cycling kit that won’t break the bank, but will quickly become your favorite, then this is it—especially for the women who shy away from bib shorts. While Pearl Izumi is known more as a budget brand—I think it might have been all I wore bought on the cheap in college—that just isn’t the case here. It may not be as super premium as Rapha, for instance, but it more than gets the job done. And you can typically find their stuff on sale or clearance.

RELATED: Triathlete’s Women’s 2021 Summer Cycling Clothes Roundup