Years ago, I bought a mountain bike with the intention of bringing some semblance of physical activity back into my life. I had settled into a sedentary rut, and I lived in an area rife with trails perfect for rolling through on knobby tires. Mountain biking was purely recreational for me and I wasn’t at all concerned with distances ridden in specific times. I wore baggy shorts and t-shirts, scoffing at the thought of lycra. Somewhere along the line, mountain biking became more about speed, times, and distances and my apparel overlapped with the cycling shorts and jerseys I would wear to spin down the streets on my road bike. More recently I have regressed (or evolved!) back to where it started… almost. I ride a single speed mountain bike and enjoy the ride more than worrying about the result. I don’t need skin tight clothing that tears to shreds at first contact with tree branches or gravel. That being said, I demand a bit better gear than basketball shorts and cotton t-shirts.
Enter the Pearl Izumi Divide shorts and Canyon jersey from their 2013 mountain bike apparel line. Both pieces are functional versions of what I started riding in that provide the comfort, ventilation, and protection for mountain biking along with performance. I recently received these items which have left me longing for warmer temps so I can try them outside of the house! That being said, this review is based on my impression of their manufacture, design, as well as fit and comfort. If anything changes when I finally can get them dirty, I’ll update this post.
The Divide shorts come with a separate padded lycra cycling short liner. This is what I was missing most with my basketball shorts years ago! The chamois is Pearl Izumi’s MTB 3D which does a great job protecting the areas that need it, without getting in the way or feeling diaper-ish. The fabric on the shorts is awesome – it’s a nice airy mesh that gives lots of breathability which is even more important under an outer short. Speaking of the outer short, it is a perfect match for this liner. They are baggy, but still a great cut to avoid excessive fabric to catch the wind, or worse yet, branches. They’ve got lots of mesh ventilation panels (the green parts in the photos) which will keep air flowing over the well vented liner to keep cool. The waist band is soft on the inside, and has two velcro straps to get the fit just right. The main fabric is soft and light, but feels like it would be durable enough to handle the occasional scuffs and scrapes (or worse) encountered on singletrack in the woods. They come down to just above the knee and have a straight fit so they don’t get in the way of my pedal stroke at all. The shorts have a single zippered pocket if you need to keep a gel, car key, or other small items close and secure.
The Canyon jersey is really great in not trying to be more than it needs to be. It is simply a great shirt to wear mountain biking. It is made of a nice light fabric that will protect without staying soaked with sweat. It is a nice cut for cycling – not too tight, but it won’t be billowing in the wind. The Canyon jersey doesn’t have any pockets which struck me as odd at first, since I am used to traditional lycra jerseys with three pockets across the back. This is actually wise given that many folks will use this shirt with a hydration pack, seat pack, or some other place to better stow their “carry-on” items while they ride. No sense adding pockets that won’t get used anyway and wouldn’t be effective on this looser fitting jersey. It is also nicely understated with only a few logos to identify it as a Pearl Izumi product.
I look forward to the warm days of summer so I can ply our local trails in this comfortable kit. If the euro-roadie look isnt your thing, check out what Pearl Izumi has to offer – all the performance of the lycra stuff, but with the durability and comfort of something a little less aero.