Pros: Provides exceptional warmth in freezing temps, blocks wind and rain
Cons: Thick fabric makes it heavy, roomy fit
Verdict: The Pearl Izumi Elite Softshell Jacket has a fleece lining and a softshell exterior to provide an ideal combination of warmth and weather protection that’s tough to beat in temperatures around freezing.
Pearl Izumi is one of the most trusted brands in the cycling industry. That reputation has been cultivated over 60 years of product testing, refinement and engineering. One of the many technologies Pearl can take credit for is the mastery of Softshell material in cycling applications. Softshell is technically three fabrics in one: a stretchable knit face blocks wind and water, a waterproof laminate seals out moisture and a soft interior provides insulation. So why is that good? Traditional layering guidelines will tell you to wear a base layer, an insulating middle layer and a weatherproof shell. Softshell provides the benefits of wearing three layers in one jacket, which saves weight and makes you more comfortable.
Living on California’s Central Coast, I had a hard time testing this jacket. While the temperature regularly drops to the low 30s at night in the winter, it almost always warms up to the mid 50s by the middle of the day. This jacket is so warm there were only a few instances where I genuinely needed it. This is definitely not a California jacket, at least not a southern or central Cali jacket. With a long sleeve base layer, I’d recommend it for temperatures in the 20s and 30s.
Out on the road, this jacket performed like a champ. I stayed warm but didn’t overheat. The outer material sheds water and blocks the wind with ferocity. This is a thick jacket, at least in terms of cycling jacket standards, but it doesn’t feel bulky or restrictive thanks to the stretchy Elite Barrier fabric. There’s a chest pocket that’s big enough to fit an iPhone and one zippered back pocket big enough for all the snacks you’d want on a long ride.
The fit on this jacket is pretty roomy. I usually wear a medium in brands like Castelli and Capo, but needed a small in this jacket. I tend to prefer a more performance-oriented fit, but some people may opt for a roomier jacket like the Elite Softshell. There was room to wear a few layers underneath, but the beauty of this jacket is that it provides enough warmth you don’t really need additional layers.
Bottom Line: This jacket provides tremendous value considering how warm it is. If you ride all winter, go with this jacket to keep you toasty in the coldest conditions. The fit is on the roomy side so don’t expect to gain any aero advantage if you’re racing your buddies. But at least you’ll be warm, which is paramount to enjoying winter cycling.