Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pearl Izumi Softshell Pants

Regular readers know I do a lot of bike commuting, and I try to be a year-round rider even here in Northeast Ohio. That sometimes means putting cycling gear to the test, and pushing the temperature limits of my clothing. As the weather keeps getting colder, and I'm still out there riding, I recently picked up a new pair of riding pants that I think are worth recommending - Pearl Izumi Summit Softshell Pants.

The Summit Softshell Pants are billed as MTB wear, but they are a nice choice for commuting, too. Being pants, as opposed to tights, they have several pockets, including a zipper "cargo" type of pocket on the right thigh, and two zippered pockets on the hips that can be opened to reveal some venting for comfort. Though a serious cyclist gets used to strange looks from people for their cycling apparel choices (and have the self confidence to not give a crap what people think), the pants don't shout "cyclist" when you're off the bike. Nobody will mistake them for normal casual wear, but they do look like the kind of typical athletic sportswear we're getting used to seeing at the coffee shops and elsewhere.

The pants have a close fit, but are meant to be worn as an outer layer, so depending on the temperature, they can be worn on their own (likely over a pair of cycling shorts, as there's no chamois), or over some type of base layer or other tights. They are cut for cycling, so they offer good freedom of movement on the bike, even when combined with another layer. The pants fit closer on the calves and ankles so there shouldn't be any concern about them getting caught in the chain.

The Summit pants are made with a combination of thermal and softshell panels which offer some wind protection and water resistance (but they are not rain pants!), and provide some warmth. On their own, the pants are just right in temps in the upper 30s to low 40s, which is just as Pearl Izumi claims. In the low 30s, I've worn them over a pair of lightweight lycra tights and felt very comfortable. If temperatures dip below that, say, into the 20s, I feel confident that combined with a pair of thermal tights these would still be toasty. One thing worth mentioning is that because they don't fit tight around the ankles, then the ankles or lower legs can be exposed to the cool breezes more than they might with a pair of tights, so I recommend tall socks.

For fit, I have a 32 inch waist, and a slightly longer inseam at 33 inches, and I bought the size medium pants. Fit in the waist for me is perfect. There is no fly, but instead there is wide, flat elastic and shockcord drawstring to fine tune the fit. I am finding them to be pretty comfortable. The length of the pants works for me -- but only just. This is something I've seen with other Pearl Izumi tights in that they'll work for me, but absolutely nothing left to spare. If someone is particularly long-legged, they might find the length lacking. I know there are people who don't want anything bunching at their ankles, but I'll generally prefer to err on the side of having pants (or tights) an inch too long than too short. I'm thinking that PI needs to start offering pants or tights in "regular" and "long."

Like so much cycling-specific clothing today, the price on these is "up there" at about $170. Because of some coupons and specials, I was able to get them for around $135 from my local shop - so I was happy to buy locally.

On the whole, I think the Summit Softshell pants are a nice looking, functional pair of cycling pants that can help comfortably extend the riding season for us commuters.


  1. The PI's look like good riding pants, but if I'm going to buy dedicated cycling pants as alternatives to tights, especially if I'm going to wear them much off the bike, I much prefer pants with a zip front.

    I just bought 2 pr of Endura's "Urban" pants; these list for about $100 but I got 2 pr from "Bike Inn" -- in Spain? -- for $119 shipped to the US. The order was processed quickly, but shipping took 3 weeks -- of course, it's the Christmas season.

    Endura is apparently Scottish and different from the "Enduro" brand. The Urban pants got good reviews, and my own review agrees. Very nice mid weight and stretchy material; trim but not tight; excellent seams; 2 side and 2 zipped rear pockets; a double hook and button closure. On the bike, worn over boxers, the pants disappear (well, they could be a bit higher in the back). Quite comfortable.

    My only 2 nits to pick are that I would prefer the waistband to be 1" higher in the rear, and the legs to be 1" narrower at the bottom: the right gently brushes the chain at each revolution. But certainly 85%.

    And bathroom breaks are a lot easier with that zipped fly!


    Much cheaper are the "Rock Bros" cycling pants I bought last year; I paid $19.99 each for 2 from Amazon. These are actually cut a bit better than the Enduras: slightly looser on top with a higher waist, and tighter on the bottom. Very comfortable. But you get what you pay for: thinner material (tho' I've worn these down to just above freezing and was comfortable), and a surfeit of styling cues, gussets, tucks, zips, mesh, and odd logo marks that make one think that the designers thought that if one "sports" styling cue is good, more will be better.

    That said, for $20 ($25 now?) they work fine. They're not so strange looking to be embarrassing, and again, they are very comfortable on the bike as long as it's not too cold. Taking the price as a plus factor, I'd give these 80%.


  2. Very useful, Bertin753, thanks! I normally wear Prana Stretch Zion pants, which are even more "normal pant" looking than those Enduras. They have built in snaps to roll up the legs, as the openings are wide enough for them to get into the chain. I think I'd like to try the Enduras, but the size chart has only waist size, not inseam.

  3. I haven't found the lack of a "fly" to be a drawback - but to be honest, I haven't tried to take a bathroom break while wearing them. Still, I don't anticipate it to be an issue.

    I did recently get the chance to try these is some really cold conditions. With a pair of basic fleece tights as a base, and these softshell pants layered over, I was very comfortable around 20 degrees F.