It's an expensive choice but Pearl Izumi's Elite Barrier WxB waterproof is well made from high-quality fabrics - it really is an impressive piece of kit.
The Elite Barrier WxB is mostly made from a two-layer polyester/polyurethane fabric with the inside of the sleeves getting a third nylon layer. That makes a big difference if you have bare arms underneath the jacket; rather than feeling cold to the touch and slippery like the polyurethane, the nylon facing is warmer and much more pleasant on your skin.
The jacket is stretchy throughout, the arms less so than the body but still with enough give that a close fit feels perfectly comfortable. Pearl Izumi call it a 'form fit' - that's good with me; I can't stand acres of fabric flapping around in the breeze. It's not as extreme as some, but it's certainly a bike-specific cut with lengthy arms, a high, close-fitting neck, and an extended tail that keeps your butt well protected against spray from the rear wheel. Even if you're a few pounds over your fighting weight, that stretchiness will probably accommodate you - although, as ever, try before you buy to be absolutely sure.
The cuffs are asymmetrical meaning that they extend slightly over the back of your hands although, to be honest, I can't say that makes a blind bit of difference to the performance. Like the hem, those cuffs are elasticated so you're sealed away inside, the flipside to that being that you can't open them up for extra ventilation if the atmosphere gets humid in there.
This jacket's main job is to keep water out and it does that really well. Pearl Izumi's figures say the fabrics are waterproof to 15m of pressure, which is high. Some fabrics boast higher but, in the real world, 15m will cope with just about everything you'll encounter.
Just as important, the seam sealing is very good - not the absolute best we've seen but still of a high standard. Water certainly didn't get through during our testing and there are no areas coming unstuck after multiple washes. The water-resistant front zip, backed by a draught flap, has kept the rain out successfully too
We often find with waterproofs that letting moist air escape is more of a challenge than keeping rain out - you get damp because your sweat stays inside rather than because water comes in. The fabric used here proved impressively breathable. Pearl Izumi's own figures say it'll let out 15L of moisture per square metre per 24 hours. To give that some context, a typical mid-range fabric might allow 5L out and a top-level fabric 20L, so 15L is up there.
You'll never find any fabric that can keep you perfectly dry if you're sweating hard though; you can start to get damp in the Elite Barrier WxB when you're really going for it or the weather's warm. Until someone invents a new wonder fabric, your only other option is to get a waterproof with a lot of ventilation - and if you want adjustable vents, that will bulk up the size... It depends what you're after.
Speaking of bulk, this jacket doesn't pack down super-small for carrying, but rolled up tight it'll fit into a jersey pocket, and that's the main thing. It can be a bit of a squeeze, depending on the pocket size, but that's fine.
Anything we've missed? Oh, you get a detachable hood that'll fit over the top of your bike helmet. We took full advantage of the detachability and immediately detached it, but you might find it useful. You also get a rear pocket that'll take a mini pump, spare tube and so on, and it comes with a large puller on the water-resistant zip that's easy to grab while you're riding. There's a good amount of reflective trim for extra visibility too.
All-round, the Elite Barrier WxB is a really strong contender. The only potential drawback is that if you want lots of ventilation on top of the fabric's inherent breathability and the front zipper, you're not going to get it. Yes, this jacket is pricey, but it justifies that with a high-end performance.
Available in black and red and in sizes XS-3XL.
Highly waterproof, highly breathable jacket in a slim, cycle-specific cut; pricey, but worth it
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier WxB Jacket
Size tested: Black
Here's the full spiel from Pearl Izumi:
"Ridden from the Tour of California to Paris Nice, the ELITE Barrier WxB Jacket utilizes our Titanium WxB fabric to protect riders in the worst weather conditions. 2-Layer technology is used in the body for freedom of movement with 3-Layer technology in the sleeves for next- to- skin comfort.
ELITE Barrier WxB 3-Layer and 2-Layer stretch fabric with Titanium thermo-regulating technology for superior waterproof-breathable protection
Waterproof, fully taped internal seams
Waterproof front zipper with garage and internal draft flap seals water out
Asymmetrical cuffs interface with gloves
One waterproof zippered back pocket
Reflective elements for low-light visibility
Detachable hood with rain brim"
That about covers it. The nylon layer inside the sleeves might add a little bulk but it makes loads of difference. You know how lots of waterproof fabrics feel cold against your skin and slimy as soon as you get the slightest bit sweaty? Just that small amount of texture you get here makes it much more comfortable
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Breathability 15,000 g/m2/24-hour
See text for explanation.
The main construction point on a waterproof is how well the seams are taped. The sealing here is very good and it has stayed that way through several washes.
You can catch the polyurethane inner layer on sharp stuff if you're careless packing it into your pocket. I guess the answer there is not to be careless.
It's light but not mega-light. As long as it fits into a jersey pocket -and it does, just about -I'm happy.
Stretchy fabric and good breathability makes for good comfort.
Pricey option -but this is about the going rate for something with this level of waterproofing and breathability
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
In terms of the overall score, it's closer to a 9 than a 7
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.