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On winter rides, my Priority Number 1 is staying warm. Softshell, windproof jackets are ideal for this purpose and the Pearl Izumi Elite Pursuit is one really good example of this approach to cold-weather comfort.
My body thermostat seems to be stuck on 'cold to perishing' throughout the winter and maintaining a warm core is crucial to persuading the blood to flow to my furthest reaches, so I really appreciate the wall of protection this jacket provides.
Even in a slicing north wind, toiling up the Waskerley Way over the Durham Pennines, amid light snow flurries and plenty of frozen puddles, I felt well separated from the worst effects of the climate. I wore it over my favourite winter-weight, long-sleeved Helly Hansen and found their combined forces pretty formidable. Occasionally, when the cold was coupled with grey skies, I carried a waterproof with me, fearing the Elite Pursuit wouldn't be able to deal with such conditions, but I never needed it.
Pearl Izumi's approach to breathability is to insert non-windproof panels into less exposed parts of the jacket. I remained comfortably dry inside, even when I paired it with a rucksack, which must severely impede the breathability. However, if you are inclined to overheat you might lament the lack of pit zips or any other adjustable ventilation.
Pearl Izumi seems to be one of the few brands whose size medium I can still fit into – sometimes. In this case, the fit across the shoulders and midriff was good and the sleeves were just long enough but the cut is quite short, which could result in a wet backside if you are relying on the jacket for protection from rear-wheel spray. I won't mark the jacket down in this – sizing up would no doubt have cured this.
The front cut is even shorter, so be sure to wear with bib tights to avoid an attack of Baltic Belly-button. This short-cut front is actually a good thing, because it eliminates the tendency for the jacket to ruck or bulge at the front.
The one aspect of the design that I did feel could be improved was the cuffs. Pearl Izumi has chosen to go with an elasticated insert that makes up around one third of the cuff circumference. I found this was not quite snug enough for my thin wrists. Additionally, on the inside of the wrist, the cut is shorter. With any short-cuffed glove this led to a gap.
This aside, I thought this was an excellent garment that made the prospect of venturing out in some premature winter conditions a lot less off-putting. And anything that encourages me to ride more is a good thing.
This is a quality jacket and if you feel the chill you will reach for it before every cold winter ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Elite Pursuit Softshell Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the Pearl Izumi website: "The ELITE Pursuit Softshell Jacket provides weather protection at an attractive price point, with two-layer foam coated Softshell panels and Thermal fabric in key ventilation zones. A less aggressive cut allows freedom with layering, and the single zippered back pocket protects valuables. Best paired with the AmFIB Bib® Tight"
For me it had just the right balance of windproof and breathability; lovely and warm on cold days but never sweaty. The short cut explains why you will want to wear it with warm bib tights.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
ELITE Softshell is windproof with superior warmth and water resistance
Thermal panels provide insulation and breathability
NEW Softshell Lite fabric on back pockets provides breathable wind and water protection with stretch
Three open back pockets with additional zippered security pocket
Reflective elements placed for maximum visibility on the bike
Full length internal draft flap seals in warmth
Collar tapers from front to back for on the bike fit and performance
Weather forecast: Cold and windy
Temperature range: -10 to 0 degrees
Fabrics: 100% polyester
All very neat flat double stitching; robust fabrics.
More breathable than I thought it would be; plenty warm enough for some cold winter days and excellent protection against the wind and drizzle.
Early days but I've no reason to suppose this won't see a few winters' use.
Water resistant not waterproof; heavy rain may eventually penetrate the seams but in showers, sleet or (in my case) early winter snow flurries it was plenty of protection.
The panels are well thought out to provide windproofing only where it's needed to allow adequate ventilation elsewhere. Even when I wore it with a rucksack I didn't get clammy though admittedly most of the riding was on pretty cold days when sweat wasn't an issue.
There are no pit vents so riders who don't feel the cold as much as me might prefer something less wind-tight.
Generally good though the cut is short both front and back. While this prevents the front bunching up, it did leave the lower belly a little exposed. The cuff design wasn't my favourite part of the jacket, being a little short on the inside of the wrist.
The test jacket was a mediaum and I would say I was at the upper limit of that. The sleeves were just long enough. Maybe sizing up would have improved the length for me.
Very comfortable to wear with a lightly fleecy interior. The collar fit was excellent, neither too restrictive nor draughty. My only slight issue was with the fit of the cuffs which could leave the underside of the wrist exposed if worn with short gloves.
Not up there with some of the boutique brands but it's a fair wadge of cash. Given the performance and quality of construction, it should work out as a good investment over a few seasons.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It went in with all the other sports kit at 30 degrees with no problem. I never use biological powders.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I had full confidence in this jacket in a variety of cold weather outings. Plenty of warmth, great windproofing but not sweaty or clammy.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Weather protection, breathability and great construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The cuff fit.
The green band across the stomach was unflattering.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's well thought out, beautifully made and excellent in use, particularly if you are inclined to feel the cold. A little tweak of the wrist design would make it pretty much perfect.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking