The Pearl Izumi Pro Escape Short Sleeve jersey is a high-performance garment that has lots of nice features, but the sleeve design seemed ill thought out and took the shine off for me.
There's no doubt that the design and construction of cycling wear has hit new heights in recent years and the quality of the fabrics, the panelling and the assembly of the Pro Escape are hard to fault. This is also true of the technical performance, which, although the summer has failed to venture far into Pearl Izumi's suggested temperature range of 60 to 100°F, made for comfortable, non-clammy days out.
I counted at least 14 panels in the top, not including the pockets (of which more later). These are constructed from three fabrics: Pearl Izumi's P.R.O. Transfer In-R-Cool in the body, 100% polyester mesh inserts in the back and armpits for ventilation and P.R.O Transfer for the shoulders and sleeves. This is similar to the main fabric of the body but with a higher elastane content and it also incorporates Coldblack technology to prevent overheating in bright sunshine. This seems quite effective and you can even feel the coolness of the fabric in comparison to other parts panels, by pressing it to your lips, for example. However, the problem could also be helped by not making everything in black.
The full-length zip helps too, and adds versatility. I found it easy to use, with a decent-sized tab. It's backed by a substantial wind baffle, which seemed a curious choice on an out-and-out warm weather top, but I was glad of it as the Pennine winds have persisted all summer and have proven chilly at times.
The jersey is well assembled, with all seams tidily overstitched, though only one or two flatlocked. There was no lumpiness in any of the joins.
Pulling the Pro Escape on, you notice the smoothness of the construction and fabrics, and the body panels fit closely but comfortably around the torso. That expansive slab of black from the chest downward is not very forgiving of bulges, though, and this feels like a top for the lighter-framed rider. It's strange, then, that the sleeves are so loose fitting. This is made worse by the design of the cuff, which doesn't use the raw-edge technology currently favoured by many premium manufacturers. Instead it is formed by folding over a strip of fabric and sewing the edge back into the lower part of the sleeve panel. This is fine and comfortable but the slight lack of resulting stretch combined with a decision not to incorporate any silicone gripper gives a cuff that would stand still while my arm twisted inside it.
That affected the performance too, with the sleeves riding up my upper arms when I stretched forward on the bike. They aren't the longest sleeves to begin with, so there was a lot of exposed skin. Talking of which, while the jersey promises sun protection of factor 40, I had to apply the sun block well beyond my usual tan-line to ensure I didn't burn where the Pro Escape sleeves exposed milky flesh.
The hem around the waist worked better, with an elasticated insert round the back and sides combined with silicone grippers to hold everything secure.
The pockets were good, too, just tight and stretchy enough to keep everything secure. The usual three are supplemented by two extra pockets over the side ones. These have a neatly angled opening and are just right for an energy bar or similar. There is no zipped pocket, but my house keys stayed firmly in place.
The look is rather geometrical and stern. My wife asked me if I was planning to boldly go where no cyclist has gone before. The Pro Escape also comes in a blue and red version which looks quite classy.
Overall, I thought the jersey was quite good, but given the price tag not really quite good enough. There are some garments you are pleased to see at the top of the drawer and others that tend to sink towards the bottom and only come out when everything else is in the wash, and I would put this somewhere in the middle of the pile.
Good performance and quality but at the price it needs better sleeve fit to really measure up
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Pro Escape Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product 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?
Says Pearl Izumi: "The fit, durability and comfort of this highly engineered jersey will make it a favorite for discerning riders. Advanced cooling fabrics help maintain body temperature, allowing the P.R.O. Escape Jersey to deliver top-level moisture-transfer performance that will keep you comfortable even on an all-day epic during the heat of summer."
There's not been much "heat of summer" where I live but the cooling qualities of this jersey were evident, despite the midweight fabrics. The fit was less impressive, especially at the sleeves.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Pearl Izumi's website lists the following technical features:
Temperature range: 60 to 100 degs (F)
UPF RATING: 40+
P.R.O. Transfer In-R-Cool® fabric for optimal moisture transfer, dry time and odor absorption
Patent pending anatomic Speed Sleeve construction
Sleeve/Shoulder panels use P.R.O. Transfer fabric powered by coldblack® for optimal cooling and reflective sun protection
Full length zipper for venting
Three back pockets plus additional external storage for quick, easy access
Reflective elements for low-light visibility
Body: 87% Minerale™ polyester 13% elastane/UPF 50+, Technology: Minerale, Weight: 157 g/m2, Mesh Inserts: 100% polyester mesh, Upper Body: 80% polyester 20% elastane/UPF 40+, Technology: coldblack®, Imported
Lots of panels are tidily and symetrically assembled in this jersey. All internal seams are neatly overstitched, though only the waist hem and the draught baffle are flatlocked.
In terms of the moisture-moving and cooling qualities, the jersey performed very well, though it was hardly pushed to its limits by the northern English summer. If anything, I found it cooler than most other tops I've tested this summer and a baselayer was welcome on many rides.
Heavier and consequently more durable than some, the fabric has resisted pilling or snagging. The overall high quality of the stitching also indicates a long life.
Good fit in the body and shoulders but the sleeves were too slack on my skinny cyclist arms, not aided by the lack of stretch in the sleeve hem and the absence of any gripper.
Usually I find PI garments to be on the large size, but this was pretty much the medium it claims to be – even more surprising, then, that the sleeves were still too loose on me.
There are plenty of lighter tops out there, but this being a more all-day garment than a race second-skin, I would say the balance of weight and durability is about right.
While the body was comfortable, the sleeves tended to ride up a fair bit. Not uncomfortable as such, but I was aware of it.
At £90 this isn't entry-level stuff. I think at that price it really needs some tweaks to make it good value.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine, lots of wash-and-wear during the test period and I haven't found any issues with the fabrics. Even the aerated panels that look like they might suffer from contact with Velcro are looking good.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I thought the performance was good; it's certainly a cool jersey in wear – surprisingly so for the weight of the fabrics. It's a good all-day top, should look good and last well. Again, though, sleeve fit wasn't up to the standard of the rest of the jersey.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's well constructed from durable fabrics. The aerated fabric panels in the back and under the arms make for good ventilation and dampness control. It has five pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The sleeve fit and design.
Did you enjoy using the product? Fair to middling.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If it fits, yes.
Use this box to explain your score
There are some good ideas and uses of panelling in this jersey and it's well made, though the rather ill-designed sleeves let it down. At the price, there are better.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
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