The Pearl Izumi PRO AmFIB Shell is much more than just a shell: it's amazingly water resistant thanks to the company's PI Dry treatment but it behaves and fits like a thermal long-sleeved jersey, making it ideal for three out of four UK seasons.
The PRO AmFIB Shell is a really versatile garment: it's stretchy, comfortable, form-fitting and insulated like a thermal long-sleeved jersey, but thanks to its high-tech water resistant treatment you don't need to take a separate rain/wind jacket out with you.
We checked out Pearl Izumi's PI Dry treatment when it was launched in 2017, at that time only available with arm and leg warmers. Now extended to jackets as well as tights, the Shimano-owned brand clearly has Castelli's game-changing Nano Flex and Sportful's NoRain technology in its sights.
Pearl Izumi says the PRO AmFIB Shell is its most technical outer layer and the price certainly reflects this. However, it will earn its keep: I've been wearing it as my regular jacket this last month in all conditions. I've done dry three-hour rides as well as soggier ones in both chilly and milder temperatures. I would ride in it – adjusting layering as necessary – in anything from 15°C (the temperature below which legs and arms should be covered up according to the old pro rule) down to freezing.
Different coloured panels, bands, stripes, patterns and logos are conspicuous by their absence: the PRO AmFIB is strikingly plain, with just a reflective strip and a black zip surround at the rear breaking up the single colour. It is also made of a single fabric: Pearl Izumi's PRO three-layer, four-way-stretch AmFIB Softshell fabric which it says is windproof, water-resistant and 50 per cent more breathable than typical membranes.
I will insert my only criticisms of the jacket here. Neither this teal nor the atomic red – actually almost pink – are 'my' colour, leaving just black – which as an option can turn the high-vis brigade beyond atomic red with rage.
I also didn't get on with the zipped central pocket (there are three pockets in total). For many riders that's the one for the rolled-up gilet or the mini pump, not the phone. I appreciate that Pearl Izumi might be trying to highlight that you no longer need the rolled-up gilet, but it slightly upset my pocket organisation system.
On the subject of zips, the front one is two-way. This is a nice feature to have as long as it doesn't compromise the operation of the zip itself, but unfortunately it does. It's not as easy to get the zip started when it has to go through two pullers, and here the top one is stiffer than the bottom one. I would prefer Pearl to have kept it simpler (and lighter) with a one-way zip.
With those minor (and personal – you might love the colours) niggles out of the way, I will concentrate on the good – and there is much to concentrate on.
The fit of the size medium is exactly right for me (185cm, 68kg). The stretchy fabric means it can be worn with just a baselayer underneath or over another long-sleeved jersey.
The sleeve length is well judged: when stretched, the wrists stay covered and to help them stay that way there's a double cuff feature that keeps the wind and rain out when you're wearing gloves: an inner stays next to the skin while the outer goes over the gloves' cuff.
It would be nice if the collar had something similar: although it's a good height, it doesn't quite sit snug to the neck and with a bonded hem that's stiffer than the main fabric, it leaves a small gap. (It's not me in the photos.)
Reflectives are subtle but effective and are stylishly integrated into the jacket's design. The front strip is next to the zip and invisible by day, while a rear stripe is almost as discreet.
I've been very impressed with the water resistance of the PRO AmFIB. You can see in the video how water beads and runs off the PI Dry-treated fabric when it's new. Pearl Izumi says that since its PI Dry treatment coats each individual fibre, the treatment will never wash off or lose its effectiveness and will last the life of the garment, but as with any DWR coating you've got to be very careful with the washing – no fabric softener. A few washes in with just liquid detergent, my test sample is still good and I intend to keep wearing it through the April showers to test the claim.
As I mentioned above, Pearl Izumi claims the PRO three-layer, four-way stretch AmFIB softshell fabric is windproof, water-resistant and 50 per cent more breathable than typical membranes. On the long, dry December club runs on which I've worn the Pearl Izumi, it kept heat in nicely at a slower chatting pace, while it didn't get clammy after harder efforts on the flat and up hills. Even though there are no extra windproof panels at the front or mesh at the rear – features used by some manufacturers to trap heat or let it escape – I always seemed to be riding at a comfortable temperature. The construction is actually fairly simple, as you can see from the photos – the performance is all down to the fabric and it just works.
Yes, £200 is quite a lot to pay for a 'shoulder season' garment, but it's very versatile, will get a lot of use and should prove its worth spread over the course of a couple of seasons.
It is slightly more expensive than some competitor shoulder season jackets that don't have waterproofing, such as the Assos Mille GT Spring/Fall, now £170, and Sportful's Strato, which is 'only' £155, but the Lusso Aqua Pro Extreme, which is waterproofed, also undercuts it with its £165 price tag.
Even though I'm not overly enamoured with the teal colour or the rear zip pocket location, I can't fault the technical performance of the PRO AmFIB jacket. As long as it's neither Baltic nor Saharan out, this jacket will handle anything.
Long-sleeved jersey and waterproof rolled into one, this jacket could sound the death knell for the traditional rain shell
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Pro AmFib 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?
Pearl Izumi says: "This item will give you more comfortable days in the saddle than any other shoulder season gear you own. This triple-layer, four-way stretch jacket is completely windproof and highly water resistant. It's a three-season foul weather piece that we consider weatherproof, thanks to our proprietary PI Dry® treatment, which causes water to bead up on the surface and run off before it has a chance to soak through the fabric and membrane. We bond seams at the cuffs, neck and hem to reduce bulk and keep it form-fitting sleek. It protects like an insulated rain jacket, but fits like a long-sleeve jersey."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Pearl Izumi lists:
PRO 3-layer, 4-way stretch AmFIB® Softshell fabric is windproof, water-resistant and 50% more breathable than typical membranes.
PI Dry® water shedding technology provides all-weather performance.
Bonded neck, cuffs and hem to minimize bulk. 2-way water resistant
Vislon® Aquaguard zipper is easy to use with gloves for quick ventilation.
Two back pockets plus zippered center pocket balance ease of access and all-weather security.
BioViz® reflective elements for low-light visibility.
Very nicely made in Vietnam.
Feels like a long-sleeved jersey yet behaves like a breathable rain shell (without the wind flap).
Looking good so far after a handful of wash cycles.
Pearl Izumi calls it water resistant, but the way the water rolls off the surface makes it closer to truly waterproof.
Breathability is great considering the water and windproofness, but will never be as good as a non-waterproof garment.
For me the collar needs some work. I'm prepared to accept that although it didn't fit my neck it might be perfect for someone else's, but it would be good if there was some stretch built in to make it snugger on a wider range of neck sizes. It was too big for me and left a gap, while the rest of the jacket fitted well.
Medium was more or less as expected except for the collar.
Not as light as a race cape/pure rain shell but since it's jersey and rain shell combined you can subtract the weight of the jersey and end up with a respectably low figure.
Stretchiness made it very comfortable and it's soft against the skin on the inside.
It's more expensive than some competitors, some of which aren't as water resistant.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You've got to be very careful with the washing. I've washed out DWRs accidentally before and even though Pearl Izumi says PI Dry lasts for the life of the garment I would be surprised if that's the case and plan to put it to the test.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performance over the test period was fantastic for both wet and dry riding, cold and mild weather.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
I am not a fan of rain shells – many of them suffer from either wind flap or boil-in-the-bag or both, unless you pay a lot of money – and this eliminates the need for one.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
I can see that Pearl Izumi is trying to create some trademark colours for itself, but I'm not a fan of 'teal' or 'atomic red' (closer to shocking pink) and the third option – black – is controversial. I also couldn't get on with the zip being over the central rear pocket.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's more expensive than competitor shoulder season jackets that don't have waterproofing, such as the £170 Assos Mille GT Spring/Fall and Sportful Strato, while the Lusso Aqua Pro Extreme, which is waterproofed, undercuts it with its £165 price tag.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, if they were happy with the colour options.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The performance of the PRO AmFIB fabric is excellent, and not having to take a rain shell out with you if the weather looks dodgy is great, but I would like to see the collar designed for a wider range of necks. It's very good, but could be exceptional.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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, touring, club rides, sportives, school run on a tandem
Simon finished his Masters in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his seven-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).