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I’ve been cycling seriously for about 20 years and it was only a few years ago that I discovered two apparel categories that have pretty much completely replaced everything else I used to wear on road or gravel rides. The long sleeve summer-weight bike jersey and cargo bib shorts. Because I’m the fair-skinned type who burns if I have more than 5 minutes of sun exposure and I generally feel cooler with covered arms, a long sleeve jersey is a revelation. In the past, I had only worn long sleeves that were too heavy for summer use or didn’t have the pockets I like for riding. The Pearl Izumi Attack Long Sleeve fits the bill nicely here and is the subject of this review. Moving on to the bottom half of a typical cycling outfit, bib shorts have always been my preference for road and gravel riding. Cargo bib shorts (I don’t know if that’s the name everyone uses but it works for me) bring your standard padded spandex up a notch by including low-profile pockets on the hips and often at the back. For this review, we’ll be looking at the Pearl Izumi Expedition PRO Bib Shorts.
Attack Long Sleeve Jersey: Lightweight Sun Protection made from Recycled Water Bottles
As mentioned above, the Pearl Izumi Attack Long Sleeve Jersey is a warm-weather long sleeve bike jersey designed to provide functional sun protection in the summer heat. Instead of providing added warmth, the Attack Long Sleeve combines moisture wicking fabric with UV-blocking to keep you cooler when working hard. The jersey is cut with a form fit and is just long enough in an XL to cover my 6’1″, 210, extremely long torso’d body. The fit works well to feel like everything is in the right place when you are bending forward on a road, gravel, or mountain bike and the silicone print gripper at the rear helps keep it in place when in an aggressive position. Overall, it’s a well designed fit and the full-length zipper is a nice touch for easy on/off.
Moving on to the fabric, Pearl Izumi uses their lightweight SELECT Transfer fabric in the Attack Long Sleeve Jersey. In a nod towards sustainability that I greatly appreciate, this fabric is made with 100% recycled fibers from used water bottles. At first glance and touch, the fabric seems slightly heavy for a summer-weight but the second you put it on, you realize that it doesn’t have any loft that would make it warm. To test out the performance, I went on a ride in upper 80s heat on a sunny Colorado mountain day. Over the course of a 2000 ft climbing, 16 mile mountain bike ride, I never wished for a lighter top or short sleeves. The Attack Long Sleeve Jersey wicked sweat away from my skin and cooled me down as I moved through the air. I find that when I don’t wear sleeves, the sweat just pools on my arms and doesn’t evaporate as quickly. I can see the appeal of sleeveless tops on a sweltering day for added feeling of a freedom of movement but for me personally, I’m all in on long sleeve.
Expedition PRO Bib Shorts: Premium Chamois Pad and Top-notch Comfort
As part of their PRO line, the Expedition PRO Bib Shorts utilize Pearl Izumi’s highest performance fabrics and premium materials, designed for the “serious cyclist.” Fortunately, this is more than marketing speak and these bibs are functional, comfortable, sleek, and well made. Starting with the materials, Pearl Izumi went with their Italian PRO Transfer fabric that evenly distributes compression and feels great on the skin. It’s almost silk-like in its feeling, so you know it’s there but not in a distracting way. The Levitate™ PRO Chamois pad uses a triple-density design to support what needs supporting and provide padding to your sit bones. The pad is attached without any irritating bulky stitches and has solid ventilation and a pressure relief channel.
Fit is a very personal thing but for me, size XL Expedition PRO Bib Shorts fit my 6’1″, 210 lb. body wonderfully. As noted above, my torso length can make it a struggle to find bibs that are long enough to not pull on me, even if I go up multiple sizes from my typical large. That said, Pearl Izumi’s XL size in their bibs has enough shoulder strap length and stretch to work comfortably. Speaking of the straps, they are laser-cut to provide seamless feel on your skin, under your jersey. The laser-cutting also extends to the raw edge leg hem for another seamless transition. To keep the cuff in place, the Expedition PRO Bib Shorts use printed silicone grippers and I much prefer this to the old school grippers you find on lower quality bike shorts. All of this adds up to an excellent-fitting bib short that moves well in all positions, including moving around out of the saddle while descending a technical gravel line, and feels luxurious in the process.
In addition to being very comfortable, the Pearl Izumi Expedition PRO Bib Shorts include a feature that is a dealbreaker for me when not equipped: POCKETS. I’m amazed that it took as long as it did for apparel makers to realize that not everyone riding a bike is looking for absolute maximum aerodynamic performance out of their kit. I feel like the gravel bike boom helped bring light to this and I’m grateful for it. Pockets on bike shorts just make sense for me because I’m always looking for a secure and easy to access place for my phone and extra snacks. The Expedition PRO Bib Shorts have two large pockets on the side of the thighs that are perfect for many smaller items and anything that isn’t hard and pointy. I typically have my phone in the right pocket and my id/credit card on the left. Sometimes I like to put gels/chews in the left as well and find it safer to get to then reaching behind me to my back pockets while riding. The nice thing about the pockets on the Expedition PRO Bib Shorts is that they are low profile enough that you really don’t notice them when not in use. This means there is little downside to their inclusion and I hesitate to find a reason to ever not want them there.
A note on the “drop-tail design” for nature breaks: Pearl Izumi advertises a “drop-tail” on the Expedition PRO Bib Shorts, intended to make nature breaks easier. I did some at-home ‘dry’ testing, just to understand how that would work if used and had trouble understanding how they were intended to be operated. Without getting too graphic, I feel like you can’t do the multiple things you need to do at once with this design. I’ll try to get more info from Pearl Izumi on this. That said, the stretchiness of the bib straps does make going number one easier for those with the equipment to do that standing.
Pearl Izumi Expedition PRO Bib Shorts and Attack Long Sleeve Jersey Review Conclusion
Overall, PEARL iZUMi’s Expedition PRO Bib Shorts and Attack Long Sleeve Jersey make an excellent kit for any road, gravel, or mountain bike ride. Combined, they offer a high performance and comfortable outfit to help you focus on riding. The Expedition PRO Bib Shorts use silky smooth fabric, a great fit, and functional side and rear pockets that provide extra storage as needed. A premium chamois pad adds a useful layer between your sit bones and saddle and stretchy bibs round out this well made garment.
The Attack Long Sleeve Jersey keeps you cool on warm days in the sun with a moisture-wicking fabric that minimizes exposure. PEARL iZUMi gets extra kudos from me for using a recycled-fiber fabric. An athletic, form fit stays out of the way regardless of what you’re doing on the bike. The full-zip and three pockets on the back help make this jersey one of the first I reach for when heading out for a ride.
It’s always worth mentioning that PEARL iZUMi has a stellar return policy that includes a 60 Day Fit Guarantee. Try the gear out on your rides and if it doesn’t work, they will let you return or exchange for something that does. Hard to complain about a company that stands behind its products that way!