Roadies and racing tools are all about the fitted lycra short. And that’s great! (not really). But us mountain bikers need an alternative to looking like tools. The Pearl Izumi Elevate short ($90) is one such alternative.

Slightly tapered legs but plenty of room for knee pads

Slightly tapered legs but plenty of room for knee pads

What I liked

  • Runs true to size. The small that I tested did not feel restrictive or overly baggy. The inseam of the Elevate for the small runs 12.5” and hits right above the knee. The legs are ever-so-slightly tapered and accommodate knee pads. I applaud PI the most in this category. Many women’s mountain biking shorts are made from delicate, soft, lightweight fabric and so tapered that you can’t use knee pads—you know, because we’re so delicate, soft and lightweight ourselves that we could never possibly ride fast enough to crash—that favors fashion over function. Not the Elevate short. They’re made with a medium-weight four-way stretch ripstop fabric that is not too heavy, not to light. I never set out to crash when I’m testing cycling gear but I did with the Elevate. Not an epic crash but more of a complete wipe-out that sent me kidding across the trail into a mud bog the first time I wore them. They cleaned right up nice in the washing machine.
  • Total non-restriction ensues but I'll regret not wearing knee pads in about 3 minutes

    Total non-restriction ensues but I’ll regret not wearing knee pads in about 3 minutes

    No chamois. Believe it or not, I prefer mountain bike shorts that don’t come with a chamois. Allow me to explain. Some gear reviewers would ding this point but I suspect that bike apparel companies add the cheaper chamois to convince us we’re getting a great deal with an “integrated chamois”. We aren’t. I’ve been wearing the Pearl Izumi Sugar short or the SELECT Escape Texture shorts. I have also worn them over the Pearl Izumi SELECT Classic tights on cooler days. All with zero constriction or bulk.

  • Comfortable waist band. The back side of the waist band, which rises up fairly higher anyway, has some soft foam sewn into it. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s to provide enough structure to keep the back of the short from sliding down? Whatever the reason, it works.

    Shit. Not literally, but shit.

    Shit. Not literally, but shit.

  • Zippered security pocket on center back. For your MP3 player or car key because it certainly won’t hold a smartphone.
  • Waist adjustments tabs. What I like about this design is that they’re internal so when I adjusted to fit my waist, I didn’t have that puckered look.
  • Glove-friendly zipper pulls on the pockets. Because I wear gloves at all times when riding and sometimes I stash snacks in my pockets.
  • There’s nothing I didn’t like about the Pearl Izumi Elevate but to be as objective as possible, I can perhaps end with a cautionary tale. They’re not the most lightweight short due to the heavier fabric from which they’re made. But this is a true mountain biking short not a beach-crusing, urban brewery tour short.

Final thoughts

At $90 I don’t think they’re all that expensive. A good mountain bike short is going to run $80 – $120 anyway. But they’re also durable and well-made. Perhaps not the best short for urban riding or extended cross-country where you’re mostly pedaling (due to the weightier fabric) but for Enduro or all-mountain, they smoke.

  • Pearl Izumi
    Made for the days on the trail that inspire stories that are gradually exaggerated over time amongst your ride buddies, Pearl Izumi's Elevate Shorts can handle big rides and even bigger crashes without calling it quits. To ready the shorts for all-day abuse on the trails, Pearl constructs the Elevates with rugged, four-way stretch ripstop nylon topped by a DWR coating for wet, muddy days. The shorts are designed to be easily slipped on over your liner of choice, and Pearl constructed them anticipating they'd be worn with knee pads, so staying protected won't hinder your movements. A 15in inseam is exactly what you'll want on enduro and downhill rides, but if you're used to the freedom of movement from XC baggies, rest assured: Pearl carefully cut the shorts to sit close enough to your body to prevent them from getting caught on sticks and saddles, but still relaxed for everyday comfort. Features like hand pockets and a zippered security pocket add convenience during long rides, allowing you to take essentials with you on the trails, with an internal waist adjustment system to guarantee you're able to dial in the right fit once you pair the Elevates with your chosen liner.
    $99.95  from Backcountry
  • Pearl Izumi
    Made for the days on the trail that inspire stories that are gradually exaggerated over time amongst your ride buddies, Pearl Izumi's Elevate Shorts can handle big rides and even bigger crashes without calling it quits. To ready the shorts for all-day abuse on the trails, Pearl constructs the Elevates with rugged, four-way stretch ripstop nylon topped by a DWR coating for wet, muddy days. The shorts are designed to be easily slipped on over your liner of choice, and Pearl constructed them anticipating they'd be worn with knee pads, so staying protected won't hinder your movements. A 15in inseam is exactly what you'll want on enduro and downhill rides, but if you're used to the freedom of movement from XC baggies, rest assured: Pearl carefully cut the shorts to sit close enough to your body to prevent them from getting caught on sticks and saddles, but still relaxed for everyday comfort. Features like hand pockets and a zippered security pocket add convenience during long rides, allowing you to take essentials with you on the trails, with an internal waist adjustment system to guarantee you're able to dial in the right fit once you pair the Elevates with your chosen liner.
    $99.95  from Backcountry
  • Pearl Izumi
    It's just a tiny bit too cold out for shorts, but a touch too warm to wear your full-length cycling tights. What now? The Pearl Izumi Women's Sugar 3/4 Cycling Tights to the rescue. Balancing warmth and breathability, the tights are great for those in-between days, and they'll quickly become your go-to bottoms for chillier fall and early spring days. The Sugar tights fall into the Pearl Select family of cycling apparel, utilizing Select Dry Transfer fabric that keeps in just enough warmth while still being light enough to stay cool in case the sun comes out. The six-panel cut of the tights is anatomically dialed in for a cyclist's range of motion, and for comfort, Pearl Izumi's Women's Tour 3D Chamois is built in, supporting your sit bones while relieving pressure on sensitive tissue. The wide waistband complements the flattering fit, and reflective elements throughout provide visibility to motorists in low-light riding conditions. The Pearl Izumi Women's Sugar 3/4 Cycling Tights come in six sizes, from X-Small to XX-Large, and in three colors: Black/white, Black/dark purple, and Black texture.
    $74.95  from Backcountry
  • Pearl Izumi
    Ideal for every warm weather adventure, this top takes your style statement to a sporty new high. Transfer Dry Fabric - lightweight and provides superior moisture transfer Mesh panels for ventilation where you need it most Fabric : Body: 100% polyester Size XXL Color ShadowGrey
    $44.95  from TriVillage
  • Pearl Izumi
    Pearl Izumi Select Tri Sleeveless Cycling Jersey. Be it training or racing, the Pearl Izumi Select Tri sleeveless Cycling Jersey is designed to take you quickly and smoothly through a triathlon's bike and run segments with flying colors. Its SELECT Transfer fabric with In-R-Cool technology and UPF 50+ provides ultra-fast moisture-transfer. Direct-Vent side panels and 12 zipper also ensure you're cool and well-ventilated.
    $24.99  from Nashbar
  • Pearl Izumi
    Pearl Izumi Select Tri Sleeveless Cycling Jersey. Be it training or racing, the Pearl Izumi Select Tri sleeveless Cycling Jersey is designed to take you quickly and smoothly through a triathlon's bike and run segments with flying colors. Its SELECT Transfer fabric with In-R-Cool technology and UPF 50+ provides ultra-fast moisture-transfer. Direct-Vent side panels and 12 zipper also ensure you're cool and well-ventilated.
    $24.99  from Nashbar