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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.