December is the time of year when you, the cyclist, needs a warm jacket that repels the weather that winter throws at you. Here’s The Pearl Izumi Versa Softshell Hoodie ($175) is wind and water resistant and after riding in it for a couple months I love it because…
It’s an effective wind blocker. There’s really not much else to say here. It’s winter in Minneapolis. Winter brings chilly, frigid winds from the north (and south, east and west). Its full softshell fabric is an impenetrable fortress to the winter winds. I can hear the wind. I can see evidence of the wind. But the only way I feel the wind is when its blasting the part of my face that isn’t covered by a balaclava.
It’s warm—very warm. The Pearl Izumi Versa Softshell has a soft, brushed lining for insulation and its burly softshell exterior impressively blocks the cold wind. Wrist gussets do a great job of also keeping out any wind. Pearl Izumi states on their website that the Versa Softshell Hoodie is “best suited for the temperature range of forty-five to fifty-five degrees”. I found it excruciatingly warm when I wore it in those temps, even with a lightweight long-sleeved Merino wool baselayer. I had to unzip the zipper to quell the sweat. Temps in the mid-twenties with a 200g weight Smartwool baselayer—and only the baselayer—is the sweet spot for me. I wasn’t too hot and I wasn’t the slightest bit cold. Keep in mind I was comfortable because I was riding a bike at a good clip. So Pearl Izumi is a little self-deprecating in their rating. The Versa Softshell Hoodie will keep you warm in colder temps than forty-five to fifty-five degrees.
It’s breathable. As it should be, since it’s a cycling jacket. It’s right up there with the better breathable softshells in terms of combining warmth and breathability. I have worn it with 150g and 200g wool baselayers—and once with a mid-layer for snowshoeing. I’ve worn it on commuting rides in temps as low as nineteen degrees and fatbiking in temperatures as high as forty-five degrees. The forty-five degree ride was the overheating sweatfest. Still, it kept the sweating and clamminess to a manageable level.
It’s versatile. During my testing period I also used it for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and trail running in addition to cycling. At taprooms and coffeeshop stops its relaxed fit, longer cut and drop-tail doesn’t scream bike tool. Everything else about me screams ‘bike tool’ but not the jacket. The Pearl Izumi Versa Softshell Hoodie is bikestyle at its best and in an era where the price of quality gear is climbing, it’s important to invest dollars wisely. When a $175 cycling jacket can be used beyond its intended purpose, it helps to ease the pain of higher price tag.
Loaded with thoughtful extras. For the commuter cyclist, it has reflective elements strategically placed on the sleeves, chest pocket and rear drop-tail for good visibility. Storage capacity is outstanding. It has a zippered wide rear pocket across the lower back that can hold a bike tool, wallet, phone, iPod, gloves, balaclava, etc. On the front, it has four pockets—two hand pockets and two secured pockets with zippers. The hood is generous, but not useful for cycling since it isn’t helmet compatible. But if you’re standing around after a ride drinking beer, it works brilliantly!
Its relaxed cut allows layering. Sizing is accurate. I normally wear a size small in jackets and the Versa Softshell Hoodie size small is the correct size for me. It is not a fitted jacket so it allows for a wide range of options in layering. The bulkiest layering it endured was when I was snowshoeing in twenty-eight degrees. I wore a 200g weight Smartwool baselayer and an Icebreaker merino wool vest and it didn’t feel cocoonish or tight. I also wore it with a 150g Smartwool baselayer and a Smartwool Corbet 120 and had the same results. So go forth and be creative!
Where I’m Conflicted
The hood. While it doesn’t suck by any means, it’s superfluous for cycling because it isn’t helmet compatible. The hood strings are long and ungainly (but reflective!) and I have to be tuck deep inside the jacket to quell my fear of dangling strings on a bike. But if you plan to use it for any other activity, like snowshoeing or hiking, then it is just fine.
There’s so much to love and nothing to hate about the Pearl Izumi Versa Softshell Hoodie. It’s a jacket designed to be worn on and off the bike. Its style is classic and timeless. For the cyclist, it has the right amount of reflective elements and pockets in all the right places. For all other cold-weather active pursuits it blends the right degree of warmth, wind- and weather-resistance and breathability. For the bike-and-beer crowd, it doesn’t scream ‘bike tool!’ For all, it allows for a wide range of layering and versatility.
Another slam-dunk from Pearl Izumi.
The Pearl Izumi Versa Softshell Hoodie is a Gear Gals Piece of Recommended Gear