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Every year, my riding style evolves along with my bikes and the attire I wear to ride them. Looking the part is half the battle to convincing myself and the random hikers that I run off the trail (j/k) that I’m not as much a poser as my friends know I am. Mostly, though, I generally prefer lose-fitting all mountain jerseys for the range of motion that they provide, and XC jerseys when I want to go fast or pretend I’m skinny. One thing a lot of my colorful cycling wardrobe is lacking, however, is longer sleeved jerseys, which, ironically, I could ride with year-round here in Colorado depending on the elevation and nature’s temperament.

This comfortable jersey can keep you cool even on warm summer days...

This comfortable jersey can keep you cool even on warm summer days. It was 90 degrees F in this photo. No joke. I never had to take it off or unzip it.

Enter the Pearl Izumi Elite LS Jersey

The issue that I have with many of the longer-sleeved jerseys that I have owned or tried in the past is that they are usually made for DH riding, they are too heavy, are not terribly breathable, and/or are made with a fabric just a tad softer than burlap. For the few days a year I may spend reveling in lift-accessed shenanigans, that’s adequate, but I found myself wanting a more practical, versatile, long sleeve jersey I could wear on most of the other singletrack tomfoolery I get involved in.

The jersey hasecellent range of motion for tight maneuvers and abrasive situations.

The jersey has excellent range of motion for tight maneuvers and abrasive situations.

The Pearl Izumi ELITE LS Jersey is like manna from heaven. Honestly, I had my doubts about the durability of the fabric when I first tried it on. Silky smooth, it reminded me of something a king would wear as a nightgown. Make no mistake, though, this long sleeved miracle fabric was made for mountain biking.

The best thing about a thin long sleeved jersey is not the extra warmth it gives you from the elbows to your wrists, but the protection from the sun. At altitude, UV rays can burn you like a Chris Rock yo-mamma joke. Pearl Izumi recognized this, and did everyone a solid by taking their fabric to the next level with built in 50 UPF protection, eliminating the use of sunscreens, which can be sticky, smelly, bug magnets that retard moisture evaporation.

The athletic fit is excellent, especially if you have the meat to fill it out. Should I carry a permit for my "guns"?

The athletic fit is excellent, especially if you have the meat to fill it out. Should I carry a permit for my “guns”?

There is a lot more going on with this jersey than longer sleeves with built in sunscreen, though.

The Deets (from Pearl Izumi):

  • ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool® fabric-100% polyester
  • Ice-fil® provides superior skin cooling
  • Direct-Vent panels provide superior ventilation
  • Sublimated graphics on selected panels
  • Elasticized gripper on back to keep hem in place
  • Full length zipper for venting
  • Three back pockets plus hidden sweat-proof pocket
  • Reflective elements for low-light visibility
  • MSRP $120 in sizes Small to XXL
  • Reported weight 100g/m2..so it depends on big you are

First of all, the Ice-fil is pretty cool stuff, which you can read about here if you are into textiles and fabrics and Hobby Lobby and all that. But basically, xylitol yarn absorbs sweat and wicks it away from the body, transforming it into an evaporative coolant on your skin… kind of like a swamp cooler for your home. It doesn’t actually need sunlight to work, which is also pretty amazing, using the heat from your body to facilitate moisture transfer.

This goes above and beyond your run-of-the mill polyester fabric of old that stays moist as you sweat: Icefil actually puts your sweat to work as if you were not wearing a layer over your skin (which would normally trap perspiration). This means that you could wear this long sleeve jersey all year round, even on warmer days, and take advantage of the UPF protection and other merits of longer sleeves (bug resistance, for example).

The full front zipper is nice for racers when the heat gets turned up...

The full front zipper is nice for racers when the heat gets turned up…

All that sounds great, but how does the jersey actually feel and perform? The answer, you might have guessed, is great. Fantastic even.

To be fair, this jersey has its niche, and like all fabrics, is not impenetrable to crashes, misuse, or other high jinks. The fabric is stretchy, and durable to a point, but I don’t think it would survive a cartwheeling crash on Whister’s A-line. It is great for all-mountain riding, and perfect for XC riding or as a road jersey. Fortunately I cannot attest to its crash resistance. 🙂 Yet.

Vented material under the arms and on the side seams help airflow and maximize evaporative cooling

Vented material under the arms and on the side seams help airflow and maximize evaporative cooling

The quality, however, is unparalleled. It is quite simply the softest, most comfortable, synthetic sport fabric I have ever tried, and I honestly wished more mountain biking apparel was made of this stuff. When I was riding, I would hardly remember I was wearing it, and it kept me cool even on warmer 70-80 degree days even as the sun beat down on me hard.

The hottest day I tested it in was a partly-cloudy 91 degrees that dropped to 82 by the end of my ride. Why? Because I’m here for you.. .and unbelievably, this jersey kept me cool even during a long mountain climb. Not too shabby…

(Results may vary: the fact that I sweat like a Louisiana brothel may have helped the Ice-fil out a bit.)

Hydration pack straps help keep "the bulge" (see below) at bay...and again the fit and fabric are second to none.

Hydration pack straps help keep “the bulge” (see below) at bay…and again the fit and fabric are second to none.

The form fit is great too, and compliments broad shoulders and men who belong on romance novel covers. For the average middle aged man with a few extra pounds around the waist, this jersey may not be particularly flattering. The full length zipper tends to give that weird bulge in the middle, which may mislead the opposite (or same) sex into thinking you are really happy to be riding with them. You may not care, but just an observation and a heads up. It is loose enough, and stretchy enough, that it allows a lot of freedom of movement for more aggressive riding. Wearing and cinching down a hydration pack tends to eliminate these anomalies.

NOT a big fan of "the bulge" (not all of it is jersey)...

NOT a big fan of “the bulge” (not all of it is jersey)…

Some riders may find the color selection lacking… but they sent a jersey that closely resembles the Singletracks.com logo, so I can’t ding them for that. Seriously, though, the design and colors are well thought out, the majority of the jersey is white and may show dirt with repeated use. After several dusty rides and normal wash and wear, I could only see the faintest of soiling, but only after looking hard for it. If this jersey is taken care of, it will last many seasons… unless you crash into Mississippi mud or partake in a post-ride pie eating contest.

The sleeves are longer than most longer sleeved jerseys. You may have to grow longer arms...

The sleeves are longer than most longer sleeved jerseys. You may have to grow longer arms…cowabunga dude!

The pockets are handy, particularly the zippered one, for IDs and gels, although I did not use them much because I tend to put everything in my hydration pack. For a roadie, or XC going feathery up a trail, this is a thoughtful design bonus. Reflective elements and a full zipper caters to the XC/roadie crowd as well.

Three rear stash pockets and one zippered one. The elastic waistband keeps things taut

Three rear stash pockets and one zippered one. The elastic waistband keeps things taut

The Bottom Line:

The fabric alone is worth trying this jersey out, which is light, versatile, and offers sun protection: almost unheard of in the mountain biking jersey world. Throw in Pearl Izumi’s legendary quality and warranty, and it is difficult to find a reason to talk any rider out of taking this home unless you are a pure park or DH rider. If you are in the market for a long sleeve jersey, have a gran fondo or endurance MTB race planned, or love fabrics that make you feel like high-tech royalty, I would recommend taking a look at the Pearl Izumi Elite long sleeve jersey.

I couldn't resist one "high fashion" shot to show you how sexy this jersey is...so I'll take one for the team and show you my sassy

I couldn’t resist one “high fashion” shot to show you how sexy this jersey is…so I’ll take one for the team and show you my sassy #gynecomastia

Thanks again to Pearl Izumi for sending over this amazing jersey for review!

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