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With the Divide mountain bike short, Pearl Izumi set out to bridge the gap between the relentless gnar chaser and the heartrate-obsessed hammerhead.  These mountain bike shorts have a lightweight feel and a rad look.  The question is, is this a worthy functional accomplishment or a bad marketing compromise?

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The technical features of the Divide mountain bike short include:

  • 4-way stretch fabric for comfort while pedaling and during radical maneuvers
  • Lightweight Transfer fabric provides optimal moisture transfer with superior hand feel
  • Two leg and one padded center back pocket, all zippered for security
  • Snap front closure with zip fly
  • Snag free internal waist adjustment
  • Two front leg and one padded center back pockets
  • 13″ inseam (Size medium)

The Divide short does not come with a liner, but is cut to be ridden with one if you choose.  I rode the Divide short both with and without a liner, and really liked having the option of running them either way. While lightweight, the Divide handles that one- to two-hour, after-work sprint quite well without a chamois, provided that ride is not continually seated and pedaling–my after work rides are about 50% out-of-the-saddle, technical maneuvering.  Without the chamois, they were perfect for letting me throw the bike around with maximum comfort.  However, for those continuous 2,000 vertical foot climbs or all day cross country epics, you’ll definitely want to incorporate some padding.

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I rode the Divide in everything from a six-hour epic cross country pedalfest to a new personal record flying down Moab’s Porcupine Rim, and found the shorts to be equally well suited to both styles of riding.  The most remarkable thing about the Divide is the material; while not lycra, it is surprisingly lightweight, but at the same time it is quite substantial feeling. It appears sturdy enough for some aggression. Indeed, I did dump it hard once on the rocks, and wish my elbow had fared half as well as the Divide, which I just brushed off and we went on our way without fuss (other than the significant loss of blood from my upper joint).

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The closure system, featuring a combination of two snaps and a zipper, is both comfortable and secure.  The zippers on the pockets are very lightweight and nicely tucked in at a comfortable angle, meaning you  won’t notice them while pedaling, yet they also provide the necessary security. The sliding tabs with velcro, which allow a few inches of waist adjustability, is also very welcome, especially for us older guys, whose weight . . . uh . . . .varies from time to time.

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There is one area I thought the attempt to bridge the gap may have missed the mark, and that’s in the length. In my opinion, shorts should either be short (never touching the knee) or long (hanging well below the knee), while the Divide naturally sits right at the top of my knee. When legs are bent, as in pedaling, this isn’t an issue as they ride up nicely, but when cruising or hike-a-biking, they cross and uncross the knee.  I prefer either constant contact or no contact, but I suspect I may be unique in that admittedly minor distraction.

Overall, I found the “compromise” between skinny XC dude and gnarly huckster to be a very good one.  While they might not be my first (but still a very close second) choice for a pedally sprint or the rockiest, warp-speed enduro downhill, they are perfectly suited to everything in between. If we are honest with ourselves, that’s actually where the vast majority of us spend the vast majority of our time.

MSRP: $85 (also available in black/turquoise)

Thanks to Pearl Izumi for providing the Divide Short for review.

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