We really, really wanted to like these shorts. Out of the box, the Pearl Izumi Escape Quest - Women's caught our eye with the shiny pattern splashed across the black. When we tried them on, they made us look good — athletic, strong, and not at all bulky. Once we were on the bike, though, our perception of the shorts started to change. The lower waist really didn't stay in place (it tended to roll over), and the flat chamois didn't offer much protection after an hour in the saddle. But, there was a lot to like about this short: the length (which fell just slightly above the knee) and its great breathability made it an OK option for shorter rides and spin classes.
Pearl Izumi Escape Quest - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great fit, fun pattern on the short, super cute
Cons: Below-average chamois, shorter waist, not comfortable on longer efforts
Manufacturer: Pearl Izumi
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We found ourselves grabbing this short more than we should because it was a very flattering garment. These shorts do make your butt look fast. Unfortunately, its looks didn't measure up to the performance in the saddle. We believe this is due to the chamois.
Comfort and Fit
Unlike other shorts in this review, our immediate impression when putting these on wasn't to notice how soft of comfortable they are-- it was more like "Huh… OK." These feel like a run-of-the-mill fitness short. They have a nice, medium length, a shorter waist than other shorts in this review and little silicone details on the inside of the legs to hold them in place, but that don't squeeze the entire leg, which we appreciated.
What we missed and wished this short had: a longer waist. It was fine walking around in them, but once you get on the bike and into the somewhat hunched over position that us roadies are famous for, the back of the short doesn't protect the lower back from the sun. Also, the front side of the short "rolled down," not keeping everything in place.
Padding and Protection
This is the metric where the Escape Quest really lost a lot of ground--which is too bad, because the chamois is really the most important component of a cycling short. While the Escape Quest has a decent amount of foam in the short, it's not "heat-stitched"-- meaning, it's not contoured to fit to a moving body that's sitting on a bike saddle for hours on end.
Instead, the chamois in the Escape Quest tends to bunch up, which (as you can imagine) gets uncomfortable after an hour or so of riding. It's also the same thickness from front to back and side to side, which means it's also not a very breathable chamois. This makes it less padded hour after hour because if you're riding, you're also probably sweating, which means the chamois is retaining moisture. This is a perfect recipe for chafing. The stitching that holds the chamois in place is also unfinished-- another sign that the chamois might not be as comfortable as it could be.
Breathability and Fabric
The Escape Quest performs adequately in regards to its breathability. It isn' terrible, but there are better options if you're looking for something highly breathable. The fabric had a thicker feel to it than others in this review (we wondered if that was due to a higher nylon content). Granted, some riders may prefer a thicker short, especially if they ride early mornings, cool evenings, or are looking for a short for chilly weather. For warmer conditions, we prefer shorts that had a lighter and thinner feel to them.
So, our impression was that these are a "middle of the road" short in regards to their breathability… we've ridden in worse, but we have also experienced shorts that outperform the Escape Quest.
The overall quality of the short gave it a slightly higher score in the Durability metric. The seams are all reinforced (except for the seam around the chamois), and the lack of any raw edges on the exterior of the short itself makes us believe this is a highly durable garment that should last you a few seasons.
The raw seam around the chamois has us a little worried, however. Raw edges are usually the first to show signs of wear and tear in a garment like this. Given the sensitive area the chamois is protecting, there can be little worse than a chamois coming detached from a short when you're out on a ride. While this didn't happen during our testing period, it has happened with other shorts that had this kind of stitching around the chamois, so it's something to keep your eye on.
A potential buyer may also notice the reflective details (a Pearl Izumi logo on the side of the upper left hip and on the lower right leg) start to peel off after several washes. Again, this didn't happen during this testing period, but typically iron-on details like this do tend to peel and fall off after a certain number of washes and/or miles in the saddle.
We should also mention that we are also very impressed with the company's warranty policy and friendly customer service that made us believe that, even if you received a faulty short, you could replace it at no additional cost, and keep on riding.
If you can't already tell, we think these shorts make us look sexy. And, if you believe that a new cycling kit can make you ride faster, it might be possible to overlook the some of our critiques of these shorts in favor of their fashion.
In all seriousness, though, we believe this metric points to how the short is made; if it's made well, it won't bunch, and it will look good on. And in this, the Escape Quest shines (and the fabric it's made of literally shines with a cool swirly pattern that we thought made the shorts look even more awesome).
The Pearl Izumi Escape Quest is best for shorter rides or spin classes. We came to this conclusion because of the way the chamois held up in the saddle, and how the short itself started to "roll" at the waist after a rider was in the saddle for a while. By no means a terrible short, our testers just felt there were better options out there for cyclists looking to go on a longer ride.
It's hard to argue against the price of the Escape Quest. However, it isn't the best performing short at that price point, either. Unless you're totally in love with its unique fabric or a dedicated Pearl Izumi customer, we think you should try other shorts around this price-point and see what you might be missing out on that the Escape Quest isn't providing.
Not a bad short, but not a great short. We loved how the Women's Pearl Izumi Escape Quest looked, but our enthusiasm fell flat once we got out on the open road. Too bad; it's not exactly easy to find a cycling short that makes you cute.
— Rebecca Eckland