The highly breathable fabric with four-way stretch construction will keep you comfortably spinning for hours on the singletrack. If you're feeling the need for downhill speed, the 13-inch inseam offers protection to the knee, with plenty of room for knee pads if you're headed to the park. If the Elevate was a high school yearbook superlative, it would be "Best All-Around." Coming in first or a close second in almost every metric in the test, it easily took home the win and the Editors' Choice Award. Still not sold? Keep reading to understand why we voted the Elevate number one.
Pearl Izumi Elevate - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Multiple secure pocket options, four-way stretch, longer inseam, works well with knee pads
Cons: Heavily padded rear waistband
Manufacturer: Pearl Izumi
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review Of The Pearl Izumi Elevate - Women's
The Elevate is your one-stop-shop for a women's mountain bike short. She's got a clean look combined with high-functioning features that allow you to take your mind off the shorts and focus on the trail ahead. For these reasons, we voted the Elevate the Editors' Choice for women's mountain bike shorts.
Fit and Comfort
We rated the Elevate an 8 for fit and comfort. The Elevate uses the more traditional Velcro closures to help you find your custom fit in the waist. The Velcro tabs are internal, and while Pearl Izumi isn't re-inventing the wheel with the adjustable waist, they did find ways to minimize what could be an otherwise bulky situation. The Velcro attachments are done in two narrow strips stacked on top each other instead of one thicker strip, therefore maximizing the edges of the waistband, but eliminating the unnecessary center. The actual tab itself is also angled so that the rider could have an easier time pulling apart the Velcro and re-adjusting the tab. It reminded us of dog-earing the duct tape roll so that the next time you need a piece, it's already started for you. The Club Ride Apparel Ventura offered the easiest waist adjusters. The button closures are calibrated so that you don't have to worry about pulling equally on either side.
Unlike the Fox Ripley, the Elevate's entire waistband has some stretch to it, so when you're bent over in the saddle grinding it out, you won't feel the two snap closure digging in. There is some padding around the pocket in the rear that we found trapped the heat in a little, but it did lend extra give to the overall short.
Ultimately, when it comes to solving pedaling problems, we're looking for a short that is completely distraction free. We don't want hang-ups on the saddle, or knee pads. We're also not interested in a short that rides up the thigh, or instead doesn't go anywhere and restricts the rider from getting a full pedal stroke around. When that happens, the short's hemline folds over and what's more distracting than that?
Queue the Pearl Izumi Elevate. We scored this short a 9 out of 10 because it doesn't have any of the problems mentioned above. The four-way stretch fabric is pieced together in a way that lends the most amount of elasticity possible. The pockets are sewn in on the bias so not to create pulling across the short and the gusseted crotch panel is made from a lighter weight, more breathable material that also includes the bottom hemline on the short, which gives the ultimate amount of continuous stretch.
One minor hit to pedal friendliness taken by the pocket metric would be the padding surrounding the rear panel stash pocket. The addition of the padding added volume to the waistband and made things a little warm back there when pedaling. It's the classic case of six in one, half a dozen in the other. Protected rear pocket leads to a padded waistband. Thankfully, the same lighter weight fabric used in the gusset is also used in the yoked panel just below said pocket and helps to provide breathing relief. If a lower profile rear pocket is important, the Troy Lee Skyline will do the trick, as well as provide four-way stretch.
The only thing holding the Elevate back from a perfect 10 in the protection metric is the inseam, which is why we gave it a 9. The 13-inch inseam falls short of the Norrona Fjora by a few inches. However, the length of the Elevate is long enough to make you feel well-protected for the days when you don't feel like padding up. For most testers, the hem of the shorts reached just mid-knee, and while pedaling, the short-crested the top of the knee.
Unlike the Dakine Cadence, which has the same length inseam, testers did not complain of the shorts hitting them in the calf because of the cut of the short. The Cadence had a wider leg opening and created more drape than the Elevate and would hang behind the knee, creating a distracting drag on the leg on the down stroke.
The looser fit of the leg was perfect for wearing with kneepads. The opening was wide enough for the bottom of the shorts to overlap even bulkier pads and create a seamless transition in protection. The material, while breathable, is pretty resistant to abrasion and has a smooth finish. It's not quite the softshell of the Norrona Fjora, but it held up well to the white thorn snag test and riders seemed satisfied with the level of protection.
Check this out: The Elevate has three zippers, but five pockets! How does that work? First, there's the classic rear waistband pocket, which is large enough to hold your ID but is also padded so if you really wanted to, you could stash something in there that's got some volume to it. A gel would work well in the rear pocket, but we wouldn't recommend anything with sharp edges to be placed in a pocket against your back.
Now let's talk about the remaining two zippers. They sit on either side of the hip of the Elevate and the side-accessible zippered pockets have space on both sides of the waist so that you decide if you want your gear stashed in front of your thigh or behind it.
So, you get four pockets but only have the hardware for two. So many options! The rear angle of the pocket doesn't hang as low that of the Zoic Navaeh, but testers were able to utilize these pockets due to the stretchiness of the fabric. We scored the Elevate a 7 out of 10 for minimal zippers but ample storage space.
What we love about the Elevate is how understated it is. It doesn't scream, "Hey look at me, I'm a bike short!" It doesn't look overly technical, and the pockets are super subtle, which are details overlooked by other shorts in the test. The Norrona Fjora's contrasting zippers and transformer construction make it very clear that it is some sort of high functioning, high tech apparel.
On the contrary, the Pearl Izumi Elevate could also easily be the favorite short of an international traveler, day hiker or dog walker. It's an easy to wear piece that will fit into your wardrobe, like your favorite pair of leggings, which is why we gave the Elevate an 8 out of 10. It's fitted at the waist, but is loose-fitting through the hip and thigh and has a 13-inch inseam, which hit most testers just at the knee.
If you're looking to own a single pair of bike shorts that are pretty much going to do it all, go with the Pearl Izumi Elevate. Its breathable enough for epic all-day rides, and is strong enough to handle whatever technical terrain you had in mind. It's not the lightest, it's not the sturdiest, and it's not the cutest, so what's so great about the Elevate? It is the most well-rounded short of the test. If you're looking to have just one pair of shorts for all of your pedaling needs, we would highly recommend our Editors' Choice, the Elevate.
$90 is a screaming deal for these shorts. They actually fell below the average price of the shorts in the test, which was $96. They're not nearly as pricey as the Norrona Fjora and are way more versatile. The Elevate offers great stretch, reasonable coverage, and breathability for a very reasonable price.
Clearly, we've got a thing for the Pearl Izumi Elevate. Honestly, if you're looking to spend more time on the trails and less time trying to figure out which pair of shorts to reach for, pick up a pair of the Elevates. No matter what adventure you have in mind that day, they'll be sure to do the trick.
— Cat Keenan