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Hands-on Gear Review
Pearl Izumi Elevate Review
Cons: Too baggy for cross-country riding, no included liner, internal waist band adjustment
Bottom line: The Elevate shorts have a long inseam and great coverage, but they are not the best shorts for pedaling.
The Pearl Izumi Elevate shorts were a favorite amongst our testers and narrowly missed out on our Top Pick Award for the best downhill, and shuttle run shorts. As a former winner of our Editors' Choice award, we hold these shorts in high regard. Excellent leg coverage and wide leg openings make these shorts ideal for use with knee pads. The downside to the extra long inseam is reduced pedaling performance due to limited articulation. The Elevate lacks the versatility of some shorts, but it is an excellent choice for gravity riders.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Pearl Izumi is a well-known brand in the cycling world, with a vast product range covering everything from road cycling to mountain bike apparel. The Elevate shorts are an excellent example of the quality products that Pearl Izumi turns out. These shorts do not have the versatility of the 100% A/M** shorts that one our Editors' Choice Award, but they are a great product for the bike park and shuttle riding where protection outweighs good pedaling characteristics.
The Elevate shorts have the longest inseam of any short we tested, and they hang below the knee. The cut is loose, but they do not look particularly baggy when compared to shorts like the Fox Sergeant. Our test shorts were blue in color with some subtle black accents and a relatively small Pearl Izumi logo on the lower left leg. The zippers have a lighter blue color than the body of the shorts for some nice contrast that is not overly flashy, like the 100% Airmatic. If you are an enduro racer who likes a clean look, without the moto styling that is prevalent with brands like Troy Lee Designs, then the Elevate shorts are a good choice.
The Elevate shorts have a total of three pockets. There is a zippered pocket on the upper portion of each thigh, with ample room for food, or a phone. While the storage space is adequate, the pockets are not a great place to store things if you are going to be doing a lot of seated pedaling, as the contents of the pocket sit right where the hip articulates. A third zippered pocket can be found in the rear waistband. The Troy Lee Ruckus shorts have a similar pocket. We did not find this pocket to be all that useful. A car key, credit card or some cash could be stashed here, but the proximity to the spine makes us leery of storing anything with mass like a multi-tool here.
The Elevate shorts an adjustable waist like the other shorts in our review, but unfortunately the Velcro adjustments straps are located on the inside of the waistband making mid-ride adjustments a hassle. We prefer the adjustment straps be located on the exterior portion of the waist like the 100% Airmatic. Burly dual snaps and a zipper are used to close the shorts up in the front.
The Elevate shorts are made of a burly stretch fabric that is more substantial than the fabric of the 100% Airmatic or the Dakine Boundary shorts. They are amongst our highest scoring products for durability, and they are more than tough enough for enduro use. These shorts and the Troy Lee Ruckus became our go to shorts if the riding agenda was to include shuttle laps or an afternoon at the bike park. The overall construction of the Elevate is solid, and we saw no signs of weakness during testing. The mesh ventilation panels can be found on the inside of the legs, so they are not prone to abrasion in a typical crash. These are bomber shorts that can handle some serious abuse.
With the longest inseam of any shorts, we tested the Elevate shorts provide great leg coverage for protection. In addition to the extended coverage, the fabric is tough and does a good job of protecting the rider from brush and branches on the side of the trail. We rate the Troy Lee Ruckus higher for protection, mainly due to the thicker ripstop fabric, but the Elevate shorts have the best coverage of any short we tested. Knee pad compatibility is also excellent, with nice wide leg openings that allow pads to sit comfortably under the shorts.
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
The Elevate shorts suffer a bit here. The extra long length that enhances protection is a liability for pedaling. The shorts extend past the knee, even during seated pedaling. The downside of the length is that the fabric inhibits the pedal stroke. The 100% Airmatic shorts have a slightly shorter inseam and much lighter fabric which we found to be substantially more pedal friendly than the Elevate.
In cool temperatures, the Elevate shorts are reasonably comfortable. The fabric is soft against the skin, but not quite up to the silky feel of the 100% Airmatic. Unfortunately, when the mercury rises, these shorts are not up to the task. We found them to be quite warm, despite the mesh leg vents. The long inseam length is likely a contributor, as it is harder for air to move out of the shorts due to the below the knee length. We also found the padded rear pocket to be a trap for sweat, it quickly becomes soaked in hot weather and feels like a wet sponge on the lower back. For the most part, our comfort issues are related to poor ventilation, and in cooler temperatures, we don't mind the Elevate. The Elevate shorts do not come with a chamois inner liner.
The Elevate shorts are best suited to riding in cool temperatures. They will work for almost any type of riding, but they are best suited to Enduro and bike park use where pedaling efficiency is less important than coverage and protection.
The Elevate shorts retail for $100, putting them somewhere in the mid-range of the price spectrum of the shorts we tested. They do not come with a liner, but we feel that the high quality of these shorts makes them a good value.
The Pearl Izumi Elevate shorts are a great option for gravity riders, due to their excellent coverage and protection. We found them to be a bit long and too hot for rides that include a lot of climbing or pedaling.
— Curtis Smith
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