The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Pearl Izumi Elevate Review

Pearl Izumi's Elevate shorts are long and baggy, great for gravity oriented riding but not ideal for pedaling.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $100 List | $44.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Long inseam, work well with knee pads, durable water resistant material, quality construction
Cons:  Sizing runs big, very baggy, warm
Manufacturer:   Pearl Izumi
By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 9, 2018
  • Share this article:
68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 16
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness - 20% 6
  • Features - 20% 5
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Style - 10% 6
  • Protection - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Pearl Izumi Elevate shorts were updated in 2018, and just barely missed out on our Top Pick for Gravity Riders Award. Made from durable material with quality construction, the Elevate's long inseam and baggy fit make them great for more gravity oriented mountain biking pursuits. The long inseam and wide leg openings play well with knee pads but are less than ideal for extended periods of pedaling; those with an affinity for climbing would be better off looking elsewhere. That said, if you prefer a longer and baggier fit, or spend time riding lifts or doing shuttle laps, then this is an excellent pair of shorts to consider.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $44.73 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$130 List$155 List$88.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$69.98 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
68
100
0
80
100
0
80
100
0
76
100
0
76
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Long inseam, work well with knee pads, durable water resistant material, quality constructionFunctional slim fit, great features, SWAT bibs included, good valueLightweight, ventilated, articulated fit, quality construction, thoughtful designStylish, functions well with knee pads, high-quality and reasonable priceLightweight, comfortable, tailored fit, adjustable waist closure, quick drying
Cons Sizing runs big, very baggy, warmNot the best quality controlExpensive, short inseamMinimal waistband adjustment, over-complicated closure systemTailored fit may be too slim for some
Bottom Line Pearl Izumi's Elevate shorts are long and baggy, great for gravity oriented riding but not ideal for pedaling.The Specialized Enduro Pro shorts are fully featured with a functional high performance design and come with SWAT bibs.They are expensive, but Kitsbow's quality construction, attention to detail, and high performance design can't be beat.A dialed all-mountain/enduro short that ticks most of the boxes but has some major waistband issuesPatagonia's Dirt Roamer shorts are comfortable and lightweight with a minimalist design and performance oriented tailored fit.
Rating Categories Pearl Izumi Elevate Specialized Enduro Pro Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated 100% Airmatic Patagonia Dirt Roamer
Comfort (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
Fit And Pedal Friendliness (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
9
Features (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
Durability (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Style (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Protection (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
Specs Pearl Izumi Elevate Specialized Enduro... Kitsbow Mescal... 100% Airmatic Patagonia Dirt...
Shell Fabric 4-way stretch rip-stop - 95% nylon 5% elastane Water-repellent VaporRize woven fabric 4-way stretch softshell, mesh vent panels Polyester elastane stretch blend 4-way stretch 90 denier 87% recycled polyester/13% spandex with a DWR
Lining Main Fabric None Removeable SWAT liner chamois None CyTech Premium None
Chamois None Body Geometry Mountain None Foam pad None, but compatible with Endless Ride Chamois(sold separately)
Inseam Measurement (inches) 15 in 13.5 in 12.5 in 12 in 11.5 in
Number of pockets 3 2 2 2 1
Removable Inner Short? No Yes No No No
Weight (ounces) 11.92 oz 9.73 oz 9.24 oz 8.76 oz 5.22 oz
Weight Liner N/a 7.51 oz N/a N/a N/a

Our Analysis and Test Results

Pearl Izumi is one of the biggest brands in cycling clothing, and they have a long history of making some of the industry's best cycling gear. The Elevate shorts were recently updated but still feature the durable material, quality construction, and long and baggy fit of the previous version. We tested the new Elevate shorts for a couple of months this spring on all types of trails and in a variety of weather conditions. Overall, we found them to lack the versatility of some of the other shorts in our test selection, but they are indeed well suited to gravity oriented riding where coverage and protection are a higher priority than pedaling efficiency.

Performance Comparison


With a long and baggy fit and durable fabric  the Elevate shorts are more at home on the descents.
With a long and baggy fit and durable fabric, the Elevate shorts are more at home on the descents.

Comfort


Overall, we found the Elevate shorts to be reasonably comfortable. The stretch fabric and loose fit provide plenty of freedom of movement. Our first comfort related gripe with the Elevate is their lack of ventilation. This lack of ventilation isn't as big of a concern for gravity oriented riders, whom these shorts are best suited for, but if you live anywhere that is hot, or you like to pedal uphill, the heavier fabric and lack of vents on these shorts make them warmer than most.

There are two small mesh panels located down by the knee, one on each side, but testers found these small and poorly placed vents to do little, if anything, to cool down these shorts. If you happen to live in a cooler climate where temps rarely break the 70-degree mark, then these shorts might be more appropriate. There is not a chamois liner included with the Elevate shorts, but we would highly recommend using one to enhance your comfort on the bike.

The Patagonia Dirt Roamer, Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated, and Fox Flexair all have a comfortable, airy feel. If your idea of comfort is loose and non-restrictive, the Troy Lee Designs Ruckus and 100% Airmatic are worth a look.

The long cut of the Elevate shorts hangs down below the knee in the back  you can also see the color blocking on the pair we tested.
The long cut of the Elevate shorts hangs down below the knee in the back, you can also see the color blocking on the pair we tested.

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


The Elevate shorts did not score well in our pedal friendliness metric, and this is primarily due to the long and baggy fit. The protection enhancing the length of the inseam is a detriment to their pedaling performance as the shorts extend past the knee even when seated and pedaling. The overlap of the knee joint of the shorts inhibits the pedal stroke ever so slightly, and the material rubs on the top of your kneecap with every turn of the cranks. Pearl Izumi has made the seam on the front of the knee more pedal-friendly by using a flat welded seam with no stitching, but it still isn't great for extended periods of pedaling.

The baggy nature of the shorts also gave them more wind resistance than those with a slimmer fit, and the leg holes and material were prone to catching the wind. If you want a pair of shorts that are trim to combat this, the Fox Flexair are an obvious choice. Shorts with slightly shorter inseams, more contoured fits, and softer fabrics, like the Race Face Trigger, proved to be preferred for pedal friendliness. Testers also found the shorts to run big compared to the other brands in our test. They are available in even waist sizes 28-38.

Climbing isn't the Elevate's strong suit. They can certainly do it  but there are more comfortable options.
Climbing isn't the Elevate's strong suit. They can certainly do it, but there are more comfortable options.

Features


Pearl Izumi has equipped the Elevate shorts with three zippered pockets. Two of these are hand pockets, one on each side at the top of the thigh, that are large enough to hold a cell phone or wallet. Testers found these pockets to be most useful when not riding the bike, as they held their contents in a less than ideal location while pedaling. There is also a third pocket located on the Elevate, centered on the waistband on the lower back. This pocket is rather small and fits some money or maybe a credit card or ID, but testers didn't find it to be all that useful. This back pocket is also not in a great spot if you ride with a fanny pack or a hydration pack that sits low on your back.

You can fit a lot in the pockets of the Elevate shorts  but the hanging pocket liner and placement of the pockets isn't the best while pedaling.
You can fit a lot in the pockets of the Elevate shorts, but the hanging pocket liner and placement of the pockets isn't the best while pedaling.

There are no belt loops on the Elevate shorts, but like most mountain bike shorts, they have an adjustable waist tensioning system. These adjustable straps are located on the inside of the waistband and offer several inches of waist adjustment. This internal location of the adjustment straps works just fine, but they are much less easy to adjust mid-ride than shorts with an externally adjustable system like those found on the Specialized Enduro Pro. Two beefy metal snaps and a zipper fly round out the closure of the shorts, and there is some silicone grip along the inside of the waistband at the lower back. The Elevate shorts do not offer much in the way of ventilation other than a couple of small mesh panels located down by the knee on both legs.

The internal waist adjustment and the zipper fly and 2 snap closure of the Elevate shorts.
The internal waist adjustment and the zipper fly and 2 snap closure of the Elevate shorts.

Durability


Pearl Izumi has seemingly designed the Elevate shorts with durability in mind, and the main body of the shorts is constructed of a 4-way stretch ripstop fabric. The stretch of the fabric is readily apparent, as is the toughness of the fabric which feels a little burlier and rougher in hand than that of other shorts in our test selection like the Race Face Trigger or the Dakine Boundary shorts.

The Elevate shorts are also treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish to repel water and mud; this was appreciated after muddy rides, as the shorts clean up very easily with no residual staining of the fabric. The 7Mesh Glidepath, although they weren't a favorite among testers, also have a water repellent fabric. Quality control at Pearl Izumi seems pretty high, and these shorts are well finished. The craftsmanship and durable material of these shorts show no signs of abuse; they look as new as the day we got them even after hundreds of miles of use.

If your looking for shorts that may survive some big crashes, the burly and heavy Troy Lee Ruckus is worth a look. The thicker materials will stand up better in the event you dump it.

The 4-way stretch ripstop fabric is tough and durable  and the finish quality of the shorts is top notch.
The 4-way stretch ripstop fabric is tough and durable, and the finish quality of the shorts is top notch.

Style


With the longest inseam of all the shorts in our test selection (15 inches), the Elevate shorts are long and hang below the knee. Though they have a baggy fit, they are tailored in a way that doesn't look especially loose — but they are noticeably roomier when compared to slimmer fitting shorts like the Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated or the Club Ride Crush. Our test pair of shorts is a solid light blue color in the front with a Pearl Izumi logo on the outside of the knee on both legs.

The back of the shorts is black, so they have a bit of a color blocking look, but the dark back panels are a good design choice to prevent staining from mud on the seat of the shorts. The shorts aren't especially flashy, but they do look like a pair of mountain bike shorts. The subdued look is a nice touch, in our opinion. Shorts like the Troy Lee Designs Skyline and Specialized Atlas are also great shorts that are a bit subdued. The Elevate shorts are available in two colorways, the Arctic/Black color we tested and a solid Black as well.

The Elevate shorts have the longest inseam in our test selection and hang below the knee in the front.
The Elevate shorts have the longest inseam in our test selection and hang below the knee in the front.

Protection


Featuring the longest inseam of any shorts we tested, the Elevate shorts offer more in the way of leg coverage than the competition. That coverage, coupled with the burly fabric, offers the rider more leg protection from trailside hazards like branches or bushes. In our protection metric, we rated the Troy Lee Ruckus slightly higher due to the even thicker fabric they used, but the Elevate has the most coverage of any shorts we tested. The fit of the Elevate is also optimized to work well with knee pads, with large leg openings that can accommodate even the bulkiest of pads. Do you like the sound of wearing bulky knee pads? The Troy Lee Designs Ruckus and 100% Airmatic also work well with big pads.

The long inseam of the Elevate shorts never really rises above the knee.
The long inseam of the Elevate shorts never really rises above the knee.

Best Applications


We found the Elevate shorts to be best suited to gravity oriented riding, where pedaling efficiency is less of a concern that a roomy fit, good coverage, and knee pad compatibility. They will work for any style of riding, but the length, loose fit, and lack of ventilation of these shorts is less ideal for warmer temperatures and extended periods of pedaling.

Value


At a retail price of $100, the Elevate shorts aren't exactly cheap, but they aren't on the high end of the spectrum either. They aren't the most versatile shorts out there, but for the right consumer, we feel the durability and quality construction of these shorts makes them a good value.

They're not our first choice for big days in the saddle  but the Elevate shorts are great for more gravity oriented riders.
They're not our first choice for big days in the saddle, but the Elevate shorts are great for more gravity oriented riders.

Conclusion


They aren't for everyone, but we think the Pearl Izumi Elevate shorts are a great choice for gravity riders who will appreciate the loose fit, durable fabric, leg coverage, and knee pad compatibility they offer. That said, testers found the length to be less pedal friendly for riders who love long rides, and the lack of ventilation to be a little too hot for warmer climates.


Jeremy Benson