The Pearl Izumi Summit short is a lightweight trail riding short with a simple, minimalist design. These shorts have a longer, 14-inch inseam, a slim fit through the waist and hips, and slightly baggier legs. We loved the way they fit, but admit that it may not be for everyone. The low-profile waistband is non-stretch with easy access hook and loop adjustment tabs, while the Transfer Woven fabric feels good against the skin with a slight amount of stretch throughout the rest of the shorts. We found them to be very pedal-friendly, with plenty of freedom of movement and a smooth bonded and angled hem. Tow rear-loading thigh pockets offer easy access while riding and hold items tight against the body while pedaling. The Summit shorts are available with (tested) or without a padded liner short.
Pearl Izumi has updated the Summit shorts since we tested this model. We recently tested and reviewed the latest version of the Summit Shell Short. _November 2022
Our Analysis and Test Results
Pearl Izumi has been making cycling clothing for as long as we can remember. We tested a few pairs of their baggy mountain bike shorts and have had mixed feelings about them. We picked up the Summit shorts with low expectations but were relatively impressed by their comfort, minimalist design, quality construction, and solid value.
The Summit shorts are quite comfortable with a slim fit through the hips and a lightweight shell material. The Transfer Woven fabric is 96% polyester with 4% elastane, so it has a small amount of stretch and a soft ribbed texture on the inside that feels really good against the skin. They come in even waist sizes from 28-38, and they have external hook and loop straps on both sides to dial in the fit of the non-stretch waistband to your exact preferences. The waistline is nicely articulated, and they feel good when in the seated pedaling position. Additionally, the knee hem has been bonded to keep it low profile and chafe-free when pedaling.
We ordered a size 32 Summit short and found them to fit true to size in the waist. We do feel it is worth mentioning that these shorts do have a slim fit through the hips and they get looser through the thighs with a little taper at the knee. We had no issue with the way these fit, but riders with a muscular behind or large quads may want to try these on or consider sizing up before making a purchase as there is little extra room from the crotch to the waistband. With a 14-inch inseam, they are also relatively long, hanging over the kneecap while standing and rising just above the knee while pedaling. Also, while the shell material is lightweight and comfortable with a tiny amount of stretch, they aren't nearly as stretchy as some other shorts we've tested.
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
As mentioned above, the Summit shorts have a relatively slim fit in the waist and hips with baggier legs and a 14-inch inseam length. They come in six even waist sizes from 28-38, so you can typically get a more precise waist fit than with other shorts that come in S, M, L, and XL sizes.
We thought these shorts fit great, and they also proved to be very pedal-friendly. The material has a small amount of stretch, with a smooth and soft interior that slides easily over the skin or liner shorts. The hem at the knee has also been bonded and angled up in the back to keep it low profile and prevent any unwanted chafing on top of the knee from stitching or contact with the calf.
The Summit shorts aren't exactly feature-rich, but the few features they do have help to improve the riding experience. The first and most obvious feature of these shorts is that they come with a padded liner short. While it doesn't have the best chamois pad, it's not terrible either, and it's far better than riding with none at all. These shorts are also available as a shell only for a slight reduction in price so you can wear them with your favorite liner.
These shorts have a total of two pockets. The Trail Access pockets are situated on both hips with vertical zippers and a convenient back-loading design. The mesh-lined pockets are relatively large and can easily fit a modern smartphone, and they hold the contents tight against the body so nothing flops around while riding. The non-elastic waistband is very low-profile, and it features two external velcro tabs to adjust the tension with a simple button closure. They also have a smooth bonded hem at the knee, with an angled cut to prevent contact with the calf while pedaling. The outer material is also treated with a DWR (durable water repellant) to shed water and moisture and dry quickly when you inevitably sweat in them. They don't have any ventilation, but the material is quite lightweight and quick drying.
After several hundred miles of riding, we've been quite impressed by the overall durability of the Summit shorts. The fabric is lightweight and soft against the skin, yet it's not so light and stretchy that it can't handle brushes with trailside branches or bushes. The fabric has a pretty tight weave that seems very resistant to pulling or tearing. The DWR treatment also works well, and there are no signs of staining from mud or sweat.
All of the stitching is nice and clean, with no loose ends or pulled threads to speak of. Quality control and craftsmanship appear to be top-notch. The hook and loop waist adjustments are one area of concern because velcro can sometimes wear out quickly. The Velcro used on the Summit shorts, however, appears to be very strong with a tenacious grip. Our only really durability issue has been that the shell fabric on the inside of the shorts where they are bonded at the knee hem is fraying just slightly. That said, we just trimmed off the fraying ends with some scissors and it hasn't been an issue since.
The Summit shorts have a slim fit through the waist and hips with baggier legs and a 14-inch inseam. We think they look relatively good both on and off the bike. The "forest" colorway we tested is an olive green with black panels on the inner thighs and the stretch panel on the lower back with small, subtle logos on the outside of each leg. This colorway does look pretty sporty and whispers "mountain bike shorts", but doesn't scream it. These shorts also come in solid black and "loam" color options which have an even more subdued look.
The Summit shorts are about average in terms of protection. They are made from a relatively lightweight material with a minimalist design, but the 14-inch inseam hangs down right around the knee. The coverage they provide will certainly protect from UV rays and minor encounters with trailside bushes and branches, but that's about it. The material isn't quite as burly as more protective gravity riding shorts but is adequate for the trail riding intentions of the Summit. One nice thing is that they do play well with lower-profile kneepads without any dreaded pad gap and the low-profile bonded hem doesn't tend to hang up on them either.
We feel the Summit shorts are a pretty good value. Not only are they comfortable and perform well on the bike, but they come with a padded liner short at a fair price. They aren't the least expensive shorts we've tested, but they fit better and seem to be well made and ready to withstand several seasons of riding.
The Pearl Izumi Summit is a quality pair of lightweight, minimalist trail riding shorts. They hug the waist and hips comfortably with a low-profile non-stretch waistband and two well-designed pockets. The fabric is lightweight and comfortable against the skin, pedal-friendly, yet surprisingly durable. We feel these are a good option for the trail rider looking for a minimalist short with a longer inseam.
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