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Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Shorts Review

This lightweight, highly breathable trail short is a great choice for cranking out the miles on hot days
pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review
Credit: Pearl Izumi
Price:  $100 List
Manufacturer:   Pearl Izumi
By Nick Miley ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2022
78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 15
  • Comfort - 20% 8.5
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness - 20% 9.0
  • Features - 20% 7.0
  • Durability - 20% 7.0
  • Style - 10% 8.0
  • Protection - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Shorts are athletically fit shorts with ample ventilation provided by perforated panels along the inner thigh. The short is extremely comfortable for long pedals, even when the temperature spikes. The design is decidedly minimalistic, however, which is what many riders are after. The back-of-the-thigh pockets provide reasonably comfortable storage but are on the smaller side. The waist closure and adjustment is asymmetrical and may pull the waist off to one side if the rider is on the slim end of the fit. Given the lightweight design, the material, zippers, and stitching may not be the most durable. Still, we appreciate the fit, pedal performance, and comfort of the Summit Shell shorts.
REASONS TO BUY
Great ventilation
Low-pro waist adjustment
Welded leg openings
REASONS TO AVOID
Small pockets
Lightweight material may not be the most durable
Asymmetrical waist adjustment

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Great ventilation, low-pro waist adjustment, welded leg openingsTrim and clean fit, quality chamois, pedal-friendlyStylish, functions well with knee pads, high-quality and reasonable priceClean style, reasonable price, pedal-friendlyAffordable, trim fit, comfortable
Cons Small pockets, lightweight material may not be the most durable, asymmetrical waist adjustmentA little heavy, below average ventilationMinimal waistband adjustment, over-complicated closure systemDeep pockets allow contents to flop around while ridingSmall pockets, no vents, big logo
Bottom Line This lightweight, highly breathable trail short is a great choice for cranking out the miles on hot daysA trim pair of trail riding shorts that deliver exceptional comfort and pedal-friendliness but don't breathe particularly wellA dialed all-mountain/enduro short that ticks most of the boxes but has some minor waistband issuesHighly functional trail-riding shorts that offer clean styling and a great in-saddle feelThese trail-riding shorts offer an excellent combination of performance and affordability
Rating Categories Pearl Izumi Summit... Troy Lee Designs Sk... 100% Airmatic Specialized Trail S... Fox Racing Ranger
Comfort (20%)
8.5
8.5
8.0
8.0
8.0
Fit and Pedal Friendliness (20%)
9.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
8.0
Features (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Durability (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Protection (10%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Pearl Izumi Summit... Troy Lee Designs Sk... 100% Airmatic Specialized Trail S... Fox Racing Ranger
Shell Fabric 87% recycled polyester, 13% spandex 95% Coolmax polyester, 5% Lycra Polyester elastane stretch blend VaporRize woven fabric TruMotion® 2-way stretch ripstop fabric -92% nylon, 8% spandex 2-way warp stretch w/ DWR coating
Removable Inner Short? No (can be purchased with liner) Yes No No (can purchase with liner) No (can be purchased with liner)
Lining Main Fabric None AIR COMP CyTech Premium None None
Chamois None TMF 4-hour Foam pad None None
Inseam Measurement (inches) 12.5 12.5 12 13.5 12
Number of pockets 2 2 2 2 2
Weight (grams) 165 grams 244 grams 250 grams 224 grams 208 grams
Weight (ounces) 5.85 oz 8.6 oz 8.8 oz 7.9 oz 7.3 oz
Weight Liner N/a 4.3 oz N/a N/a N/a

Our Analysis and Test Results

The pared-down Summit Shell Shorts are a great option for those that forgo bells and whistles for practical attire on long and demanding days in the saddle. These shorts can't carry much in the pockets, they offer little in the way of protection, and there aren't many features. But they are quite comfortable, ventilate well, fit even better, and look smart on and off the trail.

Performance Comparison


pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - the summit shell shorts offer great breathability and a lightweight...
The Summit Shell shorts offer great breathability and a lightweight, minimalistic build.
Credit: Nick Miley

Comfort


The Summit Shell shorts offer users one of the more comfortable rides in the class thanks to their well-placed ventilation along the inseam of the legs. The recycled polyester and spandex blended cloth the shorts are cut from offers great stretch to prevent tension and binding while peddling. And, much to our liking, the material is gentle on the skin, even in high-motion areas. Further showing attention to such design details, the leg openings are welded to prevent chafing during the pedal stroke.


Whereas some pedal-focused shorts miss the mark on the waist design, the Summit Shell keeps things simple with a buttonless closure, quarter-wrap waist adjustment, and a low-profile buckle. While the waistband lacks the soft, wicking microfiber material found on other shorts, the Summit Shell's thin waistband remains comfortable and goes entirely unnoticed. The overall fit is athletic and accommodating to those with bigger legs, while the seat of the shorts fits a chamois nicely.

pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - the summit shell's trim, athletic fit, and minimalistic waistline...
The Summit Shell's trim, athletic fit, and minimalistic waistline offer riders great overall comfort.
Credit: Nick Miley

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


While overall comfort is important, a mountain bike shorts' fit and pedal friendliness are also crucial. Fit and pedal friendliness depend greatly on the cut or articulation of the waist and legs of the shorts. The Summit Shell's cut is trim and athletic though the legs are relatively long with an inseam of 12 ½" and a leg opening of 10 ¼". The waist adjustment belt also allows the rider to make small alterations on-the-fly to keep the shorts up on the hip and the crotch fitting snugly to prevent sagging and snagging on the saddle.


Overall, the Summit Shell is a pedal-friendly short. The slight articulation of the waistband and the stretch material allows the legs to move freely during the pedal stroke. The welded seams at the leg opening allow the short to slide more smoothly over the skin and doesn't irritate or chafe on long rides. The light weight of the material as well as the perforations on the legs also help to keep you cool while you're grinding up a long climb. In terms of fit, we like the waist adjustment belt, but its quarter-wrap design pulls only to one side. This design is not a problem for minor adjustments. Yet, it could become one for those on the small side of the sizing. Fortunately, these shorts come in even waist sizes between 28 and 44, so most riders should be able to get a size that is close to their waist measurement. We prefer this type of sizing because it takes some of the guesswork out of finding the right fit.

pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - the waistband of the summit shell is low profile and easy to adjust...
The waistband of the Summit Shell is low profile and easy to adjust. However, if taking up a lot of slack, it does bunch to one side.
Credit: Nick Miley

Features


The Summit Shell is a very simplistic short. While its lack of features may not appeal to some, we think the lack of excessive features in a functional short is a sign of good design. That said, there are some features that we wish were included. Specifically, we would have liked to see at least one larger pocket so that we could comfortably ride with a phone in an easily accessible spot. While the placement of a pocket on the back of the thigh is far better than one on the front for pedaling purposes, the pocket's tight fit made a phone noticeable against the leg while riding and, thus, less desirable to use. These shorts also lack hand pockets. The absence of hand pockets isn't a big deal for riding but is certainly annoying when out and about running errands where quick access to keys and the like is an appreciated convenience.


In keeping with the simplistic design, the Summit Shell foregoes most waistband features. There are no grip strips at the small of the back, no wicking material – not even a button or snap closure. The adjustment belt closes the waist, thus killing two birds with one stone. While the Summit Short rejects many features found on other shorts in the class, the design includes well-placed, permanent vents along the inner thigh to keep riders cool on hot rides. The welded seams at the leg opening are also a welcome feature that enhances comfort while pedaling.

pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - the basic but effective design of the summit shell has up and...
The basic but effective design of the Summit Shell has up and downsides. The lightweight is fantastic on long rides, but the pockets make it hard to carry much more than a trail bar.
Credit: Nick Miley

Durability


The shorts we select for testing are high-quality. That is to say, they will likely last several seasons before biting the dust. Yet, the Summit Shell is a very lightweight short. The material and the thread used to stitch it together are thin, and the zippers are small gauge. We do not mean to imply that the construction is shoddy. Rather, the shorts may not withstand abuse like a short made from beefier materials.


The Summit Shell is a well-built short. The stitching is doubled up in high-wear areas and "serged" or welded to prevent fraying. The zippers are high-quality YKK brand, and the adjustment belt and buckle are as sturdy as can be. But, the whole design speaks to comfort and breathability over ruggedness.

pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - despite a couple of loose thread ends, welded hems and serged...
Despite a couple of loose thread ends, welded hems and serged stitching are good signs of a well-built pair of shorts.
Credit: Nick Miley

Style


Plainly put, the Summit Shell has style. The clean, athletic fit looks snappy without drawing attention. The logo placement is inconspicuous and the logo size is small. The length is just right to prevent egregious pad gaps while not looking like clam diggers when walking down the street. Our only complaint – admittedly a minor one – is that the short currently only comes in three colors: phantom (tested), ocean blue, and pale olive palm. While the color options are not vast, they all seem to go well with the cut of the shorts.


Protection


The Summit Shell Short offers riders relatively good protection in that the legs are on the longer side and thus expose less skin to the sun, in the event of a fall, or from minor brushes with trailside bushes and the like. The material is quite lightweight, however, and will provide little defense in the case of a serious crash or from sharp sticks on the side of the trail. That said, we prefer models like the Summit Shell with leg openings wide enough to fit over knee pads, as this limits the exposure of a likely contact point when the tires turnover.


Should I Buy the Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short?


The Summit Shell is one of the better lightweight, pedal-friendly, breathable models we have tested. They fit right, look sharp, and are comfy, too. If you're looking for a minimalist short for any length of ride, these are a good option to consider, and the price is pretty reasonable too.

What Other Mountain Bike Shorts Should I Consider?


If you want a more robust model for enduro ripping, have a look at the Endura MT500 Spray Shorts. This model boasts heavy-duty 4-way stretch nylon with closings and stitching to match. If you'd like a short that splits the difference between the two, check out the 7mesh Glidepath. The Glidepath offers protection, style, and pedal-friendliness with a robust material and a DWR coating.

pearl izumi summit shell shorts mountain bike short review - the summit shell short's perforated panels and light polyester blend...
The Summit Shell short's perforated panels and light polyester blend gets the air flowing where it's needed most.
Credit: Nick Miley

Nick Miley
 
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