Review: Pearl Izumi PRO Leader Kit

When it comes to reviews of clothing it is always a highly personal matter, especially with road kit it seems. In Tyler’s recent review of the Icebreaker Wool cycling gear, he notes that he prefers shorter shorts, where as I prefer longer. Then of course there is the general fit of the clothing, as we all have different body types. To further complicate matters, the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader bib shorts are their top of the line gear, so of course they are supposed to be good.

They are good. Really, really good, in fact. For me, they’re almost perfect. Find out what that means after the break.

 

As clothing is so personal, it’s hard for me to talk about fit without revealing a little personal information first. I’m fairly short at 5’8″ with a ~29″ inseam, and am usually in a medium kit, so both the medium short and jersey fit perfectly. Admittedly, when I first received the kit I had gone through some stuff, and I had put one some weight. Even at 165+ there was still a roomy fit, which is at least in my experience, rare for such high end gear. Now that I’m finally getting back to riding shape and back down to 150 lbs the kit still fits great – something I attribute to its insane amount of stretch which also adds to the ridiculous level of comfort. Seriously, it’s like being swaddled by a cloud. Especially on the legs, which is an area I always have fit and comfort issues.

Let’s just put this out there: I am not a fan of elastic grippers. Every short I have that has those evil, uncomfortable strips, I find myself grabbing the elastic with both hands and stretching it until it starts to break. Then it’s sort of comfortable. Almost. Of course, the problem with that is that once you stretch it that far they tend not to stay in place very well. Which is exactly why I love the “grippers” on the PI P.R.O. leader bib shorts. Instead of a continuous line of silicone the leader bibs only have a few small diamond shaped gripper spots coupled with an extra stretchy compression cuff. That means you aren’t reminded you’re wearing cycling shorts for the entire ride, and at the end of the ride you aren’t left with crazy lines dug into your legs. An added bonus for me is that this design doesn’t rip your leg hairs out, if you’re not into that whole shaving thing. Now, before you go all Velominati on me,¬† just know that I have tried it, and get terrible ingrown hairs – therefore I don’t shave.

As far as I’m concerned it’s the most comfortable gripper system I have come across, and the stand out feature of the entire kit.

Based on Tyler’s review of the Icebreaker kit, I don’t think he would like the length of the Leader shorts, but I love it. The leg of the short terminates just above my kneecap, which I like. Most shorts for me are an ok length, but these are ideal. If the shorts had a traditional gripper, I think I would be saying they were too long, but the compression cuff makes the length perfectly comfortable.

That of course leaves the chamois, and overall fit, which are both excellent. With a lot of bibs, I tend to feel cramped – like the straps are too short, but not with these. Combine all of the previous mentions with Pearl Izumi’s excellent 4D chamois and you have¬† one hell of a bib short. While the jersey is also very good, the bib shorts are the real winner here. A comfortable jersey is important, but it just doesn’t have the potential to ruin a ride like a bad pair of shorts do. Fortunately, in this case Pearl Izumi nailed it.

 

The matching P.R.O. Leader jersey has a ton of features that you would expect to find on a high end jersey, and a few surprises as well. More than just a prominent design feature, Pearl Izumi claims the sublimated X form on the back of jersey functions as additional support for loaded jersey pockets. While wearing the jersey you don’t really notice anything different, but upon returning to some other jerseys of mine, it felt like the backs of those jerseys were sagging to the floor. So it seems to actually work with my usual pocket loads of Gu’s, iPhone, tube, and whatever else I’m carrying.

 

If you happen to carry a cell phone, or MP3 player for that matter, there is a smart little sweat proof pocket built into the middle pocket on the back of the jersey. It’s big enough to fit an iPhone with a Speck case, so it should fit most devices. Just above it, you will also find a tiny slit in the jersey to route the headphones up, underneath the jersey. Even with a phone in the pocket, there is still plenty of room in the outside pocket for anything else you need to stash. While electronics pocket is definitely not water proof, it does a good job keeping your phone dry from sweat.

Thanks to both the short and jersey’s In-R-Cool treatment, the largely black kit remains very tolerable, even on blistering days in the saddle. The Coldblack technology really seems to work, which is good because I like black. Overall the fit of the jersey is great, especially when in riding position. The jersey has a bit of a droptail design, which along with a silicon gripper on the hem, keeps it in place and keeps you from flashing your ride mates.

The only bit of caution towards the jersey is that it doesn’t seem to be dryer friendlyl. I have always been leery of putting cycling clothes in the dryer, but I’ve always been told that a quick blast in the dryer helps refresh the qualities of the fabric. Even so, I only put it in the dryer for 10 minutes or less, and on low heat. Though when I removed it from the dryer this last time, two parts of the sublimated graphics had stuck together and while I was able to get them apart without harm, I don’t think that would have been the case if I left it in much longer.

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That brings us to the price. At $220 for the bib shorts and $200 for the jersey, these are certainly up there in price. However, when you compare them to other ultra high end cycling gear they are actually at the low end of the price spectrum. When it comes down to it, for me the bib shorts are worth every penny. Hell, I’m thinking I may buy another pair because I like them that much. The jersey is really nice, and awesomely comfortable, but if you’re on a budget I would get the shorts and opt for a less expensive top.

 

P.R.O. Leader Jersey
-P.R.O. Transfer fabric with In-R-Cool technology provides optimal cooling and reflective UV sun protection
-Welded Direct-Vent panels provide superior ventilation
-Full length zipper for venting
-Elasticized gripper on back to keep hem in place
-Three back pockets plus sweat-proof pocket
-Support for back pocket
-Sublimated graphics
-Reflective elements for low-light visibilityBody: 91% nylon 9% elastane/UPF 50+
Technology: coldblack
Weight: 158 g/m squared
Sleeve: 80% polyester 20% elastane/UPF 40+
Form Fit

MSRP: $200.00
P.R.O. Leader Bib Short
-P.R.O. Transfer fabric with In-R-Cool technology provides optimal cooling and reflective UV sun protection
-Direct-Vent panels provide superior ventilation
-Anatomic multi-panel design
-Silicone leg gripper
-Anatomic P.R.O. Seamless 4D Chamois
-Sublimated graphics
-Reflective elements for low-light visibility
-10.5″ inseam (size medium)Body: 66% nylon 34% elastane
Technology: coldblack
Weight: 244 g/m squared
Panels: 80% polyester 20% elastane/UPF 40+
Bib: 56% Minerale polyester 33% polyester 11% elastane
Form Fit

MSRP: $220.00

Comments

Gillis - 05/15/12 - 12:58pm

Is that the Volagi you’re on? upcoming review?

Chris - 05/15/12 - 1:29pm

Is is possible to be critical without sounding bitter? Dude, those bibs DO NOT fit you they are almost knickers! You may like this but please don’t propagate an ill fitting garment; and that’s not a knock on Pearl – did you try a small on?

It appears that the tester does not shave his legs and puts his cycling kit in the dryer. Really? This is your product tester? Will most end users shave their legs or complain about ingrown hair? There are a lot of guys capable of putting together a descent review. Did you do a long ride on YOUR reference bike for a comparison? Did you load the pockets? Did you try & exchange a water bottle out of a rear pocket or find the Honey Stinger in a pocket populated with Gu? Tyler – call me.

At the end of the day you have to wash the kit at least 20 times and see how the materials hold up. You have to compare it to competitors; these bibs retail for more than a set of Assos – are they better? Where are they made? There are many companies putting out very good kit from the US & Italy.

ZachOverholt - 05/15/12 - 2:21pm

@gillis- yes it is a Volagi. But since I work for them, no reviews from me. I could tell you how good they are, but it might be a conflict of interest ;)

HarroChan - 05/15/12 - 2:58pm

Better than Assos?

Jan Z - 05/15/12 - 4:28pm

Those shorts are comically long. Cycling kit equivalent of the cargo short and puka shell necklace combo.

brian - 05/15/12 - 5:08pm

The jersey and shorts are way too big for you. Look at the extra material around your gut. It’s suposed to fit while cycling, not standing up. Try going down a size or two or find a taller, and bigger teste. If they are both Med and you are reallly 5’8″ their sizing is way off and will cause they problems on the retail end. I’m 6’2″, 175lb and wear a med or large jersey and XL bibs in Primal, Hincapie, Squadra, and Nalini. Most of PI’s sizing has always been geared more to the recreation side of cyclists that usually carry a bit more radius than i do. It has kept me from buying thier products, regardless of where they say the product is within they line. The last set of bibs i bought, and returned, from them put the pad up on my back. $400 for the both is laughable.

Vodalous - 05/15/12 - 6:27pm

@Chris

You’re such a hater. Not everyone wants to look like a pretentious metro sexual roadie jerk off. Does shaving your legs and wearing tight hoochie shorts make you a superior cyclist?

Ford - 05/15/12 - 8:46pm

As far as sizing goes, the large in these fit pretty well and I’m 6’2″ 175 lbs with a 35″ inseam. Seems like a medium may be on the big side for you.
Also, I hate these grippers. They don’t work, the hem slides up about an inch per hour on me, they leave weird marks on my shaven legs, and won’t hold onto knee warmers.
The chamois is alright if you have a more upright position but if you put in much time getting low or in the drops the front feels too bulky and bunches up. Just my experience. I’ll stick with my castellis. I like the straps and the In-R-Cool stuff though

dave - 05/15/12 - 8:50pm

agree with chris, you are swimming in those things.

I’m sure even the pearl izumi rep winced when s/he saw those photos.

A guy who doesn’t know how to size a pair of shorts gives this $200 pair a top score…imagine that.

mahball - 05/15/12 - 10:43pm

Good quality piece of clothing (including cycling pieces) would mean NOTHING when they don’t fit right. If they dont fit you right, how could you determine all the features were really working????

Pinoy Roadie - 05/15/12 - 11:15pm

Sounding like a do0uche here, but he is in the granny and needing to get off the saddle to get the bike moving.

NEWBIES have no place reviewing products!

CalvinKleinWannaBe - 05/15/12 - 11:17pm

If the reviewer wore a Small shorts, he couldn’t stuff himself in it. He’s a bit on the chunky size for his height, and anybody who wears PI apparel knows they size them smaller, similar to Assos. So yeah, his shorts seem too long, but he’s really got no choice, until he loses more weight, which he admits he’s gain.

ZachOverholt - 05/16/12 - 1:24am

Thanks for the comments. I get that they look big, but when they are tight in all the right places, who is to say the shorts at least aren’t the right size? Road kit always seems to be built for tall skinny guys, not short and stocky like me, so most of my life I’ve dealt with poor fitting road gear. I have tried on smalls, no good. I’ve tried a lot of shorts and am almost always constantly fidgeting in them trying to get comfortable. Not these. I have washed them quite a bit. The volagi is my daily ride which I’ve ridden most of my miles on. I’m sorry if I offended anyone, but it was my honest opinion and I’m sticking to it.
Thanks for reading.

Dave - 05/16/12 - 2:18am

These bibs are great, had mine for months now, compression helps.

j-dog - 05/16/12 - 8:05am

How can you even wear that kit.. It does not even match your bike, shoes and glasses.

You will never make it as a bike snob.

Sean - 05/16/12 - 9:27am

Guys, these are the funniest comments I’ve ever seen on this site. Had to show my wife what I was laughing at. Poor Zach, you stuck your neck out on this review. I don’t agree that you’re ‘chunky’, but I do agree that those shorts are comically long.

Pretentious metrosexual roadie jerk - 05/16/12 - 10:34am

@Vodalous

It’s not totally unfounded though, is it? It’s like a sports car review that gives 5 stars because the engine starts.

plum - 05/16/12 - 11:48am

Anyone in the market for a kit over $400 is not buying this kit. Whoever the hell that even is.

mahball - 05/16/12 - 9:46pm

Get a smaller size and be used to “tight fit” !!!

look at your arm-warmers—which are too big (in width).
Your Jersey is also too big (in width).

Your shoes—they run too big on you dude—did you even heat-mold them ??

mahball - 05/16/12 - 9:50pm

@ Sean

I agree with you, he is not too chuncky…he is just a little short with big thighs…which makes him a good sprinter…hahahahaha.

at the end, he certainly doesn’t know how to size his own gear—-including his warmers !!!!

Chris - 05/17/12 - 10:09am

In other news, BikeRumor commentors are one of the largest group of douche bags, right behind youtube commentors

The Rude Awakener - 05/17/12 - 12:10pm

I’m not a douchebag, but c’mon…if you are going to test shoes, you woundn’t test one that’s 4 sizes too big.

In other news, the product tester’s stem is below 10cm, and his glasses are too large for his face.

gumbo - 05/17/12 - 1:55pm

Summing up the comments:

Bibs: too large
Jersey: too large
Arm warmers: too large
Shoes: too large
Glasses: too large
Bike: too large

To his defense, the socks seem to be all right, size-wise.

Rich - 05/17/12 - 2:41pm

comments like these are what make people think roadies are pretentious DBs. If he is comfortable in his gear, is that what matters?

Dan - 05/18/12 - 5:50am

Zach, thanks for your review. Don’t worry about the commentors on Bikerumor as they are always supercritical and prefer to use their time to talk bad on the internet instead of ride good on the street.

I would agree that the shorts seem to long for you and you’re not “chunky” by any stretch of imagination. You seem to have a healthy physique and most people are not built like Andy Schleck. Maybe Pearl Izumi is just not optimal for your proportions. There are other brands with different proportions and even Pearl Izumi features different inseams in their different lines. I’m 183cm (that’s 6′ I believe) and around 79 kg right now and I wear a Medium on ALL my Pearl Izumi kit. The only PI bibs I have that are really long are the thermo ones that are supposed to be a bit warmer. All other bibs are shorter and I prefer that because of the tan-lines (who wants to show off cycling tan-lines when wearing street casual shorts).

My personal take on Pearl Izumi is that their chamois is not bad if you’re using a saddle without an anatomic cut-out. But with a cutout in the saddle they suck and irritate the skin between your legs as the channel in the 4D pads is not perfectly aligned with the cut-out. Much better to use something like Assos or Castelli’s x2 pad.

As for the color of the product I must say it looks quite dangerous. if you’re bent down on the drops the entire rearside is BLACK. Sure there are some reflective elements but many motorist are not paying 100% attention to the road at all time – they will talk on the cellphone, change the radiostation, look at the navigation system or talk to their passenger. If it’s getting darker in the evening I want to be as visible as possible and that requires at least some bright colors (or white) in the well visible areas like your back. Even in harsh sunlight if you’re all dark and riding in the shadow motorists might overlook you. Looking black and sexy is only cool until you’re dead or crippled.

PS: I’d really love to see a picture of the chamois in any bib review as it is the most important aspect for me when buying a bib short.

Bayard - 05/19/12 - 10:01pm

This sport is smiling on his bike. He isn’t a noob. He has it all figured out.

jose luis - 06/26/13 - 5:03pm

One question. What jersey size would you recommended for a guy 5′ 8″ 178lbs, very muscular 15.5″ inches arms (I lift weight) and 33 waist? I am having trouble finding cycling clothing that fit me properly because most of the time what fits on top is REALLY loose on my waist.

note: I own a PI pro jersey (2011 model) size Large and it fits perfectly in my arms but it is way too big for my waist. Whatever i have in my rear pockets (GU, iphone, cleat cover, bars, etc) feel like stretch it way too much but i think the X design in the back for this model might help control that. Would you go for a medium in my situation?

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