Summer Weight Road Kit Shoot Out: Podium Cycling GC Vs Pearl Izumi Elite
Admittedly, this post is a little late in the season but while most of us are getting out the arm warmers and shoe covers, others are just gearing up for their Summer seasons. That, and it gives us a taste of what’s to come from Podium Cycling – a brand that was thrust into the lime light due to their awesomely entertaining skinsuits like the Pee Wee Herman. After introducing the high end GC kit, Podium sent over a pair to show they’re about having fun, but they’re also serious about the performance of their kits. Around the same time, a summer kit from Pearl Izumi showed up with a pair of their Elite In-R-Cool bibs and the Elite LTD Climbers jersey. Built with similar weight fabrics and fits, we decided to have a little shoot out to see which one we preferred.
Results after the break.
POC’s Avip Octal helmet launch provided the perfect opportunity to test each kit back to back on some amazing roads in and around Aspen, CO. It also proved to be the final resting place for the PI Climbers Jersey, accidentally left in the hotel room, never to be returned by the Viceroy. While the majority of the riding was under sunny skies and warm temperatures, there were also some cold mountain rain showers to put the zippers to the test, as well as the kit’s ability to dry out.
Podium Cycling GC Jersey and Bibs
Headquarted in Gainesville, FL, Podium Cycling is certainly a new comer in the road kit scene but based on their goods you’d think they’ve been at it for a while. The GC kit isn’t exactly cheap at $99.99 for the jersey and $209.99 for the bib shorts, but it seems the kit punches well above its weight in terms of comfort and performance.
The short sleeve jersey is made using warp-knitted 110 GSM fabric called MITI Time Out which even though it is incredibly thin, offers a UPF rating of 40+. At the hem you’ll find a silicone gripper to keep it in place, and a fully visible YKK zipper that is claimed to be a little more durable than your average cycling jersey’s closure. The sleeves are simply a tight fit without any grippers, but the pro cut of the jersey means they will be skin tight if you’re wearing the right size. Initially I started out with small shorts and jersey, but ended up going down a size on the jersey to an extra small (I’m usually in a small). The size change on the jersey improved the fit of the zipper and the pockets, though I could wear either comfortably.
In addition to the 3 standard rear pockets, there is an additional zippered pocket for valuables you don’t want to lose. The pocket isn’t waterproof, but it does have a barrier between the pocket and your back. Pocket construction is well thought out with little sagging even with full bottles. After a lot of use, you can see there are spots where the white isn’t so white any more, but that’s pretty common with light colors for me.
The jersey is good, but the real stand out are the shorts. Up there with just about any that I have tried, the GC shorts appear to be well worth the $209 investment. Boasting features like Coldblack, water repellant Eclipse fabric, and a Cytech Carbonium Elastic Interface 6hr chamois, the GC bibs are meant to rival competitor’s bibs at a more competitive price.
The Chamois uses a 2mm perforated base with 14mm ultra high density foam inserts for support. In real life that means it is very comfortable, even on very long, hot rides. Sweating the details, Podium even goes as far as specifying a special fabric for the rear panel called Sitip Thunderbike. The reason? The 44 gauge fabric does everything you want a short fabric to do, but it also isn’t see through so your paceline buddies won’t see your crack.
Just by looking at the stitching you can tell the GC bibs are quality. The ColdBlack panels resist the warming rays of the sun just like PI’s In-R-Cool technology below (which also use Coldblack), both of which proved to work incredibly well. Don’t fear the black in the hot sun.
Compared to the Silicone leg grippers on the PI Elite In-R-Cool shorts, the Podium GC’s MAB Powerband leg gripper is the clear winner. All shorts should have something similar – it’s very thin, stays in place perfectly, and remains comfortable though the whole ride. At 4.5 cm wide, the Powerband gripper won’t leave marks on your legs and provides nice compression.
Pearl Izumi Elite Climbers Jersey and In-R-Cool Bibs
Very similar to the Podium GC jersey in feel, the PI Elite LTD CLimbers Jersey is also the same price at $100. Constructed from PI’s Direct Vent Mesh, the Climbers jersey is designed for hot days in the sun where ventilation and breathability are key. Honestly, the performance of the PI jersey was nearly identical to the Podium jersey, each with full length zippers, a form fit, and PI’s elasticized gripper on the back of the jersey to keep it in place. Out back there are three standard pockets with a hidden sweat proof pocket. While I needed an XS in the Podium, the small PI jersey turned out to be a little too tight. Other PI jerseys in medium have been a little big, but they do offer a S/M and M/L tweener sizes now if you fall into that category.
Interestingly, both jersey’s zippers puckered when zipped up. I’m not sure if it is just my fit, or the fabric since they are both made from similar fabric, but it was an annoyance though it didn’t really affect the performance.
It may be a little unfair to compare the $135 Elite In-R-Cool Bibs to the $209 Podium GC’s, but it does highlight the trade offs. While Podium does offer the $129.99 Stealth Bib, the GC offers top level cut, materials, and performance but the PI In-R-Cool bibs offer the ColdBlack technology at a much lower price. Equipped with their Elite 3D chamois, the Elite In-R-Cool shorts offer similar fabric specs with an 80% Elastane, 20% Polyester blend that offers a UPF 50+ sun rating. Though the Podium shorts offer lighter weight fabrics with 190 and 220 GSM compared to the PI short’s 258 GSM.
What does that mean? It means that on the bike, the Podium shorts feel lighter, less tight, and seem be more comfortable. Much of that feeling could be due to the improved leg grippers and construction, but whatever it is there is certainly a difference.
I was surprised to see the absence of flat lock seams on the Elite shorts – you have to upgrade to the $150 Elite LTD Bibs to find them. It isn’t a deal breaker, but the flat seams are less noticeable while riding. Ultimately, looks like all of PI’s In-R-Cool shorts even the P.R.O. models lack flat lock stitching.
The highlight of the shorts would have to be the shoulder straps. Nice and wide, comfortable, and very breathable, and minimal seams on the sides, there is nothing to complain about here.
When ignoring the price, the clear winner here is the Podium GC kit. Fit, performance, and feel is top notch and the price is competitive with other top level kits. The Pearl Izumi gear is good, but Podium gets the win thanks to better fit. Regardless of the fit, each came through on the promised ventilation – when it was hot, I was reaching for one of these jerseys. When it comes to the shorts, both are a great option with the PI Elite In-R-Cool bibs offering Coldblack fabric at an impressive price, though for my money it would be well worth another $74 dollars to upgrade to the Podium GCs.