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Every year, I tell myself that I’ll write down my favorite clothing combinations for different temperature ranges and conditions (road, dirt, light, and dark)- and every year I fail. This means that November and December can be uncomfortably cold or hot at times- but that I spend a lot of time thinking about my cool-weather wardrobe.
Provided by Pearl iZumi as part of our Project 24.2 series of reviews, the P.R.O. Softshell 180 jacket is a close-cut jacket that marries wind- and water-resistant P.R.O. Softshell fabric in wind-facing areas with large Direct Vent underarm and back panels for breathablity. Given Pearl’s “perfect for drier riding conditions” claim and our recent spell of near-arctic weather, the P.R.O. Softshell has been getting quite a few on- and off-road workouts lately. Go below the fold to find out how it’s doing so far…
Undeniably handsome, the P.R.O. softshell is cut low in the back and high in the front for the riding position. The medium “Form Fit” fits my 6′, 145lb well, with plenty of length in the arms and room for a jersey and/or baselayer underneath. At my size, it might actually be nice to have the fabric taken a bit more- but it’s never been flappy or noisy on the road. The full front zip is backed by a draft flap and secured at the top by a rakish collar snap. The is a welded-on Napoleon pocket at the front and the zippered rear pocket is subdivided into four compartments, the center of which is home to a water-resistant electronics pocket and cable hole.
The sleeves have a lightweight floating sleeve (with thumb hole) at their ends with does a good job of keeping drafts at bay without being overly bulky. The inner sleeves are a bit big, though, and can bunch up under gloves if care isn’t taken when pulling them on. As a plus, they are attached high enough in the sleeve that even my longest gloves tuck in place nicely. The numerous reflective prints and white color (red and black are also available) make my pre-dawn commutes more psychologically comfortable while encouraging regular washing (both good things).
The fleecy P.R.O. Softshell fabric is comfortable against bare skin- that and the fabric’s effective wicking keep it from ever really feeling clammy. The fleecy backing does add a bit of bulk, though- there’s no stuffing the honeydew-sized jacket in a back pocket if the day warms too much. On 30-degree road bike rides, I find myself second-guessing my choice of the P.R.O 180 for the first mile or so, when I can feel a draft from the underarm panels. Once working, though, the jacket does a great job of keeping the chill off- but never getting stuffy- when worn with a light base layer in temperatures between 30 and 45 or so. On the dirt, the Pearl Izumi’s comfort range is a fair bit lower- I’ve comfortably worn it on snowy mornings in the mid-20s and social night rides closer to 40- and been quite happy with only a light baselayer and short-sleeved jersey beneath. Once temperatures top 35 or 40, it’s time to swap the P.R.O. Softshell for a windbreaker.
In the P.R.O. Softshell 180, Pearl Izumi have struck a great balance between insulation, wind-resistance, and breathability. I’ve been using the jacket nonstop for cold-weather commuting, road riding, and (really cold weather) mountain biking- and haven’t really found anything that needs changing. As the year goes on and my training plan pushes me out the door in all kinds of weather, the P.R.O. 180 will be along for the ride. Check back after the race for a final verdict…