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Pearl Izumi Launch Kit and Bib Liner

Noah Bodman reviews the Pearl Izumi Launch Kit for Blister Gear Review.

Pearl Izumi Launch Short

Pearl Izumi Launch Jersey and Shorts, and Bib Liner

 

Launch Short

Size Tested: Medium

Stated Features:

  • Blended nylon ripstop fabric provides durability with stretch
  • Shank button-front closure with zip fly and back waist adjustment
  • Two zippered hand pockets plus one additional zippered security pocket on thigh
  • 10″ front thigh zippers for venting
  • Detachable liner with 3D Tour Chamois
  • 15″ inseam (Size Medium)

MSRP: $125

Noah Bodman reviews the Pearl Izumi Launch Kit for Blister Gear Review.

Pearl Izumi Bib Liner

 

Bib Liner

Size Tested: Medium

Stated Features:

  • Three back pockets on the bib straps and integrated thigh pockets for storage
  • ELITE Pursuit 1:1 Chamois
  • Underwear style fly
  • Gripperless leg opening
  • Strategic seam placement provides optimal chafe-free comfort

MSRP: $100

Noah Bodman reviews the Pearl Izumi Launch Kit for Blister Gear Review.

Pearl Izumi Launch Jersey

 

Launch ¾ Jersey

Size Tested: Medium

Stated Features:

  • Transfer fabric provides moisture management
  • V neck collar design
  • Sunglass wipe sewn inside of jersey
  • ¾ length sleeve for additional coverage

MSRP: $65

Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs

Test Duration: about 2.5 months

Test Locations: British Columbia, Montana

Pearl Izumi is a name usually associated with road and triathlon gear, and to be sure, they have a huge presence in those categories. But they also make a full line of mountain bike gear … though I’ve always been a little hesitant about Pearl Izumi kits simply because I expect the styling to be a bit more “XC” and I look for something a bit more “trail.”

But I’m pleased to announce that Pearl Izumi nailed the fit on the Launch shorts and jersey. And more importantly, I’ve come to appreciate that companies who know how to make really comfortable road shorts can do great things when they apply that knowledge to their mountain bike kits. Not only does the Launch kit look the part, but it’s the most comfortable kit in my closet.

Launch Shorts

The Launch shorts are made out of a pretty light fabric, which, despite their long-ish length, keeps them from feeling bulky while pedaling. They have vents on the front of the thighs, and while I generally find that vents don’t make a ton of difference on bike shorts, the vents on the Launch shorts actually noticeably improve airflow. I’m willing to call them the best vents of any short I’ve ever ridden.

Noah Bodman reviews the Pearl Izumi Launch Kit for Blister Gear Review.

Noah Bodman in the Pearl Izumi Launch kit, Whistler, BC.

The Launch shorts are DWR-coated, and while they’re definitely not waterproof, they do a bit better at warding off the occasional spray from a puddle. After a few washings, the DWR coating is still holding up, although I’d say it’s not as robust as the DWR on my Raceface or Patagonia shorts.

The Launch shorts have three pockets, all of which have zippers — two hand pockets on the hips, and one pocket further down on the left thigh. All are big enough to be functional, but still ride well when there’s my normal assortment of crap banging around in there (keys, phone, etc.).

Fit

The Launch shorts have a velcro / elastic adjustment on the outside of the waistband that is similar to many other shorts out there. This isn’t groundbreaking, but it works well and meets its intended purpose. A nice touch is that they also use a real button closure (along with a zippered fly), which I personally prefer over the snaps found on lots of other shorts.

My size Medium shorts fit true to size, and I’d call them a fairly average Medium. Lengthwise, the inseam on my Mediums measures 15 inches, which puts them just below my knee (for reference, I usually wear a 32 x 32 pant). The opening at the bottom is large enough to accommodate knee pads without any issue.

The Liner

While I’m entirely happy with the outer short, the liner is really the highlight of the Launch shorts. It’s not drastically different than other liners out there, but at least for my purposes, it’s cut just right and is super comfortable. I prefer it over liners from Zoic, Specialized, Fly, Sugoi, and a few others that are in my closet at the moment. It has some nice contouring to give extra padding in the right areas, and it never feels bulky or diaper-ish. The finish on the liner is high quality as well, and there aren’t any rough edges like you’ll often find on lower-end shorts. The liner is removable, so it can be washed separately.

Bottom Line

The Launch shorts have the looks and cut of a short that could be worn in the bike park, but it’s light enough and breathable enough that it’s entirely comfortable on long rides with lots of climbing. The liner is the most comfortable I’ve ridden in a mountain bike short (only outdone by Pearl Izumi’s Bib Short, which I’ll get to below), and intelligent features combined with low-key styling make this short one of my favorites. Considering you can certainly spend a fair amount more on a high-quality bike short, the Launch short is a fantastic option in the baggy trail / all mountain / enduro / whatever you want to call this category.

NEXT: Bib Liner, Launch Jersey

3 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    Tom August 19, 2016 Reply

    Good reviews. Since the concept of the bibs seems like a near-direct copy of the Specialized SWAT bibs — which I own — I’d love more direct comparisons between the two in terms of rear pocket utility, breathability, etc.

    Thanks!

    • Noah August 22, 2016 Reply

      Hi Tom,

      I have a fair amount of time in both the Pearl Izumi bibs and the Specialized SWAT bibs, and on the whole, I like both. I say purely in terms of riding comfort, the Pearl Izumi’s win – I like the chamois better, and the bib fabric is a bit softer, stretchier, and less constricting. In terms of breathability, I think I’d give a slight nod to the Pearl Izumis, but I wouldn’t say there’s a world of difference. I also like that the PI’s have a pee hole. I do think, however, that the SWAT pockets work quite a bit better. Both bibs do fine for holding a water bottle and some assorted small food items, but the SWAT pockets hold larger, irregular object better, especially on rough trails.

      -Noah

      • Blister Member
        Tom August 22, 2016 Reply

        Thanks, Noah!

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