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Pearl Izumi Launch Trail Pant Review

Our calendars might say winter, but we all know that any season can bring a wide range of weather, good, bad and ugly.  The time in between autumn warmth, and snow-pack trails can be long, as we not-so-patiently await those beautiful, sunny winter days. 

For many cyclists, this means days, or even weeks, off the bike as they avoid the windy, sloppy “shoulder” season.  Even if you are looking forward to getting out on your fat bike, the transition from fall to winter can be tough when our bodies are not quite ready for subfreezing temperatures.

The key to riding in colder weather (and loving it) is the clothing.  But adding more layers of flannel and thermal underwear is not helpful.  More layers usually makes it hard to move, let alone pedal a bike.

What’s needed are clothing options made with the right fabric to keep out the wind and rain and allow riders to move on their bikes.  Clothing that doesn’t confine but at the same time provides protection and keeps us dry in snowy conditions. 

Enter the Pearl Izumi Launch Trail Pant,  a great outer layer option that is sure to encourage even the most fair weather mountain biker to get outside in all seasons.  Here’s why…

pearl izumi womens launch trail pant review

Review in a Nutshell

Pros:

  • Comfortable, water-resistant fabric
  • Adjustable waist for layering options
  • Flexible material allows room for riding gear
  • Tapered ankle with stretch backing so pants fit easily over boots
  • Durable fabric that protects on the trails
  • Side pockets that don’t impede movement
  • Lightweight for a variety of outdoor activities and weather conditions
  • Canadian & International websites with local currency pricing

Cons:

  • Only one colour option:  Phantom (grey)
  • Outer shell only:  you’ll need inner layers in cold temperatures.

Price & Where to Buy:


Fabric Technology Made for Biking

These pants are made from flexible fabric which moves with you as you ride.  There’s nothing worse than grinding up a hill and having your knees get caught when your clothing doesn’t stretch with your movements.  I’ve tried a few outer shell materials that are made to protect against rain but they don’t necessarily flex as I pedal.  

The Pearl Izumi Launch Trail pant is different.  A nylon, polyester, elastane blend allows them to stretch all ways and have the give and go that a rider needs.

Adding to that, the PI Dry water resistant technology that repels water drops means that these pants don’t get heavy throughout the ride.  As water or snow gets on the pants, it beads and doesn’t absorb. 

This is important during the transition seasons and winter when Mother Nature can be unpredictable.  Fat biking in snowy conditions adds other elements to consider.  It’s nice to know the pants I’m wearing won’t soak through or weigh me down as I ride.

Caring for the pants is easy.  The material doesn’t absorb the moisture and dirt from the trails, so after most rides, I simply brush off the pants and they are ready for their next job.  There’s no need to wash them after every use.

When machine washing is needed, just wash with like-colours in cold water.  I’ve washed mine several times, and tested them in the dryer with no dryer sheet (as directed).  I haven’t seen any stretch or change in fit at all.

Comfortable Material and Fit

The material is soft enough to wear with just a chamois, and so lightweight that you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing them!  

The pant waist is adjustable, with outer velcro straps on either side.  This gives riders the option to wear the pants as a shell over other warmer layers, or as a spring/fall riding pant alone with just a chamois.  You can adjust the waist band depending on your clothing and preference, so that it’s never too tight or too loose.  

I also appreciated that the size options were not just Small, Medium, Large etc.  Having specific sizes, 2-14, helps ensure the pants you order will fit. 

Appropriately, the price remains the same no matter what size you order.  My only concern in this area is that the size guide lists sizes from 0-16 (XS-XXXL) but the purchase options only show 2-14. This is a barrier to those who fall outside these parameters.

Designed for mountain bikers, there’s room for a chamois and knee pads without stretching the pants or making them too confining.  The flexible fabric doesn’t stretch out.  This is a great feature, especially if your riding takes you on a variety of adventures where knee pads are needed on some days, but not others.  

Pants for Mountain Biking and Beyond

Launch Trail pants are versatile enough to be worn in a variety of weather.  I tried them out in a few different conditions:

  • On a windy, December day where temperatures were above zero degrees Celsius, I wore them over my riding shorts
  • With temperatures just below freezing, I wore a capri-length chamois as my base layer.
  • On a colder, January morning at -8 Celsius, I wore them over a bib and warmer riding tights.

On all rides, I was cool enough to start, knowing I was going to heat up as I rode.  But I didn’t overheat or feel too bulky as the rides progressed.

I was worried I’d feel the cold when the temperatures dropped.  But I was surprised at how well the pants blocked the wind.  The Pearl Izumi Launch Trail pant can act as a shell over a base layer to keep the wet conditions from soaking in as well.

During the shoulder seasons of late fall or early spring, they are a terrific option for riders.   On those in-between days when multiple layers aren’t needed, but it’s not shorts-weather yet, these trail pants will add the perfect cover.  The fabric is durable enough to protect riders from scrapes and nicks that happen on thorny, narrow singletrack.

Even though meant for shredding the trails, the pants work off the bike as well.  They provide protection for longer, more comfortable workouts when you know you’re going to heat up and sweat along the way. 

Great for hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.  Lightweight, water-repelling and comfortable they won’t stop you from reaching your goal.

I even wore them around my house during my off days and loved them.

Well Designed with Function & Detail

I love the design of these pants.  The waistline doesn’t pinch and has an easy snap at the front.  If you need to make a pit stop in the woods, these pants won’t slow you down with fancy buckles, or buttons.  The velcro straps on the high waist make them less fuss when you want to be quick.

The tapered pant leg is not only practical but looks great too.  At the knees the pants are wide enough to fit knee pads but tapers at the ankle for a slim fit.  This means there are no worries of catching the pant leg in your bike chain.

Wearing them over winter riding boots?  No worries.  The bottom of the pant legs have a stretchable backing to allow for in-boot or over-boot placement to keep the snow out. 

My biggest complaint about other mountain bike pants is not having a safe, comfortable place to hold my phone, car keys or snacks when I’m out on the trails.  Some days, I just don’t feel like wearing a backpack or pouch.  Pearl Izumi solves this in their Launch Trail Pant design. With the directional, back-slanted side pockets, personal items are held in place towards the rider’s back leg.

Having my phone away from my quads allows me to move and ride with freedom.  The back-slanted direction keeps my stuff out of the way, yet easily accessible.  With zippers on both pockets, there is plenty of room to safely hold any necessary items.  

A Company That Walks the Talk 

Let’s face it, we all need to do our part to ensure the life of this planet for future generations.  Encouraging cycling and mountain biking for everyone, as Pearl Izumi does, is a healthy first step.  But I wanted to see more. 

And I did.  My first piece of evidence came when I received the Launch Trail Pants delivery.  No box; no plastic stuffing to fill empty spaces; no inner paper wrapped around the shipped item. 

Just the pants, rolled and tied inside a single recyclable envelope.  A good first impression for sure.

As I dug further into the About page of the Pearl Izumi site, I was impressed with the detail and specific, actionable goals and vision of the company.  Products sold with a lifetime replacement or repair warranty helps limit waste products. 

And while they have not yet achieved their goal of 90% of products made with 50% recycled, renewable or organic material, the website indicates that in the summer of 2021, 40% of their products met or exceeded this challenge.  This increase from 3% in 2018 demonstrates an active push towards limiting their environmental footprint.

Pearl Izumi’s advocacy and outreach programs are further evidence that your money is going to support and promote cycling for all.  Their sponsorship of the Craig Hospital Pedal 4 Possible and Peopleforbikes initiatives are only two examples of their socially responsible actions.

Believing that we are all better when we ride is more than a phrase.  Pearl Izumi walks the talk.  

When I’m spending money on specialised, mountain bike gear, this goes a long way towards helping me feel good about my purchase.

By Cyclists For Cyclists

At one time or another, we’ve all bought riding gear from stores which shelve a wide variety of generic athletic wear and equipment.  I’ve done it, and too many times I’ve chosen this more budget-minded option… and regretted it almost immediately.  What I saved in dollars, I usually lost in quality, durability and performance.

Pearl Izumi is a North American company whose primary focus is cycling.  The employees ride bikes.  They know bikes and believe in their products and purpose.  While they produce a wide range of merchandise, their inventory is not too broad to water down the quality and performance of their products.  

There’s something satisfying about buying gear from a company that knows first hand what the industry needs.

Bottom-Line

If you’re looking for a comfortable, well-designed mountain bike shell, then the Pearl Izumi Launch Trail Pant is worth a serious look.  Designed with side back-slanted pockets, lightweight, water-resistant, flexible material, these pants are both practical and comfortable.  The adjustable waist and durable fabric makes them versatile beyond the bike in a wide range of weather conditions.

While they only come in one colour, Phantom (which is grey), you’ll still find multiple opportunities to wear these for an active, outdoor adventure.  Worn as a shell over warmer layers during colder temperatures, or as a mid-temperature clothing option, you’ll get the protection from the elements as you ride.

Be sure to use the size chart to order your fit.  I am usually an 8, but when my measurements put me on the cusp of size 10, that’s what I ordered. 

I was glad I did because the larger size gave me the room I like in my clothing, without being too tight.  Because of the fabric flexibility, however, size 8 likely would have been great too.

I highly recommend these pants for any mountain biker, or outdoor adventurer who wants practical, yet comfortable pants that don’t hinder movement & performance on the trails.  They will go a long way to getting you on your bike in all kinds of weather and will definitely extend your riding season. 

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About The Reviewer

jane gerritsen

Jane Gerritsen bought her first mountain bike at age 52 as “retirement prep” and since that time, the mountain bike community has opened up her world to new goals, new adventures and best of all, new friends.  She is most grateful for her time at home, where she is learning to renovate her garage, try new recipes, write, and of course, plan her next mountain bike adventure.

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