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Pearl Izumi Women’s Summit Shorts Review

For hot weather riding, there aren’t many women’s mountain bike shorts as light and airy as the Pearl Izumi Summit shorts. In fact, for the last couple months of summer riding, these shorts were some of my go-tos. I grabbed them time and time again on the hottest days.

In addition to being breathable, the Summit shorts are a good choice for anybody who likes a more tailored look (they’re not TOO baggy) or for anybody who needs a quick drying short (i.e. for bikepacking or travel).

Read on to learn more.

kristen wearing the pearl izumi women's summit shorts

Review In A Nutshell

Pros:

  • Lightweight, airy material is great for summertime riding
  • Fitted, more tailored look
  • Waist and fabric are super comfy
  • Quick drying

Cons:

  • Chamois liner wasn’t my fave (but you can buy the shell without a liner)
  • Less protection than shorts with thicker material
  • Sizes only go up to a size 12 (or a size 18 without the liner)

Scoring:

  • Quality/durability: 8/10
  • Comfort: 9/10
  • Fit/Sizing: 7/10
  • Style: 9/10
  • Pockets: 7/10
  • Protection: 6/10
  • Breathability: 10/10
  • Waist: 9/10

Price & Where To Buy:

Breathable, Lightweight Shorts

For hot summer riding, I’d highly recommend the Summit short. The fabric is far lighter and airy than most mountain bike shorts.

Of course this means they aren’t the most protective shorts, BUT if it’s a hot day or a mellow cross country ride, these would be a top pick. Even on the hottest August days, I felt very comfortable.

In addition to feeling airy, the soft almost-silky fabric was really comfy. These feel more like gym-short material than your typical structured baggy. Because the fabric was so light and forgiving, I also found that they were really easy to maneuver and pedal in.

Finally, the shorts dried really quickly which is a plus if you have any sort of water crossings, or if you’re bikepacking or traveling and want to wash shorts on the fly.

Sizing And Fit

The shorts come in pant sizes (2,4,6, etc) rather than generic sizes (S, M, L) which is always appreciated for finding a good fit. I’m usually somewhere between a size 6 and a size 8, and I ordered these in an 8 which was a good choice.

The Summit shorts are a little more fitted than many baggy shorts. This is great for women who prefer a more tailored look, but if you have muscular thighs, you may want to order up a size.

One thing that is disappointing is that the shorts only go up to a size 12. If you’re in need of a larger size, the Summit Shell (short without the liner) does go up to a size 18.

Waist

Aside from the yoga-style waistband design, my next favorite waist closure are the shorts with an integrated belt. I prefer this to velcro (nothing to catch), elastic (nothing to dig into your skin) or shorts that require you to use your own belt.

The belt is primarily integrated and covered by fabric, with just a bit of strap showing at the front. The buckle is a bit different (a big silver metal hook) and to be honest I’m still not sure what I think about it.

I like that it’s easy to hook or unhook even with bike gloves on. I like that it’s durable and won’t break like plastic buckles do. My only minor complaint is that it’s heavy. It feels a little hefty.

Aside from the belt, there’s a front zipper and no button or snap. I had no issues with the zipper staying up.

Pockets

While the Summit short has plenty of pockets (two front, two rear, and one on the leg), only the leg pocket is zippered. It’s also a fairly good size (it fits my cell phone), but because the legs are more fitted, I didn’t find it comfortable to pedal with the phone in my pocket. It did work well for carrying cash and a credit card.

Included Chamois…But It’s Not Our Fave

The Pearl Izumi Summit shorts come with a chamois liner, which I appreciate. There are plenty of baggies–like the Wild Rye Freel–that come in at a similar price point but DON’T include a chamois.

That said, there were a couple of things we found disappointing about this one. For starters, the chamois is attached to the shorts. I much prefer when the liner is removable so you can use a different chamois if you want, or wear the shorts for a hike with no chamois at all. I ended up cutting the ribbon holding the two together, but I prefer the design of the Zoic Naveah, for instance, where the ribbon includes a snap.

Secondly, the liner was much smaller size wise than the shorts. While the size 8 shorts were perfect for me, the liner was tiny. I read other reviews and this seemed to be a common complaint.

Finally, the chamois isn’t of the highest quality. It’s quite thin (which is fine by me), but construction and stitching is definitely on the cheaper end. Compare it to the the Shredly Biker Cham (right) in the photo below and you’ll see what I mean.

pearl izumi chamois vs shredly chamois

If you decide you want the shorts but not the liner, that’s on option! The Summit Short also comes as just a shell.

Comes In Black And Prints

I tested the black shorts (always a classic), but the Summit short does come in some very cute prints and colors. You certainly don’t get quite as much of a selection of prints as a brand like Wild Rye, but it’s a heck of a lot more of a selection than we get from most of the big brands.

How We Tested And Scored

I (Kristen) tested the Summit Short over a period of two months. Most of these rides were quick lunchtime rides but I also got in a couple longer weekend epics.

Because they are more cross-country oriented shorts, I used them in that capacity and didn’t bother taking them on any downhill or enduro-esque rides. I made sure to wash the shorts between every ride to see how they held up.

And they held up quite well! In terms of quality/durability, I gave them a score of 8/10. The shell is well made, but because of the thinner material, I do worry about how they would hold up in a crash or with extended use in the backcountry. I knocked an additional point off because the chamois liner isn’t quite as well made.

The Summit Shorts were super comfy and I gave them an 9/10. They weren’t quite as roomy as the Shredly shorts and they don’t have a yoga waistband, so I knocked one point off in terms of comfort, but overall they’re pretty darn comfortable.

Speaking of the waist, I appreciated that the waistband is adjustable to fit a wide range of bodies, and there was nothing to rub or dig into my skin. The metal buckle wasn’t my personal favorite, so I gave it an 8/10, but that one’s a little subjective.

For fit and sizing, I scored the Summit Shorts 7/10. If you’re muscular, you’re probably going to need to order up a size AND the short with liner only goes up to a size 12 which is a little disappointing. Finally, the chamois liner ran pretty small.

While the shorts had plenty of pockets, only one was zippered. And the fit of the shorts kept me from carrying anything bulkier than cash in it. 7/10.

Protection and breathability are usually opposing features, and that was true with the Summit short. The fabric is awfully thin and won’t do much in the event of a crash so I scored it 6/10. On the other hand, that light fabric made the shorts super airy and breathable (10/10).

Competition

Of the shorts I’ve tested and reviewed, the Pearl Izumi Summit short is one of the lightest. The closest competitor might be the Backcountry shorts. They have a similar waist closure, fit, and are also very thin for summer riding. That fabric is a little more paper like, while the Summit short has a silkier feel. The Summit short is also longer (12.5″) while the Backcountry shorts come in shorter inseam lengths.

Bottom-Line: An Ideal Summertime Short

For hot weather and cross-country riding, I highly recommend the Pearl Izumi Women’s Summit short. They are lightweight, breathable, and super comfy.

These are not the shorts you want for big backcountry rides or enduro-style riding, but for hot lunchtime spins, I can’t think of a better option.

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About The Reviewer

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

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