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Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight (Built-in Chamois)

Pearl Izumi
Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight

When winter arrives, tights become essential to protect connective tissue in the knees in particular— too many riders go without knee protection in cold temperatures.

There is very poor circulation in connective tissue at all times, but in the cold the knees have a particularly hard time, and middle age brings a realization that body parts degrade over time— my knees do not like the cold especially under moderate and hard efforts. Connective tissue is not something to mess with— it does not tend to heal or grow or repair itself very well.

The Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight keeps my knees warm down to about 48° F (perhaps a bit colder for some riders). Colder than ~50°F and I tend to move to the Pearl Izumi AmFib tight along with a shoe cover.

Manufacturer description

The ELITE Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight features the Elite 3D Chamois® to add full cycling function to this mid weight, wind resistant tight.

  • ELITE Thermal Fleece fabric panels provide superior moisture transfer and warmth
  • ELITE Barrier fabric provides superior wind protection
  • Constructed leg articulation for a full range of motion
  • ELITE 3D Chamois®
  • 8" lower leg zipper with internal draft flap and zipper garage
  • Contoured leg opening provides additional coverage at top of shoe
  • Silicone gripper at ankles to keep tights in place
  • 360 degree reflectivity
  • Form Fit

In use

The Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight is a very well made high quality item that looks and feels as if it will last for years.

Sizing

I wear a size Large Pearl Izumi cycling short, but the size Large tight was way too large— baggy. A size Medium Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight fits me just right. Go figure.

In use

On the bike the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight did its job really well; the built-in chamois was excellent as was the warmth for the knees in particular. But it is a medium weight tight so once the temperature drops below ~50°F or so, I prefer the additional frontal wind protection of the Pearl Izumi AmFib tights (which in turn become too hot above 55°F or so).

With the Elite Thermal Barrier Cycling Tight, the difference as the temperature drops can be felt as a chill through the outer part of the quadriceps, though the knees are better protected. The heavier AmFib tight blocks wind across the entire front of the leg, keeping all parts of the leg warm; this matters for faster road cycling.

The other factor is that a 2-layer setup (standard short + tight) allows a bit more leg movement. With the built-in short I found that having the tight connected to the built-in short offered less freedom of movement, the built-in chamois being part of the entire tight, and thus connected to it. It’s a small difference, but I noticed it, and I prefer the 2-piece arrangement. But this might also be a fit issue for my particular body shape.

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More on 2-piece vs built-in short

I’ve long been a dual layer user: my regular summer shorts with the appropriate tights for the temperature. Using a dual layer scheme has some advantages:

  • Temperature variation to the warmer side allows stripping off the tights.
  • Individual pairs of shorts can be washed regularly, tights can be dried so only one pair of tights is needed (clean tights for winter riding are immaterial, I wear mine a week or more without washing, simply air-drying them).
  • It’s simpler: several pairs of shorts, and one pair each of tights of various weights.

With a built-in short in the tights, these advantages are lost and one also needs more than one pair of tights in order to keep the chamois fresh and dry (bacterial buildup in the chamois is not a great idea).


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