Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Jersey

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Manufacturer Description

Ideal used on its own for early spring or late fall rides when you want constant warmth throughout your ride, or with one of our Barrier styles for wind resistance on colder days.


  • ELITE Thermal Fleece fabric powered by S.Cafe provides superior insulation, moisture transfer, dry time and odor-resistance
  • 96% polyester 4% elastane
  • Full-length internal draft flap with zipper garage seals in warmth
  • Elasticized hem and cuffs
  • Three back pockets with hidden sweat-proof pocket
  • Reflective elements for low-light visibility
  • Weight: 225 g/m2
  • Form Fit
  • Tested size medium
    • Center back – 70 cm (27.6 in)
    • Pit to Pit – 51 cm (20.1 in)
    • Sleeve length – 91 cm (35.8 in)
    • Measured weight – 343 g (12.1 oz)
  • Retail – $125

YMMV Review

I have been a fan of Pearl Izumi’s products now for years. They offer three distinct levels to accommodate all cyclists which I like. All their products use technical fabrics and materials, but as you go up in price, you get more cutting edge and a racer fit. I generally find that I fall in the PRO or ELITE level for Pearl Izumi. I really like the PRO stuff, but it depends what my purpose is. This ELITE Thermal Jersey is exactly one of those pieces. It is a piece that I wanted to test as it is a good mix between being technical enough for on the road bike but also relaxed enough for the commute. I do not want to be one of those riders in my racing kit on the way to work. It just does not fit, and I figure no need to put any more wear on those items than needed.

Front View - Click to See Larger
Front View – Click to See Larger


I tested the ELITE Thermal Jersey throughout the winter here in Colorado. Funny thing here is that you can really ride all winter if you have the right gear. Yes, it snows from time to time, but there are plenty of sun shining days in between; they are just cold. That is where this jersey comes in. I like to have a jersey that breathes as with many other jackets, I get too warm. So when testing the jersey, I paired it with a base layer from time to time that I will describe more of below. My rides varied with the jersey, riding up to 35 miles and temps varying from 15 to 50 degrees.

Design ★★★☆☆

Appearance (30%) ★★★☆☆

Construction (30%) ★★★½☆

Materials (20%) ★★★★☆

Sustainability (10%) ★½☆☆☆

Weight (10%) ★★★☆☆

The Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Jersey is in its simplest terms a long-sleeve cycling jersey made with fleece. The jersey has a full-length zipper in the front and three drop in pockets on the back, including a zippered sweat proof pocket on the outside of the center pocket. I do not want to take anything away from the jersey by saying it is just a fleece jersey. It is, in fact, made of Pearl Izumi’s ELITE Thermal Fleece fabric. This is a 225 g/m2 96% polyester and 4% elastane fleece. The outside has a smooth exterior while the inside is brushed for added warmth. Pearl Izumi recommends this jersey as a standalone piece for temperatures between 7°C – 13°C (45°F – 55°F). The fabric has another unseen benefit to it that is powered by S.Cafe. S.Cafe is an innovative fabric technology that helps control odor, adds UV protection, and speed drying. What is interesting is what S.Cafe essentially is: coffee grounds. They have developed a process over the last four years to be able to add coffee grounds into fiber, thus adding these benefits to fleece.

Back View - Click to See Larger
Back View – Click to See Larger

Another feature on the jersey includes a full-length draft flap behind the main zipper with a zipper garage at the top. This helps prevent the loss of warmth from wind coming through the zipper and then also protects the chin from the zipper when zipped up. Both the hem and the wrist cuffs of the jersey have elastic in them to make sure they stay snug and doesn’t leave room for could air to get in. Finally, the jersey has been accented with reflective elements for low-light visibility. The ELITE Thermal Jersey currently comes in six different color schemes, all but the black are bright enough to be seen with a little light. Apart from the black which is all black, all the others have a lower section across the abdomen and lower back that is black to go along with the main color which composed the sleeves and upper body. Along with this, the main zipper as well as accents on the hips and forearms adds pop to the color scheme. I must be honest and say that I am more in favor of subtle color schemes so this one pushes my boundaries a little. To each their own.

Elastic Wrist - Click to See Larger
Elastic Wrist – Click to See Larger

As with all Pearl Izumi products, the ELITE Thermal Jersey looks well made. I have not had any issues with construction of any of my Pearl products in the past, and at first glance I would not expect any with this jersey. When speaking about sustainability, the main materials of the jersey are unfortunately not from sustainable resources. I will, however, make sure to mention that the S.Cafe coffee grounds in the fabric are, in fact, sustainable. Furthermore, Pearl Izumi has recently opened a new headquarters just down the road from my house that is much greener and state of the art then the old one, so I have to give them props for that. Maybe someday I will get a tour. =)

Fit ★★★½☆

Adjustability (10%) ★★½☆☆

Arm Length (25%) ★★★★½

Comfort (30%) ★★★★☆

Ease of Movement (15%) ★★★½☆

Torso Sizing (20%) ★★★☆☆

The Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Jersey is considered Form Fitting. For me that meant testing a size medium. I am 5’11” and 163 pounds for reference, and the jersey fit well. It was not super snug through the midsection which is what I expected. This left enough room to layer the jersey over a base layer which provides much more versatility. Without a base layer, the brushed interior is very comfortable by itself. The jersey is very cozy which I like. I have been happy with the torso length as it is plenty long to give full coverage. I do ride with bib shorts, so I never have to worry about exposing my lower back, but with the length of this jersey, I do not think that would be much of an issue. What I really like about this, and most Pearl Izumi products is the sleeve length. I think they tend to run slightly on the longer side which works great for me. I have plenty of jackets and tops I wish were just slightly longer in the arms and this is not one of them. The length is great.

Drop Tail Hem - Click to See Larger
Drop Tail Hem – Click to See Larger

One thing that is kind of missing from this jersey is adjustability. Pearl Izumi has gotten around that by using elastic in the cuffs and hem. This seems to do the job well. I have not fully decided if having a bungee hem or Velcro cuff would be better or worse. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The jersey has a good deal of stretch to it, and I never felt like it was restricting.

Performance ★★★½☆

Breathability (20%) ★★★★☆

Durability (15%) ★★★½☆

Moisture Transport (20%) ★★★½☆

Pockets (15%) ★★★½☆

Reflectivity (10%) ★★★☆☆

Warmth (20%) ★★★½☆

Of course when it is all said and done the jersey needs to perform. The Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal jersey is made for cool temperatures, and I found that it handles those and much more. I tend to run warm when exercising so I would slightly lower my temperature range from the 45-55°F that Pearl Izumi states. For me, I used the jersey comfortably in temperature of 40-50°F. Once below that I would add a long or short-sleeved base layer down to about 30°F and then a Windstopper base layer down to as low as 15°F. Some mornings are really cold here in Colorado. I did notice that no matter the temperature, on a big climb, I could get a bit of a sweat under the jersey, but as soon as it eased up or I started pointing downward, the inside would dry up quick. What I really like about this jersey is the mix between warmth and breathability. The fleece breathes well but also insulates so it is perfect for someone like me who really overheats when there is not enough breathability. It takes a lot for me to wear a jacket, whether running or cycling.

Back Pockets - Click to See Larger
Back Pockets – Click to See Larger

The ELITE Thermal Jersey has a decent amount of reflective elements to be seen, and most of the colors are definitely on the brighter side. This helps you be seen during the daytime which is even more important than low-light conditions as most of your riding is in the daylight. Thus far I have put the jersey through plenty of miles, even some with a backpack on when commuting and the jersey still looks good. I have fortunately not crashed in it yet so I cannot comment on how it would hold up to that. Honestly, I try to be in depth but not that in depth. I do know that Pearl Izumi puts their fabrics through some rigorous testing in their headquarters, and I am sure noting I have done yet can compete with those tests. The rear pockets are fairly standard three drop in pockets. I have loaded them up like I normally would and not notices much in the way of pull from the weight which is good. The fleece has some added strength that most summer jerseys do not have. One thing that is pretty cool is the sweat proof pocket. Hopefully, I am not sweating enough to need this pocket, but I think it also doubles to keep things dry from wheel spray or a surprise shower. It is a good place to put a $5 bill so you do not have to hand over a warm and sometimes sweaty bill if you take a mid-ride break.

Zipper Garage & Draft Flap - Click to See Larger
Zipper Garage & Draft Flap – Click to See Larger

Overall ★★★½☆

Overall, the Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Jersey may not be a sexy new innovation, but I do think it is a staple in my cycling wardrobe. By using different base layers, I have been able to use it across a wide spectrum of temperatures and am always happy with the breathability. Here in Colorado, wet is not normally the concern while cold is so this is a great piece for that. If the day is really blustery or cold, I may opt for a jacket but most days this gets the nod. The pockets are solid, and the fit works well for me. My only real gripe would be the colors which are a bit out of my comfort zone. Either way I would recommend this as a winter piece. The Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Jersey retails for $125, which is fair, in my opinion. As with much of their stuff, they have a PRO and SELECT version of the Thermal Jersey as well. No excuses for getting out in the winter. =) As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

Pros [field name=iFrame]

  • Brushed interior
  • Great sleeve length
  • Sweat proof pocket
  • Breathes well
  • Expanded temperature range with appropriate base layers


  • Color schemes are a bit out of my comfort zone
  • Racers may want a tighter and sleeker fit – see the PRO version

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About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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