Review: Pearl Izumi Versa Shorts and Tops

Originally posted on May 4, 2018 at 3:00 am

When Pearl Izumi created its new Versa line, it had a few things in mind. According to the company, “It had to be comfortable. Functional. Extremely versatile”. All of which are characteristics that I personally look for. Aside from making packing for trips easier, I like to know that I can run down to the coffee shop in my cycling gear without putting the person next to me in a trance from the hi-viz and plethora of logos, going to the pub after a trail ride and not seeking the back corner due to the soggy stench from my shirt or simply serve as a casual office attire, even if it’s only on Friday’s.

Boardwalk short from Pearl Izumi, look good on and off the bike.


Pearl Izumi Boardwalk – $80

Pearl Izumi Versa – $100

Both the Pearl Izumi Boardwalk and Versa shorts fit well and true-to-size. They are both considered a relaxed fit with ample room in the backside and thigh areas for athletic body builds. The shorts have a button and zip-fly closure, both constructed from polyester, but the Versa provides a water-resistant DWR finish for additional protection.

Of the two, the Boardwalk would edge on the more casual end with its two open hand pockets, one rear slash pocket and the right-side rear pocket having a (small) Velcro closure. I wouldn’t recommend stashing anything important in the pockets during a trail ride where it could unknowingly get tossed. There are two spots of reflective piping on the left side, the main being above the top of the left slash pocket and then a small strip down at the leg opening behind the knee. Branding is kept to a minimum with a small sewn-on patch in the front and a small reflective tag on the rear.

Flashy logos be damned, the Versa does not have any branding on the outside of the short. The three main pockets (two front, one rear) can be fully closed with YKK zippers. There is an additional slash pocket in the rear and a small zipper pocket on the front with a terry cloth lining that easily accepts an iPhone 8. There is reflective stitching around the rear pockets; however, it’s minimal. I applaud the clean ascetics and appreciate the subtle accenting, but I’d be surprised if even a fellow cyclist noticed the reflective stitching. Another added bonus on the Versa is the rubber grip patches along the inner backside of the short. These helped keep the shorts from sliding down my backside but otherwise went unnoticed against my skin.

The shorts are equally comfortable and have become part of the weekly rotation. I prefer the length of the Versa short at roughly 2 inches shorter, and the DWR finish is a nice bonus for clearing mud. These would be ideal for the trail rider and post-ride libations at the local pub. For someone that only wishes to pack a single pair of shorts for a weekend of camping, riding and canoeing, the Pearl Izumi Boardwalk would be my pick.

Burly zippers on the Versa short for secure storage on the trail


Pearl Izumi Short Sleeve Button-Up – $85

Pearl Izumi Performance T – $50

The Short Sleeve Button-Up and Performance T also fit well and true-to-size. I typically wear a size medium, and these tops were no different. Both are a comfortable, relaxed fit, but the Performance T being 100 percent polyester is more semi-form fitting and a much softer material against the skin.

Backyard BB-Q or busting down the trail this piece works just about anywhere

The Button-Up is a cotton/poly blend that felt a bit rigid and requires no additional ironing to keep the collar nice and straight. Even after washing, the collar remained sharp and crisp, something that a lot of dress shirts can’t say. Between the two tops, both worked well in wicking sweat away from my body, and it was nice being able to open the Button-Up mid-ride, but the Performance T did a much better job in keeping me comfortable during longer rides.

Casual performance

Both the T and Button-Up provide a slight drop-tail to keep your backside covered while riding and offer a few bits of reflective strips here and there. The reflective pieces are nothing to write home about, but I’m glad they’re there. Branding is, yet again, minimal. The Button-Up could easily be worn to the office on casual Friday with not a second glance from co-workers. There is a small sewn patch on the chest pocket which is subtle and stylish and a small reflective tag on the back-left of the shirt near the shoulder. The T has a similar back-left reflective tab, but the front patch is lower down at the hip.

Contrasting color panels are a nice touch

For a commuter or townie who wants to be able to wear the same shirt to the office and go cruise around town, the Pearl Izumi Button-Up is the choice, no hesitation.  A full weekend of trails, camping and canoeing, the Pearl Izumi Performance T is the winner.

Muted color tones allow you to blend right back into the world straight from the trails.

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