Pearl Izumi made its name in cycling back in the 1990s through its use of highly technical fabrics and the trend continues more than a decade later. Generous use of AmFIB wind- and waterproof laminates in its newest Gavia PRO jacket provides an excellent barrier against cold and moisture but a few fundamental flaws keep it from occupying a higher rung on our ladder.
Unlike many jackets that use wind- and water-resistant materials up front but more breathable panels out back, the Gavia PRO jacket opts for maximum protection by using AmFIB Ultra throughout the entire garment along with a full DWR (durable water-repellent) coating.
Even with just a short-sleeved and lightweight wool base layer underneath, we found the Gavia PRO pleasantly toasty on road rides at 35° F – at least when the sun was shining on our sample’s black hue – and the fuzzy brushed interior is comfortable on bare skin. The 'semi form fit' cut leaves enough room for a long-sleeved jersey when necessary, too, and the full-length wind flap behind the front zipper and adjustable closures on the wrist do a good job of sealing out drafts.
Surprisingly, the ample warmth doesn’t come with a penalty of weight, bulk or breathability, either. The jacket's 355g weight isn’t too far off from some shells we’ve tested and the material is impressively thin and stretchy. Though the AmFIB Ultra fabric seems to evacuate excess heat and moisture fairly well, we would still prefer to see some optional venting as hard workouts can overwhelm the jacket’s capabilities.
We’re perplexed by the Gavia PRO’s cut, though, as it fits noticeably better standing upright than on the bike – not good for a cycling-specific garment. The lower hem is a bit too high up front, strangely loose fitting on the body and there are no grippers to help keep it in place. The internal elastic around the rear is a nice thought but the opening has far too much girth for it to be useful. The neck opening is also a bit too broad and low.
On a road bike in particular, the front of the body sags significantly (though this is somewhat expected given the stated ‘semi form fit’) and there is a lot of excess material bunched up around the front of the waist. There is little risk of cold air coming up from the bottom of the loose hem as long as you’re moving forward but add in a stiff crosswind or swirling winter breeze and it’s a different story. We also can’t help but wonder if the jacket’s good breathability marks are due more to the open bottom than the high-tech AmFIB material.
Making matters worse are the two zippered rear pockets. Their side-access orientation makes it easier to get at your stuff in theory but it also increases the likelihood of losing your gear on the road if you’re not careful to zip them up – which is all that much harder given the fact that the hem doesn’t want to stay put when you tug on the zipper. On the upside, the pockets are disappointingly small so at least you won’t lose that much stuff anyway…
All in all, the Pearl Izumi Gavia PRO jacket provides very good protection against the weather but a number of disappointing issues overshadow what would otherwise be a quality garment. The jacket will serve casual riders well overall, especially those in wetter climates. But will they be willing to pay over £100 for the privilege?
Basic fit issues are sometimes expected from newcomers on the scene but wholly unforgiveable from someone with as rich a history and as deep a level of experience as Pearl Izumi. Come on guys, we expect better.