Pearl Izumi bills the Elite Escape Thermal jersey ($125) as providing “cozy warmth on cool days.” That’s a pretty solid elevator pitch in four words. The emphasis is on cool — that’s the thermometer setting where the Escape functions best.
The temperature range is listed on the website as 45 to 60 degrees. After wearing this thermal fleece jersey for two months on windy and cooler days, I’d agree. Of course that does also depend on your layering strategy and personal thermo-regulation needs.
If you’re riding at 45 degrees, I’d recommend a good mid-weight wool base layer (mine is Ice Breaker or Ibex), then the Elite Escape, and over top, a long sleeve wind jacket. I’ve also worn the Escape with a vest below 50 but generally, I’d want the wind jacket. If you’re closer to 55, go with a vest or no vest.
The Escape slots in as a good Fall and Spring jersey that can handle even cooler Winter temps if you heavy up with a thicker base layer and jacket. Anything below 45 and I suspect you’ll be cold unless you go with a substantial jacket over top.
In terms of wicking and breathability, I’d say pretty darn good. At the end of my 1.5 hour work commutes or two hour rides, the wool base layer will have some perspiration spots but when I take the Escape off and turn it inside out, it’s pretty dry. (Which not coincidently, leads to a very quick dry time, as claimed.) We’re huge fans of wool in terms of odor resistance yet I’ll wear the polyester/elastane mix on the Escape 3-4 times before it smells like time for a wash.
The Elite Escape is listed as a “form fit” — which is not the emaciated, skin-tight P.R.O. fit or the more relaxed Select sizing. I’m carrying my extra wine and chocolate Winter weight so my fit was definitely form-fitting but not restrictive. If I was at normal Summer weight, the fit and cut would be absolutely perfect.
My arms are crazy long yet the Escape sleeve length went right to the wrist when stretched out over the bike. That’s nice as length is always an issue for me. I found the cut of the Escape to be pretty sleek and flattering. And there’s plenty of length on the back side so you’re covered, without going too long. Pearl has been doing cycling apparel for a long time and it shows in the shaping and tailoring. Nice touch — the zipper has an internal flap so you don’t snag your base layer.
Styling is subjective but we like the slightly understated and classic look that gets a modern spin with the wide, bold bands of color. Pearl sent me the “Black & Screaming Yellow” and you have your choice of five other color options. Plenty of ways to play match-matchy with the rest of your kit.
The details on the Escape include what Pearl calls three back pockets but it’s really five storage spots. The left and right pockets are two-tiered so there’s plenty of places for your stuff. There’s also a reflective graphic on the back and both sleeves. The collar is high enough to insulate without rubbing you the wrong way.
All in all, and given the $125 price tag, I think the Escape Thermal jersey is a super solid choice for two season jersey that can deal with some Winter temps if you layer well or live in a more temperate climate. My experience with Pearl’s bib shorts and jerseys is they tend to hold up well over time, retaining their shape, color, fit and integrity. I’d expect the Escape to be a part of your cycling wardrobe for a while.