Layering for a cold ride always requires a bit of mental math. Based on the temperature, wind and cloud cover, it takes me a bit to sort it all out. For cold days, the new Pearl Izumi PRO Alpha Layer has been instrumental at maintaining warmth, comfort and breathability.
Pearl Izumi PRO Alpha Layer Features:
- Polartec® Alpha Direct® fabric
- Form fit for a mid or outer layer
- Three bellowed rear pockets
- Silicon grip along rear hem
- MSRP: $160
Fuzzy comfort under any shell
No question, Polartec Alpha Direct looks interesting. My last Alpha Direct test product was with the Marmot Alpha 60 and it remains a favorite for all-around use. For the PRO Alpha Layer, Pearl Izumi is aiming to deliver the renowned warmth and breathability that Alpha Direct is known for in a versatile mid-layer that can be used under any shell.
I’ve worn it with the Specialized Race-Series Wind Jacket, Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier Jacket and the Pearl Izumi PRO NeoShell WxB Jacket and each one provides progressively more protection and warmth. With ride temperatures ranging from the low-50’s to 40-degrees, each of those jackets worked great with the PRO Alpha Layer.
Throughout my testing, I used a sleeveless base layer, then the Alpha Layer and covered it all up with one of the three jackets mentioned above. Any and all of those combinations offered excellent thermal properties while also breathing and wicking moisture with ease. In fact, the loft provided by the shaggy Alpha Direct fibers creates a ton of warmth when shielded from the wind. That warmth is incredible on the coldest days. And, when you need airflow, simply unzip that jacket and, like magic, the breathability of Alpha Direct shines.
The fit is snug enough to not create excess bulk. It’s not as form-fitting as a typical base layer, but it’s not slouchy by any means. Sleeve length is always a product designer’s conundrum. Making them too long might interfere with other layers, but making them too short might leave that dreaded wrist gap. Thankfully, at least for me, Pearl Izumi decided to go the “just right” route that provides coverage, but doesn’t double-bulk up those cuffs when worn with a jacket and gloves. Nice work, y’all.
The only caveat to the above are the nifty thumb pockets, which could come in handy in a pinch. Having the sleeves just the right length for layering does mean they are a little short when your thumbs are tucked in there. I actually think that’s a good trade-off because you’ll only do that if needed and I’d prefer a proper layering length.
With three rear pockets, it’s pretty awesome having a thermal mid layer that also behaves like a jersey. Stash them full with essentials, put on that shell and head out. Since they are pleated, you can fit a ton in there, but heavy items do tend to bounce around. On the flip side, when that jacket gets too hot on that long climb, there’s plenty of space to stash it.
Expect to wear it a couple of times before it needs washing. I haven’t found it to shed fibers either, so no worries about that (which isn’t the same experience I’ve had with Polartec Alpha in the past.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 173 lbs. wearing the size medium.
- Great loft and warmth
- Fuzzy fibers wick away moisture
- Great having jersey function with three pockets
- Sleeve length hits just right on me for jacket/glove compatibility
- Soft next-to-skin
- Just right collar height/diameter to work with jackets
- Thumb pockets add hand coverage in a pinch
- Not as form-fitting in the body as I’d like
- Items tend to bounce around in the pockets
- Be careful as you zip or you’ll pinch your neck meat, Napoleon
- I’m always a fan of 360-degree silicon grip
The Bottom Line: Pearl Izumi PRO Alpha Layer
Pearl Izumi is always looking to the best fabrics that perform at the highest levels. For lightweight warmth and moisture management, there’s nothing better than Polartec Alpha Direct. As a mid layer, the warmth provided is amazing, yet it breathes extremely well. Instead of grabbing a thermal jersey this winter, I’ll be grabbing the PRO Alpha Layer and pairing it with a variety of shells depending on the weather.
Buy Now: Visit PearlIzumi.com