Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb review: the king of budget shell jackets
There are two different ways to approach your search for the best winter cycling jacket. Some situations will be best served with a jacket that integrates a mid-layer into its design. This approach is great for shorter, high-intensity, rides where you'd rather dress as minimally as possible. It's an approach that is also best suited to deep pockets as you'll be looking for bleeding-edge tech designed to cover a huge range of situations.
Tech Specs: Pearl Izumi Attack WxB jacket
Weight: 250g (As measured size small)
Size availability: S-XXL
Colour Options: Urban Sage, Screaming Yellow
Materials: 100% recycled polyester
The other way to approach the challenge of staying warm and dry through the spring, winter, and fall, is with layers. This approach allows you to pick and choose a mid-layer, a base layer, and a shell depending on your needs. You can shop for each piece separately, looking for deals, and you can build on what works through multiple seasons of riding.
If the layered approach sounds like the right approach for you, there's no doubt you'll be looking for the right shell. There are a ton of options and they all claim to be the best in a variety of ways. For Pearl Izumi, the Attack Wxb jacket is an option that looks to cover the bases at a relatively bargain price. Now that I've spent time testing it, I'm ready to discuss if the brand has managed to meet the goals set. Keep reading to see if Pearl Izumi should be on your shortlist for shell jackets.
Design and aesthetics
Often when looking at budget clothing options, there is a style tax involved. When the price is low you seem to have to accept that style and fit aren't considered. Pearl Izumi often flips this equation though and with the Attack Wxb, there is some of that happening.
I won't try to claim that the Attack Wxb is the height of current cycling style but it's not at all bad. For fit, you'll find a svelte silhouette that avoids being overly tight. It's not boxy and there's no chance of excess fabric flapping in the wind but there's also plenty of room for different mid-layer options. My favourite way of describing it is to say that Pearl Izumi turned the feeling of a casual long-distance ride spent chatting with friends into a fit. There's performance involved but it never feels uncomfortable.
That fit helps the lack of size adjustment built into the jacket and that in turn reinforces the simple and uncomplicated visual design. It’s great to have lots of zippers, pockets and adjustments but every one of those details adds cost. Adding a zipper takes longer to stitch and time is money. At the same time, those kinds of details give designers tools to add visual flair but that’s where the simple design comes into play. Sure, there’s not a lot of detailing but Pearl Izumi focused on the important details. Nothing breaks up the lines but every seam has tape for a truly waterproof construction and there are some extra seams for a better fit.
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Rather than wrapping the front and rear panels, the designers left things looser and added side panels for extra forgiveness. Almost imperceptible from the outside, the side panels help create that balance of tailored but comfortable fit and there are other details like that. The shoulder construction has an extra panel for better fit and the elbows add pleats to pre-curve the sleeves. Again, don't look for extra features but the basics that make for a solid jacket design are there and the look is plain but nice.
The fabric further emphasises the same points. It's a three-layer construction that is hardly cutting edge but it feels good against your skin and it will keep the elements out. It does have some standout features though. In particular, it’s worth noting that the fabric is 100% recycled and PFC-free. That's not completely alien to the Pearl Izumi brand but it is still somewhat noteworthy compared to other brands.
There are certain realities of testing gear against the weather. I would love to tell you that I tried the Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb shell jacket in the worst weather that the winter has to offer but it came to me too late this season. Instead, I spent time testing with weather that ranged from 10C/50F to 18C/64F. As it turns out though, my experience says that was plenty. I might be curious to see if there is a combination of layers that could push the usability closer to 0C/32F, that's not really what this jacket is about.
If you want to brave the most extreme weather, there are better options. Instead, the Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb is there when you need something to cover a more reasonable range of weather. At the bottom of the range 7C/45F should be attainable without too much difficulty. You might even be able to go colder but rain will challenge the lower end because of the nature of the fabric. As good as it is, the outer layer will hold a bit of water over time. It won't come through but it will leach warmth from your body in places like your forearms and the tops of your shoulders. Consider that detail more of a warning than a complaint though, not every jacket will do everything.
Where the Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb jacket shines is when the weather is changing. It was perfect when I was riding in San Diego during the launch of the new Enve MOG gravel bike. San Diego is hardly an area known for harsh winter weather and I headed out in shorts plus a jacket and a light long sleeve under it. There was some wind and it was certainly chilly but the early part of the ride was warm enough that I wondered if I'd made the wrong choice.
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When the weather is too warm it's the fantastic zipper that Pearl Izumi chose that you'll notice. It's a YKK piece that uses big plastic teeth and moves with ease. Keeping moisture out falls to a storm flap with enough structure that it won't get in the way. If you feel like you need some ventilation, unzip it from the bottom. If you need even more the upper zipper pull has a locking system that's easy to move one-handed but will stay put where you want it to. Sure, the fabric is breathable but there's nothing like a great zipper and this is one of the best.
During that ride in San Diego, the zipper meant that as I headed out into weather that was maybe too warm, I was fine. I was even able to grab food from my jersey pockets underneath with an easy pull of the bottom zipper up enough to clear the pockets. Later in the ride when the sky opened into the kind of desert rain that you get in Southern California, comfort was only a matter of zipping things back up.
The Southern California rain did give me a chance to notice a few other details as well. One issue it highlighted was that the drop tail isn't long enough. The waist uses a hemmed design that creates a lot of structure and helps keep it flat. At the rear is a combination of elastic and silicone grip and, in combination with the relaxed fit, things definitely stay put while riding. Without fenders though, there's just not a whole lot of coverage to keep your chamois from getting soaked. It's a shame because the fabric itself does a great job of keeping water out.
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I spent a good amount of time through this review discussing the limitations of the Pearl Izumi Wxb jacket. Don't take that as any indication that I don't think it's great. As I said, not every jacket will do everything and Pearl Izumi created a jacket that covers what's important. Pair it with one of the best cycling base layers and a solid mid-layer and you can handle a huge range of possible situations. At the lower end, it does great with a Pearl Izumi Alpha layer and a warm base layer. What it will handle is impressive and more so if it's dry. As the temperature rises, you can play with the excellent zipper and make yourself comfortable without stopping. If it really heats up, you can even roll the Attack Wxb up and get it into a jersey pocket.
The other big advantage is that the performance on offer comes with a reasonable price. It's not hard to spend 3-4 times the price for a jacket and if you do, there are only a few places you might notice an advantage. One of those places is the lack of pockets and fasteners. Leaving them off does help keep price, and volume, down but it also means the sleeves are big and there's no way to adjust them plus you'll always need a mid-layer of some kind given there are no pockets.
For most people though, the Pearl Izumi Attack Wxb is an excellent three-season shell. The fit is comfortable and the fabric is high quality. There’s no glaring deficiency and it should handle a lot of things for a long time and for not a lot of money. Hard to ask for too much more.