Within the realm of logic and reason, there is a principle known as Occam's Razor. It states that, "All other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones." Origins of this edict are not definitive, but variations of the concept have been traced as far back as the time of Aristotle around 350 B.C. The concept's name comes from William of Occam, an English philosopher who lived in the 1300s and was a frequent proponent of efficient reasoning. In subsequent years, Occam's Razor has been embraced in various forms by the fields of science, philosophy, medicine, religion, law - and the design and manufacture of cycling apparel.

Indeed, Occam's Razor has become a key axiom in the ongoing revitalization at Pearl Izumi, a sea change that was on full display during RoadBikeReview's recent daylong tour of the apparel maker's headquarters, which is situated on the windswept prairie a dozen miles east of Boulder, Colorado.

"There was a time not that long ago when this company had lost site of what its focus should be," explained design manager Darren Zrubek, who was hired to help right the proverbial ship. "Everything was geared toward taking care of large accounts and getting product to market fast. Pearl Izumi had become an operationally driven company, where the mandate was, on time, on price, get it, ship it. The unfortunate result was a scattered product line, where things just didn't tie together. Sure we still had some great product, but men's was different than women's, tri was different than cycling. It was all over the place and it was confusing to the consumer."

To get this massive train back on its rails (Pearl Izumi has upwards of 300 styles, resulting in thousands of skus when you account for sizes and colors), Zrubek and the approximately 120 people who make up the Pearl Izumi workforce, have been tasked with returning the company to its roots.



"Pearl Izumi started in 1950 with a father making a synthetic bike racing jersey for his son because he saw a need for something better," continued Zrubek. "That is who this company is. We were born out of competition, so the brand has already decided who we are. We just needed to embrace our heritage and be proud of it. We make stuff for on the bike, for on the trail, for running. That's it. The simplest solution is the right solution."



That simple solution is being combined with two core brand philosophies: one-to-one and ride 365. "One-to-one is the idea of creating anatomic design solutions that synchronize with the body. Ride 365 represents protection from external environments in all conditions," explained Zrubek. "So we have jerseys that block the sun, and soft shells that keep you warm in cold weather, and new shoe with monofilament that's light weight and super breathable."



This simple solution thinking is manifest in other ways as well. Flip through Pearl Izumi's latest spring/summer cycling apparel catalog, and you're quickly immersed in "Color Stories," a fancy way of saying that products within a line that have various functions at various price points are still tied together in easy-to-discern visual ways. For example, there's a whole line-up of white/grey/cherry tomato-colored apparel. Or if you're a little more flamboyant, go for the black/electric blue and match your jersey to bib shorts to gloves to shoes.

"The idea is to make sure that the entire design language flows through the line," explained Jon Knoll, Pearl's global category manager. "And at the same time make sure there is consistency. If you are a size Large in a P.R.O. level jersey, you should be a large throughout the line. That wasn't always necessarily the case before."

Of course this isn't just a color story. While Knoll acknowledges that major advances in apparel technology will be more prevalent in 2014, he proudly points out features like patented contour-fit sleeve designs, a quick-lock zipper that can be undone with one hand, and fabric that's specially treated with xylitol, a naturally occurring substance that absorbs body heat while you exercise.

"It's the same substance that's in chewing gum," added Knoll. "It gives you a cooling effect that reduces body temperature by up to 5 degrees."

Knoll and his colleagues have also been tasked with making sure some of these high-end features are spread throughout the line. "Honestly, it's easy to make really expensive stuff," he said. "I can make the best $200 jersey in the world. But to also make a $50 jersey that works well. That's the real challenge. We have spent a lot of time and effort working in that area because that's where real volume is. So we push the limits with our P.R.O. line, then let it trickle down."



Those advanced features are part of the reason Pearl Izumi cycling jerseys will adorn the backs of the 2013 BMC Pro Team, which includes the likes Taylor Phinney, Tejay van Garderen, Thor Hushovd, and reigning world champion Philippe Gilbert. Keeping this group of elite pros happy is the job of Ted Barber, Pearl Izumi's director of advanced development.





Our time with Barber starts in his small office, where he explains that while many of his colleagues deal with "in-line" product that's partially constrained by the timing of product release cycles, he has the luxury of a more open-ended operating window.

"I get to deal with the long term projects that are beyond the scope of the normal development cycle," said Barber. "A lot of that time ends up being spent with our pro athletes and pro teams, working on comfort and functionality. Take the BMC guys, who in the early season are spending upwards of 8 hours a day on their bike. They are going to develop sensitivities to things that would only be small irritations to the regular rider. The great thing is that we can take this feedback and incorporate into our in-line product as well."

To alleviate these sensitivities as much as possible, Barber went to Belgium in November to fit the entire BMC team. The goal was to find out which Pearl stock sizes would work for which riders, and if there were any outliers who would need special attention. All that information was then entered into a database that Barber showed off to RoadBikeReview.

"There are about 25 metrics for each rider," he said, pointing to fields in a giant spreadsheet displayed on his oversized computer screen. "We also made special notes, say for instance if a particular rider didn't like grippers on their bib shorts."



Turns our Hushovd, who has larger than average thighs, doesn't like grippers, and Swiss rider Steve Morabito, who has an elongated body shape, wont fit into any of the stock size one-piece kits.

"Steve has the circumference of a medium, but the length of an extra large because he has such a long torso," explained Barber. "So we end up having to make him a custom skinsuit, because if we put him into a medium he wouldn't be able to stand up and a large would be flapping around too much."

Fortunately, about 100 feet from Barber's office is Pearl Izumi's Speed Shop, an area inside the company's giant warehouse where one-off product comes to life. Manned by a team of expert sewers and stocked with every imaginable fabric type and thread color known to man, the Speed Shop is ground zero for custom apparel creation, and more importantly, prototype design and testing.



"Whether we're working with new patterns, or aerodynamics, or pocket placement, or chamois design, or whatever it is, we can make it here," said Barber. "This area is set up for doing anything from running shorts to speedsuits to tights, jerseys or jackets. We have all the different machines that you would find in a fully operational cycling apparel factory. So when we prototype something here, we know that they can replicate it there. And in a crunch, this facility can crank out 8-12 fully custom pieces in a day."



That crunch-time capacity was put the full test a few years back when the Slipstream pro cycling team became Garmin right before the start of the Tour de France. That meant a new kit for each rider on the team - pronto. "Every speed suit was sewn here," recalled global marketing director Geoff Shaffer. "We had 30 days to make the whole batch, and then we had to fly it over to Europe ourselves in checked luggage. Normally we'd have taken at least twice that time."





Garmin and Pearl Izumi have since parted ways, and there are no super-rush jobs projects underway on this day. But Barber is kind enough to walk us through the process of creating a custom BMC jersey. After material is cut, we relocate to the bowels of the giant main warehouse where sublimation takes place.



For the uninitiated, sublimation is a process where a solid is turned to a gas without going through a liquid phase. Put another way, it's how you turn plain white sports apparel fabric into a cool-looking BMC jersey without compromising any of the fiber's performance characteristics. To do this, special ink is printed on a template (aka a large piece of paper). Fabric is then taped in place on top of the paper, and then the whole arrangement is placed in a transfer press at 390 degrees for 50 seconds.



"The pressure from the transfer press brings the paper and the fabric into really close proximity," explained Barber. "The temperature vaporizes the ink, and then the ink moves into the fabric, penetrating the fibers of the apparel. This all happens without changing the performance characteristics of the fibers themselves. So it still has the same wicking and breathability. If we did this using heat transfer or screen printing, we would be changing the fabric in a way that we don't want to have happen. That's the key to great graphics."

Pearl Izumi Sublimation Process Demo Videohttpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZDje1-Z-AU&feature=youtu.be

The final output is a series of printed fabric panels that are then sent back to the Speed Shop to be sewn together. "It's really amazing that we can do all this in house," said Barber. "It gives the ability to be really nimble and experiment with different designs and fabrics. We also make a lot of custom pieces for our pro triathletes since we they just need one or two pieces and have very specific needs."



Custom needs for the rest of us are addressed one floor up in Pearl Izumi's custom kit design room. After scuttling this portion of its business for a few years back, the company is once again outfitting all manner of club teams, bike shops, and cycling-friendly businesses.

"I think shutting down custom was a real negative," admits Shaffer, adding that Pearl is also the official supplier of all the leader's jerseys for the USA Pro Challenge, the 7-day pro road race that crisscrosses Colorado's Rocky Mountains. "There is no better way to get apparel onto the backs of people then through a custom kit program."

It also doesn't hurt that most of the people designing and creating Pearl Izumi product are users themselves. This is evidenced at noon when the pitter patter of keyboards is replaced by the click-clacking of cycling shoes. Indeed, the day's highly spirited lunch ride numbers at least 30, and Shaffer says only a handful are not Pearl Izumi employees. "Passion for sport is a huge driver here," said Shaffer. "Just look at the wall of bikes. That's not some display. That's who we are."



Back in the front lobby, just left of the receptionist station, are a series of architectural renderings. The pictured building is what will be Pearl Izumi's new home, a sleek, modern looking structure that's already under construction in the sprawling lot across the street from the current building. Scheduled completion date is sometime next fall.



But it's clear from our time here at Pearl Izumi, these renderings represent more than just bricks and mortar. After admittedly losing its way for several years, there is a company-wide revitalization underway. Or as a prominently displayed slogan on the wall reads, "We are an organization of individuals. Every day each of us helps reinforce our culture and reinvent our company."



It's a simple approach. Occam would be proud.

Read the Sneak Peek: Pearl Izumi HQ Tour.