When I look out the window I find another grey and wet winter morning. Temperatures are mild but the rain clouds are ever-present. I need to go downtown. There is no question as to how I’ll get there. They question is what I’ll be wearing. I have an appointment and errands to run. Lycra isn’t an option; rain jacket a must. While at least half my closet is filled with bike gear, finding the right commuting gear can be a challenge. I’m a big fan of wearing and riding in whatever you’ve got –especially if you have a short commute– but in the 22 years that I have been bike commuting, I have prematurely worn out too many jeans, gotten my laces caught in my drive train and suffered from chafing issues enough to know that if you’re an avid commuter, having good gear will go a long way.
When it comes to riding anything longer than an hour at a time, there simply isn’t anything more comfortable than lycra and a good chamois (even if you’re hiding them below your skirt or trousers). With that said, as bike commuting is becoming more and more popular, brands are producing commuting-specific gear that look and feel like your regular wardrobe but perform like athletic gear. Finding a balance between functionality and fashionablity can be a challenging task, but Levi and Osloh are trying to do just that: providing women with comfortable, durable pants that can survive the wear and tear of time in the saddle while looking good on the streets, in the office or at your local café. I recently put their women’s specific bike jeans to the test and here’s what I thought of them in terms of durability, performance and style.
About the tester:
- 1,65m and 60ish kg (all muscle and cookies!)
- Bike commuter and Cat 1/Grade A racer
- I ride my bike(s) everyday, rain or shine. From bike commuting to road races to playing in the dirt, my gear gets put through the wringer.
Levi’s Commuter Skinny Jeans
In recent years, Levi’s has come out with an impressive line of bike commuter specific apparel from jeans and shirts to jackets and backpacks. They’re targeting the younger, urban market hard and smartly recognised that bikes are playing an increasingly big role in young urban professionals.
Their women’s line of commuter skinny jeans comes in five colours and both high rise and regular. I reviewed the Deep Taupe (brown) coloured skinny jeans in size 28. The material is very stretchy and right-off-the-bat, I’d recommend perhaps downsizing as you do want these fitted.
The material is a blend of cotton, lyocell, polyester and something called Elastomultiester, which gives the material its elasticity. On first touch, the pants are soft and stretchy but in no means jegging-like. It does allow for superior range of motion and feels very comfortable.
Fit and style:
A skinny jean fit means that the legs are fitted and the cuffs tights –no rolling up your pant legs necessary! The waist is quite high, coming just short of the belly button, and makes me wonder what the high-rise version of these pants is like.
When you roll up the cuff, the inside has a 3M Reflective seam, which I personally think is a great touch. It looks nice, it has a function and can be easily hidden for a more business-like look.
The pants also feature four generous pockets, two on the rear, two on the front. They’re much deeper and utilitarian than regular pant pockets and the rear pockets especially provide full and flattering coverage of the bum.
These are very simple, classic pants without a lot of bells and whistles. They’re plain in the best sense of the word. You can wear these with just about anything and are as suitable for the workplace as they are for going around town.
As mentioned above, these pants are much softer than any jeans material and very comfortable. The material also breathes better than standard jean fabric and the stretchiness gives you free range of movement.
The pockets are deep so nothing will come falling out and the high rise back allows for full coverage while in the bike position, which means no fears of showing off your undies or needing a belt. The rear pockets are also reinforced and can hold your U-Lock. Though I haven’t tried this myself, the pockets are made to snuggly support the lock so it won’t flip out.
This is good to know because compared to the men’s Levi’s Commuter Jeans, the women’s skinny jeans seems to have less utility in that there is no U-lock holster, no gusseted crotch and the fabric appears to be thinner.
However, the jeans do have a water- and dirt repellent coating, which is a nice touch especially for those of us in wetter climates.
The colour and fabric has held up well in a myriad of weather conditions and several times in the washer. However, the fabric does seem a little thin and without a reinforced crotch, I fear the constant saddle rub will wear it out the inner thighs like so many pants before.
- Soft, stretchy fabric: so comfortable!
- Nice range of colour choices
- Water and dirt repellent
- Reflective seam
- Classic look
- Price: $88 USD
- Thinner fabric, no reinforced crotch
- Skinny jean fit and style isn’t for everyone
Osloh Women’s Porteur Jean
Founded in Brooklyn in 2008, Osloh Jeans is a small company with a mission to provide the casual everyday cyclist with stylish and timeless apparel that performs. Not just that, they strive to make the perfect bike jeans. Perfection is a tall order, and a lot of time and energy has gone into the design and manufacturing of their items.
What sets Osloh Jeans apart is the details that go into their products. From triple-stitching to multiple coatings, the jeans require no less than 40 different procedures.
Their women’s line is new and limited to one design at the moment, the Women’s Porteur Jean, which is available in Classic Indigo Denim and a slightly lighter Cavalry Twill fabric. I tested the latter in a 28×30 size.
The material is made from 98% cotton and 2 % spandex and as a result, is significantly less stretchy than the Levi jeans reviewed above. While not thick, the material feels sturdy and has a rich navy colour. The denim version of these jeans take some time to break in but that wasn’t the case for the twill.
Style and fit:
Straight out of the packaging, you notice there’s a lot going on: buttons, loops, pockets, stitching everywhere. A lot of thought went into these pants, no doubt about that. That is not to say that you’re about to wear cargo pants or anything –it’s all in the finer detail –but they do have a more casual look to them than the Levi skinny jean.
The fit is slim-fitted in the hip, thigh and knee with a tapered leg and a low waist. The waist band has built-in adjustable snaps to tightened or loosen the fit but there are also belt loops should you prefer to wear a belt.
Similar to the Levi’s commuter skinny jeans, the cuff have a nice style element. In this case it’s a purple seam on the inside that shows when you fold up the pant leg. Additionally, the pants feature subtle embroidery on the right side in the shape of a turning wheel –Osloh’s signature.
The pants also has a quilted poly chamois built into the jean itself. It’s been sewn in stylishly and is thin enough so it doesn’t look or feel too obvious when running around town off the bike.
As mentioned above, these pants have a lot of ‘features’ that address comfort, performance and functionality. From a button fly and an adjustable waistband to a built-in chamois and reinforced chain side leg panel, so much thought went into designing these pants. It even has a double-lined cellphone pocket and internal drying loops.
While it’s nice to be able to stash your keys, phone, wallet and U-Lock, for me the real draw to these pants are the built-in chamois and the sturdy fabric. The fabric is thin and stretchy enough that I don’t feel as restricted in my moments as I would with jeans and they breathe well. And with the built-in chamois, I know my saddle won’t wear out the inner thighs.
I wasn’t afraid of getting these pants dirty or wet either as it wiped off easily.
Thus far, the colour and fabric has held up really well but the fit does loosen a little in between washes.
- The many thoughtful features and details
- Built-in chamois
- Sturdiness and durability of the fabric
- Price. $198. But you get what you pay for.
- The built-in chamois is noticeable and that look may not be for everyone
- Would have liked the inside seam to have a reflective quality in addition to style