Betabrand Bike-to-Work Pants

Betabrand is another one of those brands that I’ve been keeping an eye on for their bike-specific hipster ware. So, when they were having one of their sales (sign up for their newsletter or follow on Twitter) I jumped in and ordered olive bike-to-work pants.

The main attraction to the brand is, er, the brand. Hip, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but functional and good looking.

Well, the bike-to-work pants didn’t really turn out to be a winner.

I ordered them in 36, my usual side, but the waist was a bit big, while the thighs (I do commute by bike after all) were tight. The sizing was odd since I also ordered one of their beautiful cordarounds in a 36, but that was too small.

The bike-to-work pants weren’t massively too large, but I would have needed a belt off the bike which means wearing the belt on the bike and that’s just not that comfortable.

In the end, I was also a bit underimpressed by the bike functionality and the quality.

I had ordered “olive” but my order confirmation already said “mushroom”. The pictures of olive looked like a light green, but the colour turned out to be a pretty bland, meh shade of, well, mushroom.

Because the fit wasn’t right, I didin’t quite try them riding on the bike, but the coverage in the back seemed adequate. The cut didn’t seem obviously conducive to riding.

The reflective flap that folds out of the left rear pocket is terrific. Nice to have a bikeware item designed for right-hand-drive traffic too.

But that’s pretty much it for bike features, i.e. lower-in-front-higher-in-back, no seams to sit on and pocket and rolled-up-pant reflectors. Terrific and new a coupl of years ago, but so-so now.

Finally, I just wasn’t that impressed with the quality given loft prices of US$100+ (pre-sale). The pants really seemd liked a pretty regular pair of chinos that could have been Dockets or some similar ho-hum brand.

Obviously, I can’t report on durability and fit on the bike, since I returned them…

 

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First Impressions: Vulpine Rain Shorts

It’s the first day of Spring in Vancouver. Appropiately, my Vulpine shorts arrived today to usher in the end of another rainy season. Also an appropriate time to take up the blogging call again after a long break.

I’d been looking at these shorts for quite a while after having noticed Vulpine for their merino shirt.

I have two pairs of cycling jeans, one pair of knickers, so shorts were the next obvious steps.

Wow, are these shorts a quality product and wow, do I look good in them if I say so myself.

Everything seems thought out in terms of design and functionality.

The fit is right on. I ordered an XL (=36″ waist) and they fit just right.

The epic fabric is soft and fairly slippery; feels good.

Features:

  • hook in the right front pocket for keys
  • hidden zipper pocket in left front pocket
  • reflectors on outside at bottom of leg (seems like a great spot for shorts and they are discrete yet give me the sense that I will be visible)
  • low cut in the front to sit on the bike
  • right rear pocket with magnet closure
  • the flap on the rear pocket folds up to reveal a bright green patch and reflector underneath
  • inside the waistband is a rubberized strip that will keep the shorts from sliding

Design:

  • “indigo” means purple, but it’s actually a very nice colour
  • terrific how much thought someone has given the seams which appear in contrasting green on the inside, and the zippers which are red
  • the V-shape on the main button is also a nice touch

Obviously, these are not cheap, so I waited for Vulpine’s second anniversary event to off-set the price a little.

No thoughts on the epic fabric yet other than it’s nice feel. I’m not sure that I really need rain-resistant shorts. In Vancouver either it’s the rainy season (Nov – March) and kind of too cold to wear shorts, or it’s shorts-weather and thus rarely rainy.

Also, will have to see how they wear with regular use (I still commute every day).

Only concern so far is one that a reviewer mentioned as well, i.e. that the seam in the back is not elastecized, so there’s some risk of exposure depending on the shirt I’m wearing.

Update some weeks later:

Some nice early Spring weather has given me a chance to try the shorts out on the bike. Great! The “slipperiness” of the fabric makes them very comfortable, though I can definitely feel the thigh seam. They are not restrictive in the thigh, but definitely not loose. Coverage on the lower back is a bit of an issue because the seam isn’t elasticized.

The hook in the front right pocket actually works for my key chain.

 

 

 

Initial Impressions Muxu Jeans

A second item in my recent order from Muxu was their cycling jeans.

I have owned a pair of Swrve jeans for a while now and really love them. Very comfortable on the bike and off, stylish and with thoughtful bike details.

So, how about the Muxu variant? Definitely a keeper!

They are dark blue denim and definitely a bit stretchier than other bike jeans I’ve tried. But fear not, they don’t look at all like my daughters’ jeggings, but like proper jeans. Stitching is grey, but blue at the waist and for the button hole. Branding is very subtle on the left front pocket.

Funnily, just like Swrve they have a very cheerful pocket liner on the inside, though not daisies but graphic versions of the brand.

The cut is a loose, but not baggy jeans cut with the articulated knees that are typical of bike jeans.

Four regular pockets (two front, two back) with an additional pocket offset forward of the back right pocket. This is meant for small items like cell phones etc. I like the fact that it is outside of the back pocket (unlike on the Swrve jeans) so that I keep trying to shove my wallet into this pocket. If I did own a cell phone, it seems like this would be a really nice pocket since it’s offset to the side, so you wouldn’t be sitting on the phone. I did borrow my wife’s cell phone the other day just to try and thought that the stretchiness might work against using this pocket a bit because it felt like the phone might well work its way out of the pocket.

Riding comfort is definitely high, the no-seam-crotch is great. Stretchiness is also welcome.

In the first couple of days that I had the jeans, the rainy season hadn’t quite started yet, so I wore them a fair bit. They are quite comfortable on their own or even under rain pants. Not excessively tight, but not flapping around either.

One of the bike features is that there is a reflective X sewn into the inside of the right leg as is the case with a number of other casual bike pants and jeans. Not sure that Muxu got this quite right though. The X only starts fairly high on the leg, so you have to roll it up fairly far. Also, one leg only? I can’t imagine that it costs that much to sew this X in, so why not in both legs so you can roll up the left as well, especially for us right-hand-riders as that is our leg that’s “in traffic”. I think a long straight strip might also work better with different roll-up lengths or a longer X if that is part of the branding.

Muxu 3/4 Shorts

Charcoal 3/4 pants in size 36 were part of my first Muxu order.

I had been eyeing some Swrve shorts for some time and my wife had bought me one of the models of knickers for my birthday. However, they were a) generally too skinny, and b) missing that essential (for my body type) feature of a high cut in the back as I am neither of an age nor in a physical shape that I want to display any lower back cleavage to the world. After returning that pair, I was hoping for another colour for a pair that I had tried on at on the Rivet, but like my salvage jeans, these still hadn’t arrived after four months, so I had to look elsewhere.

My first impression of the Muxu 3/4 shorts was very positive (partly because I was excited to receive them and excited that the shipping was so speedy). When I tried them on, however, they were quite snug. I guess this is generally the fashion for bike wear and the snugness looks good on the website photos. It also felt nice because the Lycra fabric feels soft and natural, but also immediately warm. The length takes the 3/4 shorts about 10 cm beyond the knee and when I tried them on, I was a little worried that they’d be tight around the knee.

The impression of snugness was confirmed further when I tried on a Muxu jeans of the same size that was significantly roomier. Snugness in the shorts is not necessarily around the waist (though tighter than jeans here as well), but rather around between waist and thigh and around knee. One of the signs of this snugness that I’m not so fond off is that the zipper tab stands not to stay flat, but sticks out as you wear the shorts.

The colour is actually quite nice in that it doesn’t look like spandex bike wear even though the fabric has give. I would be curious how much the fabric will bleach in the sun.

Overall design is also subtle in that the branding is attractive and not terribly visible. The top seam of the back pockets is very horizontal and looks like a seam rather than pockets. Nice! The extra pocket for a lock, phone, or pump might be useful, but these are not items that I carry in my pocket, so they don’t add much to the shorts for me.

I did leave the shorts on for a test-seat on my bike and was immediately surprised that the tightness in the knees that I feared when I just put them on was actually quite comfortable on the bike. Same with the snug fit around the upper end of the calf. I hadn’t tried a length like this on the bike and immediately liked it. The weather here in Vancouver has been turning a bit chillier recently and the shorts felt warm. I was also pleased to note that the cut in the back is sufficiently high for full coverage.

However, the snugness around the waist/thigh does seem to turn into tightness when I’m on the bike. Hm… even though I quite like these shorts and like them better than others I had tried on, they are a bit too tight for my taste and I returned them for a refund.

The tightness is also a factor in that I couldn’t wear long underwear underneath these shorts. That makes some sense as they are not really meant for weather (not particularly wind or water resistant), so can’t really fault the shorts for this, but it’s an option I want to have with half the year of riding here in Vancouver spent either wet or threatening to get wet.

I like the deep front pockets a lot, but given the snug fit of the shorts, the bottom edges of the pockets make for pronounced lines mid-thigh, especially while in a riding position.

Muxu items generally seem to have fewer bike-specific details than some other makes, suggesting that this may be a focus more on design rather than on technical specifics. In the 3/4 shorts that means that the bike-specificity is primarily in the fabric, the no-seam-crotch and the low-front-high-back cut. The latter in particular is important to me. The lack of additional features may be in part due to the fabric and its likely purpose in warmer weather riding where reflectiveness may also not be an issue because it might be light.

Given the Barcelona mention in the Muxu tag line, however, those late Spanish dinners will likely see you riding home in the dark, so some reflective details would be welcome.

P.S. (Dec 2012):

Muxu has now come out with the Tempest 3/4 Shorts. The “cut is slim, but not skinny (it’s much less fitted than Muxu’s Ride shorts)”. Sounds like it might just be what I’m looking for given the too skinny cut of the regular 3/4 shorts.