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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Visit to Mission Workshop Mothership

On a holiday trip to visit in-laws in California, I had a chance to go by the Mission Work-Shop in the Mission in San Francisco. Very appropriate location, i.e. continues-to-be-funky neighbourhood, side-alley, warehouse.

I do have to say that only price tags and some internal wrestling kept me from leaving a major amount of cash here.

The backpacks with their Arkiv rail system are very clever and surprisingly light. When I picked up one of the acccessories, it seemed quite heavy because it has two metal strips that meet the rails on the pack, but the pack itself was surprisingly light. The Rambler hiking pack was also very attractive. However, I wasn’t terribly tempted by either since I’m really much happier carrying stuff on the bike in panniers given the reduction of back-sweatiness without a pack, and I would probably turn to Arc’teryx for a new hiking backpack.

Speaking of Arc’teryx, some of the Mission Workshop jackets are produced in the same facility that Arc’teryx used in the past in Vancouver. As I tried on some of the jackets, the most attractive one was the Trigger, a new softshell they have. Fancy Schöller fabric – of course -, snug fit, thumb loops, a nice collar. This is a very nice softshell bike jacket.

It’s biggest drawback – that I also discussed in regards to the Orion rain jacket – is the lack of visibility. Black isn’t my colour at all and even less so on the bike. At least the Trigger has some reflective piping on the sleeve and on its bottom seam, but black really doesn’t make sense. I mentioned this to the folks I met at Mission, so if you feel the same way, please do mention it to them as well, maybe they’ll put some more visible colouring in their offerings in the future.

I saw a reference to a limited edition light blue version of this on a website, but this seemed to be just a rumour… As soon as the Trigger comes out in a more visible colour, I will certainly be taking a very serious look at it.

All the Mission Workshop products have a feel of quality and substance to them that justify high prices in my mind. I would be very surprised if these are all not products that are truly built-to-last and will also prove their worth in terms of design and material details.

Certainly a fun excursion, and I learned that the main people behind Mission Workshop used to run Chrome which is where I was off to next.

Initial Impressions Muxu Ride Shirt

With my order of Muxu jeans and 3/4 shorts, I had also ordered a riding shirt.

Ordering a short sleeve shirt in October for use in Vancouver is obviously somewhat misguided, but I was spurred on to this by my purchase of a Brompton Oratory jacket this summer and figured that I’d need something to wear under the jacket should the occasion arise.

What I was looking for in this shirt was therefore a semi-formal look that was still functional on the bike which would mean primarily two things: fit and lack of sweat. The latter in particular may be a tall order as I’m a reasonably big guy (seems to be associated with sweatiness) and Vancouver has hills.

In any case, the shirt arrived and is quite stylish. The main bike features are trikot-style pockets on the back and pleats on the should blades that will give enough room to lean over on handle bars.

Other than that, some fashionable design details like the Muxu logo, covered buttons, and the hidden chest pockets. All in all in a slate/blue colour that seems to go with the overall Muxu palette.

I was just in a more tropical locale and took the shirt just to try it out even though I didn’t have a chance to go riding.

Initial impression: comfortable if snug fit, definitely a good cut in terms of arm movement, pleasant material.

The sweatiness assessment will have to wait for next Spring and more regular riding.

Mission Workshop Orion

I recently had a chance to try on the Mission Workshop Orion jacket. Obviously toward the hipper end of the bike jacket spectrum and, accordingly, on the expensive side.

I had heard about Mission Workshop in part because my favourite Vancouver bike clothing store (otR) carries them, but hadn’t seen any of the products.

The first impression was that the Orion jacket was _really_ light and fit quite well right off the hanger. Second impression, very few reflective bits, what a silly idea!

Yes, I do appreciate somewhat fashionable, but also bike-practical clothing, and yes, I’m even willing to spend quite a bit of money for the joy of having items in that category, but no, I will not sacrifice safety and visibility to hipness. I kind of see that the visibility paradigm could really cramp a designer’s style, but there you go. I live in a city that is rainy for a third of the year and while we’re not that far north, most of the rain coincides with shorter days, so visibility is a real concern.

Having said that, the Schöller fabric used for the Orion sure felt nice in its lightness and suppleness and the jacket overall seemed quite nice-looking while sensible, though I also disagree with the apparently fashionable insistence on a hood.

The cut and look is generally less athletic than comparable jackets that cater to more of a racing posture. It’s also pleasantly understated, i.e. doesn’t scream bike jacket in a way that might inspire all the riders around you to challenge you to a race off the green light.

By the look and feel of the jacket, quality seems terrific and lots of details are very well thought-through.