Posts Tagged gear

Outlier 4 Season OG trousers Review

OK, another day, another cycling trousers review, it will all make sense when you guys have (hopefully) the definitive “which are the best though” review – which is coming soon, I promise.
The outliers are the first serious cycling trousers I bought. I’ve had the pair I’m going to be reviewing for getting on 2 years now and (not wanting to spoil the review or anything) I bloody love ’em.
Outlier are a US brand with a similar ethic to Rapha…

Why so glum, chum? I’ve spent all my money on techno trousers, now I can’t afford any friends

“Clothing should be liberating. What you put on in the morning should never restrict what you do with your day. We make garments that dance around the boundaries of fashion using a function driven design process and high quality technical fabrics.”

I’m not sure I need my trousers to have a philosophy, but I’ve never been afraid of dancing round the boundaries of fashion (granted, I normally stick to the less visible boundaries of fashion if it can be helped).

I did do some fairly intensive research before buying these though – I remember well thinking if I was going to spend over £100 on a pair of pants I’d better be getting the best…

Material

So, what we have here is “Schoeller dryskin double weave” with a nanosphere coating. I don’t claim to be an expert in fabrics (and schoeller’s website seems to be down as I write this) but this does seem to be a different fabric from the other pants reviewed here – it has a similar lining but it does feel slightly, well, “pointy”… Outlier claim that the under a microscope, the fabric consists of millions of points which water and dirt cannot cling to, making them uniquely slippery and whilst I don’t have a microscope I can attest that these pants shrug off dirt and water better than any of the others I regularly wear. They rock the same nanosphere coating as used on the Levi’s commuters, and it’s still there, doing its job after 2 years.
What sets these apart for me is the weight of the fabric – Outlier seem to have got it just right for a commuter / office trouser. The swrve pants feel more like a jean in terms of weight, these are more like a pair of suit trousers – very lightweight. What makes them truly magical is what makes them truly worth the “4 season” tag.
These trousers are genuinely warm when you need them to be (down to -10 c) and yet cool and breathable when rolled into shorts for the summer. This is dark magic.

Fit & Style

What? no glow in the dark belt loops?

What we have here is a suit trouser – I’m not a suit trouser aficionado. To me, I’ve got to be honest, when I first tried on my (black) 4OGs I just thought – “well, they’re like a pair of school trousers”. Outlier make great play on their website about how they’ve adjusted the tailoring around the hips etc and that may well be the case and I’m just too much of a philistine to recognise it. They’re certainly comfortable – nothing is going to “hang” well on my frame, but they certainly aren’t too tight or loose – they don’t make any claims to a “cycling specific fit” like Rapha or Swrve, but I haven’t noticed anything significantly lacking in that respect. I don’t consider these to be a particularly “stylish” pair of trousers and that might just be what makes them the most stylish of all the trousers here. They are unobtrusive, functional and comfortable in all settings. They do work very well rolled up into shorts – the lightweight fabric means the turn up doesn’t look too bulky… In short, while not making any pretensions to cycling fashion, these somehow manage to be pretty much the perfect cycling commuter trousers.

Cycling Specific Features

Well, there aren’t any. Other than the fact that they are perfectly comfortable when riding a bike whatever the weather. There are no trick belt loops or glow in the dark seams, no u-lock park, no pencil pockets at all. No articulated knees or double thickness saddle pad. Just a pair of fairly unobtrusive trousers which manage to be the best I’ve ever worn.

Verdict

Oi! come back with me pants! – At £130 a time?: no fear!

These are the best cycling trousers I’ve ever tried. There is magic in both the cut and the material which makes them somehow just the right pants to be wearing, pretty much whatever you happen to be doing. They’re not that easy to find in this country – so far as I know the only UK retailer is Tokyo Fixed Gear in London (who don’t believe cyclists have larger than 34″ waists for some reason) but carry the 4OGs for £130, the alternative is to buy from Outlier direct (http://outlier.cc) where they’ll cost you about £120 with another £18 – £36 for postage but you should buy yourself a pair – really, you will not be disappointed.

95%

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Levis Commuter Jeans review

D-Lock: check, water-resistant: check, glow-in-the-dark turnups: check

D-Lock: check, water-resistant: check, glow-in-the-dark turnups: check

When I first heard Levis were doing a cycling range I’ll admit I was pretty excited. Until I heard that it wan’t coming to the UK that is – well 18 months later and now we have the whole Levis commuter range. I’d admired Rapha’s jeans for a while but couldn’t justify £150 for a pair of jeans (even if they do have funky reflective writing up the inside of the right leg). Jeans are an important part of any wardrobe, but I hadn’t bought a new pair since I started cycling about 3 years ago – any clothes money I managed to sequester away had been spent on techno-trousers, merino t-shirts and breathable underpants.

Jeans are your weekend wardrobe, and I don’t tend to cycle on the weekend, so they were pretty far down my priority list – but my stock of jeans were getting tired and LO! Levis – a proper jeans brand had launched a “Nanosphere technology” cycle friendly pair, and what’s more they’re a comparative snip at just £80 a pair.

Regular jeans just don’t work on a bike – the fit is wrong, they get all wrapped up around the top of your thighs and- well, it’s just a mess. Woe betide anybody trying to wear a pair of jeans on a bike in the rain – clinging, heavy cold denim is enough to put anybody off riding a bike for good.

Material & Construction

What sets these apart from your regular jeans is first and foremost the composition – they’re cotton, yes – but they’re rocking 2% lycra as well which solves the whole “bunching up” riddle immediately. It’s a reasonably lightweight denim too, which doesn’t betray any of its techno-magic in day-to-day wear…

It’s also “magic” waterproof denim. It’s really weird riding in the rain, watching the water just form into droplets and fall off the top of denim – I’d kinda got used to this with Schoeller and softshell, but it’s downright spooky when the material is denim. The “nanosphere” label is attached to the schoeller fabric used in Outlier and Swrve’s pants and it’s clearly similar here. The pants are not completely waterproof – in a similar way to the Swrve WWRs they will allow a little water into the weave in a downpour – but this is easily dried with a quick towel over when you arrive. I’d give these about 6/10 for waterproofing – which is berloody good for a pair of jeans!

Fit

Levis Commuter Jeans

This chap has paired his skinny jeans with some grey converse; the fool.

These jeans feel just like any other pair of good jeans – snug, comfy and sturdy. Like any other pair of Levis, they suggest you wear ’em well at first before washing – give them a proper “breaking in” to get them used to your shape and the way you sit/stand/walk/ride. The dye rubs off just like any other pair of new Levis too – so be careful putting any important papers in your pockets – they’ll come out with dark blue edges!

These are a comfortable pair of jeans – fullstop. They work off the bike as well – whilst I’m not usually a skinny fit kinda guy, these don’t carry the obligatory “wear them like they’re falling down” recommendation that normally goes along with carrot type jeans – they’re Levi’s 511 fit – which turns out to be a good compromise between a fashionable leg and a sensible (protective) fit on the bike. For my taste they are just a little too snug on the calves, but the plus side to this is that when rolled up they stay put.

If you’re a fatty like me (36″ waist) then you’ve only got one length to choose from – 34″, which is about 2 inches too long for my stubby little legs – I will get them tailored eventually, but I’ve never had a problem rocking a turn-up if need be. The turnups on these fellas are a bit special too… There’s a strip of reflective 3M scotchlite trim sewn into the seam to help you get seen at night.

Cycling Specific Features

That’s glow in the dark on those turnups you know.

I’ve already mentioned the reflective lining and the waterproofing. The denim has another trick up it’s sleeve too – it’s “sanitized” – which doesn’t mean it’s had its street cred bleeped out, it has an anti-microbial (read “anti-stink”) formulation, which has to be good if you’re cycling in denim – no matter how clever, it’s still denim and you will sweat. The pants are constructed with flatlock seams and reinforced around the saddle region so they’re going to prove both comfortable and hardwearing on the bike. Many cycling tailored pants claim to accomodate a D lock in the belt loops – this is a bit of a con in most instances – it just means you can fit your lock into your belt (should you be wearing one). The Levis go a step further and attach a D-Lock sized strap of denim to the waistband, meaning you can tote your lock when you’re not wearing a belt

Overall

These jeans are most definitely not a cycnical marketing ploy by Levis. The company has spent time looking at all the aspects which might stop your everyday cyclist wearing jeans and carefully applied logic, materials technology and good old invention in each instance. You’re not going to see your hard-core roadies swapping their bibs for a pair of these, but for the rest of us (particularly on “dress down Friday”) these pants offer bucketloads of WIN: They’re as comfortable as any other cycling pants I’ve worn, they offer decent weather protection, they breathe, stretch where needed, they’re tough and fashionable on and off the bike and are from a world renowned brand. All this and they’re reasonably priced too. I have no hesitation recommending ’em and I give them a solid

85%

If I could wear ’em every day they’d be nearer to 95%

Check the best price on Levis commuters here

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Swrve WWR Trousers review

I’m on my second pair of Swrve WWR’s (wind & water resistant, since you ask). These are my go-to pants most days in the winter, spring and autumn (fall if you must). They’re made from a mix of nylon and Lycra (90% – 10%) which somehow manages to look like doesn’t contain either material (!)

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Style-wise they’ve got a simple chino vibe going on, but they’re packed with bike friendly features – articulated knees mean they’re as comfortable bent as straight, a traditional hipster fit (ie low front waist – not drainpipe and low crotch) means your gut sits over the waistband comfortably and they’re ridiculously over-compensated with pencil pockets for some reason. Rear belt loops are constructed so as to hold a mini-D lock.

They rock a reflective rear belt loop which I’m dubious as to the real value of – but it looks cool I suppose.

The big deal about these trousers is that they are just SO COMFORTABLE. Seriously – you can just pull these on and not worry about anything. Want to roll the legs up? Fine – just do so, they’re cool with that.

They fit like jeans – but the 10% Lycra mean they fit on the bike like jeans never can. They don’t need ironing – in fact the label actively prevents it, but they never look scruffy – they are the perfect office trouser – casual yet unquestionably smart – your boss isn’t going to tell you off for wearing a pair of these (although he may be jealous of them).

In terms of weather resistance, I’d give them about 80% (against the Rapha softshell’s 100%)… In utter downpours they will let water in (a little), but this is easily remedied with a quick rub over from a towel, with the trousers still on (you DO have a towel in work don’t you?) – they are my original “magic trousers” – I’ve never been left sitting in a puddle in these, they strike a perfect balance between weather resistance and ease of wear.

If I’m pushed to find a downside it’s that they are a little too warm for summer use – if it’s over about 20 degrees Celsius, then the brushed interior construction is gonna get your legs sweating a little… This is only exacerbated by swrve’s decision to alter the cut slightly – my euphoric review thus far is for my original pair of WWRs – which were a regular boot cut fit: low front, regular leg. They’ve recently (last 12months) changed to a slimmer leg which is doubtless more popular for the LA hipster crowd, but exaggerates the “ooh that’s a bit warm” effect of the brushed lining. I actually blame Levi’s rather than swrve for this – their “commuter” range (reviewed here) decided to opt for the skinnier 511 profile rather than the classic 501, and suddenly all cycling pants have to fit like a pair of tights – here’s a thought guys… Cyclists have calves!

The only other issue I’ve noticed With the WWRs is pilling – the material tends to pill around the crotch and saddle areas after a while – this is relatively easily solved.

Why am I on my second pair? Not because the first pair wore out, but because I want to wear ’em every day and I need more than one pair.

They run out at £80 a pair (yes I know that’s expensive, but your alternative is your suit trousers and a pair of “waterproof over-trousers” ferChrissakes).

Buy a pair from swrve directly. Like the othe rmanufacturers I’m recommending in these tests, they’re not avaialable from the likes of wiggle or chain reaction, these are small, specialist companies – but the quality of the product is so much higher than what you might expect from an altura or other high street brand that it really is a no-brainer.

Verdict

Get yourself a pair – you’re going to be wearing them a lot. At £85 a pair, they’re expensive, but they’re significantly cheaper than both the Rapha and Outlier offerings. A little warm for summer perhaps and the pilling issue is a bit of a pain, but otherwise a faultless

90%

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Rapha softshell trousers review

The Rapha softshell trousers are the most “specialist” pants I’m probably ever going to test. I bought these in the middle of a lousy winter and that’s what they’re for. Rapha advertise the softshell trousers as for “the worst the city can throw at you” and that’s about right – you can cycle through a blizzard in these bad boys. They shrug off downpours, freezing temperatures, snow, hail; whatever, whilst still letting your skin breathe. They make the days when you’d normally say “no chance” possible. The softshell construction and waterproof coating make these without doubt the most weatherproof trousers I’ve owned.

They do that, of course, whilst retaining Rapha’s famous tailored good looks. They’re full of clever details – an abrasion resistant seat panel matched up to a waterproof neoprene panel to catch tyre spray at the very back are somehow styled into the cut to look like a design feature. The taped seams and superb tailoring mean they fit like a glove and remain comfortable when you’re in the most uncomfortable situations – like in the middle of a downpour.

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A pair of these would not look out of place anywhere – they may be tough as old boots, but they look like a million dollars. Which is almost what they cost – if you buy these at full price (rather than in one of Rapha’s regular sales HINT HINT), you’re looking at £110 a pair – (so make sure you get the right size). Quality does cost however and the quality of materials, cut and overall finish mean that these are worth every penny.

The only faults with these pants are the flip-sides of their plus points… They’re made to be warm in the winter and that they are – whilst you’re riding through a blizzard. Unfortunately, what normally happens at the end of such a ride is that we climb off the bike into a nicely heated office. Whilst the pants let your legs breathe, the Brushed lining is simply too warm to sit indoors in for any length of time. I teamed these with a pair of merino boxers one cold winter day and within 2 hours sitting at my desk I had sweat running down my legs. This is a major fail for me for trousers branded as “city” (ie commuter) trousers. If you’re going to wear them, you will need a pair of suit trousers at the other end – which, after being stuffed in your rucksack will look nowhere near as good as the Softshells!

Secondly, softshell rustles. Which you sort of expect from a sporty, weatherproof jacket – it’s unnerving coming from a pair of beautifully tailored suit trousers.

Thirdly – well, it’s the waterproof coating in combination with the “breathing” pores I suppose…. If you’re riding in a downpour then you’re probably wearing overshoes too right? Well, I made the mistake of tucking the pants into the overshoes and, well the trousers inflated like a pair of balloons tied to my legs… NOT A GOOD LOOK!

[Update (21st Jun 2012) in order to check that I wasn’t being unfair, I tried the softshells out again today – it was chucking it down this morning, so I figured they were appropriate. Everything I wrote above was true again. They’re just too warm. To the extent that I was really slowed down on the way home (when it was still raining, but not so heavily) – the pants were heavy and waterlogged (although my legs were dry, they were so hot I was sweating!) They’re too heavy to roll up effectively and they really became a hindrance.]

Verdict

I’m a real Rapha fan. A raphanista if you like, but I’m afraid I really can’t recommend these trousers. I live in the north of England and even cycling every day in the middle of winter can only find maybe two or three days where I can justify them – and then I’d have to take a pair of regular pants to change in to when I got to work. They’re just too damn hot for commuter pants, they rustle and they inflate if you tuck ’em in your socks. It’s a shame, because they’re beautifully tailored but for me they struggle to a measly

40%

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