The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking to Work: Phase I

Outlier Tailored Women’s Riding Pant. Clearly, these pants make you look urban and cute. And forgetful, or she would be wearing a helmet.

The saga continues….

As I described in an earlier post, I’ve been searching for quite a while for a decent pair of pants that will work for professional settings and truly give me riding comfort.

I have purchased exactly one pair so far, and it happens to be one that’s no longer available so the quest has to continue. I’m hoping your feedback will help me narrow the choices I’ve found in my mousing around shopping online.

Here’s what I found in my first foray into the Interwebz, which took place fall 2010 (yes, I’ve really been searching that long) and which I updated recently.

(And yes, I searched high and low locally first because I believe in supporting the local economy. Everything I found fails the tests I outlined in yesterday’s post.)

The one nice-looking pair of cycling-specific women’s pants for office wear I’ve found, made by Outlier in New York City, costs $180. Gulp.

Call me cheap (I prefer “thrifty” in homage to my Depression-era parents), but I’ve never paid that much for a single pair of pants. I have a hard time paying that much for a whole suit when I know it will go on sale eventually.

I need to justify a clothing investment like that. Do I wear them every day? Back up to where I said I’m a woman and this is a fashion dilemma.

Same pair of pants every day ain’t gonna happen, although I know I’d wear a good pair of pants in a color like black or charcoal gray more than once a week during cold weather and they sound like well-made clothing that would last a long time. So actually, if I divide the price by the number of times I’d wear them, the cost per wearing comes down to something I can manage as long as I remember to think of it that way.

But then I’d have to buy online. How will I know whether I look good in these pants? A really narrow cut like this one mostly looks awesome on size 00 women, and I’ve got a bit more cush in my tush.

And did I mention they cost $180?

Also, hello again, Outlier? For me to know if I want Static Grey or Slate Grey you have to Show. The. Actual. Colors. What happened to the color swatches you showed for a brief time earlier in 2011? You show some of the colors but if you offer two shades of grey, you have to show both of them.

They do use my magic words–“comfort” and “style”–in the description…. And I wouldn’t criticize if I didn’t care so much about you ㋛.

Swrve makes knickers for women, but no trousers. (They make men’s pants, of course–biking being one of the few realms in which men have far more fashion choices and color options than women.)

And seriously, knickers? It’s nice to keep your knees warm when the temperature drops but I don’t want to look like a misplaced golfer once I’m in the office in my plus-fours. We have actual winters here. I have to wear boots. Can you say Dork Fest?

BikePortland had an article in the search results and I got all excited. It’s Portland, right? Should be plenty of bike-stylish options there, right?

They linked to the Sheila Moon site (“infuses cycling apparel with a twist of fashion”), which offers knickers in several fabrics. There’s that golfer thing again and it doesn’t change my mind just because they say knickerbockers are big with the velocouture crowd, whoever they are. I can also get stretchy yoga pants. Not so good with the suit/tie-couture crowd.

The BikePortland piece also points to Ibex, which has a slightly more promising line—at least there are the “global wool pants” that look more like trousers ($195, though–more than the Outlier and sportier in design). Icebreaker has some pants that might work too (for a mere $100).

The real test almost every product I’ve found fails is the “does it look like workout clothing?” test. Visible logos, great big seams, sizing that runs S/M/L instead of true women’s clothing sizes, descriptions that include “comfortable for yoga”—these aren’t going to pass for boardroom wear.

At least, I don’t think so when I can’t see the product clearly–often a problem with dark fabrics unless you’ve got really great photography and zoom.

Now I’d love to just head to Nordstrom’s, buy some great-looking slacks, and call it good. But let’s get real, ladies. As my friend Allyson said when I described this dilemma, “Nobody wants to divide the good china.”

Design and construction of certain seams are critical to stylish biking comfort. Compare a pair of cycling shorts to regular walking shorts and you’ll note a key difference mid-you.

That’s why great women’s professional clothing doesn’t equal “great women’s professional clothing I can wear comfortably riding a bike.”

And that’s why the quest continues.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you own any of the pants I’ve listed here? What do you think of them for riding?
  • Do you have other brands/styles to suggest?
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14 Comments to "The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking to Work: Phase I"

  1. Barb says:

    Outlier does have color swatches or at least they show up on my iPad. Their sizing chart doesn’t have waist or hip measurements. What is that! The pants do look like a good choice and the fabric is great.

  2. Barb, I searched too. j

    1. Just saw these by Gramicci –good price and not athletic looking but they are probably still too casual for the board room. You might get away with the black ones…

    http://www.sierratradingpost.com/gramicci-urban-bike-pants-for-women~p~2716d/?filterString=search~gramicci%2F&colorFamily=01&merch=-2716D

    2. Also these from Betabrand for $90 but they only come in khaki and they seem to lack any consideration for seaming in the crotch….

    http://www.betabrand.com/womens-bike-to-work-pants.html

    But yeah, other than that, not much! Sounds like a new business venture! Maybe we can convince the gals at Po Campo to expand into clothing??

  3. Alison Pfeffer says:

    I don’t have a pair of pants to recommend, but I DO have a fabric in mind. It’s call Schoeller Dynamic Stretch and it water-resistant, windproof to 25 mph, and has 4-way stretch. I have a pair of REI winter sport pants made out of it. They have a sporty cut to them, but this fabric is so awesome and has such a nice finish to it–I can easily imagine it being made into work trousers or a skirt and no one would know about it’s hidden powers. I have a little experience at making clothing and I’m toying with the idea of buying a yard or two and making a skirt for my winter commute (Portland, OR). It runs about $19/yd., so I’m a little nervous…

  4. Alison, does it make a swishy sound?

  5. Aha! OK, call me a victim of scrolling quickly–totally missed the tab navigation. So sorry, Outlier!

    I wish they’d tell me whether the pants are made with a gusset.

  6. […] The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking to Work: Phase I […]

  7. Having read this article on the Outlier pants, I am now convinced I must save up for them: http://well-spent.com/2011/09/21/the-makers-outlier/

    Look at the photos toward the bottom demonstrating the fabric! (although I don’t know if that’s the exact fabric they use for the women’s pants)

    Alison, it looks as if it’s well worth $19/yard.

  8. […] The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking to Work: Phase I […]

  9. Alison Pfeffer says:

    Barb–sorry for the delayed response but it took me a few days to have the opportunity to wear them and decide. I finally wore them for mushroom hunting yesterday and tried to pay attention to the “swish factor”. I would say that they are no more swishy than a normal pair of synthetic pants.

  10. Sarah says:

    Betabrand just came out with women’s bike to work pants in gray and black – http://www.betabrand.com/bike-to-work/gray-womens-bike-to-work-pants.html

    Loving the look with the girl in the booties, cute.

  11. Tawney says:

    These look awesome…and at a $98, I might even bite the cost bullet and try them
    http://www.betabrand.com/womens-black-bike-to-work-pants.html

  12. […] last November on a trip to visit family, long before I knew I’d be moving to Seattle. I tried on the Outlier Tailored pants I’d identified as the best option in my long quest, got some eye-catching crocheted wool stockings in dark brown that I subsequently wore all winter […]

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The quest for the intersection of Style and Comfort