In Search of the Perfect Pair of Pants:
A Shopping List

My debit card and I are venturing forth in a bit of pre-birthday shopping to search for the perfect pair of pants. Perfect, that is, for biking and working: Cycle Chic in the very best sense of that now-trademarked term.
The pants on this list came my way through online searches, discussions in forums, Twitter, Momentum magazine, and comments on a previous blog post about finding women’s clothing for biking that doesn’t look like clothing for biking.
I’m seeking workplace wear that is office-appropriate. Your office may be cool with stretchy yoga pants every day but that doesn’t work for everyone.

My personal style is more tailored (and I prefer to feel more fully dressed in the office J). As Eldest Daughter said the day I wore some suspiciously yoga-y leggings with a big sweater, “Mom! Pants for your work need to have seams!”
See how cool these pants would make me? Although I'd have a helmet,
and I ride a bike with full-sized tires. And there are my panniers.
Water bottles. Headlight. I do at least bike in street shoes.
Everyone’s criteria will be different. For me the pants fail if:
  • They look like I could go bouldering in them. I don’t need all those pockets and zippers and places to hang carabiners; I’m not bivouacking or climbing at Red Rocks. I’m walking into a five-story academic building with a latte stand on the first floor (thank God) and later I’m going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting.
  • They make a swishy sound when I walk. If it’s so wet I need truly waterproof gear, I’m putting an outer layer over my work pants anyway.
  • The detailing screams “sportswear!” In this category: Big patch pockets, really contrasty stitching, and other design elements that don’t pass the boardroom test.
  • The legs flare too much at the bottom so I’m worried that they’ll get caught and rip if I don’t do something to rein them in; that’s an extra step I’d like to avoid if I can.
Notes to manufacturers:
  • Consider that women who wear larger sizes also want to look good and feel comfortable while biking without squeezing into Spandex. You’ll have their undying love and access to their credit limits. Too many of the pants I looked at top out at size 12 or XL.
  • I wish the sportswear folks who have a head start on performance fabrics and bike-suitable tailoring could get over the need to hang your reflective logos and feature descriptions on the outside of the clothes. Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne do not do this.
  • I also wish you could disabuse yourself of the notion that large front pockets are somehow flattering for women’s bodies. Um, no. Not good on anyone. Really. Trust me.
  • The more you show us your product with photos front/back and the ability to zoom, the more we can imagine the pants on our own butts. This is a requirement when buying online since I don’t have a three-way mirror and my best friend to save me from a tragic mistake.
  • If you tell me I can bike in the pants you get Bonus Awesome Points if you have actually designed them with a waistband cut slightly higher in the back, lower in the front, and with a gusset that eliminates seams running straight up the tender girl parts.
In a class by itself for copywriting:
  • Nau’s Shroud of Purrin Pant. You just have to go read this description. If they weren’t $250 (and if they didn’t have the zipper pocket down low on one leg—not office-y enough) I’d get them; for pants that are waterproof/windproof they look really flattering.
Real possibilities:
  • Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pant. Shown in photo above. Very exciting—they have added more colors since I last looked and finally have images that actually show the colors. Unfortunately these only run sizes 0-12; kinda funny since they carry an ultrafine merino wool tank top in sizes up to XXL. Pants available in black, gray, slate blue, marine blue, burgundy. $180.
  • Ibex Global Wool Pant. Dings for the contrast stitching. Big patch pockets outlined with contrasting stitching Are. Not. Flattering. On. Any. Woman. Only available in charcoal gray. $180. Gulp. May as well bite the Outlier Tailored bullet, get more color choices and not have to look at the contrasting stitching.
  • Icebreaker Rio Pant. Hard to see much detail on this site but they're cute and made of wool (which I want for fall/winter). Only available in black. $100.
  • Columbia Mumbai Mover. Good user reviews; legs look suspiciously flared at the ankle and may snag on my pedals and chain. Might be worth it though at this price. Available in black or gray, bigger size range than most manufacturers, offers three inseam lengths. $60.
  • Sugoi H.O.V. Commuter Pant: Definite possibilities! At first blush these do not look like activewear at all. Right pant leg flips up and snaps out of the way of the chain and has a reflective strip that shows when you do this. Not only that but they have a seamless crotch gusset! Very nice to contemplate as I’m powering homeward up the hill. (Downtown Spokane lies in a bowl. If you have any north/south to your ride at all, you’re doing hills. East/west you have a flatter route since you can follow the river.) $100; available in black/brown/gray.
  • I’m sort of lusting over the matching jacket—super cute. Wish they hadn’t slapped a logo on the shoulder patch though. $120; black or gray.
Too yoga/sporty for me, maybe okay for you:
  • SportHill Women’s Traverse Pant Plus: For plus-sized women 1X-4X. On the sporty side but some potential for a casual day, and wind resistant which is nice for riding as the temps cool down. May be swishy-sounding when you walk, though; no way to know what some of these technical fabrics are really like. $129.95
  • Columbia Anytime Pant. Major points for having a little video clip with someone talking about the pants, holding them up and pointing out the hidden zipper pocket feature. Totally yoga though. $45.
  • Lolita Pant by PrAna. Only available in espresso. Totally yoga. $74.95.
  • Patagonia Merino 3: Only available in black. Totally yoga. $99.95.
(I should mention that I actually do yoga, so saying pants are "totally yoga" isn't meant as a bad thing--just not a boardroom thing.)
    Considered and rejected:
    • Columbia Just Right Pant: Honkin’ big zipper pocket on the left thigh, cinch things that raise and lower hem length.
    • Columbia Trail Twist Slim Pant: Looked great—straight legs won’t catch on pedals—until I zoomed in and caught the flashy little d├ęcor on the backs of the ankles. And I really don’t want my work pants to say “Omni-Dry” on the outside; doesn’t this suggest I’m in need of Depends? $55.
    Not pants but so cute and on sale: Nau Confidant Short. Long enough to be considered a city or walking short, which might be fine for some workplaces. Made of fine merino wool which is a great fabric for active movement. Gray heather or brown heather, $55 on sale, $110 regular price.

    Looking for more options!

    This is one of the few blog posts I'm hoping gets plenty of links at the bottom from people hoping to sell me something--that is, if you are the designer of the perfect pair of bike riding/work pants. Better yet, if you're a woman who can match my pickiness and who has a favorite pair of pants you can tell us about, go for it. Please.

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    4 comments :

    1. Barb, given the amount of money you are looking at spending, on something that may or may not work for you, why don't you have pants made? the first pair might be expensive, as the pattern gets created, but the susequent pants would help equalize the cost. Sandra B

      ReplyDelete
    2. Hey.... and I think I know someone who sews beautifully! (Actually *I* sew but I haven't done much for quite a while, always hated setting in zippers, and never tackled customizing a pattern in the ways I envision.)

      Let's talk.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Just stumbled on your blog. Thanks for the pants advice- I have a Dahon bike that looks like the one in the photo, but I usually ride it in fair (skirt or capri) weather. I have a pair of pants from Athleta that are pretty stretchy, yet ok for work and don't wrinkle.
      BarbD

      ReplyDelete
    4. Over at Lovely Bike she just posted a review with lots of pics so you can really check out the "Stealth" wool pantaloons made by Bicycle Fixation and sold by Clever Cycles: http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2011/01/stealth-pantaloons-some-clever-wool.html

      ReplyDelete

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