Seeing as how my office job consists of almost never having to wear pants (well, dress pants anyway), I’ve decided that if I am going to wear pants, they’re going to be awesome. After all, you never know when you might get to play, so best to be ready. That means they must be comfortable, flexible and able to keep up with whatever I might feel like riding, climbing or jumping over in a given day.
Two of the most recent options came in from Thunderbolt Sportswear and Mountain Khakis, both of which fit superbly and move fluidly on and off the bike. They’re also both very comfortable, but one’s more for cooler weather and the other favors warmer temps. Check ’em out, along with a complement of gear that makes daily adventures better…
The Thunderbolt Sportswear Original Jeans – Mark II are not denim. They’re Schoeller Dryskin Soft-shell, which is perhaps one of the greatest fabrics ever to grace my skin. The “soft-shell” part of the name means it’s fleecy on the inside, which makes them super soft but a little warm, putting them squarely in the not-for-summer category. They’re a basic five pocket design and come in three colors – slate (gray), original (basically black with contrasting stitching), and Blacktop (tested, black with black stitching). Sizing runs from 28 to 38 in even sizes with 30, 32 and unhemmed lengths. I tested 34 x Unhemmed and fit was true to size. I’m typically a big 33, so I order 34 to make room for my massive burrito meals and general comfort.
The pants are designed and sewn in Portland, OR, using the Swiss fabric. They have a light 4-way stretch, are wind repellant and have a Nano-Sphere water resistant coating on top of the Dryskin fabric’s inherent water repellency.
Unhemmed length should easily suit up to a 36″ inseam, and I’ve simply folded mine up once until I can get to a tailor (aka “Sweetie”).
On the bike and off, they move right and sit well. They’re straight leg, which works well for muscular thighs (which I’ll have one day because #everydayislegday). Retail is $200. Check ’em out at ThunderboltSportswear.com.
SUPPORTING CAST Shirt: Thunderbolt Sportswear Baseline Marley Tee, 100% merino wool, $75. Shoes: Keen commuter models they don’t make anymore but I still love. Helmet: Kali Lunati, $80. Watch: Polar M600, $329. Shades: Smith Outlier Chromapop, $169. Bike: Haibike Xduro Trekking RX, MY15.
Perhaps the biggest reason to grab these is that they’re among the only true khakis you’ll find that are bicycle specific. There are myriad options if you want gray, black or dark blue. But a real pair of khakis that looks normal when not on the bike? Good luck. Add in all the other cool features below and you’ve got a winner.
The Mountain Khakis Camber Commuter Pant is called “slim fit” and is definitely a more tailored cut that tapers slightly before going to a straight lower section. They’re not skinny jeans by any stretch, but they are a little more snug on the thighs and can bunch up at the top during aggressive activity. Adjustments will need to be made once you’re standing still again. They’re not as tight as the Levi’s commuter jeans I tested a few years ago, and MK’s material is lighter and moves better.
Keeping with the brand’s outdoorsy theme, these get a gusseted crotch, triple stitched seams and bar-tac construction, and reinforced heel sections. Front belt loops are in line with the pocket stitching, which looks cool but ends up putting the loops very close together. Their belt, which comes in one length and is meant to be cut, therefore needs to be kept long enough to run around to the side loop or cut fairly short, which could make it difficult to use with other pants.
What makes them bike commute ready is the addition of 3% spandex and reflective tape on the insides of the leg cuffs.
Any old pair of khakis is fine for moping around the office, but if you’re gonna be awesome and ride there, the MK’s are worth a look. They’re comfortable, have a bit of stretch and the slimmer fit makes them a bit smoother on the bike. For $95 you’re getting a great pair of pants that look and work just as well off the bike, scrambling over parking deck walls and climbing urban trees. Also available in Navy Blue. I tested 34×34 and fit was true to size. They’re available in sizes 30 to 44, with 30, 32, 34 and 36 inch inseams. Grab ’em at MountainKhakis.com.
The one thing both pair lack is a side zip pocket, which is handy for keeping a cell phone or wallet from producing a front bulge. It’s not a huge criticism, both had deep enough pockets to keep things in place while riding. And such things are rare…I’ve only found them on Mission Workshop’s pants. Between the two here, Thunderbolts’ did a better job of hiding the goods in the front pockets, but that could be because they were darker.
SUPPORTING CAST: Shirt: DHD Wear cotton cycling themed tee, $24. Belt: Mountain Khakis Webbing Belt, $24.95. Shoes: Aku Bellamont Suede GTX, $150. Socks: Defeet Wooleator 7″ Team Hi-Vis, $14.99. Shades: Koo Open, by Kask, $239. Bike: Yuba Boda Boda V2, MY2012, $899.
MORE COOL STUFF
The compact Solo Eclipse backpack showed up just in time for the shoot, so I can’t speak to its durability. But, the design and layout is commendable. It’s small and sleek but will hold a 15.6″ laptop and a tablet along with plenty more gear (cables, notebook, pens, charger block, lip balm, burrito, etc.)
The main laptop compartment is accessed behind the straps, which is different, but it works well because the straps and handle easily flop forward to provide unfettered access. The back and straps are padded and partially vented and it was comfortable on initial test rides. The backside features a horizontal accessory pocket and two expanding vertical pockets. Retail is just $79, weight is only 1.9lb, and the dimensions make it easy to take on most any short work trip. More info at Solo.net.
Underneath the pants in both photo shoots are the new Kitsbow mesh trail boxers, which are designed to be the right base layer for short casual rides where a chamois is overkill. I’ll spare you the personal photos because they are indeed mesh and somewhat transparent. And by somewhat, I mean, you definitely would not want your ride to end at the swimmin’ hole. I’ve also worn them on several long days off the bike and kickin’ around and they’re amazing. Probably my favorite pair of underwear now. They fit the legs snug, more like boxer briefs, which works great on the bike. The front panel is shaped and, at risk of giving up too much detail, did a great job of keeping everything in its place. No adjustments necessary. I basically forgot I was wearing underwear at all. At $40, they’re up there, but worth it. Available at Kitsbow.com.