I need bike pants!
November 7, 2007 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for winter biking pants

So I'm new to this whole bike commuting thing. I've been at it since the summer, but now it's getting cold and my usual outfit of shorts and a fleece isn't working. I need some pants. But, I don't want to be that guy who shows up at work with all kinds of crazy bike-racing spandex on. Suggestions? Here are some more particulars:

--Need something warm. I don't ride when it rains (at least not on purpose) so waterproof is not that important.
--Would prefer not something super-spandex style, unless you tell me that tights are much better for some reason.
--I ride home at night, so visibility is a plus
--Would like to order it on line for less than $100.
--I have to ride up an elevator to my job with lots of people in suits, so an old pair of sweats would be less good than something that looks kind of "nice" in a sporty kind of way.
posted by Mid to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
get downhill pants, esp the ones made of thick cordura. my favourites are the Raceface Indy and the Sugoi Gustov
posted by randomstriker at 1:01 PM on November 7, 2007

How cold are we talking about, here? Where are you (are you still in STL (314 bbs scene reprazent!))?

I'm also an anti-spandex bike commuter and I've had decent luck with these pants from REI on the damp/dreary days here in CA. They have some small reflective lines on the bottoms of the legs, but I wouldn't count on them to be seen well at night (that's what blinky lights are for). They provide pretty much no insulation at all, though, but they really cut down the wind. Maybe you could wear those over an old pair of sweats or tights.
posted by zsazsa at 1:02 PM on November 7, 2007

btw...good pants can cost up to $200. they are worth it. I have one pair of pants that cost me $150 four years ago. they are incredibly durable, and have lasted me through 4 years of commuting, 5 days a week, every week of the year, rain or shine. ordinary pants would fray or wear through, and lack the little features that make a difference on the bike when you use them so often (like seamless crotches)
posted by randomstriker at 1:04 PM on November 7, 2007

I don't like the spandex roadie look, either. That said, I wear whichever weight of expedition longjohns under some hiking shorts. It works very well, and is pretty cheap.
posted by everichon at 1:12 PM on November 7, 2007

Check out sportees.com , which is located in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. It's run by Andrea, who not only does a fantastic job, but can do custom design stuff. And it's not too expensive. My wife and I have visited her shop and also bought stuff online.

Folks in the Yukon know cold weather active gear.
posted by lothar at 1:19 PM on November 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. To answer one question, I'm in Chicago - so I need some insulation.
posted by Mid at 1:25 PM on November 7, 2007

For the coldest part of Chicago winters, you'll need two layers. Spandex inner and baggy outers work best. Wash the inners regularly so you don't make the suits hold their breath during the elevator ride. Trust me, you stink.
posted by randomstriker at 1:42 PM on November 7, 2007

Mountain Equipment Coop sells really good, functional, but not-too-pricey cycling gear. They're the Canadian equivalent to REI. Their Vuelta tights (assuming you're a guy---women's are exactly the same price) are great on their own or under a shell pant if it's wet. If that's not heavy enough (and it almost certainly is), try their xcountry ski line.

The MEC stuff isn't particularly flashy or stylish, but it usually gets the job done and lasts well. They make and design much of their own clothing, with lots of member feedback. I've never had a product of theirs that I've had to return.

For bike/ski clothes, I find it's always preferable to go slightly lighter than you think you might need.
posted by bonehead at 1:46 PM on November 7, 2007

Last year I looked at a pair of cycling pants at Turin Bicycle in Evanston. They were designed for bike messengers and looked pretty sturdy, sort of like Carhartt work pants with shorter legs. They aren't on the web site, so I don't know if Turin still carries them, but it might be worth a call.

I just wear my jeans over non-cotton "active" underwear, but I've always got two funny white fade marks on the denim under my butt so I may need to rethink this.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2007

Sorry, missed this: tights are nice because they're really, really comfortable and layer under shells well. Layering clothing is a great strategy to having an affortable set of clothes for a range of temperatures and activity levels. Pair a set of thermal thights with a pair of shell pants and a lighter pair of short tights and you're good to go from hot summers to windy and sub-freezing with three relatively inexpensive garments. Purpose buying garments for each season costs more (particularly for cold) and loses flexibility if you get hot or cold or if it starts to rain in the middle of a ride.

If you've got a short commute, flexability may be less of a concern for you. Warm-up pants and longjohns may be a better fit to what you're looking for.
posted by bonehead at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2007

Is your concern something where you will be wearing the same pants at work as you rode in with? This is tough. I would get a pair of thermal biking tights and a pair of wind pants (not specifically for biking) and wear the thermal tights under the wind pants while riding and slip into the mens room to remove the tights when you get to work and replace them with your regular choice of boxers/briefs. On the way home, reverse.

If you just need something warm to ride in and are embarrassed by tights, then I recommend the Pearl Izumi AmFib tights. They are warm and although they have a good deal of lycra they don't cling like thin lycra tights. I would check them out at your LBS to see whether they will be too form fitting.
posted by caddis at 2:16 PM on November 7, 2007

So far this year, getting by with jeans has been fine for me. In the past, as it has gotten colder, I'll mix in long underwear.

It may not have fancy super science to wick away moisture, but I only go 3 miles each way and haven't had a problem with sweat.
posted by drezdn at 2:36 PM on November 7, 2007

Seriously, try just wearing your normal clothes. The idea that you have to wear expensive special products when you ride your bike is a recent and not very useful invention.
posted by gum at 2:49 PM on November 7, 2007

Response by poster: Should have made this clear: I have to dress up for work, so I can't wear my normal work clothes. Also, having fewer layers to pull on and off would be a plus since changing is a hassle at work.
posted by Mid at 3:32 PM on November 7, 2007

I cycle to work in the winter in a variety of flannel- and fleece-lined pants, available at LL Bean. As it gets close to freezing I wear over top of these a pair of MEC cycling rain pants, something like these.
posted by jholland at 7:24 PM on November 7, 2007

You could also try clothes made for xcountry or backcountry skiing. Wind protection will be more important than insulation. I spent a couple winters commuting on a bike wearing long johns, jeans, and goretex pants, like these pants.
As for the visibility, just load up on reflective tabe and blinkie lights, including these.
posted by pgoes at 9:59 PM on November 7, 2007

I suggest wool pants -- either an all-wool dress pant from a thrift store (cheap!), or wool knickers designed for cycling.

When it's really cold, you may want to wear tights or cycling leg warmers under the wool, as others have suggested.

There are lots of cycling knickers (wool or otherwise) available, and many of them look nothing like spandex. I imagine that most of them would look OK in a corporate elevator, and another advantage of wool is that it doesn't get very smelly with sweat...
posted by alb at 5:22 AM on November 8, 2007

For three miles you can wear basically anything, including your work pants, but then if you don't have a chain guard you might want one of those ankle clips which keep your pants away from the oily chain (I know they look a little dorky, but grease stained trousers look even dorkier). All over Europe you will see people bike commuting in dress pants. You could wear wool flannel if the cold gets to you. Three miles is only a ten to fifteen minute ride depending upon your speed and how many stop lights you encounter. You could even wear wind pants over your dress pants to make changing a breeze when you get to work.
posted by caddis at 6:49 AM on November 8, 2007

I bought a nice pair of Ibex cycling pants on sale at REI a couple of years ago. They're nylon in the front (wind resistance ) with the rest being wool so you're warm but excess heat will dissipate out the back. The fit is what I'd call trim, but they're definitely pants, not tights.

I'm kind of a fair weather rider so these haven't seen a ton of use, but they're very well made and I think they'd stand up well to commuting.

I believe, on the same shopping trip, my wife bought a nearly identical pair that was REI brand.

I'd wear them with a good pair of wool tights underneath if it was too cold for just shorts. For changing into your work clothes or a superhero uniform, you could just peel both off at the same time.

On a bike in the winter, you're dealing with two opposing forces - cold from the outside and the heat you generate while riding. 3 miles isn't long but acceleration and hills will get the blood flowing. Depending on your tolerance to temp extremes, you may just need something to block the wind, more than providing insulation.
posted by altcountryman at 9:22 AM on November 8, 2007

I am looking for a great road bike. I ride some and am very athletic/competitive. I just got divorced and am ready to get back into cycling. I need a good entry level road bike, but at the same time, I am looking into using it for long rides, including a 7day ride across Iowa.
I have looked at awesome titanium models (litespeed), and some of the Treks (aluminum frame + carbon), and also some of the carbon fiber frames. I dont want to spend a fortune, but I also want a bike that I am going to love to ride, and that can grow with me and possibly even do road races, etc down the road. Any suggestions?
posted by Caty77 at 6:23 PM on November 25, 2007

Response by poster: Caty77 -- you must be new to AskMetaFilter -- you're going to have to post your own question (i.e., start a new thread) if you want to get responses. This question/thread is old and people are not reading it anymore (except for me). Welcome!
posted by Mid at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2007

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