Sunday, 17 November 2013
Levi's "Commuter" Jeans Review
Recently, Levi's came out with a pattern of jeans specifically made for commuter cycling. The "commuter" has the following attributes:
3M Scotchlite reflective fabric tape on cuffs for increased visibility in the dark.
NanoSphere treatment for water- and dirt-resistance.
Sanitized tech, an anti-microbial coating, for protection against odor.
A raised back for increased butt coverage.
A reinforced crotch.
Double layered back pockets.
A U-lock storage system.
Hidden cellphone pocket.
I've been toying with buying a pair of these "commuter" jeans, but the review at Bikehacks.com started to give me second thoughts. When I looked at the product critically, I have a few more issues to add into the mix.
The raised back is, in my view, a good feature. It's there for the same reason motorcycle jackets and pants have increased coverage at the back - in both motorcycling and cycling, the riding position is one in which we're bent over, so we are more exposed in that area without it.
The reinforced crotch is also there for obvious reasons of increased wear and tear. Not sure about the reinforced back pockets or the hidden cellphone pocket, but as I see it, they don't detract from the product, so why not.
But in terms of the other features, I have no idea what kind of cyclists Levi's spoke with in the planning stages of this product, but in my view, Levi's should have consulted more all-weather commuter cyclists. Then they might have learned a lot more about the realities and the requirements of cyclists. For example:
1. Why did they choose to avoid wool?. I'm a big advocate for wool for cycling (I think with good reason), and as I see it, making the jeans from a nice comfort-oriented Merino wool blend would remove the requirement for both the water-repellant and the anti-microbial coatings, because wool retains its warmth and comfort even when wet AND the lanolin in the fibers repels water, resists microbes and prevents smell. Also, wool naturally breathes well and moderates temperature in both hot and cold conditions. Levi's have been experimenting with wool jeans, so it's a little frustrating that they haven't seen the possibilities of wool in terms of cycling.
2. Levi's should have kept the leg opening the same as regular 511s. Unfortunately, because Levi's widened the leg opening from the standard 511 width of 14 1/2 inches to an opening of 16 inches, it forces cyclists who wear these jeans to either use bike clips or roll up the jeans above the level of the chainring. If the leg opening was a proper 511 width of 14 1/2", neither of these would be necessary. I wear regular 511s to commute on my bike and in my experience, you simply don't need to roll them up: because they hug the calf, they stay about an inch away from my chainring. I don't know why Levi's made the decision to widen the leg openings on these jeans from the regular 511 size - it seems to me to ruin the biggest advantage of 511s when cycling - i.e. not needing to roll them up above the level of the chainring.
3. If Levis are going to include a bike lock attachment feature, I think it should be easily accessible, either on the thigh or on the side. Placing it on the back makes it difficult to access. I dunno - I just think there ought to be a better place for it.
As things stand, the only reason I might be tempted to buy these jeans is for the higher rise in the rear of the jeans. This is not enough for me, given the drawbacks of poor design elsewhere and the high price. Hopefully, someone influential at Levi's will see the negative reviews and institute changes, because with a few tweaks these could become a good product that every cyclist might benefit from owning.