Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stealth Pantaloons: Clever Wool Trousers for Cycling

For some time now, I have been searching for "cycling pants" to be worn on a roadbike that look sufficiently like trousers. Regular trousers have seams in the crotch that start to hurt me after cycling for more than 15 minutes in a forward-leaning position. And women's trousers specifically tend to be quite form-fitting, which makes it uncomfortable to swing a leg over the diamond frame, as well as to pedal. I explored several possibilities for trousers that would work, but everything was either too sporty or had too much of a "cycling culture" look. I wanted something conservative and subtle. The "Stealth Pantaloons" from Clever Cycles seemed to fit the bill, and being my sponsors they graciously allowed me to try the pants before deciding whether to buy them. The pants ended up being just what I needed, and I have since purchased them.

Upon superficial examination, the Clever Cycles "Stealth Pantaloons" look like regular trousers in every way. They are made of a lightweight wool and have a classic, straight cut to them that tapers slightly towards the ankles.

The cut is unisex, and after reading my MUSA knickers review Clever Cycles warned me that I might find some aspects of these not ideal for the female figure either. However, I found the "Stealth Pantaloons" to be reasonably flattering. For instance, compare the above picture to this. Not even in the same category.

I am 5'7" and wear a US women's size 4.  I got the Stealth Pantaloons in size 30. They look form-fitting in the pictures, but in fact they are fairly loose in the abdomen, inner thighs, and below the waistband in the back - similarly to the Rivendell MUSAs. What's not similar, is that the wool fabric falls and drapes in a way where this is not noticeable. As a result, I can wear these pants with leggings underneath or without, and the fit will be flattering either way. The versatility is good for when the temperatures fall below freezing.

I believe the waistband is supposed to hit about mid-waist. However, due to the elasticised area in the back (picture below), I find this to be adjustable: I can wear the pants both high on my waist and low on my hips by simply pulling them up or pushing them down. Here they are shown relatively high on the wait.

And here is the elasticised waist in the rear. This is the only aspect of the "Stealth Pantaloons" that is potentially unflattering to the female figure and it all depends on how you are built. The feature is useful in that it makes the fit versatile and prevents the waistband from digging into tummy fat when cycling in a leaned-forward position. However, it also detracts from the formal look of the trousers, and makes the fabric bunch up under the waistband. For me both of these problems are solved by the fact that I do not like to wear tucked-in blouses: My top covers up the elasticised area and the bunching underneath. If you like to wear your tops tucked in, beware. However, even with the elastic and the bunching, the look suits me better than this.


In addition to the elasticised feature, there is something about the fit of the "Stealth Pantaloons" that allows for unconstrained movement. I can mount a diamond frame while wearing without feeling any pulling at the seams. Same with pedaling or pretty much any motion. This is not typical of form-fitting women's trousers.

Another cycling-specific feature is the flat seam construction. The "Stealth Pantaloons" do not have a gusseted crotch. However, the seams are flat and do not cut into my "soft tissue" (crotch-related problems on a roadbike are an ongoing theme for me!) when I lean forward on the saddle. I have not gone on long rides with these yet, but I can usually feel seams right away once I am on the saddle, whereas these I cannot feel.


There is no bunching in the rear while on a bike, which is good.  As a woman with a smallish waist and a voluminous behind, I find it difficult to find even regular trousers that offer a flattering fit, let alone cycling-specific pants. The "Stealth Pantaloons" fit me better than I had imagined they would after the very cautious description I was given by Clever Cycles.  My experience may or may not be applicable to you, but I am happy. They are comfortable on and off the bike, they are all-wool, and they are a neutral colour. They can be worn with shoes, tucked into tall boots, or pushed up the calves like knickers. I am also told that they are fairly stain-resisant, though I have not yet tried this out. Oh, and today I was trying on a jacket in a clothing store and two women complimented the pants as they walked by. I am pleased with the purchase and might get another pair in black a few months from now.

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Update 18 April, 2011: After 4 months of wearing the pantaloons, I have a few things to add to the review. On the positive side, the manufacturer's claim regarding stain resistance has held true so far: I have spilled coffee, tomato juice, various soups and other items on this garment, and there are no visible stains. There is no visible wear on the pants so far despite my frequently donning them. I cannot feel the flat seams at the crotch on a roadbike even on long rides. On the downside, the pants have stretched out and become somewhat baggy, while I prefer a slender fit. I might try shrinking them intentionally in the wash.

40 comments:

  1. "obscenely voluminous behind" LOL! I would not call it that. Try Dangerous Curves. Besides, if you are 5'7" and in a 4, that sounds pretty darn good since I'm 5' even and until about a few months ago was wearing the same size. :)

    Those pants look quite flattering. I especially like the way they look from the front. The elastic seems a little granny-ish. I can definitely see how that could be a problem from some women of certain figures/tastes.

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  2. I the time you've worn them how do they seem to hold up with regards to polish in the arseal area?

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  3. Oh don't flatter yourself. Plump, proportionate and curvacious, yes, "obscenely voluminous" no.
    :)
    You toss the softball, I'm gonna smack it outta the park.

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  4. Okay, I guess I was asking for it with that phraseology. I thought it would be helpful for other ladies to understand what kind of figure I have when determining how the pants would sit on them. If at all possible, please don't make me feel self-conscious, so that I can leave the comment in : ) Oh, and I meant voluminous factually, not in a self-deprecatory way. It's what I got!

    It might also be helpful to know that this is one of only 3 pairs of pants I own, so I really do have problems with fit!

    kfg - I've only had them for 2 weeks, but will update in a few months regarding that.

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  5. Velouria , These pants look good on ya mate. Besides cycling pants for normal people need to be loose fit.

    Heck, I spend all winter in sweats and all summer in shorts. Just can't stand tight pants rubbing on my legs anymore!!!

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  6. Amy - "grannyish" is exactly the word! I think that wearing the pants with a belt might disguise this as well, though not entirely.

    Walt - The thing is, that women's pant tailoring is tricky. Many women look terrible in loose pants, especially formal/business style trousers. makes us look like a sack of potatoes. This is why most women's trousers you see are tailored to be form-fitting. They are not tight per se, but the tailoring often just does not work well with bikes.The seams get stressed, or the pants get stretched out in parts where they shouldn't. It can be tricky.

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  7. Velouria, those look great on you. I don't usually comment on womens clothing, especially to someone I don't know personally, but they are definitely keepers!

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  8. "I was asking for it with that phraseology."

    I left it alone. Well, I had left it alone until now. Damn.

    "It's what I got!"

    You and "Little" Margarita Cansino. Of course she had a small army of people to tailor her clothes for her.

    "but the tailoring often just does not work well with bikes."

    And oddly enough in every picture I can find of her on a bike she's wearing a skirt; and in the only picture I can find of her wearing pants she's on a scooter.

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  9. Had to look up who Margarita Cansino was. Wow, I had no idea that was her real name!

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  10. "I had no idea that was her real name!"

    She broke the Hispanic barrier in Hollywood, but of course they had to change her name. So far as I've been able to tell the studio old timers never stopped calling her Little Margarita though.

    In those days even the biggest stars got around the lot by bicycle, but she took to it and became a cyclist.

    She was also, IMHO, Astaire's second best dance partner, but Cyd didn't have the voice.

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  11. Apparently, we have a made to order wool bicycle pant tailor in Seattle (https://hubandbespoke.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/telaio-bespoke-men%E2%80%99s-wool-trousers-tailored-for-performance/) despite the near universal love of lycra and gore-tex among cyclists around here-- I am sort of curious how they compare in price and fit of the female form?

    For me and how I would want pants to fit my body, the elastic waist is a deal breaker. I do like how they look from the front though.

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  12. On crotch issues: I used to have them on my old saddle. It was really squishy, and so my sit bones would sink into it, and then the rest would press right up on those parts. Holy moly, could that get painful.

    I know you like leather saddles, but why not try one with a cut-out down the middle? I have a Specialized saddle that's cut out down the middle, and it doesn't put pressure on any of my sensitive parts. I can even wear jeans on it, and I don't feel the middle seam at all.

    My boyfriend's trying to talk me into trying a Brooks saddle, but I can't get past the fact that it's highest where my current saddle is nonexistant! How can that possibly be comfy?!

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  13. Many thanks for this review. Have been searching for pants that stand my daily commute of 50 km and still look good enough to wear in the office. I think these might fit the bill (and they are considerably cheaper than Rapha).

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  14. aprillikesbikes - The problem with the cutouts is that they are not in the location that bothers me, so at best they are not helpful and at worst the edges actually make things worse. But everyone is different and I don't think there is such a thing as an ideal pair of pants or an ideal saddle for everyone.

    kfg - I admit that I knew next to nothing about Rita Hayworth prior to reading a brief bio just now. Her appearance is too vulpine and smiley for my taste. Marlene Dietrich is more my type.

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  15. I also have similar problems getting trousers to fit - I have a pair of old Helmut Lang cords from the 90s which are entirely threadbare but I can't bear to throw them away because they fit and are flattering and that makes them like hens' teeth in these parts. I don't have much of an issue with seams but these trousers look like something I might want to buy anyway whether for on the bike or not. I'd have to try them on first though. And doesn't the wool itch - are they lined?

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  16. I was all set to order a pair before Christmas time ( a gift to me), until I noticed they raised the price - a lot. I still want some, but I really need to convince myself how great they are. So hopefully, you will give us your opinion in the next few weeks/months.

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  17. The pants look very nice on you. I think they are flattering. Would you mention the degree of "itchynes" of the wool? When I was young my Mom would make me wear a pair of dress wool pants to church every Sunday. They itched like.. well, like Hell. The stuff I have been buying from Rivendell does not.

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  18. "Marlene Dietrich is more my type."

    Ahhh, the Ice Queen thing again. :)

    If were going shopping I'd be looking for something in a Betty Joan Perske/Lauren Bacall myself, but although she and Bogie did a promotion for Schwinn at the behest of the studio I don't know that she was ever a cylist.

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  19. kfg - How about Corinne Griffith, Anais Nin, Sofia Loren, Tura Satana, or the young Cybill Shepherd? It's not Ice Queen that I like; I just don't like the facial structures of most 1940s-50s American actresses. The pointy/overly delicate features and the generic Katharine Hepburn was better than the rest, but still not quite my style.

    Dave - I don't exactly understand myself what is different about the new, more expensive version. But I think it is a new model rather than a rise in prices on the same model.

    JimP - I am very sensitive to itchy wool next to the skin, and these pants don't itch. The fabric is thin and soft.

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  20. You can't really see the elastic part because it's only on the back of the trousers. So you could even tuck in a shirt as long as you are wearing a blazer because the front still looks like regular trousers.

    I think the reason for the elastic back is to stretch and offer extra material when you lean forward on the bike. But if you look at any of the other pictures (except the one actually showing the elastic), you would never guess these trousers have one.

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  21. The pants are very nice, though I am a bit reluctant regarding the bunching.

    Can you comment on the warmth of the wool? For example, would you recommend wearing double layers when cycling in temps below, say 30? Or would tights/long stockings be sufficient? I am looking for some cycling-appropriate pants for springtime and just can't decide...

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  22. Velouria - Your taste seems to run to "handsome" while mine runs to "pretty," but you got me with Cybil Shepard. Clara Bow or Natalie Wood would have scored as well.

    A not so young Kitty Carlisle wasn't too bad, she improved with age, but I don't think I could ever get beyond her taste in fashion.

    "what is different about the new, more expensive version . . .I think it is a new model"

    They predicted the price rise and say that new models get new names.

    MDI - "the reason for the elastic back is to stretch and offer extra material when you lean forward on the bike."

    That and to not restrict breathing. I note that in pictures with the pants worn belted the elastic doesn't show, but not everyone is comfortable on a road bike with a belt, as they can cut in uncomfortably and restrict breathing. Web belts with the buckle worn at the side work for some.

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  23. I wish they would post the measurements for these pants. If you are a US 4 but ordered a 30 (which they list as equivalent to US 10 women's on for the pair you ordered and an 8 on the other model) then I really don't know what to make of the sizing. Confusing!

    townmouse, I still pine for the loss of the old Helmut Lang brand. His pants were superior and his dressage shoes were the hottest ever.

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  24. Thanks for the laugh in regards to your phraseology when describing your body.

    The pants look great, and are certainly a marked improvement over the MUSA's.

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  25. I find a OnePiece sweatsuit from onepiece.co.uk works well for winter cycling... there are no belts and its all held in place by a zipper from crotch to hood (and yes, you can even hide your face by zipping up the hood face if that's your thing ;-)) and even when you when are standing, it looks flattering on one's figure. It can be worn with shoes, boots, whatever. Its thick cotton fleece so its breathable and still warm. Somewhat expensive but its the most comfortable garment I've ever tried.

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  26. Norman - I can just see myself arriving in one of those to a meeting : ))

    MFarrington - Below 30F, I wear legging or tights underneath them. In the mid-30s they are fine on their own.

    neighbourtease - It does not look like it in the pictures, but the size 30 Pantaloons are actually sufficiently roomy so that I can pull them down off my hips without unzipping. So size 28 would have worked for me as well. However, the inch measurement to size translation they use is not typical in my view: 26" is typically considered a 0, 28" a 4, and 30" a 6. So this would mean that I am wearing what is sort of a woman's size 6 equivalent, only designed for a man - i.e. waist similar size as hips...

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  27. Trouble finding clothing for women whose hips are significantly larger than her waist is a well-known issue in our house -though Patrina, like you, doesn't wear pants that often anymore and it's not so much of an issue with skirts (except maybe like a pencil skirt).

    I'd love to have some good wool trousers that aren't part of my vintage suit to wear (in other words, something i wouldn't be as worried about wearing out). I might have to check those out (pretty sure they have men's ones as well).

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  28. The pants were designed and made by us (Bicycle Fixation in Los Angeles), working closely with Todd on features, as he mentions on the website. They are derived form our Classic Wool Knickers, and we do understand about the elastic, but 99% of our (and Clever's) customers love it, because it is the necessary compromise that makes them work on a variety of bikes, from Dutch uprights to road bikes to sick fixies. Without the elastic, they'd have to be tailored to each individual and one riding position, and would cost a modest fortune.

    We have some design tricks that make them feel loose while looking fitted, and they do seem to fit a huge variety of riders.

    You can see more of our stuff (the non-Clever items; we make the Stealths exclusively for them) at Bicycle Fixation.

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  29. kfg said...
    "I note that in pictures with the pants worn belted the elastic doesn't show..."


    The elastic itself doesn't show, but the bunching underneath it does and it looks a little weird. Though I think this aspect is more of a concern for women than for men - the bunching happens because our waists are smaller, given the same hip size.

    kfg said...
    "...not everyone is comfortable on a road bike with a belt, as they can cut in uncomfortably and restrict breathing."


    Also a good point. I cannot wear a belt on a roadbike for more than 10-15 minutes without it causing excruciating pain. If you've got "abs" it may not bother you though.

    portlandize - Exactly why I don't wear pencil skirts that much, even off the bike. When I was younger and more into clothing, I had a few that I got tailored: buy one size up and get the waist taken in by a couple of inches. But I was several sizes smaller back then and have since given all that nice stuff away.

    rickrise - Thanks for commenting. I agree about the necessity of the elastic for all the reasons you describe.

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  30. Those are very flattering and they don't look cycling-specific at all. Problems with fit is the biggest reason I don't wear pants often. Skirts are so much easier in that department, so when a pair of pants comes along that fit well, it's a keeper.

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  31. rickrise - I was thinking that the elastic looked familiar! I have a pair of your Classic Wool Knickers and they're probably one of my favorite pieces of cycling clothing. I do like how the Clever Cycles version has inset pockets, though.

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  32. I've been eyeing a pair of those awhile now, thanks for the review. If you are still on the lookoiut for stylish, non-lycra cycling wear, I highly recommend Swrve (http://www.swrvecycling.com/). My Swerve jeans are the first pair I've had that didn't develop crotch holes after fewer than 6 months of daily riding. The first pair I bought is two years old, and entirely hole-free. I have their trousers and knickers too, all of which get heavy rotation in my wardrobe.

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  33. As for belts, the guy trick is to wear the buckle off to one side. I lost a little weight so use a belt with knickers now, and that works fine. Belt centered is, indeed awful.

    Cris, thanks for the review! We're replenishing our knicker stock this week--charcoal, midnight, and houndstooth versions due.

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  34. if you don't need wool, jjill makes pants in their wearever line that are nice - the straight leg in black or charcoal. i have these and they wear well. i'm in l.a. so i can wear them year round though.

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  35. I am soooo jealous. Those pants look fantastic on you. The guys are all dancing around it, but they look great in front, and are not unflattering in the back (the MUSA definitely were). You have the perfect figure for those tapered legs. Those of us who are shorter and er... not as thin would have more trouble pulling those off, I think. I look much better in wider legged trousers, as my waist is less tapered and my hips are narrower (and I have no butt, really. Don't hate the butt. Ponder the alternative!). And I'm so sensitive to wool that it borders outright on alergic. I can wear wool socks, but that's it. Put my in a wool sweater, even with a cotton turtleneck beneath it, and I'll sneeze all day.

    Again, sooooo jealous.

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  36. I've been wearing these for a few months now. I'm a 6'1 boy, wearing 32s. Be warned the right leg can still get "bit" by your chainrings. I put a tear in them the first time I wore them. Both my bikes, a triple and a double, have done this. Now I roll the right leg and don't have the problem, but kind of annoying that it happens at all with pants designed for that exact problem. They are nice for my 15mile ride without needing to change when I roll into work. The butt is getting very shiny from the proofide off my Brooks and because I've never washed them.

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  37. I've been on a long online quest for exactly what you're talking about: pants I can bike in AND wear into business meetings. I'm going to add a link to this post as a comment on my "In Search of the Perfect Pair of Pants" post from last October (http://bit.ly/chxX0F), in which I list several possibilities I thought might be worth checking out. Just haven't taken the plunge and purchased any yet to give them a real road test. (If anyone has comments on the brands I listed there, that would be awesome! Help me prioritize and add to the list.)

    We have a similar build so I appreciate the 360-degree views of how the pants fit. Elastic--yuck but I can see the point.

    @BarbChamberlain
    @womenbikeblogs

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  38. The pants look good except for the elastic waist at the back. I'd be taking my sewing machine to it immediately! It can be easily fixed too look better. I think I read a review for these pants awhile ago and the male reviewer said he was wearing them for months straight. Otherwise a nice pair of wool cycling pants that allows you to move. I have similar big bum small waist issue, and in dire need of better pants. At least medium and high waisted pants exist again!
    Heather

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  39. The pants look great on you, no need to say anymore

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  40. Update to previous anonymous boy post. After 6 months and 2000 miles the back-inside-thigh of the pants wore thin from saddle friction and split open. I'm going to try and get the seat reinforced.

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