Late last year, Levi’s entered the technical cycling market with a ride-orientated version of their popular 511 jeans. A slew of features have been added to the already awesome jeans to appeal to the two wheeled market and I’ve been clamouring to get a pair since first hearing about them, dropping my £80 at the Levi’s Boxpark store a few weeks ago. They haven’t been off my arse since.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Commuters is just how goddamn hard they are to find anywhere. Levi’s have been massively canny with their launch, keeping the jeans as exclusive as possible and limiting availability to a select set of retailers and a few of their own stores. For a time, you couldn’t even buy them through Levi’s UK online store and besides, I recommend trying a pair out for size before splurging due to some of the reinforced stitching affecting fit.
Nice and stretchy.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Commuters, even before you get on a bike, is simply how comfortable they are. The fit is a decent compromise between skinny and slim with plenty of breathing room for sweaty post-ride legs; you’d be hard-pressed to tell these were technical jeans at all. However, it’s in the saddle that the Commuters really come into their own with the addition of Lycra into the denim providing more than enough stretch to remedy the usual Tight Thigh Syndrome incurred from riding in any other jean. While the level stretch isn’t anything close to what you’ll get with real Lycra’s, it’s enough to not cramp up your leg on each revolution (or your style, for that matter). On the comfort side, the Commuters get a big thumbs up from me.
Knee-bunching kinda sucks.
The core reason I was initially attracted to the Commuters however, was their liquid and dirt-resistant coating, considering how liquid and dirt heavy Britain is. In the short time I’ve had the jeans, I’ve taken them out in more than a few rainstorms and I can report that the coating works extraordinarily well. Instead of soaking your legs in grime-ridden wetness, raindrops bead on the fabric surface and successfully wick away. In fact, it’s not just water that the coating repels: so far I’ve tested them with beer, cider, orange juice and blackcurrant cordial, all beading up and running away. When or if you get a pair, I highly recommend throwing anything and everything at them just to see this glorious technology at work. It’s so good that I don’t understand why more clothes aren’t coated this way but then I remember the single downside to all this goodness; saddle transfer. After my first ride, my usually tan leather Charge saddle had attracted indigo selvedge-coloured accents and black spots around the typical stress areas. Although simple enough to clean off with a baby wipe, it’s enough for me to recommend washing your Commuters before riding.
Arse crack reinforcing.
The other main attraction of the Commuters is their reworked stitching and extra reinforcing over the traditional 511’s. We’ve all come to expect high quality, hard wearing garments from Levi’s and the Commuters don’t disappoint in this respect, featuring heavy duty stitching around all the typical cycling stress areas, particularly the crotch and waist. The seams also alleviate the inevitable and unattractive dismount wedgie encountered with regular denim. While not padded, the saddle area offers ample comfort, moulding well to your rear end and forming a tight yet non-restrictive fit. The built-in lock band on the left rear waist is another handy feature for cyclists with average or undersized locks but be aware that heavy duty locks such as my Magnum X4 simply will not fit. I recommend a Kryptonite NYC series lock for ultimate compatibility and general cycle steez. That being said, an overall plus for the Commuters on the quality front.
Reflective turnups – this years must have.
The piece de resistance for the Commuters though, is arguably the inclusion of high reflectance 3M strips stitched to the inner leg. Few cyclists want to rock dayglo trouser straps and these strips seem to be the perfect compromise between style and functionality. The standard turnups provide a small reflective area that emits a crazy amount of light when illuminated by standard automobile headlights but are in no way a replacement for frame mounted reflectors. For ultimate visibility, simply roll those cuffs up by five or six inches to the point where the jeans effectively become 3/4 length shorts and you’ll be impossible to miss on the road unless the guy behind you is Mr. Magoo. Are these strips worth the £80 entrance fee to Commuterland? No, but they definitely make the package far more palatable and show a thoughtfulness on the part of Levi’s designers.
On the whole, the 511 Commuters are well worth a trip to the local Levi’s reseller, even if just to check them out. Debonair urban cyclists will already have the entire colour range in their wardrobes and if your aim is to keep up with that crowd then hurry up and go buy a pair but if you just want a comfortable pair of jeans to ride and chill in, I can offer an equally enthusiastic recommendation. If you can stomach the price, no cyclist should hesitate.