Packed with features, Levi’s initial foray into the cycling market packs a ton of value into a jean that only a corporate behemoth like Levi’s can at an incredible price point. A cycling friendly cut, reinforced crotch, zippered back pocket and u-lock holder show that someone at Levi’s definitely rides, or they had one hell of a focus group putting this thing together. What is really amazing about these jeans though is the NanoSphere treatment. Designed to repel both water and dirt, it’s common to see Nanosphere tech in clothing that costs upwards of $200 or more. Only a big name like Levi’s would have the capacity to offer this sort of tech in a pair of riding jeans that retail for under $100.
Reading up on NanoSphere, it is clear it is pretty amazing stuff. Not only does the treatment offer water and stain resistance, but it supposedly has self-cleaning properties and adds abrasion resistance. On top of that, they’ve added a antimicrobial tech to keep your drawers from stinking, even when you’ve been sweating in them, and passing out on the floor near pools of vomit and stale beer. Perfect for the dirtbag on a budget. (although to be honest, we didn’t go that far in our testing this time around)
One feature I wasn’t sure I was going to use much was the u-lock holder. The back pocket of the jeans works just as well for stashing a mini u-lock just fine. However, on longer trips around town I found the u-lock holder to not just work really well, but I found myself sitting quite a bit with the lock holstered, and it was a lot more comfortable to have the lock out of my pocket. Although I tend to wear a belt most of the time, (I needed to loosen it a bit to fit the lock) I was psyched on how well the holster worked. If you own a longer lock that can accommodate a wheel or two in addition to your frame, even better. The only drawback was it takes a bit longer to fit the lock into the waistband; if I was only rolling a block or two to my next stop, I’ll still use the pocket. However, for a night out on the town with the bike as transport, I found that I was super down with this feature.
Another feature unique to the Commuter jean is the hidden phone slot in the right pocket. A kangaroo style flap keeps your phone away from spoke wrenches or anything else that is just dying to scratch up your new phone. Why don’t all pants have this? And there is yet another feature they’ve added to the pants — the inner reinforced belt loops. I want these in every pair of pants I own. With slimmer fitting jeans, a big stack of keys tends to get really uncomfortable. Because of this, I run my key rings on a carabiner and hang them from my belt loop. Then I ride around and worry that said belt loop will fail and I’ll have a hell of a time unlocking my bike and getting back into my apartment. The reinforced loops are like insurance for my keys and offer piece of mind. And if you’re into shoe strings as belts, (what? I know, right?) they’ll accommodate that as well.
If you roll up your pants to avoid entanglements with your chain or derailleurs, there is a bit of 3m tape sewn in to the cuff for a bit of added visibility at night. However, since the jeans have a slim fit, I found I never had to roll them up, as I’ve banned front derailleurs from my current fleet of bikes.
The fit of these jeans is dialed- if you wear slim fitting jeans. Read up on these jeans online and you’ll find that the skinny fit is the main point of contention. I will add my feedback to that as well- I could easily move up to a size 34 waist. Doing this would give me a bit more comfort. (I wear a 32-32) And like others, I’d love to see the classic 501 cut get the Commuter treatment as well from Levi’s. However, my girlfriend loves the look of these jeans on me, and that is enough for me. If you posses gargantuan thighs designed for sprinting, you’ll definitely want a size up, if you can pull the jeans off at all. The 511 skinny cut isn’t for everyone, and not every guy should run a slim fitting jean. However, the best part of the indigo wash is that these jeans can easily be dressed up or down. I’d pick these over a designer pair of jeans any day.
That really is the only drawback about these pants, along with the limited availability. They’re available direct from Levi’s, at Urban Outfitters, and a few select bike shops. Fortunately, since the fit is based on the 511 Skinny Jeans series, (and as the name says, they are quite fitted) you should be good trying a regular 511 jean on for size. If you already are a fan of the 511 series, you probably ordered a pair the day these became available.
Since I ride DH bikes as well as BMX, dirt jump hardtails, fixed gears and city bikes, it was only logical we’d try the jeans out dirt jumping and on DH shuttles with pads underneath. I’ll just jump to the chase- pads are a tight fit. If you are going to pad up with these, it might be worth picking up a second pair a size larger. That way you’ll have a pair for the nights on the town astride your urban rig, and one for padding up and getting rad on the freestyle setup.
As you can see from the above photo, running Fox Launch Knee Pads under the jeans wasn’t a very good combo. Although the jeans stretch, it was tight enough to be uncomfortable. None of the knee pads with hardshells I typically run would comfortably fit underneath.
The best pad combo with the jeans was a soft, knee gasket type pad. The same goes with wearing lycra under the jeans, a smaller pad is better. I normally wouldn’t combine a padded undershort with jeans for around town use, but we’ve done a few all day pedals around the Bay Area, starting with breakfast, and then all over Berkeley and back to Oakland, and I’ve found that wearing a light padded short made my ass much happier at the end of the day.
After wearing stretch denim, I’m not sure I ever want to go back to regular denim. You lose a bit of durability with the light weight fabric, but I’ll take the comfort any day.