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Review: Bluff Works commuter pants

Over the winter, Stefan Loble, the founder of Bluff Works, reached out to us to see if we wanted to try out his company’s pants. As it was still brutally cold where I lived, I agreed but knew it would be a while before I could give them a proper on-bike shakedown.

Well, many months later and we’ve finally gotten a good bit of use out of the pants. RL and I teamed up to offer our thoughts and observations of the pants for your review.

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First off, the pants themselves. Here are some details straight from the Bluff Works website:

* 100% technical, breathable quick-dry polyester. Nylon pockets.

* Zippered front hidden internal security pocket to deter pickpockets. Large enough to hold your passport.

* Rear zippered pocket sized for an oversized travel wallet.

* Discrete side pocket phone storage to keep you from sitting on it. Fits an iPhone or a Galaxy S4.

* Hidden loop to clip keys or a security badge inside your front pocket.

* Nickle-free jean tack closure.

* Interior pocket images made to inspire.

* Designed and manufactured in New York City, of imported fabric from Taiwan.

* Machine washable. Line or tumble dry.

One thing to make clear right up front: these pants are not marketed for bike commuters, nor do they have any bike-specific features. The features the Bluff Works DO have turn out to be great for we bike commuters, even if they were not specifically intended for us.

The stitching is tight and even, and the fabric feels like a very quality material. The Bluff Works are put together very nicely. They come in four colors: charcoal, classic grey, velvet brown, and light khaki. I got a charcoal pair to wear, and RL got khaki.

The zippered pockets and key-hanging tab are great for an active lifestyle. You don’t have to worry about items falling (or being lifted) from your pockets on the subway or the bike. The soft nylon inner pockets feel great against the skin, and are roomy enough for pretty much anything you need to carry. Best of all, the care instructions are printed right on the pocket liners!

Zippered inner pocket:
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Key tab:
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Instructions:
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Jack’s thoughts:

The polyester fabric is soft, and has a slight sheen. My wife didn’t care for the sheen, but I rather liked it. I think these pants make me look pretty good, and I think they make RL look good, too. As you may remember from our previous review of the Levi’s commuter pants, I think commuter-friendly pants should actually look the part of business-appropriate attire, not dolled-up jeans. The Bluff Works answer my prayers in that respect! I felt perfectly comfortable in casual situations as well as more formal events. Hell, I even wore these beauties to a memorial ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, and a couple people remarked on my snappy duds.

The cut was overall pretty perfect for my body. I did find the waist-to-crotch measurement a bit snug, and you’ll see that RL did too. Otherwise, the pants were comfortable and stayed looking nice — no ironing needed after a wash.

As I mentioned, the pants aren’t geared specifically toward cyclists, so all the seams and whatnot are just where you’d expect them to be in a pair of regular street pants. That being said, I didn’t notice any discomfort riding with the Bluff Works pants on. They stayed nice, too — with the fabric warding off splashes and stains and staying wrinkle-free, you really could go directly from bike to boardroom in these!

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I give the pants a solid thumbs-up, but I’d love to see perhaps a reflective inner cuff or something to make them a little more bike-friendly for our purposes. And, at $88 for a really nicely-made pair of pants, designed AND manufactured in New York City, I really applaud that. I’ve spent more for lesser pants that didn’t look (or perform) half as nicely.

RL’s thoughts:

I liked the way they fit, a bit more slim than my other slacks, but they’re nothing like skinny or hipster jeans. It’s super hard for me to find pants with a 29″ inseam…yes, I’ve got short legs. When I received them I wore them to various holiday parties and events without having the need to iron or even wash them. Yes that’s correct, I didnt’ wash them for about 3 months! During those 3 months, I wore them about 5 different times. I didn’t have to iron them either. Basically after I wore them, I hung them on pants hangers, the kind that you clip the waist to. That allowed the fabric to relax and not get wrinkled.

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The material used isn’t as soft as some of my other slacks,but it is more durable. With that said, it’s thicker and rougher to the touch. They almost remind me of a better quality of Dickies work pants, but much more stylish. I dug the zippered pocket in the rear and the other in one of the side pockets. Speaking of side pocket, the right side had this cool loop that you can clip your keys onto for safe keeping.

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Surprisingly the Bluff Works pants never caught a stain nor did any of the stitching come undone. I wear these pants anytime I am going to a business meeting, church, or on a hot date with my wife. She actually likes the way these fit on me. One thing you have to look out for, MOOSE KNUCKLE. That’s the boy version of Camel Toe. Ya these pants are notorious for showing off your package especially if you’re sitting down. I noticed this when I was at church. I was sitting and when it was time to pray, I looked down and WHOA! I had to use my Bible to cover up and be modest!

Other than the Moose Knuckle, no complaints about these pants. They wash easily, wrinkles come out if you just let them hang, doesn’t stain and no odor! Yep, even the most humid of days that produce the worst swamp balls/ass, no stank.

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Again, the Bluff Works might not have any bike-specific features, but that shouldn’t deter you from checking these out. Outstanding fit and finish, smart features, and a polished look are worth the price of admission. Bluff Works is planning other products in the future, so keep your eyes out. In the meantime, swing over to their website, where the pants are available for online purchase.

Friday Musings: “Naked bike rides” and bike safety

Did anyone out there in readerland participate in the World Naked Bike Ride?

If you did…or you participate in other group rides and bike events of the more clothed variety, you may actually be helping to make biking safer for EVERYONE:

Just when you thought everything had been said and (blush) done in connection with this year’s World Naked Bike, along comes an compelling theory about the annual event’s societal benefits: It makes traffic safer.

In fact, according to a story on the Treehugger blog, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s safety experts are big fans of the group rides (not just the naked ones) that are rolling through the city daily as part of June’s Pedalpalooza bike-culture festival.

Read the full article by visiting the Oregon Live page.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on bike events like this — do you feel it helps make us all safer? If so, why? Please leave your comments below.

Munich By Bike

 

Munich is one of the most beautiful, bike-friendly cities in Germany! Famous for its Oktoberfest where beer and girdles overflow, the place doesn’t get nearly enough the credit it deserves for its cycling routes and infrastructure. If you like getting on your bike and exploring, weekend breaks to Munich are a necessary and thoroughly enjoyable pastime. Here are a few ideas which will help you discover a side of Bavaria’s capital besides pale ale and leather shorts.
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If you don’t mind biking in urban environments, the downtown area is a great place to start your explorations. Try a “Tour of the Tors”! “Tor” is the German word for “gate” (oh, and for “goal” in soccer”!), and Munich’s old town had a good number of those. They’re all within a kilometer of each other, sometimes less, and if you go through them in succession, you’ll circumscribe the area behind the old fortification walls.

Keep in mind that some of the old gates no longer exist, but Sendlinger Tor, Karlstor, Türkentor, Siegestor, and Isartor still keep you running along the historically correct perimeter. In May 2014, an art project was launched to remind locals and visitors of the “lost gates” — the ones which wars and old age took down. You might come across curious art installations where you can stop by for a minute and read up on the missing pieces in Munich’s gate puzzle.

After a good time downtown, there are few things better than resting your eyes with some nature gazing. As industrial and rich as it is, Munich offers parks with sprawling fields and meandering bike and walking paths. The most famous destination is the English Garden, a green symphony of nature with 78 kilometers (yup, Europe is metric!) of biking routes. You can enjoy the sun or slip into the forested paths. Make your way to the Chinese Tower, one of Munich’s most legendary beer gardens, and have a well-earned break.

Another terrific biking destination is the Olympia Park not too far from the city center. A beautiful bridge with glass railings brings you to the start of your tour, and you can put your stamina to the test with several gentle slopes on your way to the park’s heart: the Olympic Stadium and the BMW Arena and Museum nearby. This route offers mostly sunny tracks and open spaces, with some culture and fun on the side for when you want to rest. A classic Munich bike tour, through and through!

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Munich is something of a cyclist’s paradise. You can get in some serious cycling while still cramming in the chance to experience culture.

 

Cycling, Las Vegas-style

(Editor’s note: as many of you know, the BC crew LOVES Las Vegas…especially when we get to go to Interbike. Read on for some tips to make your bike trip to Las Vegas a rousing success.)

Cycle Vegas!

It’s around this time of year that many of us (particularly those in the Frozen North) start to dream of some kind of adventure. The beauty of a bike trip is you can easily transport your favorite ride to somewhere exciting and fun, or just rent one at your destination, and neither option is going to break the bank. Some destinations, in fact, might leave you better off financially than when you arrived…

Vegas!

Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of those cities that everyone has an opinion about, even people who’ve never actually been there. If you think it’s just smoky poker rooms, mind-bendingly noisy slots and cheesy entertainment, you should know that – as well as all that – there’s pretty much everything anyone could possibly want on offer here. There are good cycle routes around the city itself, as well as trips out of town. There are a couple of things to be aware of if you’re planning a trip, however.


Points to Consider

Firstly, check the temperatures for the time of year you want to go. There’s a reason all the casinos are air-conditioned, and from May to October, average highs tend to be between the high 80’s and the low 100’s – not most peoples’ idea of perfect cycling weather. Spring is ideal. Secondly, unless you’re fanatically anti-gambling (in which case, why are you going to Vegas?!) you’ll probably end up in one of those casinos at some point.

Routes

Some of the best riding in the area is to be found on the edges of the city, with wonderful desert roads winding past the other-wordly rock formations and mountains, but there’s also good news for town riders; 100 miles of dedicated bike routes in Las Vegas itself.

One of the best routes out of town is the Red Rock Scenic Ride, a 13 mile loop taking in some astonishing scenery. Mountain bike types will love the Cottonwood 11 mile route, while there’s a 35 mile paved track around Lake Mead that’s a must for the energetic cyclist.

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North Las Vegas is a good spot for city riders who want to get the feel of the place before belting up and down the Strip. There are miles of cycle routes (wide outside lanes and signs instructing drivers to “share the road”); cycle lanes (signed/striped sections of the road for cyclists only) and shared-use paths (separate from vehicles, also used by pedestrians and skaters etc).

Routes around North Las Vegas Airport are highly popular as a result, and many local riders post details on bikinglasvegas.com; one example is the Training 25 route added by member Cabinetguy433, starting in Myrtle Creek Court and circumnavigating the airport for just over 25 miles. This route has the advantage of taking you to Downtown Vegas and Fremont Street on the way, a whole different experience form the mega-casinos of the Strip, and a window into what Vegas was like in days gone by. You might want to stop here and practice your new-found gaming skills!

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Interbike 2014

Finally, when you’re planning your Vegas bike trip, don’t forget that September brings Interbike 2014, held again this year at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. For the first time, the public is invited to attend Interbike on the final day of the show. Registration is open now.

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High-tech bike theft prevention

Over the past few years, we’ve posted articles about bike theft prevention, from locking your bike, to web series about catching thieves, to Kickstarter-funded bike trackers, among many others.

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was a great article about the efforts of the San Francisco Police Department in combating bike theft using a variety of high-tech tools and techniques:

SAN FRANCISCO — Officer Matt Friedman fights crime with modern tools: Twitter, which he uses to publicize pictures of suspects and convicted criminals, and a GPS device, which he uses to track down stolen property.

In both cases, his lure is stolen bicycles — including the “bait bikes” that have recently been seeded throughout the city to tempt potential thieves. Equipped with GPS technology, the bicycles, which exist to be stolen, can be tracked down in real time and the thieves can be arrested.

Take a look at the complete article by visiting the NYT page here.

These aren’t run-of-the-mill “bait bikes”, either. SFPD doesn’t play around; they use expensive rigs equipped with GPS trackers to guarantee that when they catch up with offenders, they can charge them with a felony, not a slap on the wrist. Bike thieves, beware!!!