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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:
instructions

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.

Review: Outlier Summer Shorts

The folks at Outlier Tailored Performance Clothing recently sent us a pair of their “summer shorts” to try out.

Outlier “is about classically tailored garments made with the best technical fabrics around. Clothing that looks great no matter where you are in the day, riding to work, meeting with clients, or out on the town.” Basically, athletic clothing that doesn’t LOOK like athletic clothing — stuff that is just as presentable on a bike as it would be in a casual office atmosphere. Best of all, they’re sewn up right in New York City. Sounds intriguing…but what are these shorts all about?

The pair of shorts I got to test were in the grey “summerweight” fabric — a Swiss fabric called Schoeller 3XDry. It is stain- and water-repellent on the outside with a subtle woven feel and look, and perspiration-wicking on the inside. This fabric stretches and feels incredibly lightweight, yet is surprisingly durable. The pockets are made out of lightweight Supplex and feel great next to the skin…smooth and cool. The shorts are impeccably stitched — nice, even stitching and flawless construction throughout. There are handy waist tabs to cinch the shorts a bit tighter if needed.

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The inseam of the shorts measures a bit over seven inches…which to me felt scandalously short (at least initially). I’m more of a knicker-length cutoffs sort of guy — with about 20 pairs kicking around the house and year-round wear here in Florida, I felt like I was wearing hotpants at first. Once I was able to spend some time in them and noticed just how much cooler they felt than heavy, canvas-y knickers, I didn’t mind the shortness at all.

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Outlier claims that these shorts can be worn as both cycling shorts and as swim trunks…and of course they claim they are presentable in the office. Well, MY office wouldn’t allow such a thing, but I was able to test the shorts on the bike and in the pool. I wore them on several hot commutes (changing into work clothes when I got to my office) and to a couple of pool parties. Although the shorts have seams in all the usual places and no “cycling liner” to speak of, I didn’t notice any chafing on rides up to about 10 miles. I would not want to pedal all day in such shorts, of course — longer rides necessitate some sort of chamois or padding down there for most people. Even on hot days, the shorts never felt stifling — the moisture-wicking effect of the shorts sure seemed to work on some very steamy days.

In the pool, they served admirably as swim trunks. Outlier claims that these shorts dry really fast, and while they did dry quickly, it wasn’t nearly as fast as Outlier’s ad copy might suggest. Despite the lightweight construction, I felt a bit clammy down below for a bit longer than I like. The weirdest thing about the shorts is that even when soaking wet, water still beads up on the outer surface. Freaky!

Perhaps my only real gripe with the construction of the shorts was the waist tabs…particularly the material used to make them. The grosgrain webbing used is really lightweight and a bit prone to slipping through the chromed D-rings. Since the webbing is so lightweight, the D rings would also rotate and jam up the works…eliminating the quick-adjust feature without considerable fiddling. A slightly thicker/stiffer webbing would cancel that problem and wouldn’t add appreciable weight to the shorts.

On the way to a jam:
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Here’s the other, perhaps more important kicker: the price. Many of our fellow commuters tend to be fairly thrifty. Spending $120 for a pair of non-cycling-specific shorts is a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of us. Sure, the shorts are made in America, exquisitely crafted and incredibly comfortable and lightweight, but still… I do know that here in Florida, where on-the-beach weddings are a common occurence, I will have a finely-tailored pair of shorts to wear to the ceremonies (and I’ll bet I’ll be the best-dressed guy there, groom included). It’s a tough call for the rest of you…

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So, if you’re looking for a well-made pair of shorts that performs like athletic wear should…but without the athletic-wear “look” — go no further and visit Outlier’s web store. If you have a hard time stomaching such a steep price tag for summerwear, you may want to look elsewhere.

Outlier also makes full-length trousers in the same lightweight fabric…and these would be completely acceptable for most office applications. I may just look into a pair when the cooler weather comes.

And, if you’re on the fence about these shorts and want another opinion, please visit our friend Bike Snob NYC for his irreverant take on the shorts review. It’s a hoot!