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Tag Archive: urban cycling

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.

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!!!

The problem with Census data

By now, many of you have heard that the U.S. Census released new data (based on 2012 surveys) recently that shows bike commuting up by around 60% over the past decade. This sounds great, doesn’t it?

But seasoned bike advocate and author Elly Blue has some concerns about the way those numbers are collected, interpreted, and presented. Like her, I’ve often felt that the Census data collection on bicycle travel left a lot to be desired, and Blue sums up her concerns very eloquently in a recent Bicycling Magazine blog post:

New census numbers are out for 2012 (press release). Any time you hear anything in the next few years about the number of people who bicycle in the US or in a specific city and state, there is a very good chance the numbers will be from this survey. Proceed with caution: They don’t necessarily mean what we want them to.


Spin on over, give it a read, and then come back to tell us what you think — do you sometimes feel that bike commuters get under-represented? Are there more of us than the numbers show? Any other thoughts — we’d love to hear them!

Review: Swiftwick’s Aspire and Pursuit Socks

A couple of months ago, I received a treasure trove of socks to test from Swiftwick‘s PR person. We got four different styles to try out, so for today’s review we’re going to start with the shortest and longest of the four pairs.

First up, the Swiftwick Aspire Zero in red:

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From Swiftwick’s site:

The ASPIRE™ Line is thin and light for serious runners, cyclists and athletes of any sport. We eliminated the toe seam using linked-toe technology, which means no bunching in the toe box.

Made of a thin synthetic, the Aspires are available in 9 colors, 5 cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 4″, 7″, and 12″) and four sizes. There is even a military-compliant version, which means (I think) no visible logo on the cuffs.

The Aspire Zeros fit my feet great. I have an unconscious tendency to curl my toes inside my shoes when I am battling up a hill or really putting down the tempo, and that leads to cramps in my toes and foot arches. The compression nature of the Aspire socks helped keep me from doing that. See the whitish band visible under the surface on the photo above? That’s additional elastic that helps support the arch of my foot. That and the ribbing make for a very comfortable, supportive fit, indeed. My foot felt like one solid “unit”, if you can imagine that.

The omission of the toe seam means that even in snug shoes, there is no painful chafing. I think we’ve all experienced socks with pronounced seams in that area, and that’s no fun, especially when you’re out on your bike.

As far as for the cuff length, it’s just a hair too short for my taste — I prefer low cycling socks, but the Zeros were a little too close to the mouth of my shoes, and if they slipped down, there was a bit of chafing around my ankle. I think the Aspire Ones would have been perfect. Still, these lightweights are great on really warm days!

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Next up is the Pursuit Seven in black:

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From Swiftwick’s website:

Socks born from the same technology and spirit of our synthetic lines with two key differences: The PURSUIT(TM) line comes fused with the natural and thermal properties of super fine, 36 micron Merino Wool sourced from farmers right here in America AND is the only 200-needle compression wool sock on the market. In short, these socks are built of the finest, by the finest.

The Pursuits are made from a blend of Merino wool and synthetic (64% Merino wool, 29% nylon, 7% Spandex). That lends them a luxurious feel against the skin, and makes the socks thicker — perfect for cooler days, but plenty fine for warm days, too, as wool helps regulate the temps. They are available in four sizes, six colors, and six cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 2″, 4″, 7″, and 12″). The Sevens have a bit of an unappealing “Lance Armstrong’s tall black socks” feel when worn with shorts and cycling shoes. However, the Pursuits in this length are PERFECT for wear with your office attire and regular shoes — they look, but certainly don’t feel, like regular old black socks. All the compression benefits of Swiftwick’s other sock lines are here, and the material feels great against my skin. I’ve been wearing these socks on cooler days and with regular street attire. They’re not bad on hotter days, either, but I like a thinner sock on the truly hot days.

The Swiftwick Aspires range between $12.99 and $35.99, depending on length, and the Pursuits range from $15.99 to $34.99, depending on length. That represents a pretty great value, as both pairs are made from great materials and have the advanced compression and anti-chafe features baked right in. Swiftwick makes a huge variety of other socks, too, all in a host of colors. Check them out by visiting their website.

Next week, we’ll have a review of the other two pairs of Swiftwicks. Stay tuned!