Commuting in Jeans – Why I can’t be a hipster.


BIKING IN JEANS! Do you do it?! Image Courtesy of Cycle Kyoto.

Helloha saucy  Bike Commuters!  Since it’s only Wednesday, I don’t know if this counts as a “Friday Musing” but we’ll post it anyway.  Let’s just say if you’ve been reading anything authored by Meeee.r.I.Am this past year, then you’ll know that you are headed down WTF road, and there’s no turning back – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I often joke with my family that I can never wear skinny/hipster jeans because I have a “calf-top” – that’s to say a pair of skinny jeans in my waist size can never make it up to my muffin top, because my calf top gets in the way!!!  My brother agrees, he too cannot fit a calf through a skinny jeans leg!  This has prompted today’s musing up for debate: Commuting in work clothes vs. packing them in a bag, or more specifically Commuting in Jeans. I don’t know how many of you out there have casual work environments where jeans are appropriate for a work day like Jack, but I do!  As a bike commuter and a more utilitarian fashion-person, there are several things to consider each morning when I dress OR pack my bag for work in the morning.  Let’s consider my inner monologue on any given work day:


Me posing in my fave straight leg $35 jeans. With three pair sacrifices thus far to Bikelonius, I’ll be ready for some women’s Levi’s commuter jeans soon!


  1. Do I have any meetings first thing today? – Sometimes, if I am about to see a client upon arrival at the office.  In the morning, I’ll get dressed in office clothes first, make up etc., then ride “no-sweat speed” to avoid arriving in spandex or T-shirts with funny sayings on them only meant for commuting.  For me, “dressing” for work can mean jeans or business casual.  (Depende de… Numero 2!)

    LGRAB’s Dottie has got it down!

  2. What’s the weather like outside? – Of course, it’s been hot, showering, pouring, windy, and cold within the past few weeks of Oahu’s “Wimpy” winter.  If it’s wet butt commuter time, it’s jeans/dress clothes in the bag and Vanya chrome or anything quick dry on the bike.
  3. Laziness factor, do I really want to change clothes again?! – This one can go both ways, sometimes clean bike commuting outfit can double as PJs the night before (don’t call me a dirty hippie!) OR I can be too lazy to change at work and will therefore put on my jeans/dress and do the no-sweat speed thing to work.


  4. Holes in my pockets factor: Sacrifice your jeans to the bike saddle gods? – Everyone has heard of  Bikelonius the greek god of bike commuters, who requires periodic denim sacrifices.  Whether it be chain grease smears, cuff snags, or inconvenient  and embarrassing holes in the lower saddle butt area, forcing the Bikelonians to make repeated pilgrimages to the scary Gap clearance rack/local thrift store/etc.  I have sacrificed three pairs of jeans to Bikelonius over the past 6 years.  Anyway, sometimes I don’t want to ruin my jeans so I’ll change clothes at work to avoid the holy butt scenario.

Got an extra $205 to spare? How about some Rapha Cycling Jeans?

Sometimes, it’s more convenient to show up in jeans and already be dressed.  Sometimes it’s worth the jeans-seam crotch pain if it’s a short ride.  And sometimes I wish I could be a hipster and fit my big-o-calves into some friggin’ skinny jeans so they don’t snag on the chainring!  (You gotta admit, skinny jeans or leggings ARE the best for snagless commutes!)  I dunno about you Cycle Gentlemen out there, but for Cycle Ladies, a commuter jean would need to be women-specific (AHEM! Listen up, Levi’s!) and bike specific before I would consider shelling out mas dinero for commuter pants…(Considering some of these “cycling lifestyle” jeans from SWRVE or osloh would cost me halfway to a new bike.)  Can you grind it out on your commute in a pair of your fave blues and roll up the cuffs?  Or would you rather stick to bike-specific/workout gear?


  1. Steve A

    I don’t understand this post. I frequently wear jeans to commute in, or whatever else I want to wear. What sort of bike-specific stuff should I be looking for?

  2. Mir.I.Am (Post author)

    @Steve – No need to look for anything! It’s all personal preference. When I was commuting 13 miles one way (and it took me an hour, bc I’m not all that fast) I preferred the spandex/workout gear and couldn’t hack more than a 45 minute ride in a pair of jeans. That crotch seam would be KILLING me!

    And YAY for biking in JEANS! I’m into it now that my trips aren’t longer than 25 minutes each way.

    The Levi’s 511 that Jack reviewed points out some “speciality” commuter features. Click the link to get the scoop:

  3. Ghost Rider

    Steve A — the point is that MANY people commute in jeans, but some of us simply can’t (for a variety of reasons).

    @Mir — you’ll be disheartened to learn that Levi’s has expanded their “commuter” line for 2012…lots of new stuff that actually looks pretty cool, including more office-friendly chinos (were they listening to us in our review?). However, there is zilch for women! I guess Levi’s can’t imagine a woman wanting to ride a bike in anything but spandex or a flouncy skirt 🙁

  4. chazz

    I live in the south. I don’t think it is physically possible for me to bike to work in jeans in 80% humidity. There simply is not a “no sweat” speed. I will ride to work an hour early, sit outside for stop sweating period (as not to get the dreaded second sweat), clean up and change clothes. It is probably better to show up for a meeting in sweaty bike clothes than a sweaty suit. At least people know why you are sweaty. Of course, around here, when people see you are riding your bike to work, they assume you got a DUI and lost your license.

  5. Doug Jesseph

    In my commute I look like I got dropped from the Giro d’Italia peloton circa 1984: wool jersey, bike shorts, and a steel frame bike with drop bars. The look would be more convincing if I didn’t have fenders, rack, & pannier on the bike. Perhaps that’s why the peloton left me in the dust.

  6. Graham

    I second Chazz’s thoughts on cycling in the South. “No Sweat Speed” is only obtainable in the car with the AC on high more most of the year (starting today, actually). A full change of clothes is pretty mandatory, and later this year I’ll also be rocking a towel or two!

    Jeans? I can’t even imagine!

  7. Lisa

    I’m with Mir.I.Am on this one– I made the mistake of biking 20 miles in jeans once. ouch and ouch. I’m never doing that again. And why is it that there is a dearth of well made, affordable jeans or casual bike pants for women? We really need more options!

  8. Scott Cramer

    I don’t commute in my jeans, but I often ride a couple of miles at lunch. I used to use cuff straps, but I find it easier to just stuff the cuffs in my socks. I don’t really care how Fredly that looks: at 47, cool passed me by long ago. I tend to revel in my old school fredliness. Glad to know I’m not the only one to suffer repeated jeans blow out. My wife was beginning to wonder…

  9. Shootfilmridesteel

    I feel you. Even thought I’m a guy, nothing in that line will fit me. Skinny leg jeans work on emaciated hipsters, but not actual sized people with muscular legs.

  10. Phillinois

    I generally dont wear bike specific clothes for my commute any more. It’s nice not to have to change when you get to work. I’m a machinist and work in a shop environment so no one really cares if I’m a bit fragrant when I arrive. Jeans of any description are a pain. Even the loose fit ones are hard on the boys. Fellas you know what I’m talkin’ about. I usually ride in Dockers or similar pants. Get “em a size big and roll them up to the knee. They have flatter seams than jeans too. This time of year I usually wear black knee high socks so my pasty winter legs don’t show. haha

  11. Chris (@PavementsEdge)

    I don’t commute in jeans (only very infrequently) but I do ride around town in whatever I happen to be wearing when I decide to go to the store, library, park with kids, etc, etc and that more often than not equates to denim.

    The caveat to that is that I have a strong aversion to tight jeans. I typically were baggier cut jeans and never “skinny” jeans.

    My problem isn’t holey jeans but holey underwear from so much riding. I know that’s probably TMI, but it is also very, very true.

  12. Michael

    My jeans hold up pretty well to riding. (Though I don’t ride wear them to work.)
    The chinos I wear at work, however, are frequently sacrificed to Bikelonius. Cotton doesn’t hold up to friction and sweat as the humidity here rises. So, when the temps reach above the upper 70s, it’s time for me to ride with shorts and t-shirt & change at work.

    Anybody have a good, secure way to patch and/or reenforce the upper inner thigh area on pants?

  13. BluesCat

    Yeah, in Phoenix I make my 8 mile commute in “relaxed fit” jeans in the winter. Cargo shorts in every other season. Definitely do NOT wear jeans on 110°+ summer days. There is NO such thing as a “sweatless bike ride” in Phoenix from April through September.

    Don’t have a seam problem leading to “taint complaint” on my recumbent. I put a faux sheepskin cover on the saddle of the A2B Metro electric bike I’m riding for this winter; not TOO bad but if I’m still riding this bike when it is time to go to shorts … I’m gonna be wearing padded cycling shorts.

    I only wear jeans on either of the Dos Hombres if the round-trip is gonna be three miles or less!

  14. Matt

    Shootfilmridesteel –

    Ditto on the jeans… I went shopping a couple weekends ago because I’m down to 1 pair of jeans, and found absolutely NOTHING that fit me (in a large department store). The only options for seemed to be “emaciated” and “very large with stretchy waistbands.” Some of the jeans ostensibly in my size I couldn’t even put on all the way. I don’t think my legs are that huge, but they sure as heck don’t fit in those jeans…

    I don’t like riding in jeans most of the time – only exception is a casual winter ride. Otherwise, I get too hot – even on short rides.

  15. Mir.I.Am (Post author)

    @Lisa – yeah sister, OUCH is the word. Maybe it has to do with saddle type/riding position as well. I’m on a road bike with stock (non-women-specific) saddle, and I can only do the jeans and bike thing if its a short ride with lot of stop lights.

    @Shoot – CALF TOP! It’s a real ailment facing bike commuter society!!! I look for “straight leg” cut or “boyfriend” cut in my jeans for a good pair that is slim enough, but you can still roll up the cuffs around the monster calf factor.

  16. Mike Myers

    Heh. You guys try being a cyclist AND lifting weights. My calves are so big I have to put my socks on before I put on my 501s or I cant pull the pant leg up high enough to cleat the top of the sock.

    Damn Hobbit genetics.

  17. DownSouth

    I can’t go a mile without sweating it out, no matter what the speed. It is just too humid down here in the Deep South USA, even on some winter days.

    Bear in mind that winter is already over for us.

    Until recently, my commute was 10 miles, one way. I wore bike clothes … and took a shower down in the basement before heading upstairs to toil in the cube.

    Even with a shower, I’d often get what chazz described as the dreaded second sweat. That’s because after 10 miles in early morning heat and humidity I turn into 180 pounds of human heat!It takes a while for the bio-machinery to cycle down, even after a shower.

    So, no, riding in jeans is not an option.

  18. Steve A

    I don’t plan to commute in jeans any day this summer when the forecast is over 110F OR I’ll have to ride over 20 miles one way. Promise. And I have no plans to commute in Dottie’s attire, either. Among other things, pearls don’t suit me.

  19. harry krishna

    @chazz: tru dat. and my privates don’t permit it, either

  20. burnhamish

    11 mile commute one way + I can’t ride a “no sweat” speed if I tried (I automatically ramp up without thinking about it) = Bike-specific clothing. I can’t wear jeans to work anyway.

    Casual rides with my eight-year-old I wear whatever I’m wearing at the time.

  21. karen

    Are skinny jeans over yet? They really aren’t a good look on many people, even skinny people. . . . I pedal in jeans all the time. Not discomfort whatsoever. I prefer my jeans and chinos to be slim cut, just skimming the body.

    I’ve lived in a high-humidity environment and definitely agree, 80% humidity warrents keeping a change of business clothes at the office. Working in an office near or with a shower facility would be an added plus.

  22. illiniwu

    i only wear jeans during my winter/fall commute. if the temps hit 60F, it’s time to change into leggings or stretchy yoga pants. it’s not so much the seam chafe-age as the sweaty crotch. i’m still in the search for the perfect pair of jeans. i don’t really care about saddle wear-out because i’m not really attached to any pair of jeans. i have to say it sucks having uber muscular thighs as i have the same problem not being able to pull off (pull on?) skinny jeans. i also have a hard time finding knee height boots, they don’t want to zip up my “athletic” calves.

  23. Bageldog5000

    I ride with whatever I happen to be wearing at present, chinos and jeans all seem to feel about the same regardless of brand. I wear straight cut jeans in regular fit and yes the thighs are a little tight. I use a Brooks saddle which seems to help but anything over an hour in the summer is pushing the comfort envelope. Luckily my commutes for work are less than that. As far as wear and patching go, look at military surplus camos for a good reinforcing pattern for the nether areas. It is basically a hourglass shaped piece of cloth sewn into the crotch. You will need to find material and have it sewn in or sew it in yourself but it is not impossible. You could also look for pants in hunting catalogs that have this feature already, but they tend to be pricy.
    Summers in Japan are hot, muggy, and generally unbearable so I switch to shorts and tank tops and carry a change of clothes for when I get to work in the summer months.
    Happy cycling and good luck.

  24. JazzyJ

    I can’t ride in jeans because my figure is too curvy, I generally wear low waisted pants that flare out a bit at the hip and thigh, meaning on a bike my bum is showing. It’s incredibly annoying – not so much for work because I just change. But I ride to bars/restaurants/social events as well and I hate going out for the night and having to wear workout pants. I’m in the process of experimenting with the dresses and skirts in my wardrobe to see what I can ride in without being indecent.

  25. Mir.I.Am

    @Bageldog5000 – OOOH, Japan? Do you ride a Mamachari?

    Sounds like a lot of you guys don’t do the “no-sweat speed”. It really depends on the day, and the length of the commute, and the coommuter too!

    @JazzyJ, I hear you: crack kills! Here’s a tip: you can get an old fitted/jersey T-shirt that is pretty long, cut it straight across at the sleeves to form a tube, then you can pull that on OVER your jeans. If you pull it down to mid back-pocket length, it should keep you from exposing the spot on your back! Then you can pull it off before walking into the bar, toss it in your purse/bag. Or, sometimes if I have a soft jacket, I’ll tie it around my rib cage so the back hides my crack!

  26. David

    I’m a graphic artist in a small busines and even the owner wears shorts and often sandals or no shoes at all to the office. I wear Aerotech MTB Baggy padded bike shorts and loose jerseys or wicking polos on my commute (bright reds, yellows and greens) and wear them during the work day as well. In the winter, I wear padded biking underwear from Aerotech under my loose fit jeans, and a leg strap on the crank side. I have a short commute so it works out great. I live in the south also, so during the summer, even the short commute can leave you sweaty, so I carry a hand towel in my back pack or in my paniers if I need to use them that day. Clients don’t seem to mind, they see the bike, which I park in my office since there are no bike racks at my offce and by their comments, they think it’s cool.

  27. SarahC

    Hey JazzyJ,
    You can also check out Riyoko Urban Bike Wear for their shirt bands and longer tank tops that help cover the bum a bit.
    🙂 Sarah

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