Over the years, one of my most popular blog posts has been this almost three year old entry on different kinds of pants that are specifically marketed to cyclists. There has also been a fair amount of traffic on my posts that are specifically about the Levi’s commuter jeans.
There are many claims about water resistance of bike clothing. I’ve noted over the past two years that the water resistance of some of these pants have degraded due to repeated washings. Both Levi’s and Outlier advise that the DWR properties can be “refreshed” but running the clothing through the dryer. An important point: with the jeans, you should only do this when the jeans are already dry to avoid shrinkage.
I had some time on my hands so I decided to made this video, that shows a comparison of an ordinary pair of 501’s, my commuter 505’s that are at least a year old and have gone through many washings, and my 2-3 year old Outlier Climbers. I also recently succumbed to the lure of a new pair of Outlier Climbers that have a merino wool lining. The old 505’s and climbers had their DWR refreshed by running through a hot dryer for about 20 minutes.
The performance of the 501’s and the 505’s were not that different. If you look closely, you will see that water beads up a little more on the 505’s and it is a little slower to soak into the fabric. The Outlier climbers are made from Schoeller Dryskin, which makes them very expensive. The performance of the older pair is still OK, much better than the jeans. The Outliers also do a better job of keeping you warm, even if they are soaked through. The performance of the newer Outliers speaks for itself. I’ll be reporting on the warmth of the wool lined Outliers in due course.
The M-back Outlier Climbers have been washed once, and I noticed while walking in the rain that drops were no longer magically bouncing off of them. The care instructions printed inside the pants recommended using a low iron to renew the water resistance. However, the website said to run them in a medium dryer. I originally hung these to dry, and so I ran them in a medium dryer for about 15 minutes after they were dry. Unfortunately, this appears to have shrunk them a bit. I’m estimating that the inseam is now shorter by between 0.5-1″. For both my slim dungarees and my older climbers, just drying them at medium heat after a wash never shrank them. It appears that the M Backs are a little more finicky; no more drying for them under any circumstances. On the plus side, the water resistance was largely restored by the heated drying.
Update #2: Swvre pants are a good alternative to all of the above.