There has been a lot of talk recently about just how mainstream cycling has become, not just as a sport or as a way of keeping fit, but as a lifestyle. More and more people are discovering the benefits of cycling, especially in urban environments. If you need proof of this look no further than the London cycle hire scheme, better known as ‘Boris Bikes’, the program has recently been extended out into West London, and some days it seems to be near impossible to find one of the bikes available to hire, so successful is the scheme.
Now this rising interest in cycling has not bypassed major retailers. Especially in the clothing industry. Levi was the first to jump on board when it launched cycling specific jeans and denim jackets. Next came H&M, who in collaboration with Brick Lane Bikes, launched an 11-piece, cycle-specific and yet casual clothing range. Now Britain’s favourite underpants supplier has joined in to. Yes, that’s right, Marks & Spencer is ready to outfit the nation’s cyclists.
Okay, I may be exaggerating by saying outfitting because the M&S cycling range only features one item so far – cycling chinos. To be more specific ‘Tapered Water Resistant Cycling Chinos with Stretch & Adjustable Waist’.
So just what makes a pair of chinos cycling specific? I’ll start with the material. The chinos use a cotton/elastane mix (98/2%) which means that there is a subtle stretch in the material. I’m finding that little bit of stretch useful when I swing my leg over the saddle.
Staying with the stretch theme there’s elasticated sections in the waist too. While these seemed superfluous at first I soon realise their worth once I climbed on a bike. Any other pair of regular style trouser or jeans always gap at the back of the waist when I lean forward to reach the bars. However, thanks to the elasticated sections on these chinos – no gap. Oh and there’s a shirt gripper strip all around the inside of the waist band too. A small but nonetheless useful detail.
Just below the stretch panel on the right side there’s a little D-ring, which is just the thing, if like me, you’re a hipster dude with a chain wallet. Of course, you could also use it to dangle your keys off.
Along with the regular two pockets at the front there is also an almost hidden zippered pocket on the seam. I’m finding that really useful to keep my change in, as there’s no chance of losing it as I pedal along. I’m going to stick with the pockets a bit longer because I want to talk about the back pockets, or more specifically the flaps on them. Both have zips across them but if you leave the zips undone there’s a Scotchlite like reflective coated flap that pops out. They might not be much use if you have a long cycling specific jacket on but every little bit helps when it comes to making sure motorists see you after dark.
If you need more help to be seen after dark simply roll up the bottom of the trouser legs. There’s more reflective material on the inside seam at the bottom of each leg. It makes me feel like a kid again rolling one leg up to keep my trouser away from the chain.
You do not have to roll the leg up if you want to keep the chinos out of the way of the chain though, as on the inside of each leg there’s a couple of press studs, which pull the trouser leg in.
Now I doubt if I’m ever going to wear these chinos to go and do a century. Then again with a pair of Ground Effect Underdogs underneath… Anyhow, I digress. No they’re not going to be the trousers to wear for long rides, but the next time I’m spending the day in London going to various meetings, and getting to them on a Boris Bike, I’ll certainly be wearing these chinos.
There’s also the added benefit that if you do get caught out by a shower while you’re out riding in the chinos you’ll stay reasonably dry. I don’t know what M&S has coated the chinos with, other than that it’s described as ‘Stormwear’, but when I was out in the rain it simply beaded up on them and ran off, leaving me dry. Okay, the treatment might not survive repeated sessions in the washing machine but for the time being it’s a really nice touch, and with the combination of regular looks and just enough specific detailing to make them work for cycling, I think M&S could be on to a winner with these chinos.