Cycling jeans review

A hot topic we covered a while back was jeans for cycling. We mentioned the Rapha, Levis and Muxu jeans. Since then, I’ve been testing out the Rapha and Swrve jeans and now is the time to present you with my findings.

The primary difference between cycling jeans and a normal pair of jeans, is that you are a total bike geek if you wear cycling jeans. Also, that they contain elastane. More commonly known as Lycra. This gives them a superior elasticity, tear resistance and durability. It also makes them more comfortable to wear whilst cycling.

Cycling jeans aren’t cheap. The Swrve jeans cost £85 and the Rapha jeans cost £150. The big question is: are they worth this high price point?

Swrve £85 summer weight skinny jeans

Swerve jeans shown from the front

(Insert your head in the picture above to be the London Cyclist)

The Swrve jeans are meant for the warmer weather, or for those who quickly get hot when riding their bike. The material feels light and very comfortable. It gives you an almost naked feeling , like you are not wearing a pair of jeans. That’s exactly the sort of comfort level I’m looking for!

In terms of features, you get a reflective strip on the right leg when you turn it up. As it gets dark really late at the moment, I’ve not really found myself using it.

You also get a pocket for your pump, a back pocket for your phone and a pocket for your D-lock. Once again, I’ve not found myself using any of these.

Swrve jeans for the rear view

Where the Swrve jeans do excel, and also the reason I adore them, is the special cut for cycling. This includes a lower front so your jeans don’t cut in to you as you are pedalling. It also includes a higher back so you don’t reveal a builders bum.

I’m not saying I don’t have a nice bum – I just don’t feel like I should be revealing it to the world.

Beyond that, there’s also articulated knees which means a better fit with bent knees and also a seamless crotch which means more comfortable riding.

Swrve summer jeans side view from manufacturer

Finally, I really like the pocket lining, which I can only describe as elegant and dainty! 

Overall, these are by a long shot, the most comfortable jeans I’ve ever worn. The only feature missing? I wish there was a way of making them waterproof.

Swrve jeans review

Rapha £150 jeans

Rear view of Rapha jeans

With the bar set so high from the Swrve jeans, how do the Rapha jeans compare?

The Rapha jeans offer a similar set of features. You get a reflective strip on the inside leg, there’s a pocket for your d-lock and deep pockets so you can safely carry your mobile and pennies knowing they won’t fall out.

Rapha is known for how well their cut is thought out for cyclists. Their jeans are no exception. Once again, the lower waist, higher back combo works really well. It’s also cut in such a way to not get caught in your chain. The Rapha jeans are designed to avoid chafing and to allow for maximum movement.

Despite the similar set of features, I constantly found myself thinking: I’d rather be wearing my Swrve jeans.

Rapha cycling jeans

There are a few reasons I may be biased towards the Swrve jeans. The first is that they are at a much more reasonable price point. The second is that they offer a size 33, which is great for someone like me who is stuck between 32 and 34. The third is that I prefer the lightness of the Swrve jeans. However, perhaps this will change as the temperature drops.

There’s no doubt the Rapha jeans look just as good as the Swrve jeans, but for me personally, they don’t offer quite the same level of comfort.

Rapha jeans review

Which pair to buy?

If I had £100 to spend on a pair of jeans, I’d buy the Swrve jeans and then pop down to the pub for a few overpriced pints with my mates with the remaining £15. In fact, I’ll probably be ordering another pair of Swrve jeans, when these eventually wear out.

I’d still be £50 short if I wanted to buy a pair of Rapha jeans. If there’s one reason why I believe you may prefer the Rapha jeans, over the Swrve, is that in the long run, they’ll be more hard wearing.

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24 Responses to Cycling jeans review

  1. Dawn S 07/09/2012 at 10:19 am #

    Swrve jeans sound good! Do they make them for women? Do they come in sizes larger than a 12 as a lot of cycling shops seem to think if you’re bigger than that, you oughtn’t to be wearing cycle clothing!

    • Andreas 07/09/2012 at 10:22 am #

      On a quick inspection they seem to only be for men which is a shame to miss out on the female cycling market – might be worth dropping them a quick email Dawn and asking them the question. At least they’ll be aware their missing out on a customer!

      • Dawn S 07/09/2012 at 2:47 pm #

        I have sent them an email and pointed out where I learned about their jeans!
        I’ll let you know if I get a response.

        • Anna 10/09/2012 at 1:16 pm #

          Hi Dawn – I’m about a 14 for jeans and wear Swrve’s 33″ jeans – very comfy. They’re great with returns if you get the wrong size, so definitely worth giving a shot.

        • Dawn S 24/09/2012 at 10:53 am #

          Just to let you know that I had a reply from Chris at Swrve and he said they did have a women’s line for a few years but it wasn’t popular enough to keep running. It seems as if most of you use the men’s jeans anyway. However, if you wish to see women’s only cycling clothes, try minx-girl.com

    • Kerena 09/09/2012 at 8:00 pm #

      Dawn – Swrve don’t actually make women’s jeans, but I’ve been wearing their jeans for the last couple of years and they are a pretty good fit. I think they have a good range of sizes, but email Chris who runs the UK site as he’s really helpful!

      • Dawn S 10/09/2012 at 2:04 pm #

        Thanks for your replies Anna and Kerena. I might just give the men’s jeans a go.

  2. Joe Tanner 07/09/2012 at 10:44 am #

    Great post. I’ve been wanting a pair of jeans designed for riding, but really cannot justify the cost of Rapha, or Muxu. I think a pair of jeans will be the first of many items from Swrve.

    • Andreas 07/09/2012 at 11:02 am #

      I know – browsing around their site, it looks like they’ve got a lot of cool gear

  3. Diana 07/09/2012 at 10:45 am #

    Have you ever known anyone who has bought and ridden in Howie cycle clothing? It’s got elastane in their trousers, though not specifically marketed for cycling I have found their chinos perfect for my commutes around town. Wondering if you’ve tried the jeans …

    • Andreas 07/09/2012 at 11:01 am #

      I haven’t personally – perhaps someone else will chime in who has? Will look out for the Howie clothing – I’m always keen to introduce more “everyday cycling” brands to the site.

    • Kerena 09/09/2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Hi Diana. I have been buying Howies gear for years now. I go through phases with their stuff, but generally it’s pretty great. Their merino tops are really good. I’ve got several pairs of their jeans, but at the moment they don’t do a womens cycling jean – although on & off they have mens ones. They do a cycling specific chino style trousers for women though. I think it’s called Betws. Not tried it yet as my Swrve jeans are doing the job nicely (and have bought a pair of the new cropped Levi Commuter jeans, which are supposed to be water resistant – that will get tested this week!).

      • Diana 10/09/2012 at 12:37 pm #

        Thanks Kerena. I have a pair of Betws, they are great for cycling around town. Let us know if the water resistant Levi’s are indeed water resistant!

  4. Hugh 07/09/2012 at 11:10 am #

    Nice article – I have over-paid freinds who would buy Rapha handkerchiefs if they made them, so it is good to hear that you don’t always get what you pay for (or more to the point, you sometimes pay too much for what you get).

    On your waterproff comment: you could always try washing your Swrv jeans with Nikwax Cotton Proof to add some water repellency:

    http://www.nikwax.com/en-gb/products/productdetail.php?productid=48&itemid=-1&fabricid=-1

    Would be interested to hear if this works.

  5. barton 07/09/2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I like the idea of the articulated knees. But most women’s jeans are pretty much 60% lycra these days anyway (seriously, I can’t even get 100% denim Levis), so besides a couple nice features, I’m not sure there is any reason for a woman to go to specialized jeans (though, we do like to shop and definitely like to buy specialized clothing….)

    Hugh – LOVE the Nikwax product. I’ve used it on waterproof jackets that had begun losing their “proofness,” as well as my canvas market pannier. Both success stories.

  6. kate 07/09/2012 at 9:24 pm #

    I wear mens Swrve skinny riding jeans (though I think mine are a winter weight version) and they are brilliant. Possibly the best fitting jeans I have, and they look great off the bike too. Definitely worth a try for girls I think.

  7. Julian S 08/09/2012 at 2:42 am #

    I have a pair of Swrve jeans and agree with you regarding comfort. Rapha is an easy brand to knock but their stuff is generally beautifully designed and made – i use their black trousers which are very smart and great for the office. I also use quicksilver skateboarding trousers which are very flexible and comfortable and have lasted me over 18 months

  8. Phil 10/09/2012 at 6:19 pm #

    I prefer Craghoppers Kiwi trousers to any jeans. The seams don’t chafe ( jeans are murderous when wet ), they’re loose enough not to need articulated knees, they fit comfortably over muscly thighs*, if they get wet they dry quickly, and if it’s warm they roll up easily. Plus, they only cost about £30 a pair.
    *That is my big problem with a lot of cycling-specific clothing; it seems to be designed for the skinny/wiry/whippet-like ( delete to taste ), and anyone like me- a larger-than-whippet-framed commuter with big legs from years of pedalling- doesn’t register on designers’ radar. Maybe I should go into clothing design.

  9. gordon 10/09/2012 at 7:06 pm #

    I have a pair of levi’s, they start off water resistant then after 5-6 washes that stops working, also not great for fast riders as they trap moisture making them uncomfortable, regretted wearing them on a muggy day.

  10. babble on 11/09/2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Thanks for the review, Andreas!

    Barton: It’s true, most women’s jeans have lycra in them now, but the crotch seams can still be uncomfortable at times, don’t you think?

    I’ll have to find a pair of Swrve jeans (they aren’t exactly plentiful here in the backwaters of Vancouver) if only to see how they managed to make such a sweet pair of jeans without seams down there! Besides, you’re right… we girls do benefit enormously from ‘retail therapy!’ It will be fun trying to find them…

  11. Dimitris 14/09/2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Does anyone know why manufacturers do not go into high thirties waist – to say nothing of 40″+ waist? If there’s a big guy they have to wear very visibly bikey trousers! Surely there is market here?

  12. Ed 16/09/2012 at 8:58 am #

    + 1 for Craghoppers trousers and shorts but I got mine from M&M for about £12

    The Shorts are really good too if you aren’t into wearing full on lycra can wear your undershorts comfortably.

    I’ve just bought 2 pairs of Etnies jeans for cycling off Amazon for £42 as I thought that was the other brand recommended on here but it was Howies!

    Anyway – looks like they have elastane in them and are also a skater brand so we’ll se how they are.

    Good review as usual but I’d never pay £85 for a pair of jeans – even if I could easily afford it.

    May be worth a post about sub £50 jeans / trousers that are also good for cycling – what you think Andreas?

    Cheers

  13. Geoff 17/09/2012 at 10:57 am #

    £85 is pretty standard for a decent pair of jeans. You definitely get some additional quality up to aroudn £120. Beyond that I agree that it’s all design and branding, but don’t overlook decent quality because it’s expensive.

  14. andyzoo 06/10/2014 at 8:58 pm #

    they look ok, and i’m on my second pair, but they dont last more than a couple of months, which makes them very very expensive.

    I’ve since emailed them regarding the poor quality, but theyre not the sort that actually give a hoot. I’m now having to get my lawyer onto some court action…… such a pain

    I’m going for Mavic next time, a brand to trust!

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