Jeans for cycling

Personally, I’ll wear anything to cycle in. From my normal every day clothes to Lycra and every once in a while I’ll even ride completely naked.

Lately however, you probably were not too surprised to hear about jeans specifically designed for cyclists. After all, just because you ride a bike, you don’t necessarily want to look like a cyclist.

So what exactly is the difference between normal jeans and jeans designed for cycling? Is it just a scam to charge £150 for a pair of jeans?

The miracle of elastane

To start with, let me introduce you to elastane. Better known as Lycra. This is the material added to jeans designed for cycling. 

It offers far superior elasticity, tear resistance and durability. Hence no matter how long you pedal for, the jeans for cycling will outlast their normal counterparts and be far more comfortable. Although, it should be noted that some regular jeans these days also include elastane but generally to a lower percentage than those designed for cycling.

No more getting your jeans caught in the chain

They are also less likely to get caught in the chain and cogs. Something that has decimated a couple of pairs of jeans that I owned. This is party thanks to the straight leg cut of the jeans but also, thanks to the elastane which keeps them closer to the body whilst remaining comfortable.

Away with the builders bum

Jeans for cycling are also designed to protect those riding behind you. Specifically, they have a higher cut at the back which means even as you lean in to the handlebars your derriere remains covered. No doubt this will make cycling jeans unappealing to the exhibitionists amongst you!

Can you really put a price tag on all these features?

Absolutely. Three main brands that have are Rapha, Muxu and Levi’s. £150, £90 and £50 respectively.

Let’s take a look at them..

Rapha jeans for cycling

Rapha jeans for cycling

Rapha did a 50/50 test where they created a pair of jeans that was half made for cycling and half a normal pair of denim. They found someone who didn’t mind looking silly to test out the jeans and see what the effect would be over time. The normal half of the jeans wore out quickly around the saddle whereas the cycling jeans stood the test of time continuing to look like new.

Alongside the normal comfort features such as offset inseams to prevent chafing, the Rapha jeans feature a rear pocket to accommodate a compact D-lock. The front pockets are especially deep cut to be sure your loose change (not that you’ll have any after buying these jeans) will stay put.

When the jeans are rolled up a reflective Rapha logo appears to keep you visible. There’s also high-vis pink binding inside the legs.

Whilst the Rapha jeans for cyclists are expensive, there’s no doubting their durability and comfort. I’ll have a full review of the Rapha jeans early next month.

Muxu Ride Cycling Jeans

Muxu jeans for cycling

Both the Rapha and Muxu jeans feature 4% elastane and reflective features.

The Muxu dark navy jeans come with the classic two front pockets, with a change pocket on the right. They also have the usual rear pockets with an additional off centre pocket where you can hold your phone, mp3 player or mini pump.

Levi’s Commuter Jeans

Levi's jeans for cycling

There are two things that make the Levi’s jeans really exciting. The first is the reasonable price and the second is the water resistance. This should be particularly helpful for us London cyclists. The water resistance is provided by so called NanoSphere technology which provides resistance to dirt and water.

The jeans also include the other typical features such as a U lock holder, a raised waistline at the back and a reflective strip.

Unfortunately, the jeans are not currently available in the UK so you’ll need to get them shipped over from the US. Weekend in New York anyone?

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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34 Responses to Jeans for cycling

  1. Jon 03/04/2012 at 11:54 am #

    Reading the reviews on the Levi site is interesting:

    It might the same for the other products too, skinny jeans and cyclist’s legs are something of a mismatch?

    I’m not blessed with a physique that suits skinny jeans, so it looks like I’ll have to wait for cycling jeans for ‘real’ people 😉

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Had a chuckle at the reviews. Guess it would be very silly to get a pair of these shipped over without checking them out in the store!

      • s 04/04/2012 at 5:26 am #

        I’ve tried on the Levi’s in nyc. If you cycle everyday, and you’ve got the quads to prove it, you won’t hardly get the Levi’s above you knees. These are cut “skinny”, and have very very little stretch. The only size of Levi’s that I could get around my legs were 2 size too big for my waist. Go with Rapha or Swrve.

  2. Big Andy 03/04/2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Seeing as i am middle aged i have no issue telling you all that M&S do lycra incorporating jeans – 35gbp, they are treated to be a dash water repellent too.

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Someone should tell M&S to chuck in some reflective strip and a lock holder and charge £50 😉

  3. Joshua 03/04/2012 at 12:56 pm #

    I’ve been fairly obsessed with my Rapha jeans since I bought them. Ride in them every day and they’re holding up amazingly well. Well worth the money I paid for them.

    That said, Tokyo Fixed Gear posted back in March that they were due to stock the Levi’s Commuters sometime in April, so I’m looking forward to giving them a try.

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 2:58 pm #

      I’m quite excited about testing them out – should make for an interesting review

  4. Jason 03/04/2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I suppose it depends on how far you ride and the weather but aren’t jeans a bit hot to cycle in? Or are these a bit more lightweight than the average jean?

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Think this is more of a short hops around cities sort of jeans. Don’t think you’d want to do a London to Brighton in them. Someone else will have to comment on the weight but I’m fairly sure it is the same as regular jean.

      • Jason 03/04/2012 at 4:01 pm #

        Cheers that’s what I thought

    • Barney 13/09/2015 at 6:25 pm #

      Depends how hard you’re riding. I don’t think there’s any reason for cycling to be much more strenuous than walking, unless you want it to be or you need to go significantly faster than about 10mph.

  5. Ed Ballantine 03/04/2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Love my Muxu Jeans – review should note they are Japanese denim, so actually superior to the other materials in pure quality, 5 x times dyeing procedure and weight. Super comfy, nicely detailed and clearly made by people who ride regularly, very nice.

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up Ed – I’ll have to give these a try for myself

  6. Gavin Bell 03/04/2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Hi Andreas

    I’ve been wearing Albam Clothing jeans, no clever stretch, but very comfortable for 7/8 miles each way on my Brompton. narrow and wide fittings are available too.

    About the same price as the Muxu, but they are a proper selvedge demin, so they age beautifully.

  7. mike-LCC 03/04/2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Swrve also do a neat pair of cycling denims

    We tested them a while back

    Sadly, the backside wore through eventually (likely with any pair unfortunately), which makes one wonder at the sense in paying over the odds for bike trousers

    Anyway, you can find Swrve stuff at Brixton Cycles, Mosquito Bikes and others (their shorts are great too)

    • Our Bicycle Lives 06/04/2012 at 7:58 pm #

      I’ve got two pairs of cycling jeans from Swrve and Muxu and both are equally comfortable. The Muxu are newish but the Swrve are still in pretty good shape after two years.

    • Kerena 10/04/2012 at 9:50 am #

      Mike, I’m glad you mentioned Swrve jeans – they are better priced than Rapha and I think they’re great. Yes, they have a shiny patch on the backside, which I guess will wear through, but my original pair are well into their 2nd year of repeated use and I’ve bought a 2nd pair.

      As for the wearing through generally on jeans – I saw a guy the other day who had rather fetchingly patched those 2 areas on the backside with some very fancy fabric. Obviously it would look ridiculous off the bike, but that’s not the point!

      Oh and my jeans are both the mens ones, but they fit pretty well!

      • Wendy 02/06/2012 at 5:09 pm #

        Hey, I’ve been looking for jeans that might fit a more rounded female bottom. How do they fit for you? I’ve not found any to try and was a little wary of ordering online first.

        Thanks, Wendy

  8. Bea 04/04/2012 at 8:08 am #

    It’s a shame neither Rapha nor Muxu have a women version of the jeans. We are always overlooked when it comes to urban cycling clothes 🙁

    • Ana 27/04/2015 at 7:57 am #

      True! Try Great clothes for women, including cycling jeans. On the expensive side though.

  9. Liz 04/04/2012 at 11:46 am #

    What about us girls? We cycle and wear jeans to!

    • Andreas 08/04/2012 at 11:39 am #

      Agreed – listen up cycling gear manufacturers!

  10. Mario 04/04/2012 at 3:13 pm #

    I’ll be in NYC in a couple of weeks, will check out the Levi’s Commuter ones. One problem is I’m tall, and online at least they only seem to go up to 32″ length.. perhaps there’s more choice in the shops.

  11. Kirwan Lyster 06/04/2012 at 12:07 pm #

    In some nice timing, it seems the Levi’s Commuter range are launching in the UK imminently.

    • Andreas 08/04/2012 at 11:38 am #

      Good to see Levi’s not excluding the UK market though from some of the feedback in the comments don’t think too many people will be blown away by their jeans

  12. bill 09/04/2012 at 9:34 am #

    Asda jeans with 5%elastane perfect at £8.50
    Muxu jeans £105/ pop

  13. Chris 09/04/2012 at 11:45 am #

    Levi’s Commuter Jeans look like a good way to ensure that you will seriously damage your spine if you ever happen to fall off your bike – which of course never happens. This is the reason why you almost never see thinking motorcyclists wearing chains around their shoulders even though this may seem to be the most convenient way to carry them. I hope that Levi’s have a good legal department.

  14. Kerena 17/04/2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I was in LMNH (Look Mum No Hands) at the weekend and they are now stocking the Levis commuter jeans in a whole range of colours. Will be dragging my partner back in to buy me a pair for my birthday I think!

  15. Cloonie 06/06/2012 at 4:52 pm #

    I’ve searched and searched for women’s casual cycling trousers – jeans or any type – and found nothing. Lots for men, but for us girls, zippo! Come on, manufacturers! You can do better than that. 🙁

  16. Oliver 04/08/2012 at 5:45 am #

    I’m a Canadian moving to London and was browsing this site for tips. Great blog!

    As far as the Levi’s commuters go, they’re great! This year they’re available in both 511 (hipster skinny) and 505 (straight) cut. I can definitely confirm that the 511 cut may fit on cyclist legs, but the result is both uncomfortable and silly looking.

    The 505s are brilliant. They’re identical to regular 505s in cut and look, so they’re perfect for simply getting around the city by bike no matter the destination.

    Another gem from over here are Chrome products, as an aside. They make the only SPD shoe I’ve seen that is completely walkable and doesn’t turn you into a clicky dork in public.

  17. Chris 16/08/2012 at 9:53 am #

    anyone looking for sensible but stylish cycling clothes should go straight to all really great products

  18. Marcus 18/07/2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I own 2 pairs of Levi Commuter, 1 pair of Swrve and 1 pair of Rapha jeans
    Guess which jeans have held up well?


    The Levi and Swrve jeans are still going strong. The Rapha jeans (2nd pair) 1st pair replaced as part of the warranty (again due to crotch area developing holes). The crotch area on Rapha jeans are the weak point and wore out in less than a year. I wear all jeans in equal amounts and only wash with non bio@30 degrees etc., line dry and don’t use fabric softners!

    I do like Rapha gear, but won’t be buying another pair of their jeans. However, I’l see if I can get some other Rapha gear (jersey etc..) or money back, but feel guilty about doing so since I’ve already had a pair replaced.

  19. Chris Taylor 18/03/2015 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi Everyone,

    Can you all have a look at the commuter jeans I’ve developed and let me know what you think



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