Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wool Knickers

It is my impression that the largest fraction of utility cyclists in Victoria are home to work commuters. Then there are the cyclists who use their bike to run errands, go to friends’ houses, the market, your local apiary and the liquor store for some Driftwood Brewery products. Many are car free or just healthy, conscious people.

For commuters, dressing up in full waterproof breathable gear twice a day for, especially if it is upwards of 10 km, is totally worthwhile and even necessary. However, for the urban cyclist this can be a huge hassle. Who wants to throw on all that gear to go to the store to get Tzatziki for the falafel dinner they are hosting? Not many people. Perhaps your commute is only 3 km and getting into full kit seems ridiculous and you don’t want to spend $100 on a pair of rain pants. For me the answer is wool. Wool is still warm when wet, breathable, can look “normal” and even casual to those cycle obsessed ranks growing in North American cities. 

But wool knickers from companies like Swobo are expensive you say? Well maybe, but they’re way cooler than Gore-Tex rain pants! If you’re not into shelling out the cash, or you just don’t have it, then here is my solution; converted wool dress pants. You’ll need some basic sewing skills and a machine or a friend who has one (who doesn’t know someone with a sewing machine these days? Sewing is bad ass!). 

This is my third pair. The conversion may be a little crude but it works. The first step is to find a pair at a second hand store that fits you. I usually opt for a slightly tighter fit and let the waist out so they are a little more fitted. I like the look of non-pleated pants, but pleats can be good for additional mobility of the garment on the bike. The next step is to cut them off at your desired length and hem them up. Previously this was as far as I went. On my most recent pair I experimented. The outside of the leg was opened along the seam a few inches and I installed a snap button to make a nice tight fit below the knee. This keeps my knees warmer in the cool Pacific Northwest winters. The buttons can be purchased at most fabric stores for a few dollars and come with the necessary installation tools. I also used the left over material from one leg to install a reinforcing layer in the seat, this should help them last longer, as my first pair were retired due to tares in the butt after they became threadbare and weak.

I find these warm enough for short trips in the city, going to stores, the coffee shop and work. They dry fast and are more than warm enough for temperatures down to about 1 or 2 degrees Celsius. I’ll even wear them or longer casual excursion into the countryside. Excuse the poor self portraits to show fit and thanks to Mom for the sewing help!

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