When Levi’s extended its popular Commuter Collection to women, a lot of ladies were understandably excited. So were we. Whether you jump on a bike to get from home to the pub now and then, or you ride bikes so much you dream about them at night, smart, practical street wear is a welcome addition to any wardrobe.
Our first impressions of the men’s and women’s range were reasonably high. While we provided a lot of detail on the jackets (which have continued to meet our initial expectations over the last few months) we promised a separate review of the jeans after a longer test period.
Despite the relatively low rating we’ve given them, the test experience has been a positive one. The jeans themselves are remarkably comfortable, they never pinch on the waist and they look the goods in a range of settings. Plus, features incorporated in the name of cycling make them far more practical for a range of activities, so much so that we’d happily buy a pair over standard jeans. Our disappointment comes more from raised expectations due to the marketing rather than the product itself.
These jeans are all about the smaller details
On first sight, the jeans are packed with cycling friendly potential, but feel a little cautious compared with innovations already established in the men’s range. Bike-friendly features include a high back that won’t expose you to the cold when pedalling, and reflective tabs on the ankles that catch attention at night and make you feel cyclist-y whenever you’re off the bike. Deep pockets keep your valuables secure. The men’s jeans include a gusseted crotch for extra comfort and durability and a tab for securing a U-lock, both of which are sadly missing from the women’s skinnies.
Over the last few months they have loosened up quite a lot and have a soft, comfortable feel akin to jeans we’ve owned for far longer. If they fit quite tight in the shop, rest assured that they’ll wear in nicely to match your shape and the way you move.
Whereas the water clearly beads on our test jacket, it's a different story for the jeans.
We’ve seen no real evidence of the claimed water repellency. Water beads on the matching Women’s Commuter Trucker Jacket we tested, but we think this is because it sits much looser on the body. The tight fit of the jeans means the water tends to go right through, even on the very first ride.
The jeans offer a good amount of stretch, but when pedalling the area across the front of the thighs remains noticeably tight. They also get quite hot and sweaty when the mercury creeps up, a feature that makes us glad they’re not fully waterproof or this effect would likely be increased. We’ve had a small amount of chafing after rides of more than half an hour multiple days in a row, but we’d expect that had we used any similar garment as enthusiastically.
A few weeks in and there was clear bleeding of dye
Our test jeans came in a traditional indigo colour. This means the colour will bleed as the product wears in and develops its own unique look. The downside of this is that after two weeks of use we’d worn lighter coloured patches into the tailbone area of the Skinnies and left matching marks on the seat of our commuter bike. The dye did bleed back over this section of the jeans during heavy periods of use off the bike, but the wear is evident.
If this is a concern, we recommend choosing from the other colours available, which include taupe, rosin (think olive) and black. While the fabric is said to be more durable than regular jeans, we’d like to see some reinforcement in the crotch area given how quickly it aged.
Given our experience with the Skinnies at $88 / £80 / AU$170 we’d certainly buy them again. They don’t do everything they claim, but they still offer more in terms of practicality than most jeans, and they’re noticeably cheaper than other cycling jeans currently on the market. We hope that others feel similarly and the range builds on its potential suggested by this first, somewhat cautious, attempt.