Chrome Vanya Riding Knicker Review – Will Bike for Pants!

Aloha Bike Commuters… I’m all cappuccino’d up and ready to roll!  Today’s feature, everyone’s favorite two-legged entity: PANTS!  In particular, a review of the Chrome Vanya Riding Knicker – knicker makes me snicker…!  If you remember our earlier article, I mentioned that we received these women’s riding snickers about two months ago from the sunny drain bamaged Chrome folks out of San Francisco.  (I jest – SF BC.com readers, I too hail from the land of sunshine-crack California).

Pants - as interpreted by The Oatmeal

The DL: My fave commuter-to-office-to-pau-hana PANTS!  I have done daily rides, night rides, long hot sunny rides (not my favorite for the Vanya) and morning commutes.  I love the pockets, capri-length, fit, wicking, easy washable and durable material and the transformation to business casual with heels.  Only gripe is the crotch panel gets swampy with our humid weather, even if I go commando!  I do appreciate the panel nonetheless, since you don’t have to sit on a hefty seam during your ride.  The only thing hefty about the Chrome Vanya is the price tag at $120.

The headless rider modeling Chrome Vanya snickers in BlueSteel: no rolling the cuff necessary for bike mounting!

The Tech Specs:

Weight: 1.0 lb.

Fabric: Everest 4-way stretch performance fabric

Product Source: Oakland, CA, USA

Features:

  • Everest 4 way stretch performance fabric
  • Classic 4 pocket configuration
  • Zip-secured side cargo pocket
  • New sizing runs true to size: XS (Size 0-2), S (Size 4-6), M (Size 8-10), L (Size 10-12)
  • See “Size Chart” link for exact measurements

The riding snickers come in both Charcoal and BlueSteel (not to be confused with Derek Zoolander’s”Blue Steel”.)

Full Frontal of Little Miss Vanya... a.k.a. "Pants"

Me Likey: I have just been putting them to the test for 15 minute lunch errands to the Zach Manago Ride in Paradise.  The pants are versatile enough to work for anytime short or long-range commutes if the temperature is not too hot.  Good in the summer rains too, the Vanya snickers don’t give a shiz about rain or mud – the stuff wicks well, and bike grease comes off easy in the wash!  Plus, you don’t look like a spando weirdo rolling into a bar or restaurant after work – no clothes change necessary from commuter to socialite… (uhhh, does that qualify for cycle chic!?)  The pants have a good amount of stretch and a solid fit with no butt crack revelations along the way! Everyone at my work loves them too; they are jealous of them as regular office pants, and double jealous when they found out they are bike-friendly.  Last but not least, the pants were most comfy while biking around Lake Tahoe for a family vacay: perfect length and material for dry sunny afternoons transitioning to crisp, cold evenings.

Chrome Vanya women's pants fared best in Lake Tahoe summer weather!

That’s right folks, theses pants are SO amazing, I would bike a charity century ride around Oahu and puke tons of HEED electrolyte drinks if the reward at the end was a pair of Chrome Vanya Riding Knickers instead of a dri-fit commemorative tee.

Back it up: two patch pockets reinforced with red stitching!

Me NO Likey: The gripes about the Vanya are few and far between: namely that they are too warm for extra hot days and on the pricey side!  When I rode them on long rides in bajillion percent humidity at 12pm in Honolulu, I got so hot that my shins were sweating!  I rolled them up past the knee and toughed it out… but all in all, I should have opted for spandex in the first place.  Also, me NO likey the price tag on the snickers, at 120 bones, I would much rather buy a separate pair of bike pants and work pants.  (Then again, this is coming from the person who shops at the Goodwill and my sister’s closet).

Red mesh pockets = minimizing sweaty upper thigh: Note my pockets are empty...

Pants Recap: Thank you, Chrome, for making a stylish, versatile, durable, and stretchy cladding for my lower half!  My former Vanya-less pantsless self (imagine me standing on a median, with a cardboard sign saying “Will Bike for Pants”)  could never have imagined a better fit!  I will definitely wear these guys into the ground on and off the bike!  All you Cycle Ladies in search of a nice urban commuter pants option, check out the Chrome Vanya if you have mad cash money to spare.

AMENDMENT!!! After some skepticism from the general public that the Vanya can do a heels pants transformation megatron, I have decided to post this photo that I cajoled a camera-owning friend of mine to take!  In Honolulu, the capri or cropped pants and heels look totally passes for business casual!  Check it peeps:

Chrome Vanya gets down to business with a red top and black summer heels: YOU CAN DO IT!

Tiny Bikeshop Concerts, Volume 3 — September 8th at Calhoun Cycle, MPLS

Our friends from Banjo Brothers laid another one on us this afternoon:

The Banjo Brothers are teaming up again with the crew at Calhoun Cycle for post-Labor Day concert. Enjoy a fall ride around the city lakes then come back to the shop for food, fun, bikes and music. This event will feature the music of singer-songwriter Ann Reed and pianist, accordionist and occasional storyteller Dan Chouinard, both of Minnesota. Ann Reed (known for her rich alto voice, smooth guitar licks and sly wit) has spent more than 25 years writing songs and making music. She has performed on Good Morning America, A Prairie Home Companion and Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Show. Dan Chouinard grew up in a musical family in Lindstrom. He tours and records regularly with an ever-expanding roster of musicians and writers.

-4:30 The fun will begin with a ride (about an hour long)
-5:30 Big River Pizza will be selling slices of some of the tastiest pizza ever
-6:30 Free Ice Cream in the Shop!
-7:00 Ann & Dan hit the stage

Here’s something REALLY special about this one (besides the free ice cream), , straight from the source: “Can’t make the show – live stream available at Indieload.com. Special bonus: we’ll give away 1 set of Red #01090 panniers to a lucky fan who streams the show. Details available the day of the show.”

Show details as follows on the flyer:

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Alternative resource for High Visibility Shirts

I was recently at Home Depot and to my surprise I saw Hi-Vis T-shirts with reflective stripes being sold there. The price was around $19 for a shirt, not bad if you ask me, but if you order it on HomeDepot.com, its only $12.97!

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Here’s the description:

Cordova’s Hi Vis T-Shirt is excellent for construction, road work, utility work and recreational use. The lightweight polyester is soft and durable. The 2 in. reflective tape and Hi Vis Lime Green color provide high visibility day or night.

* Meets ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 class II
* 2 in. Silver reflective tape vertical over each shoulder and horizontal around the waist
* Chest pocket
* Machine washable, hang dry,100% lime green polyester

IMG00127-20110825-1955

I’m seeing RED

One of our biggest supporters of BikeCommuteers.com is Banjo Brothers. We’ve know Mike and Eric since they first started many years ago. Every time we see them at Interbike, we make sure to meet up with them so we can feature their new products. For the 2011 Interbike show, Banjo Brothers is planning on releasing red colored bags. Not only do they look sharp, but it helps with overall visibility because it stands out quite a bit while you’re on the road.

The freshly re-designed 01090 saddlebag panniers from Banjo Brothers. $59.99 at your local bike shop.
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“The freshly redesigned #01085 Banjo Brothers Market Pannier is the James Brown of Panniers – the hardest workin’ pannier in the bike biz. Groceries. Hell yes. S24O or light touring. Damn Straight. It’s takin’ what your givin’ ’cause it’s workin’ for a livin’. $49.99 Retail at your LBS.”
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“The 2000 Cubic Inch Banjo Brothers Messenger Bag retailers for $79.99 and includes a padded laptop sleeve and a phone holster. You can look good and not break the bank.”
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Make sure you check out The Banjo Brothers Facebook Fan Page for more info.

Review: XLC 2-LED “Bright Flex” Light Set

The kind folks at Seattle Bicycle Supply (SBS) offered us a chance to try out their house-brand XLC lights a few months back. As lighting is pretty important for many commuters — besides keeping you safe, front and rear lights on your bike also keep you LEGAL in most municipalities — we jumped at the chance to take these lights for a spin. A courtesy pair appeared in the mail a few days later, and we were off.

The set we got is the XLC 2-LED “Bright Flex” light set…a lightweight pair of lights for the front and rear of just about any bike:

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The lights are simple: acrylic bodies and lenses encased in a soft silicone shell. These lights mount without tools; part of the silicone shell forms a stretchy strap that hooks to a protrusion on the front of each light. Each light contains two LEDs…red ones for the back and white ones for the front. Let’s make something clear right up front: these are “to be seen” lights, and the LEDs don’t have any impressive lumen ratings listed on the SBS website. You will be noticed by other road users, but these lights will NOT illuminate the street in front of you in any appreciable way.

Here’s a look at the strap:
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The strap is stretchy enough to go around most seatposts and handlebars, even the newer oversized 31.8mm bars. The rear light cannot be aimed, so the seatpost angle may affect the rearward visibility of the light. Here, take a look at my setup:

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The light is still pointing backwards, but perhaps not at the very best angle for optimum visibility. It is still noticeably bright from a couple hundred feet back, though.

Each light is powered by a single CR2032 battery, a fairly common size. The lights are claimed to have a run time of 40 hours steady and 80 hours flashing — I’ve had them for six or seven months of regular use and they both continue to shine brightly. Each light has three modes, cycled by pressing a covered button on the top of the body : steady, flashing and strobe. The strobe pattern is pretty eye-catching, so that’s the setting I usually run mine on.

XLC describes the lights as “water resistant”…and that may be true in some locales, but I got caught out in a Florida rainstorm on my very first ride with them. When the front light malfunctioned the next day, I was surprised to discover about a half-teaspoon of water inside the battery compartment. I thought that with the tight silicone housing and vinyl battery cap under the body of the light, these things could shrug off water better than that. Once I poured the water out and let the casing dry, the light started working again, but to this day it doesn’t reliably cycle through all three illumination settings on the first try. I also noticed some corrosion on the contacts between LEDs and the circuit board inside the acrylic body.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot to go wrong with these lights. The body and shell are rugged, the on/off button is protected by the silicone shell and the strap hasn’t stressed or cracked the way the rubber o-rings that come with other lights might.

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The Bright Flex lights are not terrifically bright, nor are they waterproof enough for daily use, so it is hard to recommend them as primary lights for nighttime commuters. But here’s the thing…with a retail price of as little as $13.00, they are inexpensive “backup insurance”. I’ve used them in that role in three ways. First, when I go out for early or late road rides on my road bike, I stuff these lights into a jersey pocket and snap them on when they’re needed. Second, I keep them in my messenger bag for late night backup…if the batteries in my primaries fail, I can always get these out and get home safely. Third, these make great “loaners”; we’ve all been out at night with someone who forgot their own lights, and these are great to have on hand to let a fellow rider borrow. Why, my own set of Bright Flex lights have been loaned out three or four times in this way, and all parties involved got home safe!

So, for the price, these are good lights for backups. Don’t try to scuba-dive with them, don’t expect them to illuminate every pothole on your 50MPH+ downhill commute, and don’t forget to let your buddy borrow them if they forgot their own lights. As long as you keep those three caveats in mind, you can’t go wrong with these XLC lights.

XLC lights and many other products in the SBS family can be ordered through your local bike shop, and you may also find many of these items online. This particular light set also makes a great stocking stuffer for the cyclist(s) in your life.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.