Custom Wool Knickers

This is a somewhat long post, because it took more than two months to complete. Hope you enjoy the read.

I’ve been trying to figure out what would be the most comfortable and flexible clothing to wear while traveling by bicycle. I’m not fond of the idea of Lycra while touring, because it gets really restricting after riding all day. It’s designed to be skin tight. For performance riding, that’s a good thing. For traveling at 10 mph not so much.

Comfort becomes paramount when touring and for me lycra doesn’t equate to all day comfort. And, when you wear lycra, that means you need another set of clothes to go into some restaurants and other facilities. Oh, and did I mention, lycra starts to really stink after about 4 or 5 hours.

I’ve been experimenting with nylon “travel” clothing. But the pants are loose, with wide hems, to make it easier to get them on and off without removing your shoes. The zip off legs are handy for converting from long to short. But for cycling, the shorts on some are a little too short, and I have to wear leg bands to keep the long pant legs out of the chain. And they always seem to get a stain on the inside right pant leg.

I’ve been learning about the benefits of wool. It helps your regulate your body temperature better. It’s cool when the temps are high and it’s warm, even when it’s wet. Oh, and it has anti-bacterial properties, so IT DOESN’T STINK!. I’ve been trying some wool clothes, underwear mostly. It’s becoming one of my favorite fabrics.

I saw some pictures of cyclists wearing knickers, and I’ve recently become a fan of wearing wool. So I started investigating. I spoke to my sister who sews and has taken design classes. She didn’t seem to interested in taking on the task, and suggested I look for someone who specialized in that kind of thing. So I started searching and found B Spoke Tailor. I started corresponding with Nan Estep of B Spoke Tailor and came to the conclusion that my needs seemed to require custom tailored. I wanted features that Nan doesn’t normally include in her designs.

Nan and I had a spirited email discussion about what I wanted and how I would use the Knickers. I want something more like a cargo pant. And since I plan on touring, they need to be comfortable for all day riding.

Some of the custom feature I requested were.

  • A button on the side seam pockets to keep them closed and to keep things from falling out while pedaling all day
  • A couple of large cargo pockets with flaps on each leg
  • A zippered right back pocket
  • A zippered pocket “hidden” inside one of the side seam pockets

I asked Nan:

What is the lead time for your custom knickers?

Nan responded:

6-8 weeks

I told Nan:

Everything for touring needs to be wash and wear. I plan on having two at most three pairs of pants. One to wear and the other to launder. Can’t have “dry clean only” for bicycling.

Nan’s response was amusing:

All my knickers are hand wash or machine wash, cool water, gentle soap and cycle. Not dry cleaning B. Spoke Tailor. If I catch anyone, they die!

🙂

After sending her my measurements according to her instructions on her web site, Nan sent more questions.

Nan:

What is your height?

Velorambler:

I’m about 5’9″

Nan:

Your sure your waist and hips are this same? So your hips and thighs are narrow, and you have a bit of a middle? Do mind telling me your age? This actually can help with fit.

Velorambler:

I’m 58. And I’ve always had narrow hips. Pants always fell down as a kid, still do. Should wear suspenders instead of a belt. Maybe I should have you sew in buttons. I’m trying to lose weight. Having some success, lost 20 want to lose 10-20 more. … The color choice is my other dilemma. I want something that doesn’t show dirt much but not so dark it will be hot in warm climates. I was thinking of the grey brown herringbone. What would you advise?

Nan:

The grey/brown herringbone you see on the site is not thick enough, though I have a cloth that is and actually looks more like the fabric on the site that then one I photographed. Would be a great choice. If you want more than one pair, I would recommend a slightly different weight, a little lighter, the khaki mini pinstripe herringbone. Great for not showing dirt. Beautiful, too.

Velorambler:

…. You’re the expert on the materials. I’ll defer to your judgment. I may order another pair, but I’m not brave enough to order two, right away. …..

Nan:

Do you want button or velcro tabs? My choice: buttons.

Velorambler:

I’d prefer buttons. Big Fat Buttons that you can change with one hand while riding. ….I’d like to able to open and close the legs on the fly. Open them going uphill, close them going down.

Nan:

“Here is the cost:

  • Buttons on side seam pockets + $10
  • “hidden” zippered side seam pocket + $10
  • Zipper right rear pocket + $10
  • Cargo pockets with flaps, both legs (15 each). + $30

That totals $60. So $260 for custom, individualized Velorambler style.

Velorambler:

I’ve never ordered custom clothing by email before. And I don’t ever remember spending that much on a pair of pants, but life is all about new experiences. And it will give me something to write about in my blog.

So on about October 5, I placed my order.

So here you have it. My unabashed attempt to lure you in, to read about my silly bicycling adventures. And now I’ve gone and ordered custom wool knickers. Life is an adventure, live it well. 🙂

Nan apparently ran into some health and workspace related problems. On November 6th I got an email in response to my query about a delivery date.

NAN

I am asking for just need a little more grace from all of my customers
eager for their knickers. I was sick with a respiratory infection that became quite serious. In spite of resting and getting high quality care, I could not defeat the dragon. I came to believe that the air quality in by work space was the real monster, and so retreated to a wonderful new live/work in Berkeley. After a week I am feeling well enough to be productive. I am setting up shop and eager
to begin again.

Whereas my typical turn-around time is 6-8 weeks, I may need a few tagged on to the end to catch up. There is probably two weeks of orders in front of you. I will keep you posted. Feel free to check in again if you like.

I have to admit I was beginning to get a little nervous and wondered if I would ever see my custom knickers. Then I got another email from Nan.

Subject: your knickers are ready to ship!

I just need your address. I hope you get this message tonight. If I hear from you I will ship them first thing in the am. Should get there 2-day delivery.

Finally the day is nigh. I can hardly wait to see how they came out. There’s a tweed ride on Saturday afternoon, but I’m not sure I can make it. Too many conflicts on my schedule.

The knickers arrived as promised on Friday December 10th, just in time to ride the

2nd Annual Tweed Ride

2nd Annual San Diego Tweed Ride

Here are some pictures I took of the Knickers

Custom Knickers Front

Front View of B Spoke Tailor Custom Knickers

The fit is excellent, which is not unexpected with custom tailored clothes.

Custom Knickers Left

B Spoke Tailor Custom Knickers Left side view

Custom Knickers Right Side

B Spoke Tailor Custom Knickers Right side view

Custom Knickers Rear View

B Spoke Tailor Custom Knickers Rear View

I’ve now worn these knickers on two rides. Both days were warm. The first day was a casual ride covering about 15 miles in about 2 hours. The ride was comfortable and the knickers wore well. The second ride was 4-5 hours covering about 40 miles and a more vigorous ride. The day was quite warm between 85 and 90 degrees. The knickers were still comfortable, even in the heat.

I used suspenders, which made the pants pretty comfortable to wear. I favor them over a belt. For me, to get a belt to hold up my pants, it needs to be tight enough that it makes riding somewhat uncomfortable.

The only constructive criticism I would make is that I would like the waist band and cuff to have some backing material to make it a little more substantial. The waist tends to sag in the middle when using suspenders and the cuff seems not to hold it’s shape either. These are minor and don’t really detract from the knickers comfort, just an appearance thing.

The other thing I notice is the smell. None of my other wool smells like these do when wet. I’m sure that is related to the kind of wool that they are made from.

I really like my knickers. I would recommend them to anyone who wants something a little more practical than lycra and spandex. If you’re willing to wait while Nan makes them, you get a quality product, hand made in Oakland California.

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2 comments to Custom Wool Knickers

  • I had to go to your facebook page to refresh my memory. Very cool that you are going to be making Panniers. I would definitely contact Velo Cult when you have samples.

  • hey Neil long time no hear from. Actually I do tune into your site from time to time to see what adventures you’ve been on. Remember me? I finally have panniers…..well at least I’m tooling up to produce them. I have a set on my own personal bike for testing. I’d like to send you a few pics. Please contact me eric@hjeltnessrestoration.com or you can go to facebook.com/HjeltnessPanniers

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