As roadcc's senior trouser tester you can imagine my excitement when British cycle outfitters, Vulpine, sent us what they dub their Tailored Trouser, their 'first line of smart-casual cycling trousers, for life in the country pub, a Friday night gig or for wear on the open trail', better still they sent us two pairs so junior trouser tester Vecchiojo got to have a go too.
The Kelly green tote bag they come packaged in is a pleasing touch, first impressions last and this is nice even if the bag will only ever be used to hold your swimming kit or your packed lunch. On to the trousers then, first impression here is that the material is rather crunchy - or maybe this is what Vulpine describe as being crisp on their website? The 94% Nylon fabric is noisy when scrunched, and the consequence when you walk in them is that they make a rustling sound as the fabric in one leg rubs against the other the way overtrousers do. fact the first time I wore them in the office, Oli commented on the noise asking if they were overtrousers - junior tester Jo reported similar questions being asked .
Cut is fairly generous closer to a straight jean, so there is a bit of material to rustle. The dark grey colour and the relaxed cut make them look very smart and because they aren't like drain pipes, they can be worn with all but the daintiest of shoes.
I tested a medium - 34 inch waist and 34 inch inside leg (the two smaller sizes have 32 inch inside legs), I usually take a 32in waist but these fitted fine, if you are a true 34 they might be a snug. The legs are a bit long but they are designed to be rolled up, revealing 3 reflective seams running up from the ankle on the back and either side. This should be sewn into every pair of trousers in my opinion, whether for riding or walking at night.
I found the the bottom of the leg narrow enough to keep itself out of harm's way and it didn't get chewed up by the chainset at all, but as an added safety precaution a buttoned tab on the drive side can be used to gather in the bottom of your trouser leg. For aesthetic balance, on the other leg is a nice embroidered Vulpine logo in contrasting green stitch.
The trouser has a high waist with rubber grippers to keep the chill out, your jersey tucked in, your mother happy and your modesty intact but I found the waist a little too high, verging on Simon Cowell territory. The waist band came up to my navel when pulled up, To be fair Jo didn't have this issue… maybe his belly button is higher. Now, I don't wear my trousers like an American prisoner but I do usually wear them around my hips if I did that with these the crotch would be very low, like MC Hammer low - and would catch on the nose of my saddle every time I got on my perch, something you don't want to happen when setting off from the lights in heavy traffic. The compromise was to wear them high on the bike, and back on the hips when out hawking around fashionable cafes in town. Another reason for putting them back on the hips was that worn high I found the fly zipper didn't go down low enough for the old chap to come out and the worry that the person in the urinal next to me would find the resulting 'rummaging' a touch unsettling.
As you'd expect from Vulpine aattention to detail on these trousers is amazing, packed with wonderfully thought out features as if Q from James Bond had his way with a sewing machine. A tiny carabiner in the right front pocket to clip your keys to, again another feature that I wish was in all trousers. In the left hand front pocket is a second pocket with a zip closure, handy to put some loose change in and is big enough for your mobile phone too; yep I'd like to see this in all of my trousers too. One rear pocket on the right hand buttock has a natty hidden magnet which keeps it shut. The rear pocket flap can be tucked in to the pocket to reveal a reflective band which you can clip a light to, a neat idea as long as you remember that you have a light clipped to your bum when you enter the pub.
The cut has been sympathetically tailored to suit being sat on a saddle and being pedalled, there is a gusset panel in the crotch and the knees are articulated giving freedom of movement but what I don't understand is the stretch in the material. It isn't the fact that the 4% spandex offers considerable elasticity but the direction of stretch which is the problem (this is something I've criticised other cycling trousers for too).
The material has almost zero stretch across the leg but all of it going down your limb. So what you say, it does make it comfortable when the knee bends. Ah, but there is already an articulated knee and the groin likes to have a bit of give (especially if you haven't pulled up your trousers up to your belly button before setting off). However the main problem with the trousers stretching length ways is when they get drenched with water or cacked in mud they stretch about an inch longer. You can see what I mean in this video clip.
Seams are taped with Vulpine green piping but not flat, flush. Although they didn't cause a nuisance, I would have liked to have flat taped seams so I wouldn't feel them at all. Of more concern though is the fact that the area around the crotch is only single stitched, when I first looked at them I had my doubts over how durable that stitching would be and sure enough after less than a month of riding in them the stitching has started to come apart.
In very light rain, water beads off the surface like water off a ducks back but it doesn't take much for the wet stuff to penetrate if the precipitation is persistent, you can see the fabric darkening where the water soaks in. These aren't as water resistant as, say, the Surface trousers but about the same as the Rapha City trousers which in my opinion isn't enough for the compromise in wearing the noisy synthetic fabric which feels like a windproof jacket next to the skin. I'd say they were splash proof rather than water resistant - Jo reported much the same, he got wet on his first ride in them from the fine spray kicked up by a wet road after an earlier rain shower, the sort of thing you'd expect a pair of jeans to get wet but not so uncomfortably wet they stick to you. They do however dry very quickly. They also do a fair job of keeping the wind off which is nice because they don't offer much in the way of thermal insulation as I found out when I took them sledging. They are a good weight to not boil in if you do decide to exert yourself.
As a pair of casual trousers they look good but the scrunchy fabric puts me off and as a riding trouser they don't seem to offer much more than a pair of jeans with stretch in them and a high waist band do so I feel that the £120 price tag is for the abundance of features and it being manufactured in small quantities to a high quality. I feel that it is like buying a car that you didn't really want then adorning it with optional extras.
These are a good quality pair of trousers that unfortunately just miss the mark. With a few tweaks to the pattern and the material they would be a superb pair of cycle strides.
Feature laden, smart cycling trouser that look good but lacks performance.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Tailored Trousers
Size tested: Medium, Charcoal
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"for life in the country pub, a Friday night gig or for wear on the open trail".
I think they are trying to tick too many boxes. I probably wouldn't wear them to a gig or on a muddy trail unless I was walking.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Taped seams and cycling-specfic gusset prevent chaffing
Silicon waist gripper and high rear cut for cycling
Zipped fly with button waist and belt loops
Button ankle adjuster on driveside
Hidden reflective light loop
Reflective inner leg seams for turn-up visibility
No scratchy labels. All care info printed onto fabric
Zip valuables pocket & key caribiner hidden in main pockets
Would prefer flat seams
Not very water resistant
High waist/Low crotch
Not sure how long the stitching will hold out commuting in these every day - started to go on my test pair after less than a month of riding.
Their light weight and breathability mean that you can wear these in summer without cooking.
The nylon isn't the softest against the skin and I would prefer flat seams.
The features and finishing detail is fantastic but I would feel hard pressed to buy these for cycling duties as they underperform.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The crotch issue was a nuisance, the fabric wasn't really that water resistant, definitely not if you are travelling for over 10 minutes in the rain, not very warm and the texture of the scratchy nylon was unappealing. When they got soaked
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The features like the zip pockets, the buttons, reflective roll-ups and the light clip are great.
They dry quickly. Easy to wash.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
They stretch when wet, they get wet easily. Not very warm. Crunchy, noisy fabric when moving. Not that nice against the skin. The overly high waist band.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes and no.
Would you consider buying the product? Not really.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe to rich ramblers.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The material lets this trouser down and the very high waist band.
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 179 Weight: 79
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Condor Pista fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 geared work horse, Look KG241 skinny whippet
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back