Yesterday was a great day. It was the first amiable day to wear shorts on my commute since October of last year. That reminded of a Bike Hacks Classic entry . . .
A recent temperature spike in the Big Apple sent me rummaging through my closet looking for warm weather gear. Although I'm a huge fan of Lycra bike shorts from a comfort in the saddle standpoint, I am not a huge fan of putting my super tight shorts on display. As a commuter this is especially important. The last thing I want to do is strut through a lobby full of coworkers with skin tight Lycra in full effect. One of the most common jokes I get when I talk about cycling goes something like, “So how do you like dressing like a ballet dancer?”
I have to admit that in the past I bought into the standard bike issue skin tight clothing, but daily commuting has changed me for good. The answer to the Lycra “problem” is simple: knickers. There are plenty of specialty cycling knickers available, but most of them cost a small sized fortune.
I stumbled across a New York Times article (free registration might be necessary to view the article) on bike knickers and the common theme I found is that most of them cost more than I paid for my daily commuting bike. They range from $85 to $165 in price. The companies featured (links take you to product pages) are Rapha, Swrve, Chrome, Bicycle Fixation, and Swobo.
Here is a picture from the Swrve product page to whet your appetite . . .
My point is not to break down the technical specifications of each pair, the NYT article already has that covered. It is clear that all of the knickers are high quality and well designed and if you don't mind spending the money they are sure to do the trick. My problem? I mind spending the money.
While the merits of a gusseted crotch and articulated knees are undeniable (both are incorporated into my winter pants and I love the features) I have found that I don't necessarily need those features in a pair of knickers to propel myself through New York City traffic.
My venture into custom knickers began with an old pair of cotton slacks that were not fit for prime time anymore. I loved the weight and feel of them and I thought, why not chop them into knickers? Behold, my first pair of hacked knickers.
Now the fact that my wife is a fashion designer certainly did not hurt. She can hack a pair of knickers faster than you can change a flat tire, and she even adds her own stylish tweaks to boot. But you certainly don't need professional quality. You can just do your own hack job with scissors and leave the rough edges, or you can go to the local dry cleaner and have them do the job for less than $10.
I recommend going with a light cotton knit that dries quickly, but experiment and find what you like. If you don't have any old pants in the closet that will do the trick, head down to the local Goodwill and you are sure to find something that will work. I have not rocked just Lycra bike shorts in over three years and don't plan on doing so again. I'm officially a "hack knicker" guy and have several homemade pairs - and the price can't be beat.