Sshhh! Introducing Belmont stealth pantaloons

bspbspI’ve barely changed my pants for five months. Rain and shine, cold and not, I’ve been testing revisions of a new trouser design we’ve developed with Richard Risemberg at Bicycle Fixation, whose excellent wool knickers, together with Rivendell’s MUSA pants, were primary inspiration. We’re introducing them for sale today: Belmont stealth pantaloons.

They’re ideal for year-round daily bicycling in temperate climates like Portland’s. But don’t call them bicycling pants, please! They don’t have reflective anything, or padding, or U-lock holsters, or clingy fit. Most of all, they aren’t knickers. In fact, we’ve called this “the Not Knicker Project” among ourselves. Not that there’s anything wrong with knickers, except that many people won’t commit to matching knee-high socks, nor to arriving everywhere everyday looking like a period clothing enthusiast, mythical humanoid species, or fashion-forward bicyclist. Belmonts are stealth, as in discreet. Pantaloons as in baggy and not too serious, though these are some seriously fine pantalones.

They are made of the very best wool we could source, in a black gabardine and a slightly lighter-weight charcoal square weave. Think fine business wear material. They are light enough for summer plain, and for Portland’s three cooler seasons with long merino underwear underneath. It’s not scratchy because it’s worsted. This means that all the fibers are straightened and aligned smooth when the thread is spun, unlike the naturally kinky/pokey woolen wool that usually gets knit into sweaters or woven into tweed or flannel. Hard-wearing, it has a smooth, dense hand, just heavy enough for wrinkles to hang out. Your natural perspiration cycles act like steam almost in maintaining an elegant drape. Waves flutter through it as you move.

Black and charcoal, the sum or absence of all color, go with everything, and hide the inevitable bit of grime that may escape from your bike, especially if you’re one of those edge-seeking minimalists who rides with an exposed drivetrain. Unlike cotton blacks, the black stays black. Unlike synthetics, it’s hard to make it stink, it’s silent, it drapes better, it isn’t particularly prone to snagging or ripping, and it won’t melt too close to a campfire. Dirt, lint, and so on just brush off. Expect weeks of wear between washings.

We’re certainly not onto anything new with the idea of riding in wool. But until now, choices for wool pants have tended toward too-heavy, scratchy surplus stuff from the siege of Stalingrad or some frozen hunting fantasy, or maybe XTreme golfing, or business wear, either new or thrifted. We won’t mention tights. All but the army stuff is cut and sewn inappropriately for active use, with restrictive seams, dry-clean-only, fussy linings and fly closure systems, and floppy lower parts that must be strapped to stay clean and whole on most bikes. Not these.

Belmonts are cut loose in the upper parts, with forgiving elastic in the rear waist. The crotch won’t blow out even if you do splits. Below the knee, they taper to a small opening, meaning that you won’t need a strap or to abuse your socks. They are hemmed on the long side, so your ankle remains covered even when your knee is sharply bent, but the small opening means you can’t step on the fabric at the heel even if it’s way too long. Easy to take up if necessary, or to let out another inch.

[xls_product code='Clever Cycles Belmont stealth pantaloons']

They’re $109, this time. We have reason to believe that the price will go up for future production runs!

Many thanks to Ezra “fast boy” Caldwell for the excellent photos from our once-was NYC home.

16 thoughts on “Sshhh! Introducing Belmont stealth pantaloons”

  • allan

    As it happens I've worn dress slacks from Goodwill for years. I love the light weight and drape one gets from wool, and the used prices are too cheap to beat. The problem I run into, though, is the seat invariably wears out after 9 plus or minus 3 months. The fabric just isn't made for rubbing against a saddle day after day. (I always feel a little guilty buying them, even at $12-14, knowing they will be soon destroyed.)

    It sounds like these pants are made of a fabric different in durability and yet the same in terms of hand, weight, drape, etc. to normal dress wool? You touch a little above on a roomier cut, but it seems there would be more to durability than that. Could you elaborate a little on how the fabric is more durable than that in more typical dress wool slacks? Do you think these would last more than 12 months (the 9+3 I currently get from the better end of Goodwill finds) of steady, albeit not everyday for two weeks at a time, wear?

    Obviously I am not a big fellow that is stretching my fabric or anything with my typical slacks. If anything, I'm forced to buy up a size more often than not because they don't have any in my size on the racks. If the increased durability is primarily from the more generous cut, I'd not expect to see much personal difference in that regard.

  • Todd (admin)

    Richard at BF claims 4-6K miles on the gabardine before holes appear. Less time on the lighter plain weave. I think if you palp the gabardine you will get a reassuring impression of durability, supple and hard at the same time. Thrift store stuff is obviously a mixed bag so hard to compare. I plead no contest on (usual) great value. I know that a lot of it tends to be flannel, which is a whole lot less durable than gabardine.

    My experience with business wool slacks, new and thrifted, is that the better quality fabric pieces are hobbled with such fancy internal features in different fabric (linings, piping, fly closure) that they don't tolerate machine washing, nor do they handle sweat as gracefully. Sharp bend at the hips and the (white!) pocket liners show, yick! And then there are the floppy wide legs and finding the right color and size, and... time, you know?

    I paid $9 for the best pair of wool pants i ever owned. I wore them out long ago, but having scored them at that price, it has been a difficult couple of decades getting over the fact that that was a fluke, and that the perfect can be the enemy of the good when it comes to clothing value. The same thing may be said of bikes. Meanwhile, these trousers of ours are (now) priced at half or less of what new business wear of similar quality fabric runs.

    I started carrying a new wallet around the same time as the testing began. It is cut from rather stiff plastic, with sharp square corners. Since my wallet tends to settle in the same place on my butt, one of the corners began to dig through the patch pocket of the lighter square-weave material after 2-3 months. Richard confirms that square weave of other fabrics haven't proven as durable as gabardine. I made a note to revise the design to an internal lined back pocket instead of patch pockets in a future revision.

    I'll wager that durability on a Brooks or other unpadded saddle is a whole lot better than otherwise. Firm smooth surface, less friction.

  • Noemi Margaret
    Noemi Margaret April 26, 2010 at 7:29 am

    These look totally awesome. Please please please make them in a wide (pun intended!) variety of sizes.

  • Todd (admin)

    Hi Noemi - this run comes in waist sizes 30-38 in 2-inch increments. We've already disappointed people below and above that range, so yes, we're going there.

  • Jeff

    Nice looking pants! Are they machine-washable, then drip-dry? That's my usual drill with Ibex and other wool stuff... I'm assuming they don't need to be dry cleaned?

  • Todd (admin)

    Hi Jeff - I have been machine washing warm, front-loader, with Kookaburra Wash and machine drying. I know, scandalous. They're fine. Maybe my washer/dryer are especially gentle? Washer has an especially fast spin so not much water in them before they hit the dryer. If in doubt, I'm sure drip dry will be fine.

  • graham

    Could you provide details of the crotch/gusset construction? Flat seams? Extra panel?

  • Todd (admin)

    Graham, there's nothing particularly special about the crotch, apart from a generous amount of fabric at the, erm, perineal seam to permit free-est motion without strain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/4547933115/

    The seams are finished simply, not flat, but not at all bulky.

  • Adrienne Johnson

    Hey! What's the inseam? I have a guy that wears a 30x35 so I need them looooooooong : )

  • Todd (admin)

    sadly, adrienne, the 30 waist measures 32 long. could be let out another 1.25", but not 3. perhaps if he were to wear them low on his waist...

  • Mark

    Just a (hopefully) quick question: How "true-to-size" are these in the waist? If I normally wear a 34, is this the size I should order?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  • Todd (admin)

    Hi Mark - I wear a 34 normally and also in these. Now, "true to size" is as much a fashion question as one of measurement. If you measure the actual waist of a 34, you may be surprised at what you find... if I recall correctly the actual measure of these 34's is 36", but that's with the elastic waistband in back maxed out.

  • Jen

    I'm interested in these! But - I am small-waisted with a curvy butt. Even women's pants must usually be taken in at the waist for a good fit. Are these REALLY unisix, or are they cut so slim in through the hip and thigh that they're just not going to work? I normally wear a 28 or 29" women's jean so I thought the 30" might work....thoughts?

  • Kate

    I've been wearing mine weekly or more since you rolled them out, and I want to add two more points of awesomeness about these pants: 1) I spilled half a cupful of melted ice cream down the front part and one of the legs. A simple wipe with a pre-moistened disposable cloth (I happened to be at the grocery store) rendered the pants back in perfect shape. 2) when I finally did get around to washing them (gentle cycle, then hung to dry) the suckers were pretty much completely dry and ready to go in about an hour. Truth.

    That being said, I do like to wear a light base layer (i.e. silk ) underneath to prevent some mild itching, but I do have particularly sensitive skin.

    Basically, these pants rock. I'll be in for another pair soon!

  • Todd (admin)

    Jen, I doubt seriously that you'll find these too tight. More concerned that the elastic rear waistband might create a not particularly flattering "poof" above your butt: we've seen that. Next production, we'll start with sizes below 30, and maybe tweak the cut for women in these smallest sizes.

  • Ed

    These pants rock.
    Less "hot" than "softshell".
    Cool w/o being breezy when the wind picks up.
    Looks smashing with dress shoes and shirt at the office.
    Rides like cycling pants (Endura Single Track 3/4) w/o looking like a cycling pant.
    I'd better get another pair!

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