by Cayley James
As a city cyclist there are certain inevitabilities you have to live with. There is a very high chance that you’ll get doored, have your bike stolen, and that all of your favourite pairs of jeans will wear out in the crotch. In recent years there have been attempts to make stylish cycling-friendly jeans. But more often than not they’re geared towards men. Women are left with sub-par products.
Enter Chadel Bodner and RYB Denim. (RYB stands for Ride Your Bike.) Bodner designs jeans that are made with women in mind with a patented double lined gusset that are guaranteed not to wear out.
Now, the name RYB may sound familiar to you. That’s because in 2014 Bodner ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to initially launch the line. The start-up received a flurry of media attention, in part due to their ambitious plans to have the jeans designed and made in Toronto with denim sourced in North America.
“I had the initial idea in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2012 that I made the first pair,” explained Bodner. Originally from Alberta, she spent her teen years trail riding in the foothills outside of Calgary and it wasn’t until moving to Vancouver to study design that she became a city cyclist. Her friend’s mom gave her a Japanese cruiser that was, “absolutely beautiful,” and she was hooked. Now, after years of city riding she wanted to respond to a need in the community with her clothes and although her campaign was a success in 2014 a lot has changed.
She listened to the feedback from those who received jeans during the initial campaign, found a new manufacturer in Los Angeles and made the big decision to do all her sales online.
There were notes to consider about the sizing, she made more room for hips and raised the back by 1 inch. The weight of the fabric also changed - the black denim is now 9 oz, with the indigo jeans at 11 oz - both have 1 % stretch and they lowered the polyester count in the fabric’s blend. Another big change was the price point. The jeans are now marked at $120 and shorts at $95.
But what makes the jeans such a hot commodity for cyclists?
Lots. They’re a high-rise slim fit with a higher back so you don’t run the risk of plumber’s crack. There’s a special loop for a U-Lock in the back, and reflective fabric on the outside hem of the leg. The real kicker is the double layered gusset. For those who haven’t a clue what that may be, a gusset is a piece of material sewn into a garment to strengthen or enlarge a part of it, such as the collar of a shirt or the crotch of an undergarment. I immediately thought of jodhpurs for horseback riding. As Bodner explained: “Denim is designed to be strong vertically and that is why it wears out in normal jeans. The grain of the fabric is being compromised when folded in.” That’s why so called “cycling” jeans, like Levi’s Commuter line aren’t really up to snuff according to her. They just double up the fabric at its weakest point. As Bodner puts it they’re “capitalizing on the market but not catering to the community.”
Images courtesy of RYB Denim.
Although RYB denim is designed with women in mind, they are ultimately gender neutral. Bodner says men and gender non-conforming folks are also embracing the durability and comfort. She has a courier friend in Philadelphia who wore a pair of jeans 80% of the time both for work and in life six days a week for six months. He weighs approx 200 lbs and the first layer of the gusset just wore out this April. (WOW!) RYB jeans have become something of a cult favourite for couriers throughout North America, due in part to Bodner's connections with the community. She has sponsored a number of courier companies in order to grow her network within what she describes the “perfect test market.”
But I’m no bike courier. Cycling is my main form of transportation and I’m likely on my bike on average 30-40 minutes a day. I was curious to see if they were maybe a bit too heavy duty for me.
The first time I tried them on I was amazed. They fit like a glove and were lighter than I imagined. I decided to try the classic indigo jeans and I was hooked. The first day I wore them out I was cycling along Harbord. I was stopped at the lights at St. George when all of a sudden I heard a woman’s voice from behind me: “I’m terribly sorry to bother you but where did you get your pants from?” The distinctive gusset and raised back had caught her eye.
“Are they comfortable? Where can I get a pair?” I tried to answer all her questions in fits and starts, at each stopped light between St. George and Yonge that they were only available online, that it's a Canadian label, and really, really comfortable. “Thanks for the tip!” She said as she pedalled away with a wide smile.
Cayley, her jeans and her bike - image courtesy of the author.
There's another reason I love these jeans. I don’t have a lot of clothes. It’s a choice. I try to to buy exclusively Canadian made and second hand pieces. But when it comes to finding a pair of decent vintage or locally produced jeans I have always come up short. There are only a handful of brands that are made in Canada; Yoga Jeans and Iris Denim come to mind but they’re not always what I’m looking for. In the past year I bought a pair from The Gap and two pairs from Levis. All three of my recent purchases now have gaping holes.
After a handful of washes the RYB jeans haven’t lost their shape. They don’t feel skin tight but they’re not sagging in the bum region either. Extra bonus: there isn’t an excess of indigo rubbing off onto my legs.
A few weeks ago I went for a very long ride on one of the warmest days we’ve had yet and thought the jeans would be a bit heavy for the rising mercury, so I didn’t wear them - and I missed them immediately. After a couple of kilometers I noticed a difference. I was uncomfortable and sweaty despite wearing shorts. I felt like I couldn’t breath. Needless to say, I’d gotten spoiled and was dreaming about placing an order for their shorts.
I was talking to my sister about the plight of trying to find jeans that don’t wear out. She said, “I was talking to a courier friend who has these great jeans that are designed specifically for heavy riding.” I smiled, happy to know exactly what she was talking about: “You mean...these?!” and pulled out a pair of RYB jeans I had stashed in my dresser with the flair of a magician pulling a rabbit out a hat. “Yes!” she squealed. When she started grilling me on how they fit - if they’d be comfortable, if they held up to their promise of not wearing out, if they looked good - I could happily confirm they were great.
What’s next for RYB? Chandel is currently getting ready to be a sponsor for the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Montreal this summer! She’ll have a vendor table at the event and you can chat in person. But if you’re not able to make it this year just swing by the online store and get your own pair.