For men searching for the best urban cycling pants available, look no further than Outlier, a new brand dedicated to crafting timeless, stylish apparel for the rigors of city riding. Founded by Tyler Clemens and Abe Burmeister, two New Yorkers with a passion for riding, Outlier seeks to provide advanced clothing for a seamless transition from the bike to the office.
Bicycling in a metropolis like New York comes with a host of problems, not least of which is navigating the city's many bridges and trafficked avenues, often under inclement weather. Two of Outlier's latest trousers, which I was recently given the opportunity to road-test, manage to address these concerns with style. Both the 4Season OG (below), a casual straight cut slack with a beautiful drape, and the Climbers (top image set), a slim cut pant styled like a jean, utilize Outlier's 4Season Lotus fabric made by Schoeller Textiles of Switzerland.
At first glance, the fabric might remind you of your grandfather's polyester trousers, but this mid-weight technical fabric wears like a fine piece of tailored cloth. The 4Season Lotus feels good against skin, stretches in all directions and is wrinkle resistant. Without getting too technical, the fabric utilizes a nano-tech surface treatment that makes for a ridiculously water-repellent, stain-resistant pant. While riding in a recent downpour, I marveled at the water beading on the surface and noted that it took several minutes for it to soak through. Even when wet, it didn't cling to my skin. Tyler later informed me that, had I resisted the urge to change, they would've dried in 20 minutes.
The Outlier pants have the kind of technical details that are true signifiers of skilled craftsmanship coupled with user-centric design. The 4Season OG features deep front pockets so your cell phone won't jab you while peddling, reinforced belt loops (ideally positioned for clipping your keys into the rear left pocket) and a stretchable french seam in the crotch (which means no embarrassing splits).
The Climbers, while definitely engineered for the skinny guys, also fit well on an athletic build, thanks to the superb stretch of the material. More casual than the 4Season OG, they're no less detailed. With open rear pockets positioned closer to the hips, you don't find yourself sitting on your wallet. A curved waistband is higher in the rear and lower in the front, which makes for a more comfortable ride and hides your briefs from passerby.
Above and beyond the material performance and design details, the real success of these pants is in their overall wearability. Cycling around town, I soon forgot I was wearing them. And then a funny thing happened—I noticed I was wearing them on days I didn't get on my bike.
How did Outlier start?
Through coffee, luck and passion. We both were working on the same problem, how to make stylish garments for a world where your bike is your favorite means of transportation. We both were customers at Gimme coffee, although we went to different locations, and our friend Jenni worked at both and puzzled together that we needed to meet. We started talking and within days shook hands and it was on for real.
Why did you name the company Outlier?
In statistics an outlier is a result that lies outside the norm, and we certainly are trying to create garments far better than those you normally encounter. Historically however, an outlier was also the term for someone who lived in the outlying areas, someone who lived somewhere besides where they worked. An outlier was the original commuter.
Your pants utilize some of the most technically advanced fabrics available, yet feel perfectly at home on the city streets and in the office. How do you strike the balance between functionality and style?
There is an old New York garmento philosophy of "shopping by hand." We go out west to where the tech fabrics are found and shop by hand. We touch, rub and feel the fabric before we really look at it. And only then do we look at all the tech specs. Most people buy these fabrics based on the specs first, and the hand feel is an afterthought so we end up with a different selection of tech fabrics than most people are using. Once we have these fabrics we bring them back to New York and produce the garments with a very old school tailoring and craftsmanship approach.
We also are minimalists at heart. We don't traffic in gimmicks, just things that work really well and make sense. A lot of tech garments are loaded down with bells and whistles and we do away with the excess and it allows us to focus on making great-looking clothes.
When designing your pants, what kind of performance details do you seek to address for the everyday city cyclist?
We look at everything in terms of what we call the three motions. The garments need to handle the physical stress that cycling puts on them. And that means cuts that give a full range of motion, fabrics that stretch and stitches that stay together under pressure. Then there is the liquid motion, cyclists have stuff attacking their clothes from all directions. Rain from the sky, grime from the road, grease from the bike and sweat from inside. As a cyclist you need clothes that both bring the sweat away from your body but also protect you from the elements and stay looking crisp and clean. Finally there is social motion, people live in cities to be surrounded by other people, when you get off your bike you need to look and feel like you belong in your destination, whether it's your office, a museum opening or wild party.
While your Climbers are so slender they don't need to be cuffed and the 4Season OGs still require the rider roll his pant leg. Why'd you choose to leave this rather inelegant solution untouched?
Hah, well first off, a stylish man should never look at cuffs as inelegant, they just need to be done right. Its a good question though, because we made a very deliberate decision not to worry about the pant leg problem yet. We see it as a bit of a red herring, loads of people have tried to tackle it and they never come up with anything that is any better than cuffing your pants. We basically decided to tackle every other bike pant problem and leave that one for later. But when we do tackle we are going to make sure we do it right.
A great cycling trouser is tough to come by. Now that you've deftly met that challenge, what can the style-minded cyclist expect next from Outlier?
Well we've got tees, hats and hoodies rolling out, but we are going to spend a bit more time on the upper body. We've really just started there. There are some challenges with shirts and outerwear that we've been tackling head-on and while it's early in the process we think people will be excited by the results. We aren't done with the pants yet either, expect more in that area too, as we keep on experimenting with cut and fabric to make better and better clothing.