At the beginning of May this year I received a pair of jeans from the California-based clothing company, Cadence. Their Raw Denim jeans have been around since the beginning of what is now a fairly competitive cycling-specific clothing market. So far I’ve had three different pairs of cycling specific jeans from different manufacturers, and they have all had a different take on answering the same brief.
My initial review went over the details and initial impressions of Cadence’s Raw Denim, but what I like to do with my reviews is revisit them some time later to give an impression of how they perform over time, so you can have some idea of what to expect along the way.
In the initial review of these jeans, I thought that what Cadence delivered was a pair of jeans for cycling in, nothing more, nothing less. Do I still? Yep. No real party tricks, just jeans that are designed to be comfortable to ride in, and last a while doing it. There have been no revelations here that I have spotted so far, nor any that I have particularly missed, either. If you want jeans made for cycling in, these are jeans made for cycling in. Done. Let’s get stuck into how that has washed out thus far, and if these would be a good match for you.
(note: as Cadence suggests that these will look “better with age”, none of these photos are taken having just pulled them out of the wash – these are how these will look if you care for them as suggested)
Off the bike
The fit was something I was a bit weary of at first. I thought they were a bit tight, but I am also quite aware that everybody has their own preference when it comes to degrees of baggy-ness in their denim. I’ve never been one for tight denim, but I’m well past baggy at this point in my life.
I thought the waist was spot on (30cm), the leg length sufficient, and as I could execute a full squat in them, the tightness was passable – something that couldn’t be said for my first pair of tight and stiff Rapha jeans. To be fair, these are a bit tighter, but the Cadence denim gets away with being tight by virtue of having some degree of stretch, which does the job. What about three months later?
Still tight. That’s just me, but I’ll give you some context.
I don’t have big legs, you may have noticed. I suppose they’re not the absolute tiniest, but they’re certainly not big. I’m skinny, let’s put it that way. Now, if you fit into a 30 waist jean, then you’re probably not all that large yourself, but if you happen to be more sprinter than climber, then you might struggle to get your guns in these.
While I can perform such advanced tasks as “bending over”, and “squatting”, I cannot do these things without needing to re-adjust my Raw Denim, and this is the downside to tight, for my preferences.
If the jeans sit a bit low on my hips, as is fairly normal (I’m not talking about butt-crack low, just not Seinfeld-high), then all is well. If I were to require them to sit a tiny bit higher, then things get pretty tight, pretty quick. The legs are tapered a bit, and for me, need to sit at just the right height to relax a little. Basically, I’m limited to wearing these a bit low in the crotch in order to get a bit of room into the thighs – the Raw Denim have a sweet spot (on me). Any time I am seated or bending significantly, the jeans will follow the natural inclination for pants to travel north a bit, but because of the increased tightness as this happens, they tend to stay there once you return to an upright position, and this is how I know they’re tight (for me).
Historically, my pants have returned to their starting position with no further assistance once I have become upright again. The Cadence jeans – on me – need a little coaxing to give them a hand. First the thighs, then the calves, because these get a bit clingy too.
Not having attended the tight-pant-camp for very long, I’m personally not overly familiar with whether or not this is just how it is with tight jeans, but I am assured from others that this is the norm, which would be logical. In the end, then, there is nothing at all wrong with the way the Cadence jeans fit, as long as you are after a standard fitting tight pair of denim, and you have a reasonably athletic build. Done.
In terms of shrinkage, there has been none to report so far, that I’ve noticed, but I’ve got this feeling like they’ve shrunk a bit in length, even though I’ve washed them in cold, hung to dry, and have done this a sparingly. I’m not certain, but I’m basing this on the fact that lately, I’ve become a little self-conscious of showing too much sock with these on, which I don’t remember feeling at first. At any rate, this is definitely something that the Levi’s suffered from. I’ve washed the Raw Demin a total of… twice? Sounds gross, but that’s what Cadence, along with many other makers of denim these days are recommending. Resist washing them for as long as possible, and only when the “smell becomes unbearable”…
The fact that I need to wear these a bit low works in favour of the length, but I’d rather it not be a requirement. All of Cadence’s jeans are a 32in leg. If you’re shorter, leave ’em baggy or roll them, and if you’re taller… too bad. At 6’1”-and-a-bit with more leg than torso, these are on the verge of being too short for me, or at least, are now. Again, fine if I wear them a bit low, but I certainly couldn’t roll them up for normal use. If I pulled them up even a bit, they’d be off of my shoes, leaving the dreaded sock-gap. Judging by how the model on their website is wearing them, I’d have to guess that a) he’s pretty skinny, b) he’s not too tall, and c) they are meant to be worn low, rendering any length issue irrelevant, but increasing the low-crotch-induced restriction of movement in the legs. Whatever – the price of cool, right?
The waist is the only place where the jeans have seemed to relaxed. These wouldn’t fall down on me without a belt, but I wear one with these primarily to keep them where I want them on the bike (which is a little higher so as to allow for better freedom of movement at the hips while pedaling). The back isn’t really that high, which is a feature on other cycling-specific jeans, so on the bike you may be tugging the back up periodically…
Other than the fit, the overall quality has been good. The denim is soft and reasonably light, which is comfortable against the skin and to move around in. There are a few unfinished stitches around the place but none that are unraveling and couldn’t be snipped off with a pair of scissors. The pockets are all of good size and shape, and… well, that’s about all there is. Oh, it’s just a label, but the reflective Cadence patch on the belt-line has broken away across the bottom. The stitches are still in place, they’ve just somehow popped through the label. If it comes off any further, I’ll just ditch it entirely. It’s behind the belt anyway, so nobody sees it (picture below)…
There is, however, the wear on the backside. Now, this is an unavoidable aspect of spending a lot of time in the saddle wearing any denim, but I find it very curious that in all my years of doing this, that it has only been the jeans that are specifically made for cycling that have shown wear in the backside within a year, or six months, or even less.
To be absolutely fair, Cadence has made no claim that they will resist showing wear any more than anything else, just that they have provided more material (double layer back pockets and their “patented Cadence seat reinforcement to slow blow out from riding”) because they know that this is the reality of spending a lot of time in the saddle wearing denim.
With that in mind, in terms of these jeans lasting quite a while before they wear through – I should think they most certainly will. On the other hand, if you retire your jeans when the backside looks worn-out, being a completely different colour to the rest of the jeans where they’re worn, then I should think that you’ll get as much wear out of these as any other pair of cycling denim out there. I’ll get to an update on the Rapha Sprinters jeans soon, but they are showing (significant) signs of wear in a slightly different way to these. The Cadence Raw Denim jeans are wearing in pretty much the same way as the Levi’s I reviewed a while back.
So, with experience across three brands of cycling-specific jeans under my belt, I’m learning that apparently at around the 3-6 month window, you’ll find that the backside starts to show signs of wear. While the Rapha’s are wearing differently and the Cadence is wearing in pretty much exactly the same way as the Levi’s, at least Cadence has doubled the material that you’d need to get through before you’ve got an extra air vent in your pants.
What I can’t figure out is why this is consistently the case for cycling denim, and less so for just regular jeans. It’s possible that I’m cycling in regular clothes more now than I ever used to which would account for the increased wear, but even when factoring this in, I still can’t shake the feeling that historically, my standard jeans have not worn as quickly.
On the bike
This is where these are supposed to do the business, and they do. Generally, they are nice to ride in, but let’s break it down.
Tight has its advantages, most notably below the knee, where you have no need of rolling these up to keep them out of the chain ring. Granted, you can still accidentally touch the chain and get grease on them no matter how tight they are, so rolling is still preferable, but not an absolute necessity. When rolled, they will obviously get a little tighter yet, so on top of the tight thighs, you’ll have a cuff that doesn’t really want to let go of the calf muscle.
Where there is no issue with tightness is at the hips. I’ve had jeans in the past that are either too tight or bunch too much at the hips which forces you to overcome a little extra resistance with each pedal stroke. These are all good.
The light denim makes these reasonably breathable and reasonably quick-drying. Certainly more breathable than the Rapha jeans. They’re not water-resistant, but don’t claim to be.
The back is a bit low. That is, they’re normal, which is a bit low for cycling in, and why many jeans made for cycling have a high back. Combined with the waist having relaxed a bit, this is why I could wear them without a belt, but don’t. The belt keeps the view from behind a bit more pleasant than it would otherwise be.
The seat-reinforcement is comfortable on the saddle and there are no issues with seams chaffing, so they’ve placed those in the right spots.
I have to try to keep my personal tastes separate from how these perform, and there is always the fact that jeans are notoriously tricky to fit to a large range of body types. What works for me might not for you, and vice versa.
These are a comfortable pair of jeans on and off the bike, of good quality, with a contemporary style that is more bike messenger than business casual. They’re a nice colour, too. For me, though, they could do with either a little more room from the thighs down, or a little more stretch to allow a little more freedom of movement. I could really do with a 34in leg, too.
Aside from fit, which is personal, the only other issue for me has been the wear on the backside, appearing about 2 months into wearing them probably 3-4 days a week with about 15km’s commute on the bike each day. Though this seems quick to me, I think I have to reset my expectations, as this seems to be fairly standard for cycling denim. Obviously nothing will be wear-proof, and Cadence have at least gone through the trouble of reinforcing the high-wear area on these.
So, if you, like many, like close-fitting jeans, aren’t too tall, don’t have huge guns, and accept that the backside will start to show wear after a few months (like everything else, it seems), then you should find Cadence’s Raw Denim jeans to be comfortable, stylish, good to ride in, and worthy of checking out.