Loosen Up

Loosen Up

Recently I got curious as to why mountain bikers wear baggies. I figured there was some performance advantage or reason. So I searched the interwebs for answers. Google: “baggies vs Lycra.”

Turns out there are some legitimate reasons to choose baggies over Lycra. For instance, if knee pads are called for, baggies are more accommodating. Or if the trails have heavy brush, baggies are less likely to get damaged by branches or scrub.

But the overriding reason many mountain bikers choose baggies over Lycra has nothing to do with a technical advantage.  The reason most often cited is modesty. Seems the baggie crowd chooses the looser fit so as not to be seen prancing around in what essentially is underwear.

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So I was intrigued when I came across ELEVENPINE on Harrison Ave. in Leadville, Colorado. The company was showing off an interesting design where a baggie could be converted to a snug fitting short. There were not many takers and I get it. The LT100 is a full-on race that demands efficiency and gram counting. Baggies simply don’t fit the Leadville bill. But I grabbed a couple pair for later use and spent some time talking with founder Jeff Curran.  Our conversation was featured on The Paceline Podcast, show #44.

Curran comes from Lacrosse and Hockey. In those sports he had clothes for practice and uniforms for games.  After school, he found the bike and he loved it. Road riding became his thing, but the fashion confused him: why would someone wear tight clothing when the ride simply does not call for it? If the ride calls for rolling to a coffee shop for a cup and some conversation, why dress up like it’s a ride for a state jersey?

“It’s kind of like going skiing and if I showed up wearing racing tights to my buddies on the mountain, unless it was closing day, my buddies would just punch me,” Curran told RKP. “Unfortunately for cycling, there’s never been another option for both performance and comfort.”

Curran also saw mountain bikers having a problem with their shorts of choice in that baggies have a tendency to get snagged on saddles. Curran thought, there to be a better way for both the Lycra and the baggie crowd. So ELEVENPINE was born. He set up shot in Boulder, Colorado and recruited friends with experience in cycling apparel.

Uprising

Uprising

ELEVENPINE prototyped several ideas but eventually settle on two models: The Uprising ($90) is all black and is meant for road rides. The Crankitup ($100) is gray with black trim, a heavier short for trail rides. Both feature a zipper along the IT band and Velcro on the hem. In a matter of seconds, either model can go from roomy and comfy to sleek and form fitting. A savvy bike handler could even zip and Velcro on-the fly, if need be. The design is simple yet genius.

Crankitup

Crankitup

For the most part, I ignored the black is for road, gray is for mountain categorization and just wore them based on daytime highs. The Uprising short has a lighter fabric and is better on warmer days. The Crankitup short uses sturdier fabric and felt better when temps were below 75.

Both did a great job of staying out of the way when in “ride mode” or zipped up along the thigh and closed at the leg. Moving in and out of the saddle was without snag. I rode them in “loose mode” too, but I mostly left them snugged up, even when parked for a coffee.

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For $40 more, the shorts come with a liner. I used the stock liner on short rides but I found my own bibs were a better first layer. Chalk it up to chamois familiarity. But good on ELEVENPINE for offering their baggies with or without liner.

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Most of my rides are in Lycra so in the ELEVENPINE shorts, I sized down to achieve a more familiar fit. I wore smalls in both. Most of my apparel is medium. The roadie model—the Uprising—has a draw string for fine adjustment around the waist. The Crankitup shorts have belt loops, perfect for Leadville belt and Gold Buckle display, I suppose. By the way, this is something else I had to research; do mountain bikers wear belts when they ride? Turns out they do.

Each model has two front pockets, good for stowing a key or a couple gels but nothing substantial. In fact, with the shorts snugged up, the pockets lose much of their storage space.

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Currant thought he had it all figured out; the comfort, the performance, the fabric and the fit—then along came another demographic: women.

“I found a need in the women too because that don’t want guys to be looking at them walking around in spandex all day,” Curran says.

So for the ladies there are two models: an Uprising similar to the one for the guys and a Kickitup Skirt.

They maybe far from settling the great Lycra vs Baggies debate, but ELEVENPINE has found some middle ground with its shorts.  And Curran is keeping the wheels of compromise turning, jerseys are next.

Final thought: modestly fast shorts.

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4 comments

  1. Andrew

    There’s always the option of throwing a cheap pair of running shorts over your lycra shorts. You can even carry them in a jersey pocket. Crazy, I know

  2. Chris

    I gave up on the lycra look about the same time I gave up on dedicated road shoes. These days I wear some nice Arcteryx shorts over my bibs and SPD compatible pedals. It’s nice being able to walk into a coffee shop and not have to walk like a duck and look like a reject from a superhero convention or some sort of wannabe pro racer. Only time I’d go with just lycra is if it’s hot out but living in Seattle that never happens.


    1. Author
      Michael Hotten

      Chris-
      Thanks for checking out the review. Wore my baggies four times this week. The elevenpine are also my commute shorts. I can walk into the office with some modesty.

  3. Roman

    So the marketing strategy this company chose is to body shame and demean the uniform of our sport? He’s instantly lost my business. I don’t care how good the product may be, Jeff Curran’s decision to go negative marketing on both issues is distasteful and will never have my money.

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