by AJ Barlas
Jeans for biking? Let's start with a confession: I wear jeans almost religiously. I have no idea how it started, but pretty much on a daily basis I rock denim. Denim to lounge in, work in, dig in, when riding the pumptrack, dirt jumps and cruising the streets. When it gets warm I rock cut jeans. Simply put, I'm not at all adverse to donning the material in order to cover my legs. So why not ride downhill (or freeride) in a pair of jeans? To be honest, even though I'm clearly a big fan, I never thought jeans had a place in the woods on the bike.
Curious about the Royal Racing Domain Pant—a waterproof, lightweight (compared to common jeans), functionally cut pant, designed to be ridden in through the most adverse of conditions—I donned my first pair of jeans for a ride. If you're keen on wearing jeans while riding but not enthusiastic about getting soaking wet from the elements, the Domain Pant may be a piece of apparel that will interest you. Read on to see what we found with this hybrid clothing item.
Domain Pant Highlights:
- Canopy 10/10 H/S Denim look polyester
- 10,000 DPI waterproof and 10,000 MVP breathable
- Suede trims
- Loose fit to go over knee and shin pads
- Reinforced hems to prevent fraying
- Belt loops or internal adjusters to keep them up
- Clip and double snap closures
- Mesh liner
- MSRP: $109.95
It's safe to say that Royal has their quality control fairly down pat. Our Domain Pants, as with their other products that have been tested this winter and spring, came out really well. The pant has some great attention to detail, pulling through traits commonly seen on a good pair of denim jeans. The difference is that these are waterproof. This feature came at a slight cost where feel is involved, though, with the pant being a bit stiff and 'noisy' initially.
Traditional denim isn't designed to be ridden in, and the cuffs can hook onto cranks, chainrings, and whatever else they whirl by while pedaling a bike. This, and the fact that denim doesn't breathe well and soaks up water, makes tradition jeans less than ideal for riding. Skinny jeans, like them or not, cover the clearance issues quite well, but it remains to be seen where a pair of jeans can be functional on the trail and not just ok at the dirt jumps. To aid with this, the Domain Pant has a slightly roomier knee, allowing ample room for pads, and a slight taper towards the ankle in order to keep the cuffs away from your cranks and drivetrain.
Clever design elements like these sound great in theory, but how do they measure up on the trail?
On The Trail
The fit of the Domain Pant was a little funky while walking and lounging about, and we found the swollen knee and thigh area to be a strange contrast to the slimmer, tapered lower leg. However, our opinion changed after swinging a leg over our downhill bike. The tapered legs, with room for the knee pads, made for a comfortable and functional pant once on the bike. This allowed us to focus on the trail and not be distracted by the tugging feeling at the knee or the catching of a pant leg, if even for a split second, on our cranks or drivetrain.
Most days we rode in the Domain Pant were misty and cold with the occasional sunny afternoon thrown in for good measure. We found the pant to keep us warm and dry. When new, water was visibly beading on the pant, but after a while the beads stopped. Even though the beading isn't as prevalent as when new, the pants have retained decent waterproofing to this day, keeping us dry underneath most days. However, it was pretty obvious that the material doesn't breathe exceptionally well when hiking, allowing some unwanted moisture to build up underneath.
Things That Could Be Improved
While the pant has a cut that functions well while riding, we found that the material lacked the right flexibility. The initial stiff feeling, while not as noticeable now, is still there and something that we are not the most enthusiastic about riding in. Jeans, especially the newer stylings with lycra in the material mix, allow more movement in a tighter package. We'd also appreciate a softer, less noisy material, ultimately making for a more comfortable pant to ride and lounge around in.
We also found the regular pockets to be somewhat of a downer and had no confidence placing a wallet, set of keys, or a phone in them due to their open nature. Additionally, we have historically found it to be less desirable to have open pockets on the back of a pair of jeans when riding, especially if the seat of the pant is a little baggier, as is the case with the loose fit of the Domain Pant. The last thing you want is the nose of your saddle catching on your pant, usually at the most inopportune of moments on asteep section of trail. While jeans on a dirt jumper or BMX is a common sight, the jeans worn are commonly a tighter fit and the seat is usually a lot further away than on a downhill/freeride bike, and both of these factors take part in keep the seat away from the back pocket. It would be nice to see some form of closure on the back pockets to prevent hooking on the nose of the seat, but more so, a sealed pocket or two would also be a welcome and very functional benefit.
Long Term Durability
Riding in nasty conditions regularly has resulted in plenty of trips to the washer, but to this day the Domain Pants are fray free and the stitching has remained solid throughout. The waterproof bead on the pant has dwindled since fresh out of the package, a result of the coating wearing, but the overall waterproof characteristics remain. From what we can tell, these will continue to keep us dry on the wet days for quite a while.
The polyester material appears to be pretty hard wearing, with no visible scuffs from rubbing up against trees and undergrowth. A few spots have seen dirt almost bed into the material around the seat area, remaining visible after a wash (think about sitting and squirming mud and grit between your backside and bike seat). This may be amendable with a stronger wash and some powerful detergent. Not a major issue, however, as the pants are built to get dirty and are dark enough to hide the grit well.
What's The Bottom Line?
Given their waterproof coating, we're fans of the Domain Pant on lift assisted days when conditions are nasty. They kept us dry from the elements and stayed out of the way, most of the time.Although not something we'd ride in daily, when the weather calls for it, they will likely be the first thing we go scouring through the closet for. They do feel nicer than a cheap pair of plastic rain pants, are more flexible, stay out of the way of your drivetrain, and let's be honest—they look better too.
If you love wearing denim but are tired of getting soaked or cold and having to call your ride short, the Domain Pant may be worth a look. They look like jeans, are lighter, and will keep you dry while busting out laps.
For more on the Domain Pant visit www.royalracing.com
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.