Group test: Women’s cycling trousers

There are plenty of options for keeping your legs warm while cycling. Photo: Café du Cycliste
Cafe du Cycliste Juliette trousers
Cafe du Cycliste Juliette trousers

Group test: Women’s cycling trousers

As the temperature drops, baring your knees in cycling shorts feels a lot less appetising. Fortunately, if you’re not a fan of leggings, there is an increasing range of women’s trousers available for cycling, which work well for trail riding, touring and commuting to keep your legs warm. Cycling UK’s campaigns officer Sophie Gordon tests four pairs

The trousers we tested would be great for chucking in your pannier for a trip to wear in the evenings as well as being comfy on the bike, and I found the stretch makes them good multi-functional attire for other activities like hiking and scrambling.

None of these trousers have inbuilt padding, so you might want to wear padded shorts underneath.

Alpkit Floe Trouser £74.99


Alpkit Floe trouser

I’m a big fan of Alpkit’s sustainability ethos – they are a certified B-corp and their products are built to last.

These trousers are designed for mountain biking, with room to wear knee pads, but are good for all-round cycling.

An adjustable waist means they fit really well, and the diamond gusset avoids seams in uncomfortable places.

In wet weather the eco-friendly water-repellent coating did a good job of keeping me dry for a while, and if you start getting warm there are air vent zips on the thighs. The zip pockets are good and secure, too, and the tapered legs won’t catch on your chain.

Colour: black. Size: 10.

Verdict: good-quality, sustainably-made trousers perfect for trail riding.

Altura Esker Women’s Trail Trouser £75


Altura Esker trouser

These have the most tapered legs of the trousers tested, which does make them slightly more awkward to get on and off and gives them an unmistakeably ‘cycling’ look, but does a good job of keeping mud and water out.

They are comfortably stretchy for riding in, with a flattering cut, and have a good high waist thanks to an extra panel at the back.

The positioning of the pocket on the mid-thigh avoids anything digging into your leg while you’re pedalling, and just about squeezes a large smartphone in.

Like the Alpkit trousers, these have a water-resistant coating – although I didn’t manage to test this in the rain to verify. Watch out for the small sizing: I ordered a size 12 when I’m usually an 8 or 10 for other brands.

Colour: ‘black’ (really grey). Size: 12.

Verdict: comfortable to ride in and keep out the worst of the mucky weather.

Madison Roam Women’s Stretch Pants £59.99


Madison Roam stretch pants

These feel the lightest of the four pairs of trousers tested, so they would work well to pack for touring.

The straight-cut leg makes them versatile for other activities off the bike without flapping around the ankles. They aren’t the most flattering; I’d describe them as ‘outdoor activity’ trousers rather than being for smart urban cycling.

I like the subtle reflective strips at the cuffs and the belt to adjust the waist, and the zip pockets are a good size.

Colour: black. Size: 10.

Verdict: versatile all-rounders which work well on and off the bike.

Café du Cycliste Juliette Women’s Active Trousers £142


Cafe du Cycliste Juliette trousers

Of the four pairs, these aim for a more stylish look which would feel at home in an Alpine ski chalet. I’m not quite sure it works for me, but that’s just personal preference.

They are made for colder temperatures, too, using a ‘technical scuba fabric’ to keep you cosy on chilly days. The thicker material would be a bit warm for long rides except in very cold weather, but they are great for winter utility cycling.

The waistband is quite thick which I found slightly uncomfortable – accentuated by the underfoot elasticated bands which can also feel like they are pulling down on the waistband – but that perhaps would have been solved with a bigger size.

Colour: ‘dark forest’ (green-grey). Size: S

Verdict: cosy for winter town cycling, but the chic look comes with a premium price tag.

Overall verdict

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel the need for specific kit for every activity, the Madison trousers are a good value and versatile option. At the other end of the price scale, the Café du Cycliste pair feel warm and stylish but are only suitable for very cold days.

With a similar design and price tag, it’s hard to choose between the Alpkit and Altura trail trousers. Alpkit just cuts it for me because of the adjustable waist and PFC-free water-resistant coating.

Cycling UK’s test promise

At Cycling UK, we are proudly independent. There’s no pressure to please advertisers as we’re funded by your membership. Our product reviews aren’t press releases; they’re written by experienced cyclists after thorough testing.

What to look for

Material

Polyamide fabric such as nylon mixed with a small amount (6-12%) of elastane (aka Lycra or Spandex), so they’re lightweight, slightly stretchy and quick drying. Some have a DWR (durable water repellent) coating for shower resistance. All are crease resistant and are machine washable at 30 degrees centigrade.

Seat

Don’t expect padding. Do expect a design that doesn’t put thick seams between your sensitive parts and the saddle. All these trousers have flat seams. Some have a gusset, an extra diamond-shaped panel.

Lower legs

Darts and/or extra fabric at the knee can provide better articulation. Trouser cuffs can be kept away from the chain by: skinny-fit or tapered legs; elasticated cuffs; a velcro strap; or a press-stud or button. Cycle clips shouldn’t really be required.

Features

Look for a button at the waist not just a press-stud, which can pop open under pressure. Expect belt loops, some pockets (with zips for high-value contents), and a cut that’s higher at the back to prevent bare skin. Mountain bike trousers may have room for knee pads.

Style

Commuters will want normal-looking trousers, tourers something that passes muster. Roadies and mountain bikers changing post-ride might not be bothered.

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