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Gore's Element Urban Windstopper Soft Shell Pants are an interesting and practical set of casual commuting trousers. As windproof and waterproof as you would expect from Gore, with several practical, high-vis elements, they're very good – once you've found the right size.
Wearing Lycra doesn't suit every situation. Try walking into a proper London pub, going to a football match or going clubbing in bib shorts – you get strange looks. So having a set of trousers that can do most of what Lycra can but without the social stigma that the 'uninitiated' put on it is nice. Step forward the Element Urban Windstoppers.
As you might suspect from the name, the trousers are designed to be both windproof and waterproof. Given that these are a Gore product, it's not surprising to hear that they excel in these areas. The rain beads against the material and the wind batters it but nothing gets through.
They also need to look like casual trousers, and to an extent they do. I normally wear black jeans, and it wasn't until I turned around that people could see the reflective elements and realised they weren't just another pair. The softshell material means they don't quite hang the same as regular jeans, but the chances of you getting strange looks because of them are slim.
The high-vis elements of the trousers are also very impressive: two large strips on the rear pockets, a relatively large logo on the back pocket and a band around the bottom on the right leg. This band on the right leg is exposed when you turn it up to keep it away from the chain, and held in place with a strap and two buttons. The system works well, but I would have liked to have it on both sides, for symmetry if nothing else.
As well as being waterproof and practical, the trousers are also designed to be hardwearing, and one of the key areas for this is the reinforced seat area. Here there is extra durable material which covers roughly the same area as a regular bib short pad and extends about midway towards the knee. It is a nice touch that means the most vulnerable place for trousers when cycling is well protected, so they are likely to last for a long time.
There are other good practical touches too, which show that real thought has been put into the design. For instance, there is gripper on the inside of the waistband at the back to stop the trousers riding up or down, and on a belt loop on the outside to stop shirts moving too. There is also a loop for hanging a lock or keys, plus several pockets: two large rear, zippable pockets, two regular front pockets and a concealed pocked on the right.
The only problem I had was with fit: they come up really small. The medium that I initially received, which was meant to be my exact size, was far too small and even when I received a large pair they weren't as large as I would have thought. If you can, try these on before buying, or at least expect to go one or two sizes larger than you'd expect. That said, this is purely on the waist, I didn't feel restricted at all when pedalling, thanks to the stretchy and supple material.
Overall, I really like these trousers. They provide good protection against the elements, look the part off the bike, and have all the features you would want when on it. They are likely to last a long time, and they include useful safety features with high-vis areas all over the place. Some might find the £149.99 RRP steep, but for this kind of quality I think they're worth it.
Expensive, but for casual commuting trousers you can wear on and off the bike, a strong contender
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore Element Urban Windstopper Soft Shell Pants
Size tested: Large, black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Gore says: "The Gore Bike Wear Element Urban Wind Stopper SO Trouser combines the best technical features with a stylish, everyday look. The superior engineering of Windstopper Soft Shell technology protects from wind, moisture and flying water. Strategically positioned reflective touches ensure visibility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Main fabric – 100% Polyester and Windstopper Membrane. Shell inside – 100% Polyester, Robust shell – 94% Polyamide, 6% Elastane and Windstopper Membrane
Water-resistant seat reinforcement and pre-shaped knees
Front zip with zip tag for easy opening
2 back pockets and a concealed back zip pocket, 2 front pockets and a smart phone pocket
Reflective insert detail on back pocket, reflective print on waistband and an adjustable right hem with reflective detail on inside which can be turned out for improved visibility
Grippy insert at the waistband and belt loops
Do not use fabric softener. Wash inside out and with similar colours only
Very well made, with extra material used where it is needed and innovative features.
Did everything they needed to, kept the wind and rain out and the warmth in without being too sweaty.
Extra care taken to protect the areas that really need it on trousers.
Fit nicely in all the areas that matter, not too tight and not too baggy.
Once you find the correct size they are fine, but finding this correct size can be a challenge unless you buy in store.
Commuting trousers aren't designed for climbing the Galibier, so despite being heavier than bibs, it can easily be forgiven. (Weight given is for the original medium size.)
Comfortable fabric used that doesn't restrict movement. Windproofing and waterproofing also help when riding in adverse conditions.
Possibly more than many would want to pay, but those who do won't be disappointed.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine, no shrinking or fraying. Need to make sure that fabric softener isn't used though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, on and off the bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The combination of casual looks with weather protection is a real plus.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sizing is off, makes you feel fat.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Perform very well, only really lose marks over the sizing issues.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.