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The Vulpine City Chinos are well made, with some good cycling-specific features, but while they're comfortable to wear off the bike, the lack of belt loops is a real oversight for when you're riding.
I've started wearing more casual trousers on my cycle to work, and after testing Vulpine's Omnia cycling jeans and being impressed, I was keen to see how the chinos would compare.
First off, they look good and fit well – a pair of trousers that I can quite comfortably wear around the office or out at the pub. They have cycling-specific features but these have been well integrated and are very discreet.
For instance, they have a 'diamond gusset' construction, which basically means you don't have four seams all meeting at a point that could become uncomfortable on the bike. Instead, this diamond-shaped panel covers the inside of your thigh and across the perineum. It makes it much more comfortable than a set of regular trousers when riding.
The chinos are made from a mix of PET polyester (41%), organic cotton (33%), recycled PET (22%) and elastane (4%), with a DWR coating. They have a good amount of stretch, and although I didn't test these out in torrential rain, I used them on fairly drizzly days and the DWR coating worked well, with water beading off impressively.
The stretch in the fabric enables more freedom of movement in these compared with non-cycling chinos, so you aren't restricted in your pedal stroke, and getting your leg over even the most horizontal of top tubes is easy.
While there are several impressive features to these chinos, there is one element that I've found problematic – they don't have any belt loops. Instead, they have the kind of fastening that you often find on more formal trousers – an adjustable elasticated strip at the back allowing you to adjust the waist. The issue with this for cycling is that the hold is simply not strong enough compared with a belt, so there were several times when I found the trousers slipping down, so much so that I chose to only wear them over the top of bib shorts.
I contacted Vulpine to ask about the lack of belt loops, and was told it had been done for comfort: 'We installed waist adjusters instead. This is so you shouldn't need a belt. Hopefully makes it more comfortable when you're on the bike by not having a large belt buckle.'
To an extent I'd agree – a belt buckle can be uncomfortable – but the trouble here is you get three set widths rather than the waist being fully adjustable, so unless you're exactly the right size the chinos don't stay up. Add to that, a waist adjuster doesn't offer anything like the 'stay up' power of a belt, so even if it fitted perfectly it would still not hold as well.
At £100 (currently discounted to £50) they seem on a par with or even better value than Pearl Izumi's Rove Trousers (£99.99) and Rapha's Technical Trousers (£110), as neither have the same kind of weatherproofing. However, both of those have belt loops.
Overall, I'm left with mixed feelings about these chinos. Off the bike they're great, and the cycling-specific features work well while being subtle enough that you would hardly notice them. However, the lack of belt loops means they aren't so good for use on the bike.
Good off the bike, but without belt loops they can slip down when riding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Mens City Chinos
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Vulpine says, "Smart British style with soft stretch and DWR treated technical fabric; these are your lightweight trousers for everyday commuting or weekend coffee shop touring.
"The stylish chino style fit offers a smart flair to your bike ensemble, tailored adjustable waist gives a secure fit, the diamond gusset ensures comfort and no seam chafe, and the PFC-free DWR treated fabric means you're prepared for the unpredictable British weather. How have you managed without them?"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Tailoring style elastic adjustable waist for a dialled in fit
PFC-free DWR treatment
Diamond gusset construction
Key loops inside rear RH pocket & front LH pocket
2 rear welt pockets with button closures
2 front hip pockets
Corozo Vulpine logo buttons
Zip fly front
Button ankle adjuster on drive-side
V circle embroidered logo
The quality of construction seems good.
The DWR coating works well and the stretch in the material is good, but without belt loops the retention system is not strong enough when you're riding, though off the bike they're fine.
This is a difficult one to score, off the bike the fit is good, on the bike the adjustable elasticated waistband is nowhere near strong enough to hold them up.
Comfortable off the bike, less so on it.
Outwardly they compare well with other cycling-specific trousers, but they fall down on the bike.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy, chucked them in at 30 and line dried them.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They performed pretty well off the bike, but on it they slip down because there are no belt loops.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit off the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The fit on the bike
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Pearl Izumi Rove Trousers come in at £99.99, but don't have the same kind of weatherproofing as these. Similarly, Rapha's Technical Trousers are £110 and don't offer weather protection. However, both have belt loops.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, when off the bike.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
Off the bike these are fine, and there's lots to like about them such as the DWR treatment and stretch in the fabric, but they're let down by the lack of belt loops, which means they can slip down much too easily when on the bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
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.