I bought a nice pair of pants to wear to work, and I am reasonably certain they were of good quality (although maybe I was mistaken) and I found that the seat of the pants was worn down to holes in less than a year of near-daily commuting. I commute by bike to my workplace and I don't bother changing because it's a leisurely 15 minute ride and I don't work up a sweat, even when wearing business-casual attire. I of course use the bike to go elsewhere but it is the same in that I don't "ride hard", so to speak.

One thing to note though is that the seat was leather but cracked so there were some sharp edges on the torn leather which may have contributed to the problem.

I'm just wondering if anybody else has had experience with pants becoming worn out in the seat due to only light riding, and with an undamaged seat, because it will make me more hesitant to wear work clothes on the bike in the future.

  • Did you treat the leather with any conditioner, like Proofide or beeswax ? That helps keep leather supple and weather-resistant. – Criggie Feb 22 at 13:27
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    Wearing out a pair of pants in a year of cycling does not sound unusual. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 22 at 13:37
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    I only used to get about a thousand miles out of a pair of jeans. I stopped wearing jeans pretty quickly. Oddly enough, thin office type trousers wore a lot better. – Brian Drummond Feb 22 at 21:55
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    Closely related: How to minimize wear on pants – sleske Feb 24 at 10:15
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    All trousers I ever wore cycling, to school and later work, did wear through fast. For me mostly the inner leg, near the crotch. Till.... I changed to recumbent bikes. Not a single damaged pair of pants since. – Willeke Feb 24 at 18:59

Absolutely. The thicker your thighs, the more friction, and the quicker the pants loose their thread. This happens relatively irrespective of material, even jeans can wear through rather quickly. I guess that specialized bike wear uses materials that are much less prone to this, but I have not tested that myself.

Of course, saddles with sharp edges do contribute to the wear. Yet, one pair of pants in a year is not too bad. I've worn down jeans within two or three months, simply by biking a lot more with them than you do.

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    Jeans are not particularly strong against abrasion. There's a reason why work clothes aren't denim any more. – ojs Feb 23 at 9:19
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    @ojs Yes, they are just cotton in the end. They just pack a lot more material per square meter than the typical dress pants. I guess, if you want significantly better abrasion resistance from a material that we actually use for clothing, you need to wear leather pants. – cmaster - reinstate monica Feb 23 at 11:07
  • In reality polyester and nylon do well. Check what cycling pants or work clothes (the ones sold at construction equipment suppliers, not fashion stores) are made of. – ojs Feb 24 at 20:08
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    @cmaster-reinstatemonica I see an opportunity here: commuter chaps. – JimmyJames Feb 24 at 22:05

It depends. I have had one saddle that wore through pants quickly. It had an embroidered logo. After removing the embroidery (which took quite some effort) I did not have the problem with that saddle either. Sharp edges or cracked surface could have the same effect.

Cycling specific trousers, both lycra and baggy, are made of slippery fabric. The low friction both reduces wear and is more comfortable in the saddle. Baggy cycling trousers are also often made of synthetic materials that dry quicker than cotton.

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Absolutely. The seat of my favourite ever pair of trousers was ruined in a single journey, no more than about three miles. There was nothing wrong with my saddle. They were an unusual fabric and I should have guessed they wouldn't take kindly to cycling, but it was late and I had nowhere to change. It still makes me sad to think of them twenty years later.

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    I've got pants and shirts like that, comfortable, and patched multiple times. Only good for round-home but I keep mending them. – Criggie Feb 23 at 0:13

I had several pair of wool dress pants ruined by a major premium brand of leather saddle: it was the rivets. The leather sank around the rivet heads, and their sharp edges stuck up. I didn't notice until my wife mentioned it. I threw the saddle out and now use an economy vinyl saddle, which has remained smooth and is every bit as comfortable.

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  • Is there any reason not to say the name? Was it Brooks? – compton Feb 26 at 23:03

In addition to the other issues, if you perspire at all while wearing shorts or trousers, be sure to wash them before wearing them again. Aside from the odor issues, when perspiration dries it leaves salt crystals behind, which are very abrasive.

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  • Good point! Same reason you should never wear shoes in salt water. The dried salt cuts them up. – Kingsley Feb 25 at 0:51

In my experience biking can destroy many kinds of "normal" pants quite quickly, whatever the saddle. Biking-specific pants are a different story, and decent ones can tolerate thousands of kilometers in the saddle.

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