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REVIEW

Riding in Royal Race Pants

Words Andrew Major
Photos Deniz Merdano (Unless Noted)
Date Oct 19, 2020
Reading time

Apologies & Acknowledgements

If you had told me before 2018 that I'd be even semi-regularly mountain bicycling in pants, at any point of the year, I would have chuckled. Then I started wearing Race Face's Agent pants and discovered a new perspective. Here I am, in the strange year that is 2020, frequently riding in pants. Most often these 4-way stretch Royal Racing Race pants. Raining or overcast, night or day, as long as it's less than warm out, I'm peacefully pedaling long laps in these beauties.

Before I jump into my pants, I do feel it's necessary to eat some crow. It's the mid-2000s and I'm in Old Buck Parking Lot at the base of Mount Seymour. It's a rainy fall day and my riding friends and I are already saturated. We're having a judgemental chuckle at a guy changing from one white DH kit into another before going up for a second lap. In my defense, these were two fully matched kits - shoes to helmets - and who rides the North Shore in White?! But either way, instead of laughing there are two takeaways that at least now make sense.

First off, carry spare clothes and change when your gear is disgusting. It's heavenly. Doubly so if you're shuttling and can keep infinite kits in a vehicle. Also, the right pants are awesome. So, apologies to the dude with the white V10 and doubled-up white Troy Lee package. As I'm constantly reminded, when it comes to bikes and gear I have a lot to learn.

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Rain, cloud-cover, or a colder day with some sunshine. I have to really mess up to end up in the Race pants on a day that's too hot for them (and any other pants).

I also feel it's necessary to acknowledge the Agent Pants from Race Face. Nominally a rain pant, I've worn my pair a tonne and they are still in great shape. They were my all-time favourite piece of cycling clothing and here's what 2018 me thought of them:

"Until the Agents, I hated riding in pants. Race Face hasn't made the first waterproof pants I want to ride in, the Agents are the first pants of any sort I've wanted to ride in. Between the comfortable cut, the stretchy material, and breathability, I've been happily wearing the Agent pants even when there isn't a reasonable chance of a deluge. In addition to being immensely comfortable for pedaling, apartment living is much cleaner and easier when I arrive home from a late rip with clean legs."

The Agents, like a lot of waterproof (read: weather-resistant) pants for mountain biking, offer nowhere near the rain protection of some hot-and-sweaty commuter rain kit. I know that really bothers some folks. For me, the Agents offered up enough weather protection while still being comfortable to actually ride in. They became my go-to fall/winter pants. They were a gateway to appreciating that even non rain pants can offer increased comfort over shorts in a deluge. I ride in pants quite a bit and I want to acknowledge that the Race Face pants moved me here.

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Laser-cut speed holes for breathability and a high-and-tight fit for riding bikes. I did end up picking up a longer pair of Saxx undies that I normally wear just to avoid cold air on bare skin.

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The pockets are zippered but I can't imagine riding with anything in them. I used them occasionally when grabbing a coffee but in general, I could live without them. Photo: AM

Pants In The Rain...

...but not necessarily rain pants. The Race pants are not 'weatherproof' by any stretch of that term. When I'm storming down Ned's Atomic Rock Bin after we've had a pile of pain, these pants get soaked. Same story if I'm out riding armoured trails in a deluge. But then, as I noted in my review of the Agent pants they would saturate through in similar events as well. They're pants for riding in first.

I know it makes no sense on paper but aside from trying to keep some warmth in and some water out, and breathe, there are some real advantages to wearing non-rain pants when it's raining. For one, when I whip them off when I'm done riding there's way less random mess to deal with as my legs shed dirt until I can find a shower. My knee pads don't fill out with crap and I end up with much cleaner socks to boot. I know, I know, it's mountain biking. I love getting dirty, it's just that on a tighter schedule having one truly filthy garment to deal with - and clean legs - is much better than five items and dirty legs.

On truly soaking days, when the pants are fully saturated in no time, my knee pads stay in place better than when they're exposed directly to water and I do find that my lower legs stay warmer. Specific to the DH race cut of these Royal pants, they are tight enough that they never start to feel gross and heavy while still allowing a full range of movement. And, they've certainly proven durable thus far. The zipper pockets had me a little suspect at first, but the overall quality of these pants is WAY higher than my previous experiences with the brand some years ago. I've worn and washed them a bunch and they are still as new.

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Lots of night rides in the Race pants. The much easier post-ride cleanup is such a nice feature getting home well after dark. Photo: AM

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Snug but very stretchy. The Royals are great for hiking in too. Actually, they're great in general. Photo: AM

The fit of these mediums is a touch on the tight side - a race pant if you will. It's a fit that Royal has been tuning for many years on tracks around the world. They're a bit short in the leg but aside from having to toss out some particularly spicy product shots, the fit just works for pedaling and descending. I haven't tried on a large to see how much larger it is, but I'd buy the medium in an instant.

They have two zippered pockets, a zippered crotch and a ratchet-style waist cinch that looks like the one on almost any non-BOA mountain bike shoe. The waist cinch actually works great but I'm still going to take a moment to talk about how great belt loops are combined with an Arcade belt. If there was some way to combine the cinch and belt looks, I'd take it and run a belt. I don't regularly use the pants pockets for anything personally, but I do understand how they contribute to our psyche.

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Getting my sweat on riding my single speed up steep climbs. It wasn't that long ago I would have thought you crazy for suggesting I'd regularly ride in pants 8-10 months of the year.

After a couple of decades making DH pants I'd expect that Royal would be on their game and I think the Race pant manufacturing and materials is a perfect example. The four-way stretch material is somehow light enough, stretchy enough, durable enough, and just weather-resistant enough that it ends up making a great four-season pant even with the holes lasered into the legs. I did have to track down a pair of the longest model of Saxx boxer shorts to ensure no bare skin was getting pelted by crafty raindrops.

The knees are flared out exactly the right amount to accommodate my Leatt Airflex or Pearl Izumi Elevate knees with plenty of room but enough fabric loading that they feel notably more secure than with shorts. The rest of the cut is totally non-restrictive, thanks to the cut and materials, but at the same time tight enough that you'd never suddenly wake up from a daydream and assume you're not wearing bottoms.

The all-day pedaling comfort is perhaps most shocking. Again, if it's a hot day I'm in shorts but this past spring & summer had plenty of precipitation and colder days of pant testing weather. Here in October, I'm back to loving them now that things have cooled down. I won't say that I don't notice they aren't there - there's no doubt I'm wearing pants - but the stretch action is excellent. And it's proven very durable thus far, which is another feature I'd expect from a DH Race pant.

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I thankfully haven't hit the deck too many times lately but the Royal Race pants are proving very durable to date. Maybe even surprisingly durable given the stretch and comfort of the fabric.

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I particularly like how they engage with my knee pads. Everything is tight but absolutely not too tight. They actually feel a bit strange without wearing armour.

Five sizes, the over-referenced Henry Ford colour palette, great four-way stretch material that's comfortable and durable, a more-complex-than-belt-loops-but-still-simple cinch system, and a tight-ish fit that's DH-Race enough that it also works great as trail kit. There's a lot to love about Royal's 135 USD Race Pants.

My key takeaways are that they are really pleasant to pedal in - including climbs - and that it turns out I love riding with pants in the rain. Even ones with plenty of laser holes and no waterproofness to speak of. I can't claim to have tried an absolute litany of pants, or review these based on their value as DH race pants, but I do think if riding in pants is a trend you're going to get into, these are absolutely worth a long look.

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Comments

gregster77
0
gregster77  - Oct. 19, 2020, 9:58 a.m.

Interesting about the lack of waterproofness.  I have the agent shorts, and they're great at keeping my fairly dry, water beads off them, they don't get fully soaked and have been in some heavy rains in them.  Especially the water/mud coming off the rear wheel.  
I've seen the 'not waterproof' reviews on MEC for the pants which has kept me from buying these, thinking there has been some reduction in quality/waterproofness.   My agent shorts are from ~2 years ago or so.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 19, 2020, 10:43 a.m.

It’s funny, having talked to a lot of riders about Agent shorts and pants - and having a number of friends who own one or both - it really does seem to come down to expectations because when you drill down the folks that love the pants or shorts and the folks that hate them (and everyone in between) seems to have ~ the same experience.

I really like the Agent pants (the shorts are great too) and in the trees they certainly offer more water protection than say these Royal pants. But, they’re by no means comparable to the commute-in-a-deluge weatherproof options that Gore or Endura or even P.I. is putting out. I don’t enjoy riding in (or listening to) any of those options (I’d rather be wet) and on a comparable level calling the Agent stuff weatherproof is a stretch.

Doesn’t mean it’s not great riding gear!

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Oct. 19, 2020, 12:26 p.m.

"They have two zippered pockets, a zippered crotch, a zipper fly, and...". 

I'm assuming the zippered crotch and fly are the same feature mentioned twice? Or are they really doubling down on the gender inclusive features these days?

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AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Oct. 19, 2020, 12:58 p.m.

All The Zippers!!!! 

Yes, just a case of not being able to decide what term to use and then missing the double up in editing.

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andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Oct. 19, 2020, 1:32 p.m.

I have a pair of highly water resistant and wind proof XC ski pants made by Dhalie. In Nordic skiing even if it’s wet out, either 1 degree snow or light rain, proper waterproof is just too hot. Riding would be the same.  What you want when it’s wet out is a hybrid of sorts. Waterproof butt for rear wheel spray and water resistant elsewhere. For my build I have rarely found pants that aren’t too long. I check out all the riding pants and all have leg lengths for giraffes.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 19, 2020, 1:54 p.m.

Endura does some interesting mixed-material pants but honestly, I haven’t been on a wet ride yet where I’ve really missed my rain pants. Maybe once temperatures drop some more.

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Tremeer023
+1 Andrew Major
Tremeer023  - Oct. 20, 2020, 6:35 a.m.

I've had the Endura MT500 Spray II trousers for a couple of years now and wear them at every opportunity.  The range of temperatures it feels comfortable in is much wider than I expected (from freezing right up to 18C or so).  It has thigh zippers for cooling.  I personally find the waterproof seat area invaluable and wouldn't want to be without one.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Tremeer023
Andrew Major  - Oct. 20, 2020, 6:45 a.m.

My biggest takeaway is definitely the - surprising - range of temperatures I’m happy running pants in. 

Will definitely check out the spray trousers if I have a chance.

Reply

craw
+2 Andrew Major Andy Eunson
Cr4w  - Oct. 20, 2020, 4:19 p.m.

Giraffe here. You're wrong. None of those pants are long. Not one style from a single brand come in 36" inseam. You can always shorten pants that are too long.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 20, 2020, 5:31 p.m.

HAHAHAHA. I knew you were coming. 

A lot of these pants make me look like I'm waiting for a flood, they must look like knickers on you.

Reply

xy9ine
+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - Oct. 21, 2020, 12:37 p.m.

this (and i'm not even properly tall). though too pricey for my blood, the trimmable 7mesh trouser detail is brilliant. 

https://7mesh.com/how-to-thunder-pant

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 21, 2020, 8:15 p.m.

That is pretty damn cool. And it's cool they're doing women's stuff now. BUT, those pants would have to blow my mind for $400 and I happily ride in decently nasty conditions.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+2 Andy Eunson Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Oct. 21, 2020, 6:08 a.m.

The Giraffes on your savanna must be really short. 

I was going to say the opposite, these bike pants pretty much only come in one inseam, and according to the review, these run short.

Anyway, the point isn’t that a certain inseam lengths are “better” than others. Just that brands need to offer multiple inseams, because we are not all the same!

Reply

Masacrejoe
+1 Andrew Major
Michael Klein  - Oct. 20, 2020, 3:27 a.m.

"having one truly filthy garment to deal with" -Get a Dirtlej suit.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - Oct. 20, 2020, 6:47 a.m.

Hahahahaha. That would be a hell of a look. Pretty sure even Deniz couldn’t find my good side in one of those. 

Never mind my lunch muscle, without a modular jacket I’d boil myself alive in my own juices.

Reply

WalrusRider
+1 Andrew Major
WalrusRider  - Oct. 21, 2020, 8:08 a.m.

Dang this cover photo of this article is sick. I converted my Honzo back to singlespeed after reading this the first time lol!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 21, 2020, 4:21 p.m.

Yeah, it’s my favourite photo anyone has taken of me riding a bike. Deniz!!!!

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Andrew Major
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 21, 2020, 10:16 a.m.

Do you have to take the pants off to put pads on under them? I really prefer not pedaling in pads.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 21, 2020, 4:25 p.m.

With these ones yes. My pads are super comfortable to pedal in and I’m set and forget with most stuff. Also like the tight lower leg fit.

Actually, never thought about it but I doubt any of my pants are wide enough to load pads from the bottom.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Andrew Major
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 22, 2020, 11:14 a.m.

I ride in a pair of old out-door research softshell ice-climbing pants that have zippers on the cuffs. I still generally end up strapping my pads on the outside. I don't know if I have weird/overly-sensitive knees, or what, but I've never been able to find a pair of pads that both stay put in a crash and don't bug me to pedal in.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2020, 8:28 a.m.

To each their own for sure. I find both the Leatt and Pearl Izumi non-Newtonian pads I’m using are comfy under pants.

Reply

Sebov
+2 Andrew Major Doug M.
Sebov  - Oct. 22, 2020, 4:02 a.m.

Heavy rain at an enduro race, all my buddies took on their dirtlej one-piece-suits. Don’t have one and don’t want a sweaty suit. So one of them lent me his Spesh Demo Pants. First time wearing pants for years. Awesome! No dirt at the legs, dried up very fast, protection of the socks from spray water. Reasonable price. So I ordered one right after the race!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2020, 8:24 a.m.

Cheers! Exactly.

Reply

Mic
+1 Andrew Major
Mic  - Oct. 22, 2020, 1:20 p.m.

Riding in pants is wesome. I bought a Fox race pants two seasons ago, and it was such an eye-opener. Riding regularly in them, but am a bit worried about crashing in them. The material seems to be easy to tear, are the Royal race pants any different? Guess these are the ones that the 50 to 1 are wearing.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Mic
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2020, 8:24 a.m.

I have a pair of much lighter Giro pants as well that are proving durable but I know what you mean with my pads under them. They just seem so light. 

The Royal Race pants are a heavier 4-way stretch material. They’ve proven tough.

Reply

Mic
+1 Andrew Major
Mic  - Oct. 24, 2020, 5:03 a.m.

Now I need to check them out. 

Oh....and I still rock a pair of Roach pants in dark blue where the knees are like in indigo. Almost look like a normal pair of pants. A bit baggy but still awesome. Bought them at the original Cove in 2001 I think. Had a few seams replaced by a professional. Can not kill them.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2020, 7:18 a.m.

Wasn’t that long ago now I retired the CoreRat pants I used to go building in. Bit baggy for sure, but worn-in to the point they moved like silk PJ’s v. back packs on my legs when they were new.

It’s funny how that stuff (Roach Armour is another great example) used to have a break-in period and then get better the more you wore it. I’d guess ~ no one would find that acceptable now. 

“Give me 4-way stretch or get lost!”

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mb
0
Mikey Bikey  - Oct. 26, 2020, 12:38 p.m.

We're late to the party, but if 32w/36l is a popular jean size and sold out a lot of times down here, Royal Race xl is 36-38w/31.75l (?!)

They might be great pants, but seriously,  I can't justify the price/size difference.

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Dogl0rd
0
Dogl0rd  - Oct. 31, 2020, 6:49 p.m.

Any editorial comments about the fit of these pants? I read online a store comments that the medium ran small, I'm even skinnier than the dude who said they fit him, I wear size 31 pants, and they are still tight on my waist!!

I don't think it's lack of the material that's a problem, I think Royal was just way too overzealous with the tightness and strength of the elastic. Anyone else run into this? 

I just don't see how a dude who wears 31 size pants could be a large, skinny AF. Weird sizing...

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