Compass Knickers

Compass Knickers

We are happy to introduce our Compass Knickers! Now we can be more confident when entering restaurants or shops, knowing that our cycling clothes do not stretch the boundaries of good taste by being too tight and revealing. Yet on the bike, these knickers are slick with the wind, and do not billow like many “casual” cycling shorts. I’ve ridden many spirited rides on them, including part of this year’s PBP, and they simply disappear.
During my first trip to Japan, I discovered Japanese cyclotouring knickers. I started to wear them on most rides, and whenever a photo of me appeared in the magazine, on our blog or on other social media, we received requests from readers who were interested in the knickers. Clearly, there is a demand for performance cycling knickers, but unfortunately, none of the Japanese manufacturers were interested in selling small quantities to North America.
The solution was to make our own. We worked with a local company in Seattle to develop knickers that combine the best features of various knickers we have tried. We have tested a number of prototypes with different cuts and fabrics over thousands of kilometers.
Compass Bicycles_2064 cop 1
The final model uses a synthetic woven fabric with a little stretch, so they don’t constrict your pedaling, no matter how fast you are going. The fabric wicks moisture, so it is comfortable even in very hot weather. The cuffs below the knees are elastic and adjustable. The waist is both elastic and features a belt, so you can dial in your fit.
Compass Bicycles_2037 cop 1
They don’t have a pad, so you also can wear them off the bike. I’ve found them perfect for back-country hiking as well. On the bike, I simply wear my normal cycling shorts underneath them. They also pack so small that you could just stuff them in your jersey pocket and only wear them when you arrive at your destination. (They fit over your cycling shoes, so they are easy to put on.)
Compass Bicycles_2036 cop 1
The Compass knickers are finely detailed and hand-made in Seattle. They are available now in five sizes between 28″ and 36″, in two colors. The fit is adjustable, so order a size up if unsure, especially if you wear padded cycling shorts underneath. Click here for more information about the Compass Knickers or to order your pair.

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Comments (39)

  • Patrick Moore

    Your link doesn’t work, at least in Chrome.

    October 2, 2015 at 5:49 am
  • Carl W

    Good news, looking good Jan.
    Is it one size up for tall and slim people – I´m 6.1″ with a 30 inch waist/32 inch inseam?

    October 2, 2015 at 6:32 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think you should order up and try the 32 (adjustable belted waist), and then please let us know how it goes since we might adjust the pattern based on feedback.
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 8:23 am
  • marmotte27

    Great news!
    What size are you wearing on the pictures? Knowing that you are about 1.85m in height, cyclist-slim and of normal build, that could give an idea about which size to order.

    October 2, 2015 at 7:58 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Jan was wearing the 32 and he can cycle in the prototype of that size fine, but I think he’s going to try out the 34 for awhile since his glut area is a bit larger than the “normal” build you’re referencing.
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 8:27 am
      • marmotte27

        Thanks for your answers, I’m usually a 33″ in waist, so I should go with a 34, too, If only the $/€ hadn’t gone down so much recently…

        October 4, 2015 at 2:26 am
  • DG

    Can you tell us the particular material? I have a variety of pants constructed from materials that match your description. Some are better than others.

    October 2, 2015 at 8:41 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The jury may be out for a bit about how well the fabric and pattern work for those beyond our regular testers, and please let us know how you find them to work out for you. From our testing, we find it has a good weight and drape, as well as durability.
      The fabric is Carr Textile’s Xanadu, woven polyester.
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 9:41 am
  • Paul

    How does the fabric behave/feel when it becomes soaked in the rain? Does it become heavy? Does it dry quickly?

    October 2, 2015 at 8:44 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The fabric has a moisture wicking finish. In the event it gets wet, it is 3.4 oz 100% polyester woven fabric (a lighter medium weight) and shouldn’t stay wet. Jan is out traveling, and I’m sure he’ll relate his experience with it when he gets on-line again.
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 9:37 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The fabric is not water-repellent, as that would decrease the breathability. However, it doesn’t absorb much moisture, so it never gets heavy. Just won’t keep you warm, either. These knickers really disappear when you wear them… in every sense.

      October 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm
  • Alejandro

    Those embarrassing a la “meet the parents” moments, are over for me¡¡¡¡¡ Thank you very much

    October 2, 2015 at 9:49 am
  • Aaron

    Do the knickers come with the black “gaiters” that go over socks? The on-bike photo does not show them. Maybe they’re removable?

    October 2, 2015 at 10:31 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Jan was wearing long black wool tights during the studio photo shoot, and they are not part of the knickers product. The knickers extend to just below the knee as shown on the on-bike photo.
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 10:43 am
  • Ty

    So glad to see these knickers! They look great.
    Though I know cycling shorts look the way they do for a good and practical reasons, I have always felt ridiculous wearing them. For quite some time I have been wearing Chrome knickers for my day-to-day riding as well as on Brevets. For some unknown reason, Chrome no longer sells them and these Compass Knickers look to me to be an excellent successor.
    Oh, and I call them “man-pris,” rather than knickers by the way… 😉
    For commuting and anything under 50 miles or so, I just wear regular underwear underneath, But as Jan suggests, for long rides I do wear the bike shorts under the knickers.
    Not only do I not feel foolish wearing them, they also have pockets for ID, brevet cards, etc., so there is some practicality there as well compared to traditional bike shorts.
    I would be ordering a pair right away, but when Chrome phased out their knickers six months ago, I bought three pairs for $15 each which was a steal. They still have plenty of life left, but when they do wear out I will be ordering these Compass knickers for sure.

    October 2, 2015 at 11:16 am
  • On Knickers | keneticsam

    […] the new Compass knickers announced today, I’m reminded to give a shout-out to how great knickers are for biking.  It […]

    October 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm
  • Dave

    I wear knickers around town and appreciate the bike-oriented features and design of my favorites (which I’m not going to advertise here 😉 Living in the Seattle area, a big plus is the DWR finish, which lets me ride in light rain without getting wet, then shake and/or brush the water off when I get where I’m going.

    October 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm
  • JohnG

    Thank you for not making any larger sizes. Fat people should not be seen in knickers, or on bikes for that matter. Only beautiful hipster people belong.

    October 2, 2015 at 4:22 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I’ll guess you were trying to say that you were disappointed that your size is not on offer at this time. A few other comments sent via email included kind requests for larger sizes, so we are already in the process of planning them in a reorder. Please let us know what size you had in mind; you can email us directly at
      Compass Staff

      October 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm
      • Jason Dul

        Glad to see that larger sizes are on the way in the future!
        Some of us Sasquatches are about the furthest thing from a “slim fit”, even at race-weight. (Which, by my definition, is whatever I weigh the morning of my race.)
        Question: If you make a pair in say, a 40″ waist (I’m usually a 38, so that’d be my size up), is there any chance I’d fit my 27.5″ quads into them?
        I know it’s a long shot… There’s not much call for cycling gear to fit a gorilla.

        October 3, 2015 at 11:47 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Quad measurement noted and we’ll see what we can do! Quite a few people have written asking for sizes 38 and 40, and I can understand they’d tend to be more “husky” (to borrow the term from kids’ jeans) than slim in fit.
          Compass Staff

          October 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm
  • Cynthia

    And thank you for making them in “uni-sex” sizes, which means men’s sizes. Are you not aware that there is a difference between a man’s crotch to waist length/shape, and a woman’s crotch to waist/shape length? In the same tone as JohnG, I guess women should not be seen in knickers, or on bikes for that matter. Your Compass Bicycles ad starts off with, “Now WE can be more confident….”. I’m feeling Compass Bicycles is biased towards a male only club. For less money and better fit, I can stitch up my own.

    October 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Cynthia (and other female readers) – thank you for letting us know that there is interest in knickers for women. If the guy’s knickers are successful, we may add a women’s model in the future. And we’ll give it to women for testing… But for now, one step at a time.
      You shouldn’t have to wear clothes that aren’t really designed for cycling, or for the style of riding you enjoy.

      October 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm
  • Jimmy

    Jeez, lighten up.
    Have you ever tried to source or manufacture anything that is not a universal-fit item and that comes in several configurations? Not every company is big enough to order a full size run in several colors in several cuts right off the bat. This is a new product (and new product category, I think?) for Compass. I can hardly blame them for playing conservative with the first batch.
    Barbara, kudos to you for your cheerful responses.

    October 3, 2015 at 6:11 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Thanks for sharing some of our perspective, and thanks to everyone for their feedback so far. I have our size 38/40 testers lined up already! And thanks for the compliment, too.
      Compass Staff

      October 3, 2015 at 8:55 pm
      • Thorin Messer

        Some of us are even bigger than that. 😉 I wear a 42 normally.

        October 5, 2015 at 8:15 am
      • Ty

        On a similar note, I have a similar problem with shirts/jerseys. I would love to have a Bicycle Quarterly jersey, but the Extra Large is the equivalent of a very snug large T-shirt on me. I know this as I have a XL wool jersey from the same company that I got with the San Francisco Randonneurs.
        I don’t know if this a European sizing thing or not, but I am not a fan of skin-tight clothing, so I only wear that jersey on Brevets. I would love a wool jersey that I would feel comfortable wearing for casual rides. I’m 6’1″ 220 lbs with a 44 chest and a 36 waist. Not all cyclists are rail-thin. I just wish the companies that make cycling jerseys would realize this.
        Anyway, if you folks ever make an XXL wool Bicycle Quarterly jersey, I’m in!

        October 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm
      • Andrew Squirrel

        Ty, The great thing about wool jerseys is there really isn’t anything magical about them. You can likely find a lightweight merino sweater at your local thrift shop that will do the trick just as well at a fraction of the cost. Bonus if it has a partial button/zip up area on the neck. I used a thrift sweater for years and now that I have a couple wool cycling jerseys in the closet I can honestly say they functional almost identically.

        October 6, 2015 at 10:35 am
    • Cynthia

      Jimmy, obviously you have been on only one side of the receiving end of the “uni-sex”/”universal-fit” end of clothing. I will repeat myself and say that that means, “Mens” sizes. It’s been really frustrating over the years as a female to have to settle for over-sized, even in size small, clothing at events that sell tee-shirts, etc. as part of the event’s memorabilia. And this doesn’t just refer to cycling. Compass Bicycles could have added that if the “men’s” knickers (the sizing didn’t even say they were “men’s” only sizes but it was obvious) were to sell well, they would add a women’s version.
      Thank you for your response, Jan, but as a female I still can’t help but feel like a second-class, after-thought cyclist in many respects.
      And thank you, Barbara, for your many insightful responses. As you say, it’s a matter of perspective. As is pretty obvious, mine has been one of frustration, going on 30 years now.

      October 5, 2015 at 5:57 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Cynthia, I totally understand. It’s the “chicken-and-egg” question: There is no demand because these products aren’t offered, and so there aren’t any sales that warrant offering the products. And the bike industry tends to be male-dominated.
        It’s like randonneur bikes 15 years ago: No demand, no products, etc. When I talked to the bike industry about our needs, they all shook their heads. (That is how Compass started!)
        What it took was for somebody to take the plunge and inspire people, creating the demand. That is what happened with 650B tires, randonneur bikes, and perhaps now these knickers. So let’s find a group of inspirational female cyclists who can champion these bikes and clothes, and then there will be demand. And Compass (and other companies) will be glad to meet that demand.
        Bicycle Quarterly has significant percentage of female readers, and we are working on having more content by and about women. We’ve done articles on women from cyclotouring’s great past, from Lyli Herse and Madame Porthault to other, less well-known women, but we haven’t really featured many current-day female riders. Hopefully, we can change that in the future.
        Cyclotouring always has been inclusive of all genders. In the 1890s, Vélocio’s “Ecole Stéphanoise” (School of Saint-Etienne) included riders of both genders, and randonneuring never discriminated against women like racing continues to do today. In the randonneur Paris-Brest-Paris, women were not just allowed, but accepted as equals. It’s a great tradition that is very important to me.

        October 5, 2015 at 6:18 pm
      • Matthew J

        I would be somewhat surprised if there is much demand for female knickers. Here in Chicago most female cyclists not in street wear yoga style pants and show no interest whatsoever toward my knickers.

        October 5, 2015 at 6:42 pm
      • Cynthia

        Thank you, Jan, I very much appreciate your response. I immensely enjoyed reading about, and feel inspired by, Lyli Herse and Madame Porthault, and the recent photos in BQ magazine about Madeleine Provot. It’s obvious from the photos that women were very much included in cyclotouring in the early days.
        Some of my angst also comes from being treated in condescending ways from male mountain bikers (Roadies not so much, but especially when I would start talking about the technical and mechanical aspects of bikes. Some socializing ended real quick at that point. Even once in the Clarendon, VA bike shop that took care of former President Bush’s bikes, by the specific mechanic that took care of his and his Secret Service squad’s bikes.) I apologize for going off topic on this subject but I think it is a very relevant subject not only for female cyclists, but also bike equipment manufacturers (profit-wise).
        I’ll let you get back to business and look forward to hopefully seeing more BQ content, and Compass products for and by women.

        October 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm
  • DDD

    I’m a big fan of knickers. Only feel slightly less dorky than in lycra though. Inseam length makes the knicker. Hate the long knickers that are more like “floods”. Inseam lengths please? Specifically in the 32″ waist size.

    October 3, 2015 at 8:10 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Inseams (approximate):
      28″ size: 17.5″ inseam
      30″ size: 18.25″ inseam
      32 and 34 size: 18.50″ inseam
      Compass Staff

      October 5, 2015 at 8:25 pm
  • Doug Wagner

    I’m a slender hipster with a 40 inch waist. It is the gut not the glute that is the problem…. I will be glad to see a wider range of sizesin the next product run

    October 5, 2015 at 10:57 am
  • Dan (@chickenfried234)

    inseam measurement info please? I like Jimmy’s original post better.
    Not hard to understand why a smaller company would choose that range of sizes. Very often we see fire sale prices on those rarer sizes.

    October 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We’ll post the inseam measurements soon. Thank you for your patience.
      See DDD’s comments just above – basically it’s 18.5″ inseam for sizes 32 and 34, 18.25″ inseam for size 30, and 17.5″ for size 28.
      Compass Staff

      October 5, 2015 at 6:08 pm

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