"I'm practically living in them" – Compass Knickers Review

"I'm practically living in them" – Compass Knickers Review

I really like our cyclotouring knickers. They are based on a design I discovered in Japan. The ones we offer are a development from that, a little lighter and even better for spirited riding. I’ve been wearing mine on almost every ride since we introduced them. So it’s no surprise that I like them – I developed them!
That is why it’s important to get independent feedback. The ideal reviewer would be somebody who isn’t interested in Allroad cycling or cyclotouring. How about a mountain biker who is into 29ers (not 650B mountain bikes!)? Enter the blogger “Grannygear” at TwentyNineInches.com.

Not only did he review the knickers, he even bought them with his own money. The first we found out about the review was when it was published. (I got permission to quote him, but the photos are our own due to copyright restrictions.) Here is what TwentyNineInches.com had to say about the Compass knickers:
“I not only wore them for an 8-hour road trip, I practically lived in them. […] I really, really like them. On the bike, they never bind or pinch or ride up or ride down. Pedaling is easy. […] They breathe well in hot temps and dry fast.
“They are cut slightly higher in the back at the waist, so they do not ride down at all. They do pack up very small, and I can’t get them to wrinkle no matter how much I stuff them when stored.”

Dislikes? The small openings of the pockets. We agree, by the way, which is we’ve already enlarged the pocket openings since his knickers were made.

He wrote: “Other than the pocket openings, I can’t think of anything I do not like about them, and they are made right here is the U S of A.”
Thank you, Grannygear!
You can read the full review here, and you can order your own Compass knickers here.

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Comments (37)

  • Paul Ahart

    I assume the knickers are unpadded, requiring regular cycling shorts underneath. Is this so? Otherwise they seem a great product.

    April 18, 2017 at 7:24 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Yes, the knickers are unpadded. Putting padding into a loose-fitting knicker seems like a bad idea – the pad won’t stay in place as you pedal. With the pad in your cycling shorts, you can wear tights under the knickers when it’s cold.

      April 18, 2017 at 8:14 am
      • HaloTupolev

        Padding can be implemented into loose-fitting shorts, but it needs to be a liner separate from the loose exterior. Which works, but there’s not a huge amount of reason to not just do them separate, especially outside of low-budget options.

        April 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I agree – it doesn’t make sense to put a tight-fitting liner inside the shorts, when you can just wear standard cycling shorts underneath. Unlined shorts allow you to choose the shorts and pads you like.

          April 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm
    • Matthew J

      There are a significant number of cyclists who don’t use padded shorts ever.
      I did my cross country tour averaging 65 miles a day with not one padded short or tights in the panniers.

      April 19, 2017 at 4:54 am
  • Rick Thompson

    These look good for keeping the sun off when riding. The problem is that dark colors are just too hot in the California summer, even dark shorts can be too much. Any chance of making them in a lighter color, such as Natsuko often wears?

    April 18, 2017 at 8:44 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We used to offer a tan color, but they didn’t sell well. They gray is dark enough not to show stains, but it’s not black, and with air circulating between the shorts and my body, I don’t get hot in them even in very hot and humid weather. (Japan has plenty of that.)

      April 18, 2017 at 9:09 am
      • Rick Thompson

        Got any tan ones left over (size 36)?
        Visiting Tokyo in August I just get used to dripping sweat all day, not matter what I’m wearing…

        April 18, 2017 at 10:45 am
      • Tom H

        I second the need for a light color. Even gray feels fry-an-egg hot in Colorado on a summer mid-day. Have been looking for a lightweight, light-color knicker length or roll-up pant suitable for long rides in warm days.

        April 21, 2017 at 12:40 pm
  • Jacob Musha

    From the description of the knickers on Compass website: “…when you get off the bike and enter restaurants or shops, you don’t need to apologize for your tight-fitting clothes that stretch the boundaries of good taste.”
    I sidestep this problem by wearing cut-off jean shorts for most of my riding. I find them at least as comfortable as padded cycling shorts when I’m on the bike and worlds more comfortable off the bike. I’ve worn them on many fixed gear centuries so I know that fast pedaling is not a problem.
    The main problem is that they wear out quickly. I now avoid using up my “nice” jeans and instead buy used pairs at thrift stores for a few dollars.
    Most people think I’m crazy for biking in jeans, which I think is hilarious. They work for me but I suspect they won’t work for everyone. In any case, I recommend giving them a try. You might be surprised at how much you like them!

    April 18, 2017 at 9:58 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      When I was a poor college student, I didn’t have money for tights, so I rode in blue jeans during the winter months. Wore them over my cycling shorts. Fortunately, the fashion was for relatively tight-fitting legs then, so no need for ankle bands or the like. But these days, I do prefer cycling-specific clothing!

      April 18, 2017 at 10:29 am
  • DaveS

    If I recall, the knickers in the past ran small so the suggestion was to go a size larger than usual. Is this still the case?

    April 18, 2017 at 10:22 am
  • Pondero

    I was fortunate to obtain two pair of the tan color knickers. My experience has been very similar to what was said in the review. Recently, I wore them bikepacking (including hike-a-bike) through a rough area of thorns and briars, and unfortunately experienced several “thread pulls”. A more rugged version would be great for those situations. Overall, however, for most of my applications the Compass knickers are ideal for me. I plan to buy more.

    April 18, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I had a little snagged loops in the fabric, too, after bushwhacking on a poorly planned adventure. The snags aren’t a big deal. You can pull them back as far as possible by stretching the fabric, and then cut off the remaining loops. The fabric of the Compass knickers doesn’t unravel, so it’ll be fine.

      April 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm
      • Pondero

        Thanks, Jan! I expect plenty more bushwacking even in my planned trips, and I’ll keep using my Compass knickers anyway.

        April 19, 2017 at 10:13 am
  • L Mark Finch

    How many pockets do they have, and are any zippered?

    April 18, 2017 at 6:18 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Two large pockets that are great for wallet and cell phone. Even when pedaling hard, the contents of the pockets stay in place and don’t inhibit the pedaling. One small pocket is intended for keys and the like. All three pockets are zippered.

      April 18, 2017 at 7:43 pm
  • Andy Stow

    I love mine, but my wife won’t be seen with me in them.

    April 19, 2017 at 5:29 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      There are many ways to take this! I think it’s a compliment – she prefers you in tight-fitting lycra.

      April 19, 2017 at 11:47 am
      • Andy Stow

        I don’t think she wants me in that in public, either. I think the midwest US, other than large cities, is very conservative, clothing-wise. Anything non-standard stands out. To her eye, these are capris.

        April 20, 2017 at 5:32 am
    • Conrad

      Well, in Seattle my wife makes fun of the knickers and Lycra alike. Sometimes you just can’t win.

      April 20, 2017 at 4:47 pm
  • Jim Bailey

    I couldn’t help but notice the gentleman’s shoes in the pictures of the knickers. I know Bicycle quarterly runs adds for Dromarti cycling shoes and can understand why Compass Cycles would avoid shoe sales. In addition to the Dromarti website, do you have any leads for classic looking flat soled and/or SPD compatible leather cycling shoes? I can’t see wearing knickers and NOT wearing those great looking shoes. Now I have to prioritize my Compass savings account – Barlow Pass tires, then the knickers, then the shoes…

    April 19, 2017 at 7:14 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I don’t know about the blogger’s shoes, but the shoes in the top photo are Dromartis. Dromarti hasn’t been advertising in Bicycle Quarterly (or anywhere else) in a while, but that doesn’t keep me from saying that I love my Dromartis and that they are easily the best cycling shoes I have ever owned.

      April 19, 2017 at 8:13 am
    • vankempf

      Try Quoc Pham

      April 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm
    • John

      There are some other classic shoes: Quoc Pham is doing them and Runon, too. And even Giro has some classic looking, but they are not in leather.

      April 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm
    • Adamar

      The Giro Republic (LX model) might fit the bill.

      April 20, 2017 at 1:26 am
  • Jan

    Will there be a women’s version?

    April 19, 2017 at 10:19 pm
  • Michael

    Is there any place in (or near) Seattle to try on a pair? Are you able to roll up the knickers a bit to turn them into shorts if wanted?

    April 21, 2017 at 10:28 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Check with Free Range Cycles. They used to have them in stock. Rolling up into shorts – that would be difficult, I think. They aren’t designed for that, and most people’s thighs are larger than their calves…

      April 21, 2017 at 11:41 am
      • Michael

        Thanks! I’ll check out Free Range Cycles. I’ve had a pair of knickers that could be rolled a few times to just on or above the knee. 🙂 But yes, people’s thighs are generally larger than their calves…

        April 21, 2017 at 9:35 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The lower cuffs are elastic and adjustable, so you probably can roll these up. But they weren’t designed for it, so I doubt it’ll be a great solution. Most of all, there is no need to roll them up. They aren’t warm…

          April 23, 2017 at 10:29 am
  • Andreas Sikkema

    Are these available somewhere in Europe?

    April 22, 2017 at 2:14 pm

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