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REI Co-op Cycles Soft-Shell Pants Review

REI's Soft Shell Cycling Pants provide warmth on cold weather rides
REI’s Soft Shell Cycling Pants provide warmth on cold weather rides

REI’s Co-Op Cycles Soft Shell Pants (men’s and women’s) are a wind-resistant, double weave soft-shell pant that’s good for cold weather riding. They’re quite warm, with a brushed interior that makes them extremely comfortable to wear even when I’m not sitting on bicycle seat. While they’re quite similar to the soft shell cycling pant that REI used to sell under the Novara moniker, these soft shell pants have a much sturdier waist drawstring that won’t pull out of the pants the first time you tighten them.

Specs at a Glance:

  • Fabric: 92% nylon/8% spandex
  • Color: Black
  • Gender: Men’s and Women’s
  • Inseam length: Men’s (32″), Women’s (31″)
  • Waterproof: No

These soft shell pants have a gusseted crotch that allows for free range of motion and reflective strips down the sides of the legs and backs of the calfs for higher visibility. The legs taper around the ankles to prevent any interference with your chain, while lower legs zips allow easy on and off. Unfortunately, there’s just one rear, zippered pocket, big enough for a small wallet or set of keys. I guess the assumption is that you’ll be wearing a jacket with pockets in cooler weather.

Breathability is very good with stretch fabric around the waist-band and behind the knees to vent heat. I’ve taken them down to 30 degrees without feeling a chill, but they do get a way too warm to wear as you near the mid-forties (degrees) if you’re climbing hills.

The fit is relaxed without feeling baggy, providing plenty of space if you wear chamois shorts. They don’t look at all like cycling tights, and were it not for the reflective striping, you could probably wear them that at the office and no one would give you a second look.

Reflective strips along the sides of the legs and back of the calfs increase your visibility
Reflective strips along the sides of the legs and back of the calfs increase your visibility

Can you use these pants for hiking and other winter sports? Absolutely, although they are warmer than the REI Activator Soft Shell Pants that I usually wear for winter hiking and snowshoeing. If you use the Cycling Soft Shell Pants them for this purpose, I’d recommend them as a cold weather option because the double-weave soft shell retains a lot more heat.

Disclosure: REI provided the author with a pair of pants for this review.
Written: 2017.

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  1. I love seeing soft shell materials applied to cycling in below freezing temperatures. Most cold weather designed jackets and pants in the past had a windproof front or were all around windproof. The first were deadly cold if the wind came from other directions, the latter were a bit of sweat box if you worked hard. So I started using my hiking soft shell jackets for below freezing bike rides, which solved the cold weather issues of wind resistance and breathability as long as I matched the different weaves to the temperatures. Same application that works for me when cross-country skiing.

    For thirty and forty degrees, I like non-fleece-lined leggings, particularly if one bikepacks, commutes or does long early rides in those conditions. So when temperatures warm up, they are easy to take off and stash away. Much easier than full tights. My preferred top for those same temperatures is the Rab Boreas.

  2. Assuming the fabric is unchanged from the Novara-labeled version, I have taken these down into the teens for my 10-mile commute (each way) with bike shorts underneath.

    These are also durable. I had one crash, a wipeout on a leaf pile trying to dodge another biker who swerved suddenly, and while my knee was scraped up and bloody, the pants were unscathed.

  3. You’re on a fatbike now?

  4. Philip, what boots are you wearing? I’ve seen them on a few previous posts. I’m looking for a colder weather alternative to a Ultra Raptor. Thanks

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