Versatile, comfortable and stylish, a great pair of jeans reigns supreme among its wardrobe peers. However, throw in the practical needs of a commuting cyclist in to the equation and problems start to surface. Jeans are not known to be particularly friendly to people who commute by bicycle. The crotch areas are often uncomfortable and wear out notoriously fast. Moreover, their design and fit are traditionally unsuited for the wonderful leg-sculpting exercise that is cycling.
Chandel Bodner of RYB Denim is solving that elusive jeans-biking conundrum.
As a Toronto-based jeans company, RYB Denim (Ride Your Bike Denim) designs and creates jeans specifically tailored for women who ride bikes. RYB Denim’s story is one born of a passion for cycling and an everlasting love affair with jeans. As a daily bicycle commuter and avid cyclist with a background in fashion design and merchandising, Bodner was fed up with “sacrificing style for cheap whatever secondhand pairs” in perennial annoyance that her jeans would wear out. Although Bodner hails jeans as “everything in a pants product you could ever want”, she confesses that until now, there hasn’t been anything satisfactory in the market for a female cyclist who want uncompromisingly great jeans. There are things out there which answer some of the problems, but no pairs of jeans truly satisfies the unique characteristics of a female rider. “So I did it!” says Bodner. “RYB Denim produces real jeans with cycling-specific components and features to make them more comfortable, stylish and durable.”
Bodner goes on to highlight how RYB Denim’s unique denim blend and intentional design combine to create the perfect pair of jeans for female cyclists. Typical jeans are often composed of 90 per cent or more cotton, resulting in quick and aggravating wear-and-tear thanks to cotton’s properties as a natural fibre. To remedy the ease with which jeans rip, RYB Denim uses a custom blend from hundred year old denim suppliers Cone Denim comprised of “2% stretch fabric for movement, 64% cotton for comfort and “34% polyester for strength.” Although most might assume that the high presence of polyester translates to a stifling and uncomfortable fit, Bodner’s design takes into account the polyester factor. “I chose Cone Denim because they have a specific honeycomb-shaped weave that pulls moisture through and out the jeans. Even with such high polyester content, the jeans won’t feel overly warm and constricted,” says Bodner.
Another one of RYB’s innovations is its “seat gusset.” With regular jeans, riding a bicycle can be brutally uncomfortable since cyclists find themselves riding on the seam of a jeans’ seat area. Bodner and RYB Denim solved this problem by removing the seam completely. Instead, they reinforced the seat area and added a “gusset like you’d see in yoga pants or in the army.” The gusset effectively strengthens the jeans against saddle wear and drastically improves the wearer’s mobility and comfort.
The arduous process from ideation to “this could actually be something real” developed over several years. Bodner’s personal experiences involved with the cycling and courier communities of major North American cities helped inform the process. Through deep involvement with the cycling communities in Philadelphia, Austin, New York, Vancouver and Toronto, Bodner noticed that while the female cycling community is larger in some cities, women don’t have options like the Levi’s Commuter line. As an active member of various bicycle communities, Bodner had a constant pulse on the perfect jean product female cyclists would actually want. Toronto, with its friendly atmosphere and pivotal location close to the fashion hubs of Montreal and New York, was perfect for Bodner in realizing her ambitions.
As a first-time business owner, Bodner has had to face and overcome her fair share of challenges and setbacks. Even with years of relevant experience in the fashion industry, Bodner admits,”I had no idea the amount of work it actually takes to promote yourself, brand yourself, communicate effectively while taking care of the logistics behind actually producing and distributing a product.” Additionally, Bodner found herself in a precarious position when her business partner in charge of production and logistics relocated to Vancouver, leaving her without his technical know-how and experience. Regardless, Bodner persevered through her hardships by her unshakeable faith and belief in RYB Denim and the product it was offering.
“What really drives me is that I know I’m giving something to women everywhere they want, need and will love.”
Bodner recounts an earlier experience during a fitting tour in North America at the Philly Bike Expo where 150 to 200 women tried on RYB Denim’s jeans. Bodner smiles in fondness, “Their reactions. Just their reactions alone were like “oh my gosh, thank you so much. I can’t wait for my pair, but I’ll wait as long as it takes.” For Bodner, the faith and understanding customers have in her product propel her to push on despite the numerous setbacks and delays.
Additionally, as a competitive bike polo player (an intense sport exploding in popularity among cycling communities) having represented North America, Bodner knows first-hand the level of performance her jeans must uphold to be embraced by the cycling community. The combination of first-hand experience coupled with ecstatic customer feedback demonstrate to Bodner the viability and true worth of RYB Denim’s business.
The future for Bodner and RYB Denim looks set for expansion and adventure. Bodner is currently in Europe participating in the World Championships for Bike Polo. It’s a great opportunity to establish connections within the huge European market, where the “commuting fashionable cyclist” is the norm. Meanwhile, Bodner seeks to continue delivering RYB Denim jeans to more stores within Toronto and continue growing the brand, one pair at a time.
JJ Wong is a contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.