This is the stuff they didn’t teach us in Home Ec back at Bowdish Junior High School in the Spokane Valley (go Rockets!): How to manage your pant leg so it doesn’t get caught in the bike chain.
While I’ve ranted before about the search for the perfect women’s pants for bike riding (stylish and comfortable) and have even compiled a shopping list or two, simpler answers exist that don’t involve spending (much) money.
1) Buy pants with narrow enough legs that they don’t flap and get caught.
More easily said than done, what with the changing winds of fashion and all that. Summer is fine—hello, capris—but my usual fall/winter pants have a little bit more going on in the fabric department.
2) Fight the flap.
Sure, you can buy those uber-geeky reflective ankle straps with the Velcro fastenings, but have you ever checked out what Velcro can do to a nice fabric if it goes astray? Ugh.
I have two basic weapons in this battle, both of them straight from my desk: rubber bands and binder clips.
I slide rubber bands up over my shoes and around the ankle for the ride, then store them on my cyclometer when I park the bike.
Binder clips are a fallback because they can pop off under strain, but they don’t give in to weather the way the rubber bands do.
For wetter weather I have a great pair of North Face pants I picked up at Mountain Gear, my favorite local outdoor gear shop even though they don’t carry bike stuff.
The pants are water/wind resistant and work for most of Spokane’s weather, although I do note that “resistant” and “proof” are very different levels of protection in a really blustery downpour….
The feature that helps fight the flap is a Velcro tab at the ankle (not as risky to fabric finish as the geeky ankle strap, since there’s the extra pant leg there as protection).
I usually go ahead and rubber-band my office wear to make it easier to put the overpants on; otherwise I’ll spend five minutes hopping around on one leg trying to stuff the first pants leg down into the overpants leg and I end up with a lumpy, uncomfortable wad halfway down my calf.
You’ll see people who have only reined in the fabric on the right leg, where all the greasy messy mechanical stuff resides. I like to keep both legs under restraint; I’ve had at least one startled moment when a wider pant leg managed to slide over the entire pedal crank and stop its rotation completely in mid-pedal. This makes for a nasty surprise in an intersection and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
I also found out the hard way that the tan pants I’m wearing in these photos wrinkle really easily. I left the rubber bands on through a one-hour meeting because I was just going to zip out the door and back to my office; that was enough time to leave me with pretty funny creases. I don’t buy linen any more but I thought this polyester/rayon blend (which is really smooth and doesn’t chafe) wouldn’t wrinkle. Wrong.
Turns out this is not rocket science—just some tricks you need to know to make it easier to bike in style.
P.S. For talented seamstresses like my friend Sandra, taking wide-legged pants in so they don’t flap is another option. I’m only giving you the quickies here because those tan pants in the pictures above? They’re still downstairs on my “need to take these in” pile. I put them there last fall.
- The Quest for the Perfect Pair of Pants for Biking: Are We There Yet? I Need to Go.
- The Quest for the Perfect Pair of Pants: Phase I
- It’s Pants Week. Share My Obsession.
- The Quest: A Google Search Story about Bike Style
- Women’s Clothing for Biking that Doesn’t Look Like It’s for Biking: What to Wear, What to Wear
- Wearing Real Clothes: A Radical Political Statement
- What’s your secret to clothing management for riding?