Pants Management 101

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.

Pants leg reined in with rubber band to enable bike riding.

Pants leg reined in with a rubber band. Choose fabrics that won't crinkle & crease when compressed; this polyester/rayon blend doesn't work that well, unfortunately. And yes, I ride in these shoes. Aren't they cute?

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).

Pants reined in by binder clip to enable bike riding.

The binder clip alternative can be a bit risky if you use too small a clip; it pops off under the strain.

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.

North Face pants from MountainGear.com

Protected from road splatters in these North Face pants from Mountain Gear. I should have put my shoe covers on, though! These Ann Taylor ankle boots have been simply awesome for riding and they're easy to pop on and off for removal of the outer pair of pants.

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.

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Your Turn

  • What’s your secret to clothing management for riding?
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4 Responses to “Pants Management 101”

  1. I enjoyed your exploration of the perfect cycling pant. I’ve found the perfect cycling pants for me, and they are from REI. Currently known as the “poplar roll-up pants,” these pants can be rolled up and secured above the chain-grabbing area, and I find them quite cute for commuting. Quick dry, and machine wash and dry, too! They are not business pants so would not be work-appropriate, but for commuting, I love them and wear them through the winter. When it gets really cold, I just throw tights on underneath. http://www.rei.com/product/817657/rei-poplar-roll-up-pants-womens

  2. I use military blousing bands. They stay on wonderfully, don’t have Velcro, last for years, and look no more nerdy than a rubber band.

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