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 (although I have yet to execute), there are simpler answers.
  1. Buy pants with narrow enough legs that they don’t flap and get caught. Easier 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 on over my shoes for the ride, then store them on my cyclometer when I park the bike. (Only problem is that over time the rubber dries out and they eventually break; this is perhaps not the ideal storage spot.)

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. I carry one clipped onto my pannier so it’s always there in case the rubber band breaks.

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. They (the pants, not Mountain Gear) 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 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—but I found another excuse to shop. What’s your secret to clothing management for riding?

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  1. Great post. I think it's important to go with fabric that is as wrinkle free as possible. I've also used the clips and prefer them to rubber bands, but it's always a bit embarrassing when I forget to remove them.

  2. Military blousing bands. Designed to bind up the cuffs of pants, stretchy for years, and closes with a pair of metal hooks. They're CHEAP. Check out the army surplus store.


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