Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Terror of the Trouser Cuff

Beware of Trouser!
Over the past 6 years of cycling for transportation in street clothes, I have pedaled quite comfortably in things that some might consider tricky - from pencil-skirted suits, to long silk dresses, to 4 inch heels. On the other hand, an ordinary pair of boot-cut trousers retains the power to strike terror into my heart. For I possess a remarkable talent for getting the cuffs of said trousers stuck in any and all parts of the bicycle that are even remotely in the vicinity of my ankles.

In my cycling history to date, I have snagged my trouser cuffs on pedals and crank arms, and I have wrapped them around cotter pins. I have gotten them jammed in front derailleurs and I have torn them on the teeth of chainrings. Whilst riding my Brompton, I have caught them on those little wheels positioned behind the chain stays. As improbable as it might seem, I have even had them sucked into bottom brackets. And lest you be thinking, dear reader, "Has this girl never heard of a chaincase?" allow me to remind you that at the start all my transport bicycles had those. But do not underestimate my abilities: On more then one occasion, I have caught my trouser cuffs on the chaincase itself as well, fully enclosed and otherwise.

On the part of the two-legged garment, it's behaviour that is nothing short of subversive, and it is one reason I prefer to stick to skirts when pedaling. When I do wear trousers, the only thing I've come to trust to keep the cuffs out of harm's way is a pair of hardy tall socks. This has caused some amusement among my peers, as, apparently tucking trouser cuffs into socks looks "ugly" and "geeky" and creates the appearance of "lumpy cankles." I have tried traditional cycling clips of both the metal and the velcro-wrap variety, but my trousers possess an impressive ability to slip out of them by gradually riding up until a corner of the hem escapes, eventually unraveling altogether. I have also tried a couple of fancier retention accessories that, I was told, might perform a bit better.

Brooks Trouser Cuff
Among these are the Brooks trouser straps. These were recommended to me, with the suggestion they worked better than ordinary straps at keeping suiting fabric from slipping upwards. From the look of them I expected these to basically be a pair of leather snap bracelets. But in fact they wrap around the ankles gently by virtue of a soft strip of "memory steel" encased within. The underside of the straps is lined with a textured suedey fabric that - combined with the weight, width and stiffness of the straps - does do a decent job at keeping cuffs from slipping up and out. On the other hand (ankle?), the bend of the steel strip can feel uncomfortable against my shins at times, requiring adjustment mid-journey.

Exposed Seam Trouser Cuff
I have also used the Boston-made Exposed Seam. Adorned with a rear reflective strip (which, incidentally, is more useful in Ireland/UK due to the left-handed traffic), this rather vast cuff covers a good part of the ankle and shin and secures tightly with velcro. Perhaps because it is essentially a "cycling spat," I happen to think this item looks kind of sexy. To my chagrin, however, the male friends I've asked for confirmation of this impression do not seem to agree! Nevertheless, by its sheer volume of coverage the Exposed Seam does manage to wrangle my trouser cuffs into submission - when I remember to bring it with me, that is.

Trouser in SockPerhaps it is my aversion to extra fuss and accessories that explains why, when it comes right down to it, I tend to default to the trusty sock-tuck method. Is it ugly and geeky? Maybe so. But then, I suspect, even the fancier ankle straps are perceived that way by the general population!

Perhaps some day I might be granted that uncanny state of grace of the women on the Côte d'Azur - forever photographed cycling in obscenely wide, gauzy, white linen trousers billowing in the breeze, yet existing, it seems, in a parallel universe from their bicycles' moving parts, where never the twain shall meet... Until then, I shall continue to strike back at the terror of the trouser cuff with the formidable sock-tuck. Lumpy cankles and all.


62 comments:

  1. Have you tried some Tom Mix cowboy boots, maybe skinny jeans or what about waders? Just asking. Thanks. Jim Duncan

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    1. I do wear tall boots (though not cowboy!) but some pants are too wide to feel comfortable bunched up in there. As for the so-called skinny jean! That is a style that looks so mind-blowingly horrendous on me, that I will truly celebrate the day it disappears once again from the fashion world.

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    2. I only have one pair of trousers that doesn't have a hole in the right hand pocket. Unfortunately that one pair of trousers is a pair of tight skinny jeans which have shrunk in the wash and are now even tighter. They're long enough in the leg, but they're too tight. The only reason I would wear them is because they don't have a hole in their right hand pocket. I suppose they tend not to catch on the chain, but since I always tuck my trouser legs into my socks or boots or use a velcro reflective band, that's never an issue. Anyway, for whatever reason, I wore them to ride the bike once. Just the once. Not going to elaborate, but let's just say I'm a bloke, I've got two and there was only room for one. By coincidence, I'd lent friends a pair of loppers - tree pruning shears - and I had them in my backpack to take home (can you see where this is going?). Half way home, tears streaming down my face, I suddenly had the surreal thought that if I just stopped, got off the bike, took the loppers out of my backpack, pulled my pants down, closed my eyes and... Aaahhh... the relief! I didn't, though.

      Cycle in skinny jeans at your peril, especially if you're a bloke.

      (Loosely connected to the above, I just saw a Glen Larson cartoon where there's a dog in the back seat of a car, bragging out of the window to one of his pals who's sitting forlornly in the garden - "Ha ha ha, Biff. Guess what? After we go to the drugstore and the post office, I'm going to the vet's to get tutored.")

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  2. I think the Brooks clip looks the least geeky of the lot.

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  3. I agree, I tried a bunch of things growing up, but socks work the best. The clips tend to work their way down and sometimes slip off the end. Plus, it's one less thing to keep track of; I always wear socks. And I don't really care that they look geeky, I mean, I'm too old to be riding a bike anyway, so I look like an oddball no matter what.

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  4. If you wanted to carry the spat idea on there is always the Georgia in Dublin Leggit. Double function as they are waterproof

    http://www.georgiaindublin.com/product/leggits/

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  5. After a few years of following this blog and seeing all those photos of you and your bikes and your clothes I don't ever recall you in jeans or pants, unless it was a product review. So this caught me by surprise. Also, it caught me by surprise that you've had so many incidents with clothing getting caught in so many parts of the drivetrain. With your balance issues, have any of them lead to falls? As a transportation cyclists one of my biggest fears in getting clothing wrapped un in my chain or wheels while in traffic.
    All that said, the simplest solution (and the cheapest) is simply rolling up my trousers. I've used various clips and other forms of attachments but they only make you believe the problem is solved but often is its worse. Some of them create an new shape with one's cuffs which is even more likely to rub against various bike parts. That's frustrating. Plus I alway lose them so if they cost more than a dollar it just doesn't make sense. So I just roll up my pant leg. There are a couple different ways to do this and then it's no worries. Bunching them in a sock usually becomes uncomfortable for longer stretches or if the pants are sorta stiff.
    As for looks, who cares? I've honestly never seen anyone with one of the Brooks straps but I'd snicker if I did. To me that would look odd and pretentious. Theres something about the bike culture I enjoy, which is it's simple and cheap and healthy and practical. It's not showy. .

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    1. I actually don't post that many photos of myself and my day to day clothing (or activities for that matter), which could explain it. But I do own maybe 3 pairs of trousers, all with boot-cut hems or wider. To be honest I do not know how I manage to avoid panicking and falling when these things happen. But I think the awareness of having my camera equipment and/or laptop attached to the bike at nearly all times instills in me an animal-like protectiveness over it, overpowering my balance problems. In fact, bizarrely enough I seem to be safer on the bike than off it - a fact I was again reminded of when I fell on my face while merely walking down the street 2 days ago!

      Oh and FWIW I have seen cyclists in Boston donning the Brooks strap.

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  6. Duct tape puttees. Now that would be sexy.

    Spindizzy

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  7. Pretend there is a crease in the middle of your pants, then fold it over away from the bike frame, then clip. You could even use this technique to tuck your pants into your socks. I like to use trouser clips with this method, worked fine while on my mission in France for two years.

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    1. That's more or less what I do normally. I know it looks a mess in the pictures, but I was in a hurry!

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  8. Am I the only one who just rolls up the cuff of my pants?

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    1. I do that sometimes, but they tend to unroll. Only the sock method is bullet proof.

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    2. They unroll. Try a safety pin. Believe the safety pin is claimed as an Irish invention, you'll be in synch. I have owned two pair of very full-cut linen trousers, would love to find some again. I pinned them. Safety pins are extraordinarily reliable.

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  9. In the summer I always wear shorts anyway. In the winter, breeches and long socks work really well I think. Here's an example of a well prepared couple. (Smoking optional).

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/lovedaylemon/3934932448/

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  10. You in trousers?! Crazy. Modeling all those "bike-specific" clothes, critiquing them, then...going back to the tried and true. What an inevitable circle. What happened to all those bike requirements, like a chain guard?

    That said for the same reason long pants are an abomination in baseball. Jodhpurs forever.

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  11. I usually do the sock thing, on both legs, in addition to reflective ankle straps. In addition, my winter boots (pretty much the only shoes I wear when it's too cold for sandals) are around 8" high, so the ankle straps and my pants shoved into socks ride just above the top of the boots.
    This also solves another problem with street pants, which is that at least for me, pedaling action tends to make them pull at the knee (which gets painful) and then ride down at the waist in back. Having the bottom of my pants tied up a few inches higher than my ankle creates enough slack in the lower leg that my knee can bend freely without tugging on my kneecap and pulling my pants down.
    On the fairly rare occasions in spring and fall when I end up wearing both sandals and long pants, I usually just roll my pants up to the knee on both sides.

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  12. I actually once wore gauzy linen pants on my bike, securely fastened around the ankle. Sadly, I never made it to the party I was going to, instead having to return home in shame wearing what was essentially half a pair of pants at that point.

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  13. My vote is for the sock-tuck. Easy, it works, and cost nothing.

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  14. Wait! Clothing sucked into your bottom bracket? What?! Was it on the left side? Caught around the spindle I can imagine but into the bottom bracket seems inconceivable without resulting in an accident. I guess clothing tears which is maybe a safety feature. I've not had serious issues with boot cut trousers but have had troubles with boots, specifically laces getting caught in the drivetrain.

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  15. Yes, yes, yes. I have wide ankles, so the typical trouser straps used to keep pant legs out of the way always slip off me because my ankles are just too big for them. And I'm a klutz who likes to wear trousers, so into the sock tops they go. I console myself with the thought that as dorky as that looks, I look even dorkier catching my pant legs on my pedals.

    ~ nemarra

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  16. I use the reflective Velcro straps most frequently. I believe the brand is Ankle Biters. My coworkers always get a chuckle when they see the old guy stumbling around the office, still wearing his reflective ankle straps. In my defense, I do remember to take my helmet off most of the time.

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  17. The first upgrade to my first "real" mountain bike came 3 days into owning it. Riding back from town my pant leg got sucked into the front derailleur 100 feet from home and that was all for it and my pants. i ended up with a piece of tubular webbing from my climbing gear with velcro sown into it to keep that from happening again along with a much nicer front derailleur from the bike shop.

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  18. I absolutely adore your writing.

    My husband also tucks his hems into his socks, and he looks quite geeky. Especially when he forgets to untuck them when he reaches his destination. I, on the other hand, have never once had an issue with hems, and don't bother to make any accommodations for them. I sort've believe that everyone else is exaggerating the extent to which this is an issue.

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  19. cycle spats - not sexy
    Claud Butler 3 speed (modified) mixte w/patina - quite sexy!

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    1. I think the Exposed Seam is elegant, and Tommy Godwin used that 4-speed Sturmey-Archer FW IGH (well, several, probably - who knows how often they'd have had to be serviced, overhauled or replaced?) on his way to covering 100,000 miles in under 500 days in 1939-40.
      http://www.tommygodwin.com/
      Your friend Nick's Three Speed Hub site features a 1939 Raleigh Record Ace more or less identical to Tommy's record breaker:
      http://threespeedhub.com/pre-war-raleigh-record-ace-rra/

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  20. Trouser-in-sock the winner for me. It does look gawky, if you're looking, but speaks of pragmatism, if you care. The longer I ride the more I look for easy, reliable, inexpensive solutions to commonly occurring problems.

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  21. My own worst time that clothing and a bike interacted I was wearing an old, worn pair of shorts. I'd just pedaled uphill fairly briskly before entering a parking lot and was standing on my pedals, but not pedaling, as I circled the lot catching my breath. I tried to sit back down but suddenly couldn't get myself further onto my saddle than the very front, and as you can imagine this isn't a place I really wanted my weight. Because I couldn't get back onto the saddle I couldn't sit and so couldn't take my weight off the pedals, and I quickly learned that I couldn't stand back up either. I was slowing down, couldn't get myself onto the seat, and I couldn't get off the seat. I slowly realized that the saddle had finally worn through and poked a hole in the seat of my shorts. Thankfully I discovered what was wrong and was able to ease myself forward and out of my predicament.

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  22. http://www.amazon.com/Wjns-Ruched-Leg-Warmers-Black/dp/B00MC4UXR2/ref=sr_1_19?ie=UTF8&qid=1423620595&sr=8-19&keywords=leg+warmers

    these work great

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  23. I try to tailor all my pants to be skinny or narrow/stovepipe, but some pants still get caught in the chain. My old raleigh sports especially will snag the pants and leave me in a panic because I am stuck and cannot pedal! It happened 3 times this morning. The bike has the top half chain case, not enclosed which I would love to have on the bike. So with certain pants, I try to pedal with my right leg outwards a bit. As dorky as the sock thing is, in this situation, I agree it is the best option. Straps can also get caught in the chain....

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  24. I am always wearing pants, flared at the ankle with the exception of boot leg jeans - I do have the clips and like another poster I fold my cuffs over and to the side before clipping - but often do not use the clips at all and have had no issues bar an occasional 'snag' if wearing particularly wide pants of a very light weight fabric - I tend to carry the clips in my bag so I can use them if this happens. The Brooks strap looks reasonable but I think the Boston Exposed Seam is quite hideous (sorry) - I personally have never and will never use the sock method - I only wear socks in winter and they are ankle length - however, although it does look somewhat ungainly, if it works for you and you are comfortable then that is all that matters.

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  25. if lyrcra doesn't offend you... use leg or arm warmers. this turns any pants into instant knickers, very fashionable don't you think?

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  26. Truthfully, wearing pants has never been a safety issue in all my years of transportation cycling. When wearing boots with boot cut jeans, especially, there's never been room for extra fabric to get caught in any part of the crank or chain or anything else for that matter. Also, I've never had peers mock me for rolling up my pants on those occasions when I actually cared about grease stains on my cuffs. Really, you've got friends/peer who would call that ugly or geeky? They must be good drinking friends ;)

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  27. I found that the trouser rolling method doesn't work either, they just unroll, so it's skinny jeans or skirt and tights for me. I just stopped buying bootleg pants, too much hassle. I have torn a long skirt on a ziptie, but I've even managed to wear white jeans without any mishaps!

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  28. The rubber straps typically used to affix a diver's knife to one's leg work wonders and never fail to stay put; how I came upon this knowledge is somewhat more difficult to explain concisely.

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  29. during the summer, I'll roll up my pants leg, but during the winter, that means arriving at my destination with a narrow band of frozen leg-hair around my exposed ankle. So, my winter strategy is actually tying a bandana (folded into a narrow--maybe 2 or 3 inch--strap around my cuff. You can tie it tightly enough not to come off, but because it's soft fabric rather than a metal strap, it's still comfortable. There is a knot, but I just turn that outward, so it's not facing the drivetrain. I rarely have any problems with that.

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  30. Chainring teeth on the Claud look skinny and worn. Sturmey sprocket looks ready for replacement too. You're amongst bike people here. The obsession is the bike, not the clothes.

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    1. Strongly worded letter received!

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    2. Hmmmn. A bike with worn out teeth is a bike that's been used. Everything wears out if it gets used. Using a bike is about the nicest thing you can do to it. I see bikes all the time that are ancient but fresh. While it's fun and engaging to discover them it is always kind of sad to reflect on the missed opportunity the bike represents. A few someones have had great times on the Claud. However the fun will end if it's not attended to soon.

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  31. If I'm riding a bike without a guard, I tend to roll the driveside pant-leg. If one knows how to roll his/her pants, it doesn't come undone. Basically, if it keeps unrolling on you, you're doing it wrong.

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  32. I sewed a pair of snaps to the inside of my pants cuff. They snap together on the outside of each leg, pulling the inside fairly tight against my ankle, but not so tight as to restrict circulation. When unsnapped, they are invisible. If I forget to unsnap them, it's still pretty hard to notice.

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  33. The only trouble with the sock method is that you sometimes forget that one trouser leg is in your sock and after you have chaine dup the bike and divested yourself of helmet, skullcap, jackets and gloves you walk into a meeting looking inadvertently like you are part of a secret cult.

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  34. Love yer blog! I make ankle straps out of (clean) inner tubes cut to length (not too tight!) With a staple made out of a piece of a spoke holding it together. i leave it on all the time (it's shower-proof!) So i won't lose or forget it and it works great!

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  35. I've never seen a half-mixte that I liked, until today.

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  36. I don't do the sock thing, ever. That is one function over form line I don't cross. I prefer the Jandd Ankle Strap, and if I forget that, I'll cuff my pants. However, I don't like cuffing them much either, especially when it's cold out. That little bit of skin getting cold is annoying. That said, I still won't cross the line of stuffing my sock.

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  37. I notice that many posters have arrived at their own, quite inventive solutions to this issue that affects their cycling experience - it is for many a problem which requires a practical solution - not necessarily a product marketed to look 'chic', which often actually look quite ridiculous. When cyclists use the clips which have been around since forever, or the sock method, or modified rubber tubing, these are simple, practical solutions which do not require public approval.

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  38. Hi. The Brooks photo shows you folding your pant leg from the outside in…Never a good idea and can certainly lead to potential troubles. Always take the the extra fabric and fold it away from the bike. Also, that velcro contraption, when installed, looks very much the same as the photo without. The bell shape looks like it may have as much potential of danger as your boot cut trousers. I will admit, however, to have never tried one of those things. And, like you, I'm easily annoyed by the smallest of things not feeling right while cycling. The idea of stuffing my boot cut pants into my socks is one such example. I much prefer socks to skin than bunched together trousers, which just end up irritating my skin and taking all the pleasure out of pedaling. Some pants/fabrics are worse than others. If you have problems with clips not being able to hold your your 'riding up' trousers I'd think you'd also notice the same with socks not being able to contain the friction of those outerwear designed pants.. Mostly, I've never experienced the terror you have but when I do worry about the potential I simply roll up my pant leg, extra fabric away from the bike then roll up to the point it will not come in contact with the chain. No problems.

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  39. I have found hair elastics/scrunchies to work very well for keeping pant legs in place. Plus I usually have several with me anyway as I have long hair.

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  40. My go to solution is plain old rubber bands. Easy to hold a pant leg folded over and when you arrive, just slide it down around your sock/boot and it's ready for the return trip. It's not particularly visible, just looks like your pant leg is folded over due to wind. I usually use the ones that come from the grocery store around a stock of broccoli; a nice reuse of that packaging. And easy to keep a handful in a backpack or purse.

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  41. Being a 52-year-old male (or just oblivious to social clues, maybe) has its advantages: lumpy cankles are acceptable, as are trousers rolled up on one side. My daughters' hair elastics work when I have to dress up.

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  42. As a woman who has cycled for over 30 years, I agree with others that your dilemma has never been an issue for me and easily overcome by clips, socks or leg warmers over trousers in winter. I was more intreagued by the fact that you found it easy to cycle in pencil skirts. By definition they are close fitting and mostly tapering towards the hem. Cycling in a pencil skirt is nigh on impossible and I believe you have stated as much in a previous post. Unless you purchased an Iva Jean design before they closed, I am fascinated to know how you do it!

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    1. With pencil skirts, you can go several ways:
      . Buy ones with stretch.
      . Buy ones with a rear slit or side slits.
      . Make discreet slits yourself in a skirt that does not already have them.
      . Hike the skirt up till the part of the legs it constrains is free. If you don't want to wrinkle it in the process, you can fold the fabric back (upward) to achieve this instead of scrunching it up. In photos of Dutch and Danish women cycling, you see this technique all the time. It assumes of course that you don't mind occasional flashes of crotch. Or else have a huge front basket on your bike.

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  43. Have you tried a Hebie Chainglider? I've been very impressed with mine. It might ruin the vintage look of that bike, though.

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  44. Hebie Chainglider is awesome. It rides on the chain/crank, so there is no gap where billowing pant legs can fit. It won't last forever (something of a sacrificial design), but I've had one on my daily driver since 2011 and it shows very few signs of wear... http://www.hebie.de/schutz/kettenschuetzer/chainglider/350/?&L=1

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  45. I like Ryko's spats (and his headgear!):
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2654800/Historic-photos-3-000km-bike-ride-Adelaide-Darwin.html
    'Ryko' was Edward Reichenback, who took 28 days to cycle the 3,000Km from Adelaide to Darwin (bisecting Oz from south to north, for those not familiar with Australian geography) in 1914.

    100 years later a replica of Ryko's Turner Special was built to commemorate his ride; then, inspired by that and by Ryko's story, a bloke from Kalgoorlie who posts on Australian Cycling Forums as 'landyacht' built a replica of the replica:
    http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=77526
    I don't know what your framebuilder friends Mike Flanigan or Bryan Hollingsworth or the builders on VSalon would make of landyacht's 'processes' (I'm guessing they would roll their eyes, shake their heads, but smile...), but as far as I'm concerned the bloke is a legend. A word of warning, however: your emotions are liable to take a bit of a hit (you might even find yourself shouting "Oh, no!!!" at the computer screen, as I did) when you get to the post beginning "crap day today"...

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  46. I've given up on wearing slacks for these reasons. When I forgot to roll up the leg once, I sliced the bottom of my trousers when it got caught on the bottle cage (it was a carbon bottle cage at the time) and so I had the trousers tailored into work appropriate shorts!

    Thank you for the reviews! I was curious about the Brooks strap and the Exposed Seam looks neat. I may try wearing trousers again. In the past, the fold-from-the-pleat-sock-tuck worked the best for me but I wore higher boots to conceal the look of cankles.

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  47. When I was in the Air Force, I would ride my bike in uniform which was usually fatigues with trousers tucked into boots. No problems there. But one time I was wearing the Service Dress uniform, which is more akin to a business suit, and to keep my cuff out of the chainring, I had a reflective, bright yellow velcro strap on my leg. I forgot I was wearing it. Needless to say, the strange looks I got from other people passing me in the hallway prompted me to look down in horror at that stupid yellow strap, contrasting as starkly as possible against my blue pant leg. The stuff of nightmares.

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  48. I have ruined two pairs of pants due to the pant leg getting caught in the bike chain. I had a 2cm by 5cm piece of hem torn out of one pair a couple of years ago, and other pairs with frayed hems (but only on the right leg...). This whole business is one of the many reasons why I love summer, a.k.a. shorts season. I have since reformed my ways and use an ankle strap on m,y right leg (only that leg) whenever I ride in pants. I haven't had a problem since I started using the ankle strap regularly. One other thing that I found is that riding around on the big ring of my triple-crankset makes it unlikely for the pant leg to get caught in the gears an torn. It doesn't prevent grease marks on the leg, but at least I won't ruin any more pants. Winter, by contrast, is easy due to boots, which are usually tall enough to tuck my right pant leg into and keep safe from the chain.

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