Tuesday, October 10, 2006

chain grease and clothing

The simplicity of the bicycle drive train exemplifies to us all things great and beautiful about biking. The crank connected to a wheel by a chain is probably the most elegant mobility solution since walking upright. That is not to say, however, that this set-up is totally devoid of problems. A common one is grease stains on pant legs and socks.

There are a few equally elegant solutions for this problem.
1. Chain guard- while the most obvious and effective solution, it is also the most infrequently used. This is mostly because most new bikes don’t include one for stylistic reasons. The no chainguard aesthetic came from performance bikes that eliminated this useful component to reduce weight. Since most bikes today are modeled after these sporty bikes, they continue the totally unnecessary elimination of the chainguard. Most euro-townie bikes still come with guards and, as a result, commuters who ride them tend to have cleaner pants.
2. Pant clips- you can pick these up cheap at any bike store or easily DIY something similar. We’ve seen two styles of these clips that hold the pant leg close to the leg and away from the exposed chain. One is a metal clip and the other is a velcro strap. Both are small and can hang on your handlebar when not in use so you don’t lose or forget them.
3. A sturdy sock- If you wince at the thought of a chainguard and can’t be bothered to keep track of extra cycling accessories, you can always just fold your pant leg and stuff it into your sock. If the sock has good elastic, this works just as well as a clip, although you will look like a dork if you forget to switch back once you are off your bike. Similarly clothing-based solutions include rolling your pant leg up or just wearing shorter pants

Despite your best efforts, you are bound to eventually end up with a little bike grease somewhere on your clothes (like while fixing a derailed chain). Metafilter has a nice thread on dealing with grease stains. The basic formula is to dissolve the grease, then clean it. To dissolve the grease you can use mineral spirits, WD40, or any other solvent. Good ventilation is important when working with many solvents. After letting the solvent work for 30 minutes (shorter for fresher stains), work some concentrated liquid dish soap into the stain with your fingers.


HomelessDave said...

The problems with most velcro straps, or clips for that matter, are
(1) Because they're small, they go missing ... I have trouble keeping track of most things, so maybe it's just me.
(2) Even though they might pin 1.5-2.0 inches of your trouser leg safely out of harm's way, they allow for the trouser material above it to slop down and over and against the chain. You have to invest more time than I'd like adjusting the configuration so this doesn't happen.

Solution from Deuter: they make an ankle strap that has a super wide (6-inches at least) side with a stiffener. The fastening side tapers to a smaller width. It totally takes control of that pant leg. And it's substantial enough that it doesn't go missing easily. Of course, if it does, then you're out something like $10.00. But my take on the expense is: people don't even blink when they go to the gas pump and pay $25.00 to fill up. If it's my transportation, then my comparative cost doesn't have to always be the DIY zero-cost solution. It can be the most expensive cycling-specific designed product and STILL be inexpensive judged against the car solution.

Scott also wrote about the pants-in-sock solution: "...although you will look like a dork if you forget to switch back once you are off your bike."

I must respectfully disagree. You already look like a dork on your bike using the pants-in-sock solution. And it's bad for your socks. It makes them prematurely limp and saggy. But how about in an emergency? Say you lose your super cool super expensive Deuter strap, what then, huh? What then?

Cut the strap off of your Chrome messenger bag and use that to secure your trousers. Sure, you'll have ruined a really expensive bag, but you'll have avoided dorkdom plus scored a few extra style points for sporting that seat-belt latch ... on your ANKLE, dude.

Scott said...

Here's the lowdown on HD's sleek solution to biker's black calf.
While I admit to being a sock-stuffer (please never quote that out of context!), my first preference is for short pants. I guess I'll never be one of the kool kidz.

Anonymous said...

The best solution for me is the Leg Shield. It is a leg strap that fits tightly from ankle to right below the knee. It allows me to commute to work in any pants I want and keeps me a little warmer. I think it is far superior to the existing bike leg straps or clips because once I put it on there is no chance of getting chain grease on my pants or getting the pants stuck in the gears. I messed up a pair of cargo pants without this.

It is on Amazon