Bike Chaps




About: Wife to one, mom to two, muse to thousands.

Make a pair of bike chaps to strap over your work clothes for riding in the rain (or potential rain). No need to change when you get to work! These are fitted with ties to roll up and secure, adjustable straps and webbing buckles. Lightweight Gore-Tex sews up fast with no need for fussy seam finishes.

It is out of the scope of this tutorial to teach you to sew; however, if you have any trouble there are many onlinegroups consisting of friendly experts just itching to help. If you have any questions about sewing feel free to post a comment here or email me at kellyhogaboom AT gmail DOT com.

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Step 1: Gather Ye Materials; Measure Your Waist

1 yard Gore-Tex or other waterproof fabric
1 yard 1 1/2" elastic
1 yard 1" elastic
1 yard 1 1/2" web
1 yard 1" web
4 buckle fittings, 1"
1 buckle fitting, 1 1/2"

Fittings / closures for pockets: snaps, zippers, buttons, velcro
1 yard lining fabric

Sewing machine & needle (use appropriate needle for material - a universal should work on most waterproof mediums)
Men's pants pattern, including waistband
Seam ripper (never sew without one)

Ironing board & iron
Cutting mat & blade
Lighter (to fray-check webbing ends)

Take the following measurements:
Waist measurement
Length from waist to the knee
Thigh circumference
Knee circumference

Step 2: Pretreat, Trace, & Cut Pattern

Pre-treat lining fabric if necessary. In short, this means treat the fabric to the washing and drying methods you will likely employ during its life as a garment. If you are making unlined chaps (as I did for this tutorial), you should know most waterproof material will not need pre-treatment. If in doubt, ask the sales clerk or a knowledgable outerwear sewer (you may find someone through a retailer of outerwear patterns and fabrics, for instance).

Trace and cut pattern. If this is your first time using a pants pattern, note you will only need the waistband and front pants pattern pieces.

After you trace, tissue-fit to estimate the length, offsetting for waistband coverage. If you are not used to making measurements for sewing garments, I recommend you cut the pattern long and correct later in construction.

You can see in the associated picture I am tracing the men's medium. I trace all my patterns using a tracing medium from Folkwear (NAYY) but you can use many things: tissue paper, tracing paper, plain paper (taping to a window for light may help), or tracing medium bought in the fabric sections of most retail shops (interfacing may be substituted).

Step 3: Cut Fabric & Test Stitching

Cut the following (picture one - you can see the usefulness of using rotary cutter and mat):

Waistband piece
Two front panels (remember these will be mirror-images of one another; fold the fabric and cut as one for a shortcut), as well as the following strips, 2" wide:
2" strip, 2 lengths of the finished width at thigh
2" strip, 2 lengths of the finished hem width
1" strip, 2 lengths of 40" long

As you cut your pieces please keep in mind that many waterproof fabrics don't "heal" well from pin or needle holes. For instance in the Gore-Tex I used the right side of the fabric (green) healed from a pin hole, but the coated (white) side did not. As you can see in my cutting picture I don't use pins to secure my pattern pieces to fabric - but I've been sewing a long time and only take this shortcut when I'm confident it will work.

Thread your machine and sew on scraps. In my second picture on this step you see me toying with stitch length and writing down settings - the "6" corresponds to the longest baste on my machine, 6 stitches per inch, while the "10" (10 sts per inch) is a shorter stitch appropriate for this project.

When you have, found the right settings, fold over the short raw ends of waistband and finish (third associated picture). Congratulations, you have just constructed your first garment seam!

Step 4: Assemble Straps (Belt, Thigh, Knee)

Cut the 1" webbing in quarters and the 1 1/2" webbing pieces in half.

Cut lengths from elastics as following:

From 1 1/2" elastic, cut 1/3 of finished waist length
From 1" elastic, cut 2 pieces to 1/3 finished thigh circumference
From 1" elastic, cut 2 pieces to 1/3 finished knee circumference

You should have five lengths of elastic and ten lengths of webbing at this point. You will be making five straps: one waist strap, two thigh straps, and two knee straps. The straps will be composed of an elastic section flanked by webbing, the terminal ends of these secured to the buckle closures (oh, just look at the third picture already!).

Assemble each strap as follows:

Join webbing to ends of elastic. Secure with two rows of sturdy zig-zag stitch, as shown in the first step picture. To the remaining raw edges of webbing, thread and pin the appropriate fittings. Measure before you secure them: the final length of the straps, with elastic relaxed, should correspond to the waist, thigh, and knee measurements you took.

Step 5: Construct Garment Shell

First, add any pockets (step picture one). I chose a simple small patch pocket based off my husband's recommendations - he wants any outerwear I sew to include a pocket for his iPod shuffle.

Sew the crotch seam and reinforce (picture two). I used a mock flat-felled seam because real flat-felled are sort of tricky on curves. Fold over and sew the raw edges of outseams and inseams (picture three). Note I am not finishing the edges since Gore-Tex has minimal fraying.

Construct ties: I topstitched 1/4" channels in the 1" strips wrong sides together and carefully cut close to seams (pictures four and five). Cut ties into four 10" strips and knot ends.

Step 6: Step Six: Assemble Casings

"Casing" is a term for a chamber in fabric that holds elastic or a drawstring. There are five casings in these pants - a waistband casing, and two each for thighs and knees (see picture one for layout from the wrong side). For all three types of casing you will be sewing the final casing seam with the straps laying inside the casing. The straps won't slip through since the fittings are larger than the casings.

For the knee or hem casing, sew the 2" strip that corresponds to thigh length, right sides together with a 1/4" seam allowance. Flip casing strip to backside of pants. Lay the knee strap through, making sure your closures face the way you want them and sew your remaining casing seam with 1/4" seam allowance, being careful not to catch the strap (picture two).

For the thigh casing, sew the 2" strip wrong sides together at the upper thigh. Lay thigh strap through and sew remaining long seam parallel to the strap.

Step 7: Waistband

For the waistband casing, first position the ties. One should be on the public side and one on the wrong side, mid-thigh position. Sew the long raw edges of waistband and pants top right sides together, matching center front and catching ties. Fold casing back over to wrong sides of pants and lay waist strap in (again, check your fittings). Pin carefully and "stitch in the ditch" from the public side of the garment - that is, sew in the seam you just created, being careful not to catch straps.

Your pants are ready for biking! These pair sold out almost immediately after listing on Etsy.



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    13 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, this is a great idea!
    I had a question about the pattern, though... in step 3, you wrote to cut out two front panels, but I only see 1 panel utilized in the pants. What is the need of a second panel?
    If this is massively obvious and I just missed it, sorry. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the great alternative transportation solution! I've shared it with my "No Car Go" readers:


    10 years ago on Introduction

    where do you get gore-tex material from? The biggest cloth/sewing store I know of is handcock fabrics and they don't have it.

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Introduction

    How the heck does this fit in a kiting group? BTW, Nice instructable.


    I do regularly use something like these 'chaps'; they're commercially produced and called 'Rainlegs'. Their main benefit it to stop the thighs and knees getting cold and wet which can give all sorts of problems later. The other point is 'How much do you want to carry?' If you have something like chaps that fold as small as your fist and do take them with you, they're more useful than full waterproofs that fold only to the size of an old encyclopaedia and so get left at home!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    i can't see how these will be rain proof. the second main point of water proof clothing, after the fabric, are taped seams, and you are not ironing any on?

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    They are absolutely not rain-proof. A rainproof item would obviously also offer full coverage. This isn't something you'd wear in a torrential downpour. Since I never claimed they were rainproof; perhaps you're confused with another project here on Instructables? I will say the fabric itself is completely rainproof, not the garment.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    hi kelly, in the meantime i learned a bit about sealing seams and thought i could share the info here ... there seem to be three common methods: 1. ironing tape over the seams. this seems to be most common in commercial rainwear. 2. painting diluted silicone caulking on the seams. this method seems to be used preferably for tent seams and waterproof bags. don't know if it works for Gore-Tex. 3. high-frequency welding of seams. this is done in very expensive outdoor clothing. the tape needed for option one can be bought at stores that specialise on materials for selfmade outdoor wear. i give three examples (haven't bought from any of them) thru-hiker in the US, shelby in Finland, extremtextil in Germany. there is also at least one in the UK but i can't think of the name right now. silcone caulking and thinner is available in hardware stores (or supermarkets) and seems the cheapest and most flexible solution to me, with cost as little as 2.50 euro for a 500ml caulking tube. but i don't know if it will work on Gore-Tex. high-frequency welding is to my knowledge only available industrially these days. but it is the most attractive method, because it also replaces the sewing. i like your instructable because i have been looking for quite a while for waterproof bike chaps with the features i want (long enough, outer pockets, waterproof zip) but couldn't find any. i hope to make some based on your instructions when i find the time.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    in the intro you said they can be used to ride in the rain and there is no need to change upon arrival. i inferred this meant that trousers below the chaps were supposed to stay dry. i also assumed that was the point in using Gore Tex. i'm sorry if i misunderstood. but perhaps you know if it is easy to get such tape to seal the seams?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    xsmurf, thanks for asking! I can't answer this question fully yet as the shop I bought it in is closed on hiatus for a few more days. I will say the fabric was $15 / yard and there is yardage left over. I am planning on making my family's raingear this year and the ease in sewing with this fabric is a definite plus.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    How much did the Gore-Tex cost? Do you know which type? (Packlite for example). Nice instructable and nice idea cause good goretex clothes are damn expensive (Montain Coop, OR, etc).