If you're new to motorcycling, or even if you've been riding for a while, you might be wondering if you really need motorcycle pants. After all, it's the most neglected piece of gear. You may personally know some people who don't bother.
The reality is that once you're out on the road, every part of your body is at risk, including your hips, knees and shins. Motorcycling is exhilarating and that's why we love it, but the risk factor is undeniable. For every mile you drive, you're 35 times more likely to crash on a motorcycle than in a car, according to Motorbiscuit.
This guide will run down all the information you'll need to make an informed decision about riding pants. Your choice of protective gear is important, so be smart about the benefits of proper clothing. A wise choice now might save some skin down the road.
Are Motorcycle Pants Necessary?
It's ironic that many riders will shell out for an expensive motorcycle jacket and helmet, while neglecting the lower half of their body. While head and spinal injuries can be the most severe, a serious hip or knee injury is no joke.
Good riding pants will come with knee padding and pockets for armor, so you can protect those sensitive lower areas in a crash. If worst comes to worst, and unfortunately it probably will, a small piece of armor padding can save months or years of recovery.
A pair of normal jeans will last just 0.6 seconds when sliding on the road. Compared to the abrasion resistance of a proper pair of riding jeans it's not even close. Even a low-speed slide can shred regular denim jeans like paper and result in nasty road rash.
Fortunately, riding pants have come a long way. You can find gear that offers solid protection but looks great once you're off the bike as well. Advances in technology allow for pants that look just like regular jeans and won't be uncomfortable, which is great if you're not a fan of leather.
Normal jeans will last just 0.6 seconds when sliding on asphalt
How Much Protection Do Motorcycle Pants Offer in a Crash?
In a crash, leg injuries fall into two main categories: impact and abrasion.
Impact is the force your body takes when hitting the ground. This can be particularly dangerous to your bones which can be bruised, fractured or outright broken.
Your hips and knees are the most vulnerable to this sudden force of impact. Joints don't cope well against massive collisions, and protective armor knee sliders is the best way to minimise this type of injury, and offer knee protection. It may well be the difference between having some very sore muscles versus the nightmare of a shattered patella or fractured hip.
Abrasion is when you slide along the road in a crash and is quite common in motorcycle accidents. This usually happens when low-sliding the bike on a corner and losing control, or during wet conditions, but it can happen during just about any accident.
It's crucial for these situations to wear pants designed with abrasion resistance. Think of some of the nasty leg scrapes you picked up as a kid, especially from falls at a running speed, and imagine what those would be like on the road.
Road slides can take a pretty ugly turn if the rider is wearing the wrong kind of pants. Regular jeans will not only be torn up, but pieces of the pants can actually get stuck in a wound.
A good pair of proper riding pants will offer great protection from both impact and abrasion injuries. It's important to find motorcycle gear that's equipped with proper reinforcing material, otherwise, the protection you get, particularly on a road slide, will only be marginally better than regular jeans.
Gear that fails at its intended purpose is dangerous and at best a distraction. Keep that in mind when making a decision.
Hip Armor and Knee Armor
Body armor is probably the most crucial part of wearing motorcycle pants. It protects the most fragile parts of your lower body from injuries and is designed to absorb as much impact as possible in a crash.
Armor can be included in motorcycle pants or purchased separately. If riding pants don't have armor built in, make sure they at least have armor pockets included so that you can add hip and knee pads yourself.
Fortunately, riding armor can be swapped out quite easily, so if you're not happy with what you've got or simply want to upgrade, it won't be a big issue.
Good body armor will offer solid impact protection while being thin and flexible enough to not be an inconvenience. Armor like D30 is designed to fit naturally and make you forget that you're even wearing it.
Just like most riding gear, armor is meant to be worn snug so it won't move around. It should still fit comfortably and feel natural, but tight enough that it won't move in a crash. When trying armor on, check that it's thin, breathable and comfortable.
Motorcycle riding pants should give you solid protection but still be comfortable
Types of Motorcycle Pants
There are several types of riding pants, but don't stress that decision too much. Once you've considered the factors and tried on a few pairs, the pants that suit your style and needs will likely be an easy choice.
The biggest strength of leather pants is their overall protection. This classic material is also the strongest, and will give you the best abrasion protection against gravel, but there's a few catches.
A big downside is the weight. Heavy leather can be an issue, as most riders prefer something lighter when they're on the road.
Wearing leather will keep you nice and warm in cold weather, but can get quite hot during summer. Unless you plan on buying multiple pairs of riding pants, you may want to keep the long term in mind and shop economically.
Leather pants don't offer much breathability, and unfortunately, they aren't waterproof. While they will give you the most protection, you'll need to consider the downsides as well.
In recent years, innovations in technology have meant big improvements for textile pants. The combination of Kevlar and Cordura with other fabrics have produced lighter pants that still keep you protected in a motorcycle accident.
In terms of comfort, it really depends on your personal preference. The lighter fabrics used in textile pants and jeans might feel comfortable for some people, but others may still prefer the feel of leather pants. Only you can really say.
The important thing is to purchase your gear wisely. Going for a cheaper option isn't necessarily bad, but should never be at the compromise of your own safety on the road.
The biggest appeal of mesh pants is keeping yourself cool during summer rides. They're more breathable than most alternatives and include moisture wicking to deal with sweat.
Mesh pants are made out of hybrid fabrics, just like textile pants. The key difference is the inclusion of mesh panels and mesh shells. These will usually be placed behind the knees, on the shins and on the thighs.
If your main concern is beating the heat and getting proper air flow, a good pair of mesh riding pants should be a consideration.
Riding jeans are a great choice if you're looking for a combination of style and safety.
You can find pairs that look good on or off the bike, but still give you solid protection on the road. Riding jeans are enforced with fabrics like Kevlar and Cordura, and will offer vastly superior abrasion resistance compared to normal denim.
In terms of practicality, riding jeans are a solid choice of protective gear. You can find pants that are stylish enough to be worn as a second pair of jeans, but don't compromise protection, thanks to recent developments in synthetic textiles.
If comfort is important to you that shouldn't be a problem. The latest protective jeans are made with both comfort and style in mind.
New materials like Dyneema are ultra light-weight while still being incredibly strong. This allows for a mix of comfort, safety and style that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
Ideally, you'll want to look for riding jeans with adjustable armor inserts for your knees and hips. A comfortable pair of jeans, paired with thin, flexible armor, is a solid all-round choice for leg protection.
Benefits of Riding With Motorcycle Pants Other Than Safety
Aside from preventing injuries in a crash, motorcycle pants will protect you from the elements.
If you're unfortunate enough to drop the bike on your leg, for example, there's a possibility of getting burnt from the scorching hot exhaust pipe. The abrasion and heat-resistant fabrics in riding pants keep your skin from being seared.
Many motorcycle pants are also waterproof, so the lower half of your body can stay dry in wet weather. On long rides especially this can be a lifesaver. Nobody wants to ride with wet undies.
One of the realities of motorcycling is the numerous flying objects you're exposed to. Bugs will fly into you, some of which can hit surprisingly hard at high speeds, and stones can be kicked up by passing trucks. The impact protection of motorcycle pants will help keep these airborne hazards from causing you serious injuries.
Good motorcycle pants are designed with ventilation so you'll keep cool and comfortable in warm weather. Some will even have air vents that can be opened or closed depending on the temperature.
Another thing to consider is where you do most of your riding. Do you ride to the office? You can find a smart pair of riding jeans that look great with a shirt.
Maybe you're riding to a job site instead. A pair of durable motorcycle pants, with the right protection, can easily double as your work pants.
While not crucial, keep these factors in mind when choosing your gear. You'll want to stay comfortable across the whole year, so try to find motorcycle pants that will meet a wide range of situations.
You can wear jeans that look good on or off the bike but still keep you protected
What Should I Wear Underneath Riding Pants?
If you want to go a step further, there are plenty of moto accessories that go underneath your pants to help deal with multiple weather conditions.
Moto compression leggings or compression shorts are useful in both hot and cold weather. When it's warm outside, they wick away sweat to keep you cool and dry, and in the winter they retain heat.
In cool weather, you might want to consider throwing on some thermals underneath your motorcycle pants. Aside from possible rain, low temperatures and wind chill can be fairly unforgiving during winter. Your pants should keep the wind chill away, but thermals will help raise your body temperature.
Compression socks are made to enhance comfort by providing arch and ankle stabilization. They'll reduce muscle fatigue and prevent your ankles, feet and legs from getting achy and swollen. On a long trip, this can be a great relief.
What are the Best Motorcycle Riding Pants for me?
You'll be looking out for motorcycle pants that are comfortable, give you solid protection and are suited for a wide range of conditions. Sa1nt Unbreakable Jeans are stylish enough to be worn in a range of situations outside of riding motorcycles, but still one of the toughest pieces of safety gear on the market.
Sa1nt jeans use Dyneema, a composite fabric that stops bullets, tethers space shuttles and armours helicopters, while still being light and comfortable.
If you're already partial to wearing jeans or looking for a smart pair of jeans for work and your bike, Sa1nt offers a range of colours to suit your personal style.
Sa1nt has a wide range of motorcycle jackets and motorcycle jeans that should fit your style and individual needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
ARE JEANS GOOD FOR MOTORCYCLE RIDING?
Motorcycle jeans are lined with tough materials that can take a punch. Infused with fibres such as Kevlar or Dyneema, the denim's construction makes it extremely tough and abrasion resistant, perfect for motorcycle riding.
Any decent pair of riding jeans feature hip and knee armor. Body armor provides crucial shock absorption and should be worn anytime a rider steps onto their bike. Be sure to do your research when buying moto jeans as not all jeans are suitable for riding.
WHICH FABRIC IS THE BEST FOR ABRASION-RESISTANT MOTORCYCLE PANTS?
Abrasion is essentially the act of sliding down the road in the event of a crash. When it comes down to abrasion resistance we are talking about the strength of the fabric during the slide. Traditional leathers are always going to be the strongest material available and they are worn in race suits for their strength. Depending on the thickness and quality of the leather, a pair of pants can slide between 6-10 seconds. For a more comfortable stylish solution, single layer motorcycle denims infused with Dyneema look good off the bike and can slide for up to 6 seconds.
ARE MOTORCYCLE JEANS WITH ARMOR ENOUGH TO PROTECT YOU?
Armored riding jeans are a great start when it comes to protecting yourself on the bike. Armor's will elevate the level of protection through key impact zones such as the knee and hip. This will provide superior impact protection in the event of a crash compared with having no armors and is highly recommended when you ride. The best motorcycle jeans combine armors and super tough denim built for abrasion resistance, SA1NT uses a single layer motorcycle denim infused with Dyneema that can slide for six seconds.
The truth is that armored jeans alone are not enough to completely protect you in a crash. Motorcyclists should be protected head to toe with as many protective features as possible. Riding Boots, gloves, a helmet and protective motorcycle jacket are the best solution for road safety.