Motorcycle Riding Jeans: The Basics
Leather has long been the go-to material for motorcycle riding apparel. However, some motorcycle riders prefer a casual look that favors a pair of denim over cowhide pants.
Many riders simply prefer casual riding gear, and want to go cruising in a comfortable pair of jeans. But as you probably already guessed, a regular old pair of jeans just won’t cut it when it comes to protecting you from falling off a bike and skidding down asphalt. This is why motorcycle riding jeans were created.
We could’ve written an endless article on everything there is to know about motorcycle jeans. However, we believe if you’re looking for information about riding jeans, you probably prefer casual, easy to “wear” information, so we're not going to bore you with the technical stuff and just stick to the basics. Here’s what we think you should know about motorcycle riding jeans.
How are Motorcycle Jeans Different from Regular Jeans?
This is probably the question that landed you on this page, so let’s answer that first. Motorcycle jeans are essentially riding pants made of a denim outer shell and abrasion-resistant fabrics incorporated into or outside of the denim.
They’re either made with factory installed armored pads, or have pockets designed for installing your own impact-absorbing lower body armor. The stitching on motorcycle jeans is also of much higher quality and strength than regular jeans. They’re usually double- or triple-stitched to keep them from falling apart at the seams, and to keep the armor or padding secured in place.
Thanks to advancements in fabric technology, motorcycle riding jeans that are comfortable and cool are now available. Back in the day, motorcycle jeans were hot as hell, but these days they're made with breathable fabric and air-venting zippers to help keep your nether regions cool.
The main basic difference between motorcycle jeans and regular jeans is that the former has safety certifications and requirements that need to be met in order to be marketed and sold for riding purposes.
4 Basic Types of Motorcycle Jeans
Kevlar Motorcycle Jeans
The most popular (and the first) type of motorcycle jeans use DuPont Kevlar, an aramid fiber, for protective lining to absorb the impact of sliding on pavement. If the denim wears or scrapes off during a slide, the Kevlar armor protects the rider’s otherwise exposed lower body. The padding is usually woven into the jeans, but can also be integrated into the outer denim shell.
Kevlar jeans were notoriously heavy and hot in the early days. However, years of technological advancements have led to the creation of Kevlar riding jeans that offer both superior protection and comfort.
Reinforced Motorcycle Jeans
These jeans are essentially the same as Kevlar jeans, except they implement padding made of non-aramid fibers, such as the nylon-based Cordura, to protect the rider. Reinforced motorcycle jeans typically employ the armor on the outer denim shell, with pockets to install the pads if they’re not woven in.
Armored Motorcycle Jeans
These motorcycle jeans rely less on armor and more on heavy-duty denim to protect against road rash in lower speed accidents. Armored motorcycle jeans typically have pockets for riders to add their own slim padding, but their main appeal is that they more closely resemble regular jeans. They provide some level of protection, just not at the same level as Kevlar or reinforced jeans. Armored jeans are fine for casual cruising, but not recommended for high-speed riding.
Waterproof Motorcycle Jeans
These motorcycle jeans basically offer the same protection as Kevlar and reinforced motorcycle jeans, but the main difference is the denim outer shell is waterproof. They have a breathable, waterproof membrane, as well as waterproof zippers and seams.
What to Look For in Motorcycle Riding Jeans
Now that we’ve covered the four basic types of motorcycle riding jeans, let’s take a look at some of the things you should know before buying a pair.
A symbol of quality you may have seen on a variety of products, the CE certification is basically the European equivalent of the UL certification in the USA. All it really means is that the product has undergone rigorous safety testing to get certified. The lack of a CE certification is probably not a deal breaker, but it’s worth looking out for as a quality check.
Protection Level Rating
You may find a letter grade or rating on motorcycle jean product descriptions that represents the level of protection it provides. If it has an A (lightweight), AA (middleweight) or AAA (heavyweight) rating, it represents the highest levels of protection, with AAA being the highest. B and C ratings represent lower grades of protection.
Is the Armor Included in the Price?
If the price of a pair of motorcycle jeans looks like a bargain, make sure to check that the armor or padding is included in the price. You may think you’re getting a great deal, but that could be because you have to purchase the armor separately. If the jeans don’t include the armor, make sure they have pockets for as many impact points (knees, hips, shins) as possible.
Comfort vs Safety
While you may want the highest level of protection possible, never sacrifice comfort for safety when choosing motorcycle jeans. Remember that comfort goes hand-in-hand with riding safely. You don’t want to feel too weighed down by your riding gear, so make sure you try the jeans on before committing to a purchase. However, trying them on doesn’t mean taking them out for a test ride on your motorcycle. In other words, make sure the jeans are in returnable/refundable condition if you buy them before trying them on.
Motorcycle Riding Jeans Sizes
This applies to any pair of jeans, but remember that sizes may vary by manufacturer. And this rings especially true for motorcycle jeans, which are padded or reinforced. So a size 34 from manufacturer A may be different than for manufacturer B. When it comes to the inseam, add an extra inch to the bottom measurement, as jeans tend to rise up when you sit on a motorcycle. If your typical jean size is 34W x 32L, shoot for a size 34W x 34L instead.
Additional Motorcycle Riding Jeans Buying Tips
- Make sure any armored pads that are not woven in are easily removable, especially for washing the jeans.
- Buy motorcycle jeans that fit snug and are not too tight or too baggy, as baggy jeans don’t offer much in the way of close protection (the snugger, the better).
- Keep in mind that men’s and women’s bodies are contoured differently, so be wary of any jeans labeled Unisex.
One last thing: never store anything in your motorcycle jean pockets while you’re riding that could further injure you (keys, knives, pocket tools, etc.) or have to be scraped off your skin in the event of a crash.