Motorcycle Pants Buyer's Guide



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ultimate motorcycle pants buyers guide

>> Aaron Cortez



The Ultimate Motorcycle Pants Buyer's Guide

We put together detailed explanations of everything that goes into a making motorcycle pant, along with featured examples for every type of rider, in our Ultimate Motorcycle Pants Buyer's Guide. Read this before you make your next investment!

motorcycle pants buyers guide lowside in jeans
It happens to the best of us. When it does, it can be in tough, armored textile or leather - or in a thin layer of cotton. Your choice.

All too often after a crash, a rider will find himself unable to ride for weeks or months because he's nursing a nasty case of road rash (or worse.) What makes the difference between the rider on the couch with his legs wrapped in gauze and the rider in the garage putting on new fairings? Well, a good set of motorcycle pants, for one.

Made of modern textiles or tough leather, and reinforced with armor and strong stitching, motorcycle pants are built to keep your skin safe in an unscheduled meeting with the asphalt. And being purpose-built for riding, many also include features like weatherproof construction, venting and pockets, or reflective piping for visibility. The bottom line: if you're still riding jeans (or – God forbid – shorts) then it's time to get with the program! Motorcycle pants come in all styles now, from casual to hardcore, understated to over-the-top, so there's something for everybody. There's a ton of info here, so let's get started!

(Unless, of course, you actually want to have a nurse scrub gravel out of your skin with a scotch pad...)


Table of Contents

  1. What Makes a Motorcycle Pant?
  2. Motorcycle Gear Terminology
  3. Abrasion and Tear Resistance of Motorcycle Pants
  4. Textile or Leather?
  5. The Importance of Fit
  6. Motorcycle Pant Styles and Purposes
    • Commuting/Around Town Jeans & Pants
    • Dedicated Motorcycle Pants
    • Touring/Adventure Motorcycle Pants
    • Overpants
    • MX/Off-Road Pants

what makes a motorcycle pant

What Makes a Motorcycle Pant?

What primarily makes motorcycle pants different from other types of pants is the protection they give you from risks of motorcycle riding; mainly sliding on pavement, since road rash is the most common motorcycle injury. Anything calling itself a motorcycle pant should have some sort of abrasion resistant material or construction in areas that typically make contact with the ground (i.e. the butt, hips, and knees), and most pants will have some kind of padding or armor as well.

Motorcycle pants in general are built with sturdier materials than casual wear (such as durable textiles and leather), and in particular, should have stronger construction to prevent separation of seams in a slide. Pants built for specific purposes, like dual-sport riding or touring, will often be made with materials and features for varying weather conditions as well, such as Gore-Tex lining or zippered vents, in addition to being crash worthy.

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Terminology

Terminology

When shopping for motorcycle pants, you're bound to see certain terminology pop up repeatedly in your search. Here's a rundown of some terms you should know and understand before making an investment in your gear.

  • Denim: A sturdy, thick cotton twill fabric. Thickness of denim is measured in ounces, based on the weight of one yard (a yard of 14oz. denim weighs 14oz.) Not recommended for motorcycle riding due to low abrasion resistance - but hey, they're better than shorts, I suppose.

  • Aramid: a class of strong, heat-resistant synthetic fibers, made from spinning special polymers into a solid fiber from a liquid chemical blend.

  • Kevlar: A lightweight synthetic aramid fiber with extremely high tensile strength (5 times stronger than steel.) Well known for its use in body armor, it now has widespread use in motorcycle gear for its abrasion and heat-resistant properties.

  • Ballistic Nylon: A tough, thick synthetic fabric. Used as a protective material in motorcycle gear for its strength and abrasion resistance. Textile gear is often made from ballistic nylon. Measured in denier.

  • Denier: A unit of measure for linear density of fibers. Silk is the standard for this measurement (a single strand of silk is one denier.) Denier refers to weight, not strength, and is the normal unit of measurement for ballistic nylon. Note: fibers less than one denier are called microfibers.

  • Cordura: DuPont's original brand name for a line of tough fabrics, usually ballistic nylon or a nylon blend.

  • Keprotec: An abrasion resistant synthetic blend fabric made by Swiss company Schoeller. Designed to replicate rub and tear resistance of leather, but with more comfort and breathability. It is a proprietary blend of aramids that includes Cordura and Kevlar.

  • Reactive Armor: Armor that is soft and pliable at rest, but becomes extremely rigid on impact through changes at the molecular level, such as D3O armor (for an awesome video demonstration of how D3O absorbs impact, click here.)

  • Hard Armor: Rigid plastic armor used in high-impact areas. Usually layered with softer materials like impact absorbing foam for shock absorption and comfort.

  • CE Rating: A marking that signifies conformity to European standards. Motorcycle armor is considered "CE Rated" when it conforms to EU standards of impact protection. Note: CE rating is a self-certification scheme; conformity is declared by gear manufacturers themselves.

  • Gore-Tex: A line of waterproof, breathable materials made primarily of heated and stretched PTFE. However, the Gore naming convention does not refer to specific materials or technology, but rather to a specific level of performance. Gore-Tex is the premier waterproof membrane, used in all types of all-weather motorcycle gear.

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Abrasion and Tear Resistance of Motorcycle Pants

Abrasion and Tear Resistance of Motorcycle Pants

Since protection from a slide is such a big part of motorcycle pants' job, it's worth a look into how different materials actually hold up when they meet the ground. Over the years, there have been a number of tests done to determine this, from controlled laboratory comparisons to the good 'ol "drag behind a truck." In my opinion, the most well-executed test was done by the industrial testing laboratory, Taber Industries.

The Taber test involved mounting a sample of each material onto a platform and grinding into it with rubber-emery wheels, and measuring the number of rotations it took until the material was worn through. The results of this test can give you a good idea of how abrasion resistant motorcycle pants will be depending the material they're made of.


taber abrasion test results

A couple of observations stand out from this test. Even though denim is about mid-pack as far as weight is concerned, it is by far the weakest in abrasion resistance. With the other materials, abrasion resistance is highly correlated with weight except for pure Kevlar - which isn't terribly resistant to abrasion but is incredibly strong for its weight (in general, Kevlar tends to do better in abrasion tests when its part of a blend.) Overall, the clear winner in the category is competition weight (about 1.3-1.5mm thick) leather.

An important point to note is that abrasion-resistance cannot be measured by the material alone; the stitching that joins those strong panels together must be at least as strong as the material itself, or they could come apart in a slide.



girl rider road rash
Material is only half the battle - stitching is the other half!
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Textile or Leather?

Textile or Leather?

Both materials are excellent choices for a heavy-duty motorcycle pant that can hold up in a crash, but they have very different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. Which ones are right for you will depend on the type of riding you do, and which features are most important to you.


Value: Textiles are cheaper initially than leathers, but leathers of good quality can usually survive more than one fall. It is generally accepted that textiles need to be replaced after one crash.

Maintenance: Textiles can be washed normally, but leathers require special care (such as treatment with a leather conditioner) and need to be taken to the cleaners when dirty.

Comfort: This is subjective, so you should try on both and see what you prefer. Leather breaks in very nicely, but is heavy and doesn't breathe well; textiles can be light and breathe well (i.e. mesh) or stiff and heavy (like thick ballistic nylon.)

Weather: Textiles are the clear winner here. They have vents for when it's warm, liners for when it's cold, and water-resistant materials or coatings to keep you dry in rain or snow.

Protection: Leather has a big advantage in protection. Leather is far more abrasion resistant than textile, and will not melt from friction as textile will. It can also usually survive multiple crashes, and can often be repaired.

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The Importance of Fit

The Importance of Fit

Beyond features and construction, the most important part of motorcycle pants is that they fit properly, and this is not the manufacturer's responsibility – it's your own. The best motorcycle pants can't help you if they shift around during a crash or slide, moving pads and armor away from where you need it most.

The key pieces of information to have when shopping for motorcycle pants, especially online, are your true waist size and inseam size. Avoid the tempation to use the size of jeans you wear (or want to believe you wear), and get out a tape measure.

For your waist, take the measurement of the circumference just underneath your belly button, and for your inseam, measure from your heel to the highest point of your crotch. Record them in both inches and centimeters, for ease of reference when shopping both American and Euro/Japanese brands.

Fit and sizing vary between manufacturers and styles, so always make use of the manufacturers sizing chart before placing your order. Motorcycle gear should generally fit snugly, but be comfortable in the riding position. If you're looking at a style without fit adjustments, such as many riding jeans, its not a bad idea to order two sizes, and return the one you don't prefer.

Remember, don't just dress for the ride – dress for the slide!

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Motorcycle Pant Styles and Purposes

Motorcycle Pant Styles and Purposes

Beyond the protection from road rash that any motorcycle pants should have, there is a wide variety of different pant styles available depending on where and how you'll be riding. Let's go over a few, how they differ, and the features that go into each type.

Commuting/Around Town Jeans & Pants

revit motorcycle jeans

A vicious accident can happen anywhere, even a quick scoot across town, so its bad advice to say that short or slow rides don't require as much protection as more "serious" rides. But many of us commute to work or school where full gear isn't practical, so a compromise needs to be found.

That's the best way to describe these kinds of pants – as a compromise. They won't blow apart the minute they're kissed by asphalt, but they also won't protect you nearly as much as leather or textile pants with built-in armor. They simply give some protection against basic injuries – mainly road rash - while still being comfortable and stylish enough to wear all day.

These kinds of pants are mostly jean-style, made out of denim reinforced with stronger materials like Kevlar or other aramid fibers, but you can find cargo pant-styles as well. They should have multi-layered butt, hip, and knee areas (where you're most likely to go down) and reinforced seams, and some pants have pockets for armor inserts as well.

Note: Rivets in jeans can heat up from friction in a slide and burn you, even if the jeans don't wear through. Look for jeans without rivets, or with a lining that covers the metal.

What to look for:

  • 12 oz. or heavier denim
  • Abrasion-resistant material layered or woven in (i.e. Kevlar or other aramid fiber)
  • Reinforced knees, hip and seat area
  • Double or triple stitching with strong thread
  • Memory foam inserts for impact absorption
  • Flexible armor in knees and hips
  • Flex-panels for comfort around knees or waist

Good...

Scorpion EXO Covert Jeans

Scorpion EXO Covert Jeans

Price: $119.95

Features:

  • 14 oz heavy denim
  • 165GSM DuPont Kevlar lining from knee to waist
  • Knee armor pocket (fits optional Sas-Tec armor)
  • Mesh lining for comfort and airflow
  • Traditional 5 pocket design

Better...

Drayko Drift Riding Jeans

Drayko Drift Riding Jeans

Price: $179.95

Features:

  • Constructed with military-grade Kevlar and Dyneema
  • Zip fly and no rivets on the back for safety
  • Hand distressed denim
  • Loose leg for comfort and fits over riding boots
  • Reinforced seams

Best...

klim-k-fifty-1-motorcycle-jeans

Klim K Fifty 1 Jeans

Price: $289.99-299.99

Features:

  • Heavy-duty Cordura riding jean
  • D3O Evo hip and knee armor
  • Reinforced Kevlar panel in slide zones
  • Adjustable knee armor positioning
  • Full mesh comfort liner


Dedicated Motorcycle Pants

motorcycle pants

These are pants that are purpose built for motorcycle-riding. No compromises here; these aren't meant to look good at work or on campus, just to hop on your bike and crank out some miles. These pants will be made of strong textiles or leather, and have flexible or hard armor inserts. Because these materials are a lot more rigid, these pants will usually have stretch panels built in as well.

Pants made from textiles will also normally have weather-resistant capabilities also. Some may incorporate reflective piping or logos, which is a great feature to enhance nighttime visibility. Many of them are also designed as part of a jacket/pants set, so they may have a zipper or snaps to mate them together for more protection.

What to look for:

  • Heavy textile (600D or greater) or leather construction
  • CE-approved flexible or hard armor in knees/hips
  • Memory foam inserts for impact absorption
  • Stretch panels and adjustable fit
  • Reflective piping or logos
  • Zippers/snaps to attach to jacket
  • Knee pucks (for sport riding pants)

Good...

Icon Overlord Resistance Pants 2014

Icon Overlord Resistance Pants

Price: $175.00

Features:

  • D3O CE certified knee armor
  • Nylon chassis with fused thigh and knee panels
  • Leather panels inside knees and saddle
  • Ratchet waist closure
  • Adjustable knee and waist straps

Better...

Cortech GX Sport Motorcycle Pants

Cortech GX Sport Motorcycle Pants

Price: $179.99

Features:

  • 600d shell with 1680d polyester knee panels
  • Waterproof liner
  • Phoslite reflective panels
  • Removable CE-rated adjustable knee armor
  • Zippered pockets with waterproof lining

Best...

Alpinestars A-10 Air Flo Pants

Alpinestars A-10 Air Flo Pants

Price: $269.95

Features:

  • 1200d and 600d polyester fabric construction
  • CE-rated GP knee and tibia protectors
  • Pre-curved construction for riding comfort
  • Removable knee slider covers
  • Zipper allows attachment to Alpinestars jackets


Touring/Adventure Motorcycle Pants

bmw rider touring suit

Made for riding through all climates and varying terrain, these pants are made to protect you as much from varying weather conditions as from a crash. They will be made of weatherproof materials such as Gore-Tex, have extensive venting for airflow, removable liners for warmth, lots of pockets for cargo, and integrated armor inserts. Because they have such a big job to do and incorporate so many different materials and technology, they are usually on the more expensive side of the spectrum.

What to look for:

  • Abrasion and weather-resistant outer shell
  • Reinforced knees/seat area
  • Vents and mesh panels for breathability
  • Foam or flexible armor inserts for impact absorption
  • Buckles or Velcro for fit adjustment
  • Reflective piping or logos
  • Multiple pockets
  • Removable thermal or waterproof liner
  • Zippers/snaps to attach to jacket

Good...

Tour Master Flex Motorcycle Pants

Tour Master Flex Motorcycle Pants

Price: $199.99

Features:

  • 600 denier Carbolex shell (converts to an Armor-Link mesh shell)
  • Phoslite reflective piping
  • 3-position knee armor
  • Stretch material in calf, inseam, and knees
  • Removable 2-stage Aqua-Therm liner


Better...

Alpinestars New Land Gore-Tex Pants

Alpinestars New Land Gore-Tex Pants

Price: $469.99

Features:

  • Teflon-coated outer shell with rip-stop textile seat/knees
  • Removable CE Certified Bio-Armor knee and shin protectors
  • Removable thermal liner
  • High visibility reflective colored piping
  • Zipper attachment to Alpinestars riding jackets

Best...

Klim Badlands Pants

Klim Badlands Pants

Price: $649.99

Features:

  • Gore-Tex 3-layer laminate technology
  • Gore-Tex stretch panels in seat area
  • Abrasion-resistant Armacor panels in impact/wear areas
  • 3M Scotchlite reflective material panels
  • Italian full grain leather knee/lower leg
  • YKK waterproof zippers


Over Pants

motorcycle over pants scorpion exo

Like the name suggests, these pants go over what you're wearing, so they make a great choice for commuters. They usually have a looser fit that can be adjusted, large zippers or snaps for easy removal, and are usually weather-resistant to keep your work clothes underneath nice and dry. These are perfect to be stowed in saddlebags on your bike to wear when you need them.

Some overpants are only for rain; they are simply a thin waterproof layer that can be thrown over what you're already wearing. These are great for bad weather, but are meant to be added to the gear you have, not as a substitute for it. If you already have riding gear you like that lacks weather protection, these are a good tool to have in a saddle bag just in case Mother Nature throws you a curveball during a ride.

What to Look For:

  • Looser, adjustable fit for wear over street clothes
  • Long side zippers for easy on and off
  • Waterproof outer shell
  • Reflective piping or Hi-Viz coloring for visibility
  • Reinforced knee, hip, and seat areas

Good...

Tour Master Sentinel Rain Pants

Tour Master Sentinel Rain Pants

Price: $58.95-85.95

Features:

  • Waterproof and breathable ripstop nylon shell with sealed seams
  • High-density nylon seat
  • 3M Scotchlite reflective panels
  • Extra long zippered and gusseted leg cuff with Velcro flap closure
  • Attaches to matching jacket

Better...

Tour Master Motorcycle Overpant

Tour Master Motorcycle Overpant

Price: $149.99

Features:

  • 600D Carbolex Plus shell and 1680D ballistic polyester knees
  • Rainguard waterproof & breathable barrier
  • Phoslite reflective piping for night visibility
  • 3-position removable CE approved knee armor
  • Double-stitched construction

Best...

Firstgear HT Air Motorcycle Overpants

Firstgear HT Air Motorcycle Overpants

Price: $249.95

Features:

  • Mesh-Tex chassis of 600D poly and 250D mesh
  • Waterproof/Breathable zip-out liner that is a standalone pant
  • Adjustable CE knee armor
  • Padded hip protectors
  • 2/3 length side zip for easy on/off


MX/Off-Road Pants

shift off road motorcycle pants

Off-road riding has a very different set of requirements than street gear does. Motocross riding can be a very athletic sport, and MX pants usually allow great freedom of movement and ventilation to keep you cool. These pants don't usually have as much integrated protection as street gear does, because MX armor and braces are normally worn separately, but they may have some padding around the hip area that Velcroes into place. MX pants may have leather panels built into the inner leg to protect from hot parts of the bike. Fit is adjustable with a buckle or ratchet system, and the lower leg is tapered to allow the pants to be tucked into rugged MX boots.

What to Look For:

  • Durable nylon or polyester shell construction (600D or higher)
  • Ratchet or buckle system for precise fit at waist
  • Heat and abrasion resistant leather inner-leg panels
  • Stretch panels at knee, crotch, and waist
  • Mesh liner for comfort and breathability
  • Roomy knee area to accommodate braces


Good...

MSR Axxis Pants M15

MSR Axxis Pants M15

Price: $69.95


Features:

  • Durable 900d polyester knee panels
  • Spandex articulated knee panels
  • Ratchet style belt closure
  • Rubber thigh and knee logos
  • Comes in 6 colorways
  • Comfortable mesh liner

Better...

Thor Phase Racewear Wired Vented Pants 2014

Thor Phase Racewear Wired Vented Pants

Price: $99.95

Features:

  • Fully vented sublimated panels for max airflow
  • Ratchet style waist with lock-down closure
  • Leather inner knee panels for heat resistance
  • Double and triple stitching
  • Cuffless leg openings

Best...

Fox 360 Savant Pants

Fox 360 Savant Pants

Price: $174.95


Features:

  • Durable 900D polyester main body fabric
  • Quad stretch rear yoke
  • YKK zippers throughout
  • Waist adjustment
  • Active stretch knee panel for movement over armor



Got any more questions? Call our helpful Customer Service department at 888-339-3888 for more information on these or any other products we carry!



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