In 2017, 5,172 motorcycle deaths occurred.
That’s 14% of all vehicle deaths that year. It means that dying in a motorcycle crash was 28 times more likely than dying in a vehicle crash.
Life outside the cage is a little closer to the edge. But that doesn’t meant unnecessary risks are okay.
It’s estimated that if every one one of those 5,172 people who died in 2017 were wearing the right safety gear, 802 of them would have survived.
The lesson in this? Dress for the slide, not the ride.
Along with all the other safety gear you already wear, you need a good pair of motorcycle pants.
Keep reading to learn all there is to know about motorcycle pants so that you can find the perfect pair.
Match the Style of Pant to Your Style of Riding
Are you a weekend cruiser, a commuter, or do you frequent the race track? Your riding style will determine the kind of riding pants you need to be shopping for.
One of the most common styles of motorcycle riding pants are cruiser pants. You’ll sometimes see them referred to as touring pants.
These pants are serious about comfort. They are a roomier cut and a relaxed style. The pants usually adjust at the waist for a better fit.
Because cruisers are roomier to start with, they don’t usually have stretch panels.
If you’re wearing motorcycle pants for racing, they need to be able to withstand high speed slides and crashes. These pants will be a much more snug fit.
You want your race pants to be well fitted for a couple of reasons. First, tighter pants equal better aerodynamics. These pants will help keep your leg tucked. Second, tighter pants equal better protection. The snug fit means it’s harder for the pant leg to ride up in a slide.
Typically, these pants are made from leather, due to its high abrasion resistance. They usually have armor in the knees and hips, and should come with knee sliders.
Stretch panels are necessary for flexibility in the thighs and seat area. You usually won’t see pockets in this style.
If you need to be in street clothes when you get to your destination, you’ll want to check out overpants.
As the name implies, overpants are worn over your normal pants. Overpants tend to fit on the loose side. The loose fit makes them more comfortable for commuters and low speed touring riders.
Riding jeans would be another alternative for the commuter.
Motorcycle jeans provide a decent amount of abrasion resistance at lower speeds. The jeans are usually reinforced or have removable armor, and have better stitching than regular jeans.
Motorcycle jeans are better protection than regular jeans, but don’t provide the same level of protection that other motorcycle riding pants do.
The Adventure Tourer
If you’re a serious adventure tourer, you need pants that can cope with everything you’re going to throw at them. ADV pants are the most versatile of all pants.
They can withstand multiple terrains and weather conditions. They are flexible and have great mobility. They’re usually waterproof, have armor, and will come equipped with vents and mesh.
And pockets. ADV pants have tons of strategically placed pockets.
Gunning for seriously classic motorcycle riding pants? Opt for chaps.
Chaps are a long-standing tradition in motorcycle fashion. They are fairly comfortable, and may have thermal liners for greater weather protection.
Chaps are great protection ON the bike. They keep you safe from the exhaust heat, road debris, wind, and road spray.
Chaps are not good protection OFF the bike – such as during a crash or slide. They have no seat protection and no armor.
Consider the Fabric
Most styles of riding pants come in fabric options. There are some considerations for each fabric.
Leathers are great abrasion protection in an accident. They can usually be repaired after an accident and will last through many years and slides.
Leather doesn’t offer impact protection, but can be modified with armor.
Leather will block out light rain. Unless your garment is lined with a waterproof material, or has been specially treated to make it water resistant, you’ll have to wear rain pants over your leathers in a hard rain.
Leather doesn’t breathe. This provides great protection from cold winds, but on hot days, it can be uncomfortable.
Leather can’t be washed. It needs to be cleaned and conditioned specially.
Riding pants come in a variety of synthetics such as nylon, polyester or Kevlar. Synthetics are thinner, lighter, more flexible than leathers.
Synthetics are very breathable, which is a benefit in hot weather. In the cold, you’ll have to wear insulating layers.
Synthetics are not waterproof. Waterproofing reduces the breathe-ability of the pants. You’ll need rain gear to wear over your riding gear in bad weather.
Polyester and nylon don’t provide good abrasion protection. Kevlar, on the other hand, is great abrasion protection. Double check the abrasion rating of your pants before you go with a synthetic. Protection varies greatly by fabric.
Synthetic fabric doesn’t provide impact protection unless it’s outfitted with armor.
They are mildew-resistant and are easy to wash at home.
Denim is one of the few natural materials that you can find for riding pants.
Denim is arguably the most comfortable and breathable of riding pant options. They have no weatherproofing, no abrasion and no impact protection.
Some riding jeans come with built in Kevlar panels at the knees, hips, thighs, and seat to prevent abrasion. Other have removable armor pieces for impact protection.
Generally speaking, riding jeans will never protect you as well as leathers or Kevlar-lined synthetics. But, they are much better protection than jeans you can find at the department store.
If you’re insisting on wearing denim pants to ride, find a padded and Kevlar-reinforced pair.
Check the Abrasion Resistance of Your Motorcycle Pants
No material of riding pants will provide impact resistance on its own. Abrasion resistance, however, is dependent on the type of material.
There are a lot of industrial tests out there to help determine abrasion protection. Generally, here’s what the tests tell us:
- Denim is by far the worst abrasion protection.
- Kevlar is incredibly strong for its weight.
- Kevlar provides better abrasion protection when it is part of a fabric blend than it does alone.
- Leather is by far the best protection.
Abrasion resistance is not just about the fabric. The stitching needs to be as strong as the material itself. Otherwise, you’ll rip the pants at the seams on a slide and still end up with some nasty road rash.
Review Other Features of Your Riding Pants
You’ve decided on the basics – the style, fabric, and abrasion protection- that you need in your riding pants. Now’s the time to consider some other features of the pants. These usually come down to personal preference.
How do you hold up your pants? Some people like a belt, but suspender or Velcro are also popular.
If you want suspender, but can’t find riding pants with buttons, it’s pretty easy to have a tailor add some buttons for you.
If you’re going to be riding in all types of weather, you need some kind of waterproofing. One choice it to have rain gear that you pull on over your riding gear.
The other choice is to find pants lined with waterproof material. Gore-Tex is always a good choice, since it is weather resistant but still breathable.
Keeping your pants down around you ankles at high speeds is surprisingly important.
Make sure the pants fit comfortably inside your boots, or have a large enough cuff to fit around your boots.
Quality construction of the zippers is a must. The zippers should be durable, easy to access and have a flap to block out wind and water.
If your motorcycle jacket has plenty of pockets, maybe pockets aren’t an issue. If you need pockets in your pants, make sure you can fit your glove inside them. They should have an easy-access closure that keeps rain out.
Knee sliders are a specialized form of protection for your pants. Not all riders need them. If you use your pants as race pants, or are an aggressive rider that drags your knee when cornering, get pants with knee sliders.
You’ll thank me later.
Armor and Other Padding
Only race pants used to offer armor and padding. As technology changes, it’s easier and easier to find other styles of pants with armor and padding.
If you’re looking for armored pants, make sure the armor is in high-impact areas such as knees and hips.
Armor typically claims C.E. rating. Just remember that a C.E. rating is self-designated, meaning that the manufacturer decided the armor meets the protection rating. A third-party did not designate the armor as C.E. rated armor.
Foam padding instead of hard armor is a good alternative for low speed riding. It provides some impact protection and is more pliable than armor.
Liners are a great option for increasing versatility. Insulated liners allow you to ride comfortably in colder temperatures. Waterproof liners keep you dry in bad weather.
Liners may add bulk to your riding gear, so make sure it all fits comfortably together before you purchase.
Nothing is worse than cold wind seeping in under the back of your leather riding jacket. Some styles of pants offer a higher back that blocks the wind better.
Motorcycles are inherently more difficult to see on the road than other vehicles. Adding reflective material increases safety and visibility.
Some styles of bikes expose your legs to more heat coming off the motor or exhaust. If your bike doesn’t have a fairing to protect your legs, you’ll have to check out pants with heat-resistant panels along the legs.
ADV pants usually come with this feature.
Don’t Forget About the Importance of Fit
It’s smart to pick riding pants that will get the job done. It’s even smarter to pick riding pants that you will be happy to put on each time you ride. If you aren’t going to wear them, they can’t protect you.
Fit should not be ignored. In addition to comfort, a good fit provides protection.
Poorly fitting pants can shift around during a crash, moving armor and other protective panels away from the high-impact areas that need them most. The leg of you pants can slide up, exposing skin.
Choose pants that fit correctly. Make sure they are comfortable in the riding position. When in doubt, buy a couple and return the ones that don’t work for you.
Dress for the Slide, Not the Ride
The right pair of motorcycle pants just may mean the difference between skin grafts and a couple bandages after a crash.
Don’t be one of the 802 people who could have avoided death by choosing the right protective equipment.
Now that you have the right riding pants, make sure you have a good helmet.