Motorcycles, unlike cars, can have you alighting at the most irregular stops, and it’s not always planned. In my long experience of riding, spanning over the better part of three decades, I have lived through some gnarly mishaps and been the first respondent treating some nasty burns and wounds on fellow riders by the roadside. It isn’t pretty, but let’s tell it as it is! While common belief is that thrifted denim will hold in a light crash, are jeans good for motorcycle riding?
No, if you mean regular jeans. Lined denim fabric and stretchy jeans offer no protection against friction and impact in the unfortunate event of a fall. Ordinary fabrics burn out when faced with extreme heat from friction on the road surface. Nylon and even the all-strong-looking denim melt from the heat produced and fuse with skin, ouch! So, protect yourself and ride with confidence — switch to jeans good for motorcycle riding now.
There are specialized motorcycle apparel makers, like AGVSPORT, who disguise serious protective gear as regular fashionable jeans. For an arm and a leg, you can look cool and ride safe with a pair of proper motorcycle jeans. But what makes them so different, you ask?
Let’s Make a Strong Pair of Motorcycle Protective Jeans
A beautiful AGVSPORT model poses on a BMW S 1000 RR in a proper motorcycle jacket, what is presumably motorcycle protective jeans, and riding boots. Although she doesn’t look like someone who owns or knows how to ride the bike, it is still a nice display of how cool real riders can look even with a sufficient amount of protection.
When you think of jeans, you think of a casual pair of cool pants that you wear to the store or when going out. It’s cool and convenient depending on the weather. But a pair of riding jeans, though regular looking, are a bit beefier on the inside, and there is more to the fabric than meets the eye. So, when picking a pair of motorcycle jeans, what really matters?
Fabric, Then Everything Else
Firstly, there are regular jeans and then there are reinforced motorcycle jeans, which might be disguised as regular jeans but contain some of the following high-tensile materials meshed with their denim fabric to increase their abrasion and tear resistance:
DuPont Kevlar®, extreme left, is a stack of super strong hydrogen-bonded sheets of para-aramid, which are then spun into a super strong fiber produced specifically for high tensile strength and low weight applications where flexibility is also required.
Kevlar® is the trademarked name for a para-aramid synthetic (made in a lab) material, first invented by the DuPont company in 1965. And whilst the name Kevlar has grown so popular that it represents the whole class of materials, other companies make their own “Kevlar,” including Twaron, Technora, Heracron, and Alex. These materials have distinct characteristics for varied industrial applications although similar to the original material in terms of a stellar strength-to-weight ratio.
It’s a strong polymer fiber that has since found many applications for its tensile strength and ability to withstand high temperatures. The so-called Kevlar pants, which have become synonymous with riding jeans, are not entirely Kevlar but instead are primarily denim with Kevlar either reinforcing at select high-impact zones or woven together. It is so strong a material that it’s used for bullet proofing body armor with only the downside of not being very comfortable to wear as it does not flex.
The lined versus single-layer Kevlar jeans debate brews on, but we have bigger fish to fry! In a nutshell, it’s a tradeoff, less Kevlar, less weight, and more comfort but considerably less protection.
Armalith® is a single-layer weave between denim and abrasion-resistant material (UHMWPE) that gives motorcycle jeans a waxy appearance. UHMWPE is an artificial material whose mechanical abrasion resistance exceeds that of traditional leather in protective motorcycle garments. Where this formula wins over, leather is lighter and more versatile summer riding gear.
It’s patented to another world leader in textiles, the Spanish Tejidos Royo, which has been around for more than a century. Thermal efficiency and stress is a big hurdle for apparel manufacturers as they rally to make ever more compliant and comfortable garments. To make more breathable gear, single-layer architecture materials are under development to overcome the bulk and heat shielding properties of layered protection.
An infographic shows the properties of Cordura® fabric. It has good thermal transfer for temperature regulation and water repulsion. Cordura offers 300X magnification and excellent tear resistance.
Cordura® is yet another heavy-duty material developed by, guess who? The mighty DuPont Company is also credited for this early, in that it had a similar invention in 1929 to support the war effort. Interestingly, the material found its first application in lining the tires of military trucks for decades before Kevlar was invented to replace, get this, steel in tires!
You might think Cordura to be the inferior protective material, and boy, would you be wrong! Despite the popularity of the new golden goose, Kevlar, there is evidence from numerous tests that Cordura will hold the fort for longer against abrasive forces than Kevlar. It may not be as strong or resist as much piercing force, but it offers flexibility thanks to its nylon content — ideal for comfy motorcycle apparel that also takes the bulk of destructive force in a fall.
Schoeller® developed Keprotec® for motorcycle racing apparel. It’s a derivative of Aramid with core-spun fibers for extra tensile strength. In addition to being more comfortable than the latter, Keprotec® is made with high tear resistance, temperature management, and impact mitigation in mind.
Dyneema is a high crystallization and low-density material mixed with a patented weaving technique that results in molecular alignment and greater shear strength.
Anvient is another powerhouse in the textile industry, who came up with the popular trademark name Dyneema®, which also offers exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. It finds application in varied fields of engineering and the motorcycle industry. The Dyneema brand owns the patent to a special gel spinning process where the fibers are drawn and heated to elongate them then cooled for molecular alignment, resulting in high crystallization and low density. This makes it stronger than the competition for the same weight limit.
On a fairground, Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel, which makes it two-fifths stronger than aramid fibers. It also excels in fighting friction and chemical corrosion. Dyneema is not afraid of a little sun, which makes it ideal for summer wear.
Covec® fabric is a brand name registered by a British man for the Bull-it brand of Pakistani jeans. It is an older fabric used in Asia for many decades, and it is generally inferior in performance to DuPont Kevlar or DSM’s Dyneema.
The number one selling point of the material when applied to motorcycle garments is the ability to keep the rider safe and cool according to external temperature. It has a three-pronged approach to solving the injury problem for riders; impact dissipation, heat transfer for thermal regulation, and cut or abrasion resistance.
Armor Holds the Second Line of Defense
An armored pair of AGVSPORT 8000 Motorcycle Jean. It may look like ordinary jeans to the layman, but the fabric is a mix of high-tensile materials, including mesh, and denim while the inside reveals that there is more to it than meets the eye. EN 1621-1 CE armor typically goes to the knee, hip, and thigh areas, which are the most likely contact points if you should dump the bike.
After the choice of material, there is armor, which might be built into the apparel or worn externally as strap-ons. Premium motorcycle pants come with respectable quality of armor, but you can always swap them out for better replacement pieces if they’re somewhat worthless.
Motorcycle jeans are typically armored as follows:
- Knee Armor: Protects the knee and shin which are high-impact areas in all kinds of riding. Knee armor is expected to comply with the EN 1621-1 CE standard for limb armor.
- Hip Armor: Guards against hip injury, another common occurrence in motorcycle crashes. Like knee armor, this padding falls under limb armor certification.
- Base Layer Armor: Also known as body armor, the base layer consists of underlayers that can be worn under the garments to protect the body in other areas such as the chest and back.
Note: Any approved body armor will fall under Level 1 or Level 2 CE standards. Level 1 protection is inferior to that of Level 2 certified body armor. A pictogram indicates the certification level of a piece of armor.
The coding for the certification of body armor for motorcyclists goes something like EN 1621-2:2021. Here, EN 1621 means the armor is certified for use with motorcycles, and -2 is the area code for where the armor should be worn. And this particular number is for the rear — the rest is self-explanatory.
When picking a pair for your daily or longer distance rides, you need to ensure that they are compatible with your other gear. Jeans may not typically fit over your boots unless you pick ones that have a wider cut. However, if you wear your boots over pants, then it’s nothing to you.
Considerations for Wearing Motorcycle Jeans
Beauty and protection in one picture. Motorcycle gear is for everyone who rides either as the operator or pillion. Especially AGVSPORT Ladies Motorcycle Jeans designed to look stylish just like regular jeans.
Sometimes owning and operating your motorcycle requires tight-roping skills. It’s a delicate balance between safety, comfort, and convenience. ATGATT is the best approach, but sometimes it can be very inconvenient, uncomfortable, and distracting, which defeats its very purpose.
Here are some arguments for motorcycling jeans:
Jeans Are Only More Convenient to Wear for Short Rides
Motorcycling requires some witty choices but, c’mon, it’s not the art of war! When you want to take it easy with a few laps around the neighborhood, you simply don’t have the time to suit up properly. Other days you are out doing your errands in town.
Have you tried picking up a cluster of shopping bags with your armored leather jacket? Motorcycle jeans offer an alternative that does not waste your time, that you can relax in and carry out normal chores without having to phase shift every now and then.
We Have More Weighty Matters at Hand
Perhaps the reason many people shun ATTGAT is the discomfort of dressing like an ancient warrior under a ton of armor. Our frail homo-sapiens computer bodies are just not cut out for heavy-plated armor. Discomfort while riding adversely affects your concentration and could easily lead to a crash. Ironically, too much gear, or the right amount of gear in the wrong scenario, can cause more harm than good.
The Physiological Stress of ATGATT vs. Comfort and Flexibility of Stretchy Jeans
A good pair of AGVSPORT Metro Stretch Motorcycle Jeans allows you to walk, see the sites, dance, and pretty much everything you do on your fun day out. Gone are the days when you would need a change of clothes to enjoy life on the road traveling by motorcycle.
Good armor is that which allows the road warrior to move in. Don the best MotoGP suit, but if you cannot move your torso and shift gears properly, then it is a hazard. I typically only ride in jeans and sometimes proper motorcycle jeans. Sometimes it’s not, but that does not imply recklessness. They are not particularly easy to clean, so they tend to “get lost” in the laundry room, which is understandable. You just have to prioritize between safety and practicality.
Key Word is Breathable to Ride Every Weather
I know, I know. It relates to comfort, but I just thought thermal efficiency is such an important factor that it deserves its own subheader. Whether you are riding in the summer, winter, or the monsoon, it is critical that you be dressed appropriately for the weather outside. Compared to regular jeans, motorcycle protective jeans will put up a fight against rain and cold but are not nearly as good as proper Cordura, mesh, or leather motorcycle riding pants.
On the opposite extreme, it is probably better to ride in jeans during summer as they might have inherently better moisture wicking and ventilation than proper gear. For instance, leather provides the best thermal protection and abrasion resistance in a slide but is not as breathable as denim, causing discomfort in hot, humid weather.
Look Stylish and Fashionable or at Least, Normal
Whether you are a fashionista or not, there are clothes that you feel confident showing up and showing out in. Surely, don’t tell me it’s a one-piece suit complete with a neck brace and airbag. Some of the gear is reserved for track days. And then we have to deal with the stresses of everyday riding. Other than safety, comfort, and practicality, there is a need to look cool, so jeans look normal at the very least.
Our Best Picks for Motorcycle Riding Jeans
With a combined riding experience in excess of 30 years, I would know the best riding jeans for motorcycles. And when it comes down to it, based on personal experiences, I would go with one of these three:
1. AGVSPORT Super Alloy Jeans
Closure Type: Zipper Fly
Fit Type: Universal
The all-new and aptly AGVSPORT Super Alloy Jeans fit like a glove and remain discreet, to say the least. There are color variants to suit your taste and complement other items in your riding itinerary.
In my long experience of riding spanning over the better part of three decades, I have never been more excited to get new motorcycle pants as last summer when I finally received my AGVSPORT Super Alloy Jeans courtesy of me on my behalf. I have come off the bike several times. That’s how I know firsthand the importance of wearing protective apparel at all times when you ride. But luckily none of those times were serious enough for long hospitalization — sheer luck and not even because I always wear a helmet.
It gives me peace of mind that the Super Alloy Jeans are multi-stitched with the patented AGVSPORT Advanced Safety Stitching Construction (ASSC) and won’t unravel easily in a fall. On the downside, I feel they are a bit too snug for my liking, especially around the hips where they house more armor pockets. A bit thick, but a worthy tradeoff for safety, plus the pants still feel cool compared to leather and most fabrics. I have since bought another pair in pale gray and the black version is in the pipeworks.
I am all for ATGATT up to the point where it makes sense. I once attended a close friend’s wedding in full ADV gear because I had barely made it back into town in time for the vows, and it wouldn’t have been favorable to miss the main occasion to change into normal clothes. People stared. It was less than ideal. In retrospect, I would rather have rocked the occasion with a pair of these cool ordinary-looking jeans that would not have looked so out of place.
And here is why I wish I had gotten the AGVSPORT Super Alloy Jeans way back before the Coronavirus pandemic — I know now what I had been missing:
- DuPont Kevlar plus Smooth Ways CE Level 2 soft armor
- 10 times stronger than regular jeans
- Discrete like regular jeans
- Basic 5 pocket
- Peg scraping peace of mind in light comfortable daily wear
You forget you are in gear, comfortable as any pair of jeans can be. Especially with the YKK zippers for easy operation to clean the pipes by the roadside in the middle of nowhere plumbers go.
From the look of things, I am ordering myself a third pair of these for Easter, and unless I am pulling more than a few hundred kilometers on a single ride, it’s unlikely that you will find me in any other pants on that saddle.
2. AGVSPORT 8000 Jeans
Closure Type: Button Fly
Fit Type: Relaxed Fit
A side and rear look at the new AGVSPORT 8000 Motorcycle Jeans. This fashionable denim jean with 5 pockets and belt loops looks normal, so your buddies won’t even know you own a two-wheeler. The premium materials provide 10 times more than regular denim.
When Harry said that he bought the 8000 Jeans, I thought uh-oh! He did it! He was finally getting “divorced” for spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of pants lol! But that was not the case, as he would later explain, the jeans are named after the 14 world’s tallest mountain peaks above 8,000 feet and in honor of the crowning achievements of those who have conquered them.
After a mere 200 miles of riding on his new prized possessions, Harry is now somewhat of an expert on material science and knows all about the best textile innovations in the world since the industrial revolution. So, I make notes in my head.
What is even more impressive is the amount of armor that is packed behind that outer layer of beauty and camouflage at virtually no added cost in weight. He says the AGVSPORT 8000 Jeans are 40% DuPont Kevlar and Smooth Ways Level 2 CE padded knees. But I couldn’t tell by just looking at them. Honestly, they look just like everyday jeans but with a washed denim luxury feel.
The 32-inch inseam height is a perfect fit for Harry, five foot six — not surprising as I later read about the relaxed universal fit jeans with button fly design, which makes them an easy fit for most riders. Plus the hip pocket has easy access for adjustments when not riding. Additionally, they have pocket design and are belt friendly to further throw off onlookers. Not bad for a modestly priced $140 pair of fashionable jeans that doubles as protective motorcycle apparel in stealth until it’s needed.
What Harry doesn’t realize is my pair of jeans is not a regular either. So, I also bask in the glory of my Super Alloy being the perfect incognito pair of motorcycle jeans. But at the same time, I am comforted by the fact that two beers later, Harry is getting back on his mean Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and riding home safer from the all too real danger of scraping skin on the pavement thanks to the AGVSPORT’S ASSC stitched 8000 Motorcycle Jeans, which provides him with maximum abrasion and heat resistance.
3. AGVSPORT Metro Jeans
Closure Type: Zipper Fly
Fit Type: 98/2 Stretch Jean
This casual-looking pair of jeans are the latest offering from AGVSPORT with an aramid lining on the inside to provide abrasion resistance if all goes wrong around the corner.
While this was turning into a nice little short story or chronicle of some sort, there is no story for the Metro Jeans for motorcycles — at least not yet.
The Mrs. always yearns for adventure, but she can’t bring herself to ride for longer distances(carpal syndrome). She owns a nice little Suzuki Skydrive — we call her Sookie — for running errands and the Yamaha 700 Tracer for kicking up dust every once in a blue moon. Mostly, the Yamaha sits in our garage occupying what little space is left after we cram in the family car and venture off on my Kawasaki KLR 250 in Vietnam with her as my precious cargo. I digress!
The last time I brought her on the “little donkey,” she was a little bit on edge because of heat stress thanks to her “breathable summer” gear and lack of airflow courtesy of the tractor-like performance of my old farm machine, the unkillable Kawasaki Z 250 SL in Thailand. She is a stickler for proper gear and was a little skeptical at first when I proposed getting her a pair of the AGVSPORT Metro Jeans for motorcycles.
So, we finally received the package last week, and no sooner had she tried them on than she found her new true love. The jeans are a slim fit with a zipper fly closure and a universality to them. My wife is five foot flat but still manages to take up all the height in the 32 inches inseam. She’s curvy because the Metro Jeans are designed to be stretchy.
The AGVSPORT Metro Jeans are casual, but with a ruggedness that allows you to carry out any chores and will not give away that you own a motorcycle unless you smear grease on them. Whether it be the multi-stitched seams with ASSC or the 40% DuPontTM Kevlar lining, which exudes confidence to ride. Also, the next time there is heatwave, the moisture-wicking mesh lining should help keep her cooler and enjoy the ride.
And now my predicament, she loves the jeans so much, she doesn’t want to ride in them, perish the thought, they should tear or worse be stained at the supermarket, lol! What she doesn’t understand is that the Metro Motorcycle Jeans are virtually indestructible. And so, for the foreseeable future, I’ll keep on ferrying precious cargo to the campsite in the hills and back home in pristine condition, come what may.
A Word of Caution and What to Expect Moving Forward on Jeans Good for Motorcycle Riding
Specialized protective riding jeans are no longer the rarity they used to be when they first hit the market. They have evolved from simply layering denim with stronger Kevlar sheets on the inside to integrated material mixes with intricate weaving patterns for additional strength while reducing the weight and material cost of making the jeans.
Today, you have a plethora of so-called motorcycle jeans to choose from, but you have to be wary of those riding the wave to make a quick buck by promising the best protection and delivering precisely nothing.
In the future, we are likely to see a more regulated market weeding out opportunists who market what they neither use nor understand. We are likely to see a shift from layered construction to “single layer” designs of varying composites to create ever lighter and stronger materials without compromising on user comfort.
Areas to improve on include heat management, waterproofing, and custom fitting. We also predict a future market where riding jeans will be more widely accepted as viable gear and not make belief products.
New materials, such as Keprotec, will continue to emerge, and eventually, we will have materials that are more comfortable, stylish, and protect better than Kevlar. But just like Cordura, Kevlar will stick around for many more decades even after its replacements arrive.