Our team here at wBW stands by the philosophy of riding ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). A fall off a motorcycle inevitably means some amount of slide will occur, and I am sure everyone of us is familiar with the feeling of skinned flesh against pavement or even the dirt. More than once while growing up, I tore open a pair of jeans in a fall, usually off my bicycle but many times due to my two left feet. The consequences of riding unprotected can be huge.
The construction of riding pants, of all types, starts with abrasion resistance. How long will they last before failing during a slide. Rather than flood your brain with all the minutia on garment ratings and certifications I will try to keep it simple. In North America, as far as I am aware, there is no specific accepted certification for abrasion and impact resistance. Many motorcycle clothing manufacturers adhere to CE (European) standards for wear, abrasion, impact protection, etc. The standard EN 17092 was created to cover PPE for leisure motorcycle use. If the pants you are looking at have the CE-EN 17092 tag you can have faith knowing clothing that looks like protective motorcycle gear, actually is protective motorcycle gear. One level further with the CE standard, you will see classes and levels applied.
Class AAA/AA/A products that have both protection against impacts and abrasion.
Class B products only offer protection against abrasion.
Class C Over (CO) and C Under (CU) only holds one or more impact protectors and therefore only offers impact protection for the areas covered by the impact protectors that are included.
Level 1 or 2 - Used to describe abrasion resistance, and also separately for impact protection. 1 is good, 2 is better
I know, I gave you a bit of the minutia, sorry but it had to happen. If you have a general understanding of the terminology you can make sense of what you are looking at while shopping. Most manufacturers are producing quality gear, but they also never make it easy to understand their labels and protection levels offered. The more information they provide related to fabrics and impact protection, the easier to determine if your butt will be protected.
Now that there is some understanding of the safety elements built into riding pants, what does a person actually need? That depends completely on what you ride, and where you ride. I will approach this assuming you are a newer rider getting gear for the first time, let’s look at what you ride.
You will certainly find crossover with gear, that works for different styles of motorcycles. If you are on a touring or cruiser bike you would look at many similar types of pants. The same can be said for motocross and ADV riders. Leather riding pants make a lot of sense for many riders, but you don’t really need sliders on your knees when riding a bagger, those leather styles make more sense in the sport bike world. I think you understand where I am going here.
Finally, consideration needs to be given to where you ride. Will most of your riding be on or off road? Hot and dry? Cold and wet? Long trips, or just to work and the pub? Are you the type to just cruise the street or do you have track days in your future? I am almost certain your answer will be a combination these factors.
For many types of riding you will not need level 2 armor or a Class AAA pair of pants, but they could be the difference maker if you plan to ride at the track, or do a lot off road, something to keep in mind.
Fit & Comfort
Thankfully modern fabrics mean gear that fits, looks great, and is actually comfortable. I still remember the first riding jeans I looked at, they made my Carhartts seems thin. Not anymore, now you would have a hard time even knowing the jeans were made for motorcycles, fully lined with Kevlar Aramid protection panels, and with armor that cannot be seen.
Shopping for riding pants means putting them on and then either sitting on your bike, or simulating your riding position. Knee and hip armor will change position between standing and riding stances, this can be very important if you alter between seated and standing positions during your rides. If you are on a cruiser or touring bike and you have highway pegs, consider pants that secure well to your boots or have a closure to stop them flapping or blowing up your leg, trust me it is annoying.
Many leather and some textile pants will have a bit of a break in period, but if moving is restricted try a size up. Leather pants often have mesh stretch panels and perforations to allow airflow, be aware of this depending on your climate.
Wouldn’t the world be great if price really was no object? Even if you have a large budget, nobody likes wasting money, so I offer a few things to keep in mind. Look for value over actual price, and find the best value within your budget.
Leather will almost always be the highest price, but with all the textile products, it may not be the best value or the right choice considering your style of riding.
The highest priced pair of jeans often don’t provide any better protection. Jeans for riding are really not much different from fashion jeans, sometimes you pay a lot for a name and sometimes it is worth paying a bit more for that name. Look at material and construction for things like full lining or heavier stitching. These are indicators of higher performing products.
When comparing pants remember some come with removable liners, and some charge extra for them. Make sure you know what is included.
Try to keep this priority order in mind: suits your riding style / level of safety and performance / how cool they look / price.
If you keep these basics in mind you will be able to find excellent gear, within your budget, regardless of whether you are shopping online or in a store.