It may be surprising to some, but legs are often one of the most overlooked parts of protection for many riders. They may have the best helmet, an awesome jacket, great gloves, and boots that will protect their feet for years but will ride in normal jeans. It’s a lab-proven fact that regular, off-the-shelf denim will stand up to a slide for less than a second, and after that, it’s your skin that’s touching the pavement.
This is why proper riding pants are important. All of our legs come in different shapes and sizes, from wide and short to thin and long, and every variation in between. It is for that reason that manufacturers often size their riding pants in different ranges.
As well, with developments over the past decade, riding jeans, with strong hybrid denim mixes backed by aramid or Kevlar, have become a vital market for manufacturers. It keeps the style of regular jeans but provides knee armor and the abrasion resistance of aramid/Kevlar. These, then, are the 10 best riding pants you can currently find on the market.
Rev’It themselves have the best statement about what makes the Ignition 3 pants so special: “Leather and mesh go together like salt and caramel.” Designed for the rider in hotter climates, the Ignition 3 pants are some of the best pants, of any type, you can buy for riding.
The outer shell is a combination of Monaco performance cowhide leather with a minimum thickness of 1mm, combined with high-strength Dynax mesh, 500D polyamide stretch zones, and Lorica fabric with waxed polyester for airflow. The leather is, of course, on all the high-abrasion zones should a slide occur, with the 500D polyamide allowing for both protection and stretch on secondary slide zones.
The airflow through these pants is unbelievably high, allowing for maximum cooling while riding. However, should it start to look rainy or wet, the pants do have a fully removable Hydratex lining that is rated 3L and will get your home with your legs dry. The armor is in the form of Seeflex CE level 2 knee armor, and Seesmart CE level 1 armor at the hips.
Dainese is one of the two major suppliers of racing gear for the MotoGP grid, and it shows with trickle-down tech that makes it into the latest and greatest of their consumer track and riding gear. The Delta 3 Perforated leather pants are just one more example of the top class of motorcycle racing impacting everyday riding comfort and protection.
Using full tutu cowhide leather at 1.2mm or greater, the pants are heavily perforated on the thighs to allow for the most airflow to the hottest part of the legs. S1 bi-elastic polyamide stretch fabric allows for comfort and protection in high movement areas such as the groin and knees. There are no adjustable vents on these pants, however, as they are considered race-grade.
In line with that powersports-grade ideal, the pants come with full-composite armor on the knees and hips that both meet and exceed CE level 2 requirements. The knee pucks are fully replaceable and are highly durable. The pants as a whole meet and exceed CE – Cat. II – 89/686/EEC Directive ratings, which translates to full track and race certification, although most race series will make you have a full one-piece suit. It just shows the level of technology and detail Dainese is bringing down to the everyday sport rider.
Alpinestars are famous for their waterproof yet breathable riding gear, and the Yaguara pants are just another example of what they like to term as “tech-touring” gear. As the name suggests, there are a lot of high-tech, advanced materials at work in these pants, both to keep you protected and keep you dry.
The outer shell is not made of any one material, but instead a blend of various polyamide and polyester textiles. This is then backed by a Drystar waterproof membrane, and the two layers are laminated together. This provides both excellent waterproofing and breathability, with the external layers combining to form an extremely durable fabric.
To further protection, there are ballistic nylon protection panels added to the heavy-duty wear and tear sections of the pants, including slide areas. Alpinestars’ Bio-Air knee protectors are standard and are rated at CE level 2. Hip pockets for armor are sewn in. And in case the already breathable material isn’t cool enough, there are four zippered vents for customizable cooling.
If you like the sound of the Yaguara pants, but want something with braces, then consider looking at the Alpinestars Andes V2 pants instead.
Klim prides itself on being a premium adventure and off-road touring company, and it shows since they’ve continually developed and produced some of the best gear in the sector. This shows with gear such as the Dakar pants, a premium off-road pant with protection and durability to last for weeks, or even months, on and off the road.
Starting off with the outer layer, there is 840D Cordura textile woven material with a highly water-resistant coating on the threads. This is joined by thick, abrasion, and melting-resistant leather on the lower legs for protection from both shrubbery and engine heat. Stretch fabric allows for optimal comfort around common pressure areas such as the groin, back of knees, back of the waist, and others.
There are multiple ventilation ports with full YKK zippers for durability and adjustability. Armor protection comes from both external TPU reinforcement on the knees, as well as internal knee and hip armor pockets for your personal choice of the armor type you’d like.
For the rider that wants to hit the track but doesn’t like the full perforated leather feel of other pants, the Alpinestars Missile v2 leather pants are the most viable alternative. While the majority of the pants are made from leather, there are some materials used that allow for high airflow while also keeping up with the expected level of protection from track-viable pants.
This starts with full 1.3mm premium bovine leather, with a lot of perforation on the thighs. Leather accordion panels over the knees allow for comfort, and an extended rear waist construction makes sure that the tailbone and spine are covered in the case of a slide. Where the airflow comes in is through the stretch panels at the groin and inner thigh, as well as on parts of the calf. These stretch zones, made of polyamides, are rated 600D on their own.
Kneel pucks allow for some full-lean apexes to be clipped without damage to your pants, and are of Alpinestars’ high durability GP-R construction. Nucleon CE level 1 knee armor is included, with pockets for optional hip armor. If you have a Missile Air jacket, of any version, the pants will also zip together with that to form a race suit.
The downside to a lot of motorcycle protective gear is that while it does protect the rider, it also heats up the rider. For this reason, mesh gear was developed, and REAX has one of the most affordable sets of mesh pants with the best protection with the Alta Mesh pants.
To provide the ventilation needed to keep a rider cool in hot weather, a lot of the inner leg, thigh, groin, and some of the ankle areas of the pants are made of polyamide mesh. On areas that may suffer the impact or be slid upon, there is a combination of polyester 600D check pattern fabric, with polyamide 980D ballistic penetration resistant fabric at the knees and across the buttocks.
This is lined on the inside with a moisture-wicking mesh liner that is shaped to pull the most moisture and heat to the mesh portions inside the leg so that the cool air can wick it away from the rider. With Sas-Tec CE level 2 knee armor included, and pockets for Sas-Tec CE level 1 or 2 armor at the hips, for $199, you are getting the best of the best in mesh gear.
If you want to talk about over-engineering a set of pants, then you need to talk about the Rev’It Sand 4 H2O ADV and off-road pants. As the name suggests, this is the fourth iteration and evolution of the pants, and they came out just before the calendar flipped over to 2021.
So what makes them over-engineered? Firstly, the outer layer is made of full 1000D polyester ripstop, which is enough protection for most other pants to get by with. But Rev’It wasn’t satisfied, and then put a Hydratex liner behind that, for waterproofing and breathability. Then, still not satisfied, they put a combination polyester and polyamide internal mesh liner, with a removable extra thermal liner, inside that is puncture and abrasion-resistant.
Add in that the pants come with Seeflex CE level 2 knee and upper shin guards, and SeeSmart CE level 1 type B hip guards as standard, and you have a set of pants that is waterproof, can slide down the side of a mountain, and not tear, is comfortable, can be worn in four seasons, and also can be adjusted via several straps and snap-tabs to fit perfectly.
Knox is a company that only recently started to make waves in the North American market, as well as many international markets. They used to be almost exclusively European, being based out of the UK. Where most have heard of them before is with their excellent micro-lock armor that is often seen in motocross protection.
In terms of street gear, Knox took the road less traveled, and instead of riding “jeans,” they made riding “khakis.” Lighter weight, these pants are nonetheless extremely durable, made of high-strength stretch nylon infused with spandex to allow them to move and shape to the rider. They also included micro-lock armor for the knees and hips as standard, something you often have to pay extra for with other brands.
As these pants are lighter weight than the Cordura denim of most riding jeans, there may be thoughts that it won’t protect as well. Those worries are squashed when you see that these pants are EN17092-3:2020 Class AA certified, meaning that, if they had knee sliders, these pants would qualify for use on a track, and out-class most riding pants that only come with a single A rating. For reference, AAA certification is for full racing gear and is often only given to full riding suits.
Rev’It strikes again on this list with a super pair of motorcycle riding jeans named, oddly enough, Moto Jeans. While the title may be a bit self-apparent, the quality and protection offered through these jeans are nothing to joke about.
Starting with a leather-style pants base, Rev’It instead used heavyweight 12.5oz Cordura denim for the exterior, which gives an approximate 600D abrasion resistance rating. Underneath that, Seesmart CE level 1 knee pads are included with the jean. The inner lining is made of Rev’It’s own PWR Shield polyamide mesh, which adds another 600D of abrasion resistance.
Combined, the outer and inner layers provide 1200D of total abrasion resistance or about 10 seconds of resistance at 50 MPH. Of course, the faster you start the slide, the less time it will take to wear through, although these jeans are meant to give enough resistance that you will either start to tumble, or have enough time to slow down through friction to prevent the worst of road rash.
Scorpion is well known for making superb gear like helmets at affordable prices. The EXO Covert Pro jeans are just another example of this steadfast determination to make riding less expensive while keeping the rider safe. As well, because of using a specific cut, the exterior of the jeans are large panels which increases the total stability of the material, instead of multi-seam smaller panels.
That material is Cordura 373 GSM denim, which is highly abrasion-resistant on its own, made up of 85% cotton and 15% high-strength nylon. This is backed by 250 GSM DuPont Kevlar from the base of the knees all the way to the waist, as this is the most common sliding area. From the base of the knee to the ankle cuff, a mesh lining helps keep the jeans open for airflow and allows for heat and moisture to be wicked away.
The only downside to the EXO Covert Pro is that while there are pockets at the knees and hips for armor, the jeans don’t come with any pre-installed. The pockets are fairly universal, although Scorpion recommends Sas-Tec Level 2 knee armor and Sas-Tec level 1 or 2 hip armor.