MO Tested: Riding Jeans Buyer's Guide
Fashionable denim on the outside, protection hidden on the inside
Lately, motorcycle riding jeans have been popping up like mushrooms on a well-fertilized lawn after a spring rain. That’s good news for riders who want protection but don’t want to look like they’re ready for the track or are wearing a space suit when they’re off their motorcycle. While we have to acknowledge that riding jeans don’t offer as much protection as more technical riding gear, the inclusion of aramid abrasion panels and armor makes them significantly better than the Levis that riders have been wearing for generations. Where selection of denim motorcycle gear was once so limited that we could count the quality riding jeans available on one hand, we’ve now got no less than nine pairs of jeans in one buyer’s guide. We know we’ve barely scratched the surface, but we only wanted to include jeans that we’re actually wearing on a regular basis.
Read on to see what riding jeans your friendly neighborhood MOrons choose to protect their hides when out testing motorcycles.
Are Regular Jeans Good Enough for Riding?
Well, if you want your jeans to protect more than your modesty, the answer is “no.” Regular denim is a sturdy fabric, but that doesn’t mean it would last very long if you’re sliding along asphalt. Even at urban speeds, denim jeans will not offer much in the way of abrasion resistance. Riding jeans with kevlar or aramid will offer better protection while also offering options for additional armor or padding.
Alpinestars Crank Denim Pants – $250
The Crank Denim pants from Alpinestars are available in two different washes – Dark Rinse and Greaser Dirty – and come with all the features you’d expect from a riding jean at this price range. Constructed from 13-oz comfort denim, the Crank feels clearly more robust than just your average pair of Levis. Despite this, the Crank is still all-day comfortable on or off the motorcycle, even in warm weather. Aramid reinforcement in the butt and knee areas help protect against abrasion, while removable padding in the hips and knees helps cushion you from impact in a fall. Alpinestars says the fit is tapered, though it’s a wild stretch of the imagination to call these skinny jeans (though Alpinestars makes those, too). – Troy Siahaan
Alpinestars Riffs Denim Pants – $300
While my preference for motorcycle riding jeans leans more towards those that look and fit like Levis, the Alpinestars Riffs Denim Pants fill a slightly more focused niche for me. Cut and styled like the dedicated textile riding gear that they are, the Riffs offer the technical fit plus the comfort and breathability of 13-oz denim. Accordion stitching on the knees and the back just below the belt loops assure comfort in a variety of riding positions. All of the high impact areas feature interior aramid fiber reinforcement for tear and abrasion resistance. The knees receive a set of CE-approved armor that can be adjusted to accommodate differing leg lengths. The hip area has removable padding, too. The zippered pockets make sure you don’t lose anything, and in a really nice touch, the pockets in the seat are extended deep enough down the leg to keep you from having to sit on your wallet or cell phone while you ride. Zippered ankle openings allow for an easy fit over riding boots. Finally, the outer thighs receive zippered vents to help keep you cool on hot rides. Riff Denim Pants are available in sizes 28-40 from authorized Alpinestars dealers. – Evans Brasfield
Dainese Bonneville Slim – $160
I’ve been wearing the Dainese Bonneville Slim for over three years and they’re still in great shape. I’d still be wearing them, except the waistband seems to have shrunk such that I can no longer button them all the way up. Or could my waistline have expanded? Yes, in fact, it is B, so my son has inherited these size 32s. He turns his nose up at the gift, though, as the stone-washed look is another one of those things he doesn’t think is cool.
Personally, I dig the Italian style and slim fit of these motorcycle riding jeans, which means no flapping in the breeze – also the Kevlar layer in the butt and knees. There’s the thin, unobtrusive knee armor which you can barely tell is there, but all of it would probably go a long way toward deterring road rash in the event of contact. Even with that much protection, the stone-washed denim was soft and comfy straight from the box. Except that they’re a bit warmer than plain jeans when it’s hot, you’d never know these are motorcycle jeans.
These were $230 when I got mine, the price is down to $160 – which is more than reasonable for this much fashion and protection. – John Burns
Dainese Belleville Slim – $115
The Dainese Belleville Slim is the ladies’ equivalent of the Bonneville, cut for the female form. Stylish, stone-washed soft and made in Italy, these bump up the safety with internal Kevlar fiber mesh fabric reinforcements on the sides, knees and in the rear end, which is claimed to provide excellent resistance against abrasion and cuts, i.e., the dreaded road rash. There are also height-adjustable, thinnish CE armor pads at the knees, and optional hip pads.
C. Rogers loves these, but advises buying a size bigger than you think you need; Dainese sells them in waist sizes 24- to 36-inches. After a couple of washes, they fit just right. She hemmed hers; you can do that or roll up the cuffs Rockabilly style. Price rollback on aisle five! These are marked down 50% from $230 to $115 on Dainese’s website. – John Burns
Dainese Tivoli Regular Jeans – $210
Dainese Tivoli riding jeans feature traditional styling and comfort that is very similar to your regular, non-motorcycle dungarees, but they push the needle in the protection department to ensure abrasion and tear resistance regular jeans could only hope to provide. They’re constructed from elasticated stretch denim which allows the rider complete and unrestricted mobility, and they’ve got Kevlar-reinforced aramid fiber jersey lining all around your butt and hips. Your knees get adjustable Pro-Armor soft protectors that are CE-certified to Standard EN 1621.1, and there’s hip pockets for additional Pro-Armor protection, but those pads are sold separately.
The Tivoli’s regular cut fits very comfortably, and you’ll forget you’re wearing tougher, motorcycle-specific riding jeans. Overall, these riding jeans are great, but I do have a couple qualms. The back pockets could be a little deeper. If you ride with your wallet in your back pocket – I usually do if I feel it’s safe in there – you might want to experiment with yours. There’s a button fly, which some prefer, but I’m not crazy about because it means I have to undo my belt and unbutton just about all but the last button anytime I need to use the bathroom. Finally, the front pockets are also on the looser side and there’s no coin/watch pocket. Just the other day I had a key in my front right pocket, and when I got off the bike, half of it was hanging out, just barely hanging on by the tag. I’m lucky I didn’t lose it. Overall, though, the protection the Dainese Tivoli provides trumps some of its functional shortcomings, and I definitely feel more confident on the bike in them compared to regular Levis. – Brent Jaswinski
Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans – $199
For those who want protection when riding but don’t want to look geared up when off the bike, the Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans offer the traditional jean look with protection tucked away on the inside. Constructed of distressed dark indigo 11.5-oz denim on the outside with aramid twill abrasion protection hidden on the inside, the 215 Jeans offer classic 5-pocket styling. Interior pockets allow for placement of optional Rokker D3O Knee Armor ($30) and Rokker D30 Hip Armor ($25). All seams are triple-stitched to hold together in a tumble. The jeans are available in waist sizes 28-42 in., all with a 32-in. inseam. For those with shorter legs, Reax has thoughtfully included retro-reflective striping on the interior of the jean that is revealed when the cuff is rolled up.
Although waist sizing seems to run a little small (I had to buy a 36-inch waist instead of my typical 34 in.), the Reax 215 Denim Riding Jeans offer a comfortable, casual fit that looks just like the jeans I usually wear. In fact, my wife didn’t notice when I wore riding jeans – complete with knee armor – out to dinner one night. – Evans Brasfield
REV’IT! Austin Jeans – $240
The REV’IT! Austin is a tapered fit riding jean very similar in cut to my regular Levis, and I love them because they don’t look at all out of place and blend right in to my civilian style. They combine Cordura and 12.5-oz denim for a rugged construction, and feature double-layered PWR Shield reinforcement in the seat and knees for unmatched abrasion resistance. The Austins are a thicker, heavier pant but a Coolmax liner wicks away moisture on warmer days. Seesmart CE-level 1 protection is found on your knees, and there are pockets on your hips for optional pads.
These REV’IT! Austin jeans have been my go-to pair, and they really feel nice on the bike, don’t restrict mobility whatsoever, and have deep pockets that keep all your stuff safe. The rise on the waist is a little higher compared to my regular Levis, but that’s for added protection and coverage when you’re leaned forward on a bike. Sometimes it will ride up a little bit, but it’s nothing a quick readjustment every now and then can’t fix. I highly recommend these riding jeans to anyone looking for a stylish pant with premium protection. – Brent Jaswinski
REV’IT! Lombard 2 Jean – $230
The REV’IT! Lombard 2 plays the part of a designer jean with it’s selvedge look and contrast orange stitching, all the while being packed full of flesh-protecting tech and still being comfortable enough for daily wear. With a chassis made from denim infused with Cordura, you get extra abrasion resistance over your typical Levi while the use of Coolmax polyester fiber wicks sweat and gives a cool-to-the-touch feel. REV’IT!’s proprietary PWR|shield consists of two aramid layers to provide better breathability and two-times the protection. In the Lombard 2 PWR|shield covers the seat and front of the jeans down to the mid-shin area. REV’IT!’s own Seesmart CE Level 1 protectors are used in the knees and the jean has pockets for Seesmart hip armor to be added should you prefer (hip armor sold separately).
The Lombard 2 had a tapered fit which could cause issues trying to wear them over larger boots, but won’t be a problem with most standard lace-up riding shoes. The high waist of the jeans can be a pro and a con depending on your body type. Brent J and I both felt that the relatively high waist caused the jean to ride up a bit and in turn would leave a less than favorable amount of room for your front junk. A minor quibble. The Lombard 2 is available in dark blue or dark grey as well as standard, short, and tall inseam lengths (crucial due to the fixed position of the knee armor). – Ryan Adams
Sliders 4.0 Kevlar Jean – $85-$90
Competition Accessories has created a series of riding jeans for riders who want quality protection without breaking the bank. Constructed of 13.5-oz cotton denim, Sliders 4.0 Kevlar Jeans look just like your typical 5-pocket jeans with the addition of a couple extra seams on the legs. Underneath that blue or black denim reside protective panels made of abrasion and tear-resistant Kevlar aramid fabric. In fact, the coverage of these panels is larger than those in many other riding jeans for improved protection in a slide. Additionally, the Sliders feature a nylon lining with a pouch for installation of the optional CE-approved knee armor ($12). Even without the armor installed, the nylon liner serves a purpose by providing a soft surface to slide over the rider’s knee, rather than the rougher Kevlar.
The only minor flaw I found with my Sliders was that the armor occasionally slid out of the nylon pocket. Making sure that the pad isn’t so low as to prevent the full hook-and-loop closure from making a solid connection remedied the issue, but if you have long thigh bones, like I do, this does limit the knee armor adjustment range. – Evans Brasfield
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