The popularity of riding jeans has gone ballistic in the last few years. Domestic companies who pioneered the idea of reinforcing denim pants with Kevlar once dominated this market. But with increasing popularity, they are now challenged in the marketplace by offshore versions from big name players in the riding gear business. All this got us wondering...
Who makes the best motorcycle jeans? And are they a good choice for protecting your lower extremities when riding?
Let's answer the easy one first:
No, jeans are not going to protect you as well as "real" riding pants. Even the best jeans here fall short in the area of impact protection. But Kevlar-reinforced denim has excellent abrasion resistance and will offer some protection from road rash. Don't get me wrong- wearing riding jeans is way better than cutoffs and flip-flops. But then again, if you ride in cutoffs and flip-flops you're probably not reading this review.
We tested six pairs of denim riding pants, all priced in the $70 to $130 area. Most are available from motorcycle retailers, the Diamond Gusset brand is only available directly from the manufacturer.
Icon Anthem Pants
Like all of the Icon riding jeans we've seen, these have the loose-fit motocross look. Stretch panels above the knee and straight legs are cut to fit in a riding position. They also boast about the large pockets- I'd call them huge.
Available in blue or black, these jeans are reinforced in the butt and knees with Aramid fiber, a synthetic similar to Kevlar. The fit is too baggy for my taste but to each his own. The fit is good in the waist but shorter legged riders will find the inseams run long.
These guys started making reinforced blue jeans in 1993 and are the veterans in this fight. Today the company markets a complete line of Kevlar-reinforced shirts, jackets- even long johns!
The jeans start with 14.5 oz. denim like most of our test subjects. Knee armor is available for an additional charge. Draggin' Jeans are offered in the widest variety of styles, including women's and relaxed fit. The y are offered in waist and length sizes like normal blue jeans.
Joe Rocket Steel Jeans
We reviewed Joe Rocket's denim offering a few months ago (2/17/2007) and found them comfortable, if a tad heavy. The name (and possibly the weight) is based on metal fibers woven into the reinforcements in the knees and butt.
The pants are made from the heavier 14.5 oz. denim. Sizes ran a little short in the inseam.
Cortech Mod Denim Jeans
All of the Cortech/Tourmaster riding apparel I've ever tried has been well made. These are no exception.
Cortech's riding jeans have a stone washed finish right out of the box, so style-conscious riders will have no trouble trying them out immediately. These pants are the most covert of the group- with nothing more than a few extra seams to give away the fact their made for riding.
These were the only jeans we tested that included CE armor in the knees, although it's an option from Draggin'). For abrasion protection the knees and butt area are reinforced with perforated leather. Fit is very accurate and the knee cups can even be adjusted up or down to suit your leg length. Our only complaint was the hip pockets ride very low on your tush. Is that the new look?
Diamond Gusset Defender
These jeans are made in Memphis, Tennessee and derive their name from a diamond-shaped panel sewn into the crotch. The idea is this gusset reduces the bunching and binding you get with most jeans when seated. It must work because I found these to be extremely comfortable, even on long rides.
DG takes their regular 14.5 oz. denim jean and adds Kevlar panels in the knees, butt and hips. You also get a watch pocket on the left-hand side, a small "knife" pocket on the right leg, a D-ring above the right pocket and Velcro closures at the bottom of the leg openings. These are well made jeans and come in blue or black. Unlike some riding jeans these are sized by waist and length just like Levis.
Any of these riding jeans will provide you a comfortable option and more protection than standard blue jeans. As we've mentioned previously, they don't offer the protection from impacts that you'll get with most riding pants. But if you prefer the casual look, comfort and light weight of jeans, any of these would be a good choice.
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