Riding motorcycles is a lot of fun, no doubt. So I hate to be a buzzkill and bring up the times when riding a motorcycle is not all that fun. That is, when you suddenly stop riding because you are now getting intimate with the road surface.

Now, you may not know this, but human skin isn’t terribly well adapted to dealing with a road surface. “Road rash” may sound quaint, but this is an injury you do not want. That’s why bikers traditionally opted for thick riding leathers, so that the poor cow’s hide would stand between the road and their butts. Leathers are very much still in use today, but also bolstered with synthetic materials and better manufacturing methods.

Unfashionable Opinions

The problem with leathers or even fully-synthetic riding pants is that, well, they aren’t that great as general clothing. It means that you have to carry a change of clothes if you, for example, commute to work on your bike. The alternative is to spend the rest of the day wearing leathers.

This means that some people opt for jeans, which feel like they might protect you. However, a random pair of jeans off the shelf might as well be toilet paper in terms of the protection it’s going to give you.

The good news is that you can get the best of both worlds by getting jeans that are specifically designed for motorcycle riding. Yet they can still pass as regular jeans for daily wear. Before we look at a few real products, let’s talk about some of the things you should watch out for when buying a pair of riding jeans.

The Looks

Maybe it’s wrong to start with the look of these jeans, but let’s face it – if you cared about them only as safety equipment you’d be wearing leathers. The bottom line is that if you don’t like the look of your jeans then you aren’t going to wear them. Make sure the jeans will fit the rest of your daily outfit. Would this look good in the sort of place you’ll be wearing them? Many work places now let employees wear jeans, so you really can find a pair that will serve you in and out of the saddle all day.

The Cut and Fit

There are many different styles of regular jeans. Some are baggy, some are skinny, and others are weird hipster garbage. When it comes to riding jeans you don’t have that much leeway. How well the jeans fit your body is actually a key factor in how well they will protect you. Jeans that are too loose can cause additional injury, as the inside of the jean abrades your naked flesh.

Moreover, jeans that don’t fit well may misalign the protective materials with the parts of the body they are designed to protect. So your riding jeans may be a little tighter than you are usually comfortable with. It’s still a much more tolerable alternative to specialized leathers, though.

Protective Materials

Kevlar is the stuff they make bullet-resistant vests from. That’s the brand name for a material known as aramid. So some jeans will say they use Kevlar and others will say aramid. While the actual material is identical, the strength of Kevlar also largely comes from how the material is weaved. Kevlar’s weave has been proven, but the alternative aramid weaves of competing makers are up for debate. All you can really do is look at what sort of testing they have done and how it holds up.

A major factor in how much riding jeans cost is how much the protective material covers. Really cheap jeans will only prioritize your buttocks and knees. The idea is that if you go down, those are the areas that will contact the road surface. Real life is hardly ever as predictable, so it’s a good idea to look for something with extra padding.

The jean material itself should also be made of something more than just cotton. Cordura is a good example, and modern riding jeans will incorporate tougher jean material overall.

Finally, armored padding is a must. Often these pads are removable for when you aren’t riding, but some are flexible enough to be worn on or off your bike.