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Motorcycle Trousers or Jeans? The Best Styles for Safety and Comfort

Vic Womersley March 9, 2023

Protecting yourself when you ride isn’t only about safety. That’s important but comfort is too. Your motorcycle trousers have a big role to play – they’ll protect you in a fall but also keep you comfy while you ride.
Once you have your motorcycle helmet and have chosen a great motorbike jacket, you’ll be considering the rest of your motorcycle gear. Motorbike trousers aren’t essential kit by law, but they are essential for comfort and safety on UK roads. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the different motorcycle trouser styles, from jeans to waterproof overtrousers so you can decide what’s best for you.

Are motorcycle trousers necessary for safety?

Motorcycle trousers aren’t a legal requirement for riding in the UK. However, if you can cast your mind back to grazing your knee as a kid, you’ll easily see the benefit of getting a pair for riding. The tougher material will save your skin. Your hips and knees are the most fragile parts of your leg. A big impact on either can impair your mobility for the rest of your life.

But motorbike trousers aren’t just about protecting you if you fall. They’ll keep you warm and dry while you ride – two big benefits for UK riders. Being comfortable while you ride improves your safety. That’s because you’ll spend less time thinking about how cold you are and more energy focusing on your ride and potential hazards.

Fortunately, there are many different styles of motorbike trousers. Deciding which styles are right for you is a balance between your own personal style and the level of protection and comfort you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at the options available.

Different styles of motorbike trousers

Motorcycle gear has come a long way in recent years. Riders don’t have to choose between safety and style anymore. Many brands are creating motorcycle trousers and other gear that looks like streetwear. And the safety credentials are sound too. Better textile technology translates to more stylish and safe motorbike gear for riders.

Motorcycle trousers tend to fall into four different categories. It’s wise to choose one or more pairs to suit your riding style, safety and comfort needs.

Leather motorcycle trousers

The traditional material for motorcycle trousers is leather. That’s because it’s extremely durable and offers excellent abrasion protection. As with a motorcycle jacket, full-grain leather will provide the best protection. Additional padding at knees and hips or insertable armour at these points boosts your protection immensely.

motorcyclist wearing full leather motorcycle trousers and jacket protection.
Full-leather motorcycle gear is just one safety option

Leather also tends to be showerproof and breathable, so it won’t get too hot or cold while riding. The downside is that leather can be heavy and difficult to break in. That means they’ll feel a bit stiff and heavy when you first wear them. After a month or so, the leather will take the shape of your legs and become a lot more comfortable to wear.

When it comes to leather gear, there are a lot of options – full suits, separate trousers and jackets and combos that zip together. Leather can also be expensive and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to personal style. Fortunately, there’s a HUGE range of textile options that are comparable in terms of safety.

Textile motorbike trousers

In recent years, textile materials have become increasingly popular for motorcycle trousers due to their improved durability and comfort. Kevlar, Cordura and UHMWP are all great abrasion-resistant man-made fibres. Look for textiles trousers that have additional padding or armour in key areas – knees and hips. These are the points that need the most protection if you fall. 

Textile materials are typically lighter weight than leather, so they are more comfortable in warm weather conditions. They’re often waterproofed too for extra protection against rain and road spray. However, some textiles don’t offer as much protection as leather in an accident, so choose carefully.

Motorbike jeans

Motorcycle jeans might be a good option if you want something with a streetwear style. These jeans come equipped with Kevlar, UHMWP or Cordura woven into the denim. Some have lining and abrasion-resistant panels for additional protection with a low-profile look that works for everyday attire.

Man on motorcycle wearing motorcycle jeans for protection
Motorcycle jeans look like everyday jeans but offer more protection

Don’t confuse everyday denim jeans with motorcycle jeans. Your average denim will tear easily in an accident. The improved durability of heavier denim with something like Kevlar woven into it increases protection without compromising style. To the casual observer, motorcycle jeans just look like cool jeans. Similar to regular jeans, their water-resistant capabilities may not be so great.

Motorcycle over-trousers

If you commute to work on your motorcycle or want something safe and comfortable for riding you can store in a backpack or storage box on your bike, these are a great option. Overtrousers for your motorcycle can be as simple or as clever as you like. If you already have a pair of motorcycle jeans, waterproof motorcycle trousers to go over the top when it’s wet add protection and comfort.

waterproof fabric for motorcycle over-trousers
Waterproof fabric for overtrousers is an ideal option for commuters

On the other hand, if you’re looking for motorcycle trousers with protection to go over office trousers, you’ll want something with a bit more oomph. Overtrousers that are waterproof and padded or armoured are a great choice.

Choosing motorcycle trousers

Regardless of the style you want, when choosing your motorcycle trousers, look for safety certifications. In the UK, that means finding the CE marking on the inside of the trousers (or the product description) and checking the A rating. A-rated jeans or motorcycle trousers are less abrasion-resistant than AAA ratings. AA, of course, is mid-way. All have been tested and meet minimum standards for European Personal Protective Equipment guidance.

If you’re buying online, you may come across trousers that have been tested by Motocap. This Australian motorcycle safety gear association rates clothing for safety, breathability and value. Their ratings are similar to the CE standards but not the same, so make sure you know what you’re getting before you click ‘buy’.

Along with abrasion ratings, check for padding or added protection in the areas that need it most. Even motorcycle jeans with an additional layer at knees and hips will be better than those without. Padding and armour don’t need to be noticeable to protect you.

How to wear motorcycle trousers

When wearing any type of motorcycle trousers, make sure it fits securely but comfortably around your waistline. The length should fall just above your ankles so that it provides complete coverage when sitting down on the bike seat or standing up when stopped at traffic lights etc.

Fasten all adjustable straps and Velcro closures properly before hitting the road; this will ensure that your trousers snug throughout your ride without any chance of them coming undone or riding up and becoming uncomfortable.

Should motorcycle trousers be worn inside or outside boots?

The most honest answer is, it depends. It depends on the style of trousers and the boots you ride with. Some trousers are tapered and fit neatly into motorcycle boots. However, in most cases, it’s better not to tuck them in. It can be uncomfortable, let rain into your boots and inhibits ventilation in warmer weather.

With so many different types of motorcycle trousers available today, it can be difficult to choose the right pair. Keep factors like material type, comfort and size in mind along with additional protective knee and hip padding to ensure maximum comfort and safety. Whichever you settle for, they’re an essential part of your safety kit. Remember to wear them on every ride. A pair of motorcycle trousers can’t protect you from the wardrobe.

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