Why Wearing Jeans on a Motorcycle is Bad

Why Wearing Jeans on a Motorcycle is Bad

You are out on a pleasant motorcycle ride. It’s a warm, sunny afternoon, your bike is in good condition and you are in good condition. You’re wearing a full-face helmet, a jacket, jeans, gloves, and boots. You are prepared for the worst, but so far, this ride is the best.

You’re riding a familiar country road and you approach a right hand curve. Since you know this route, you relax your attention and it’s a little too late when you notice some stray sand that has somehow been thrown off the shoulder into the road. The front tire hits the sand while you are already leaned over. It washes out and you are down. You slide across the road and into the dirt on the opposite side. Luckily, your bike slid away from you. You are even luckier because there was no oncoming traffic. You pick yourself up. Your helmet’s chin bar has done its job, as has the entire front of your jacket, your gloves and your boots. However, your legs are starting to hurt. You look down and see that your jeans have been torn up and you have road rash that is also full of dirt. That will be extremely unpleasant to clean. You were wearing a pair of street jeans. Not good.

The lesson here? If you wear normal street jeans to go riding, then you may as well be wearing nothing.

Your garden variety street jeans offer no protection whatsoever for motorcycle riding. That’s the simple fact. If you ride in a pair of Levi’s, Lee, Wrangler, Guess or whatever, then stop doing so and get actual motorcycle-oriented pants.

Street jeans do not have the fiber density (they are not heavy enough) to withstand several seconds of sliding on asphalt from urban speeds, let along highway speeds. Basically, they are just not thick enough to be used for motorcycle riding. Street jeans are essentially one layer of denim or dungaree, which are both cotton fabrics. They are certainly more durable than garments made from other standard fabrics and are also woven in a different way for a little added strength over other cotton garments.

However, even the heaviest single layer of denim cannot offer the abrasion resistance needed to protect you in case of a fall. On top of that, the stitching used in street jeans is not as strong as the stitching used in motorcycle-specific pants. Street jeans may help you if you trip, or even tumble off a skateboard or bicycle, but they can actually still sustain some damage in those cases. You can travel much faster on a motorcycle, and road conditions and texture can vary.

Your riding pants must come from an actual motorcycle-oriented store. Let’s take a quick look at your options:

Motorcycle Under Pants

motorcycle underpants armor

If you wish to stay in your street pants for whatever reason, then this is one of two options. Protective under pants aren’t as widely available, but some manufacturers offer under layers made from Kevlar or other strong material. This way, you can keep the style of your favorite pair of jeans while still having an unseen layer of abrasion resistance underneath. Consider this the bare minimum.

Motorcycle Over Pants

Motorcycle Over Pants

Over pants are designed to fit on top of pants you are already wearing, so they’ll be slightly baggy in appearance. They will generally be a little more functional than riding jeans, with even more abrasion-resistant material, more reinforcement, even better stitching, and more color choices (including high visibility options). Some may also be waterproof.

Motorcycle Riding Jeans

Motorcycle Riding Jeans

These offer the most seamless transition from a pair of street jeans. Cosmetically, they are similar, so you can expect the same sort of fit and comfort that you’d get from street jeans. Riding jeans, however, have several advantages: they are made from heavier denim; they are lined with abrasion-resistant material such as Kevlar or Aramid; they feature double or triple stitching; high impact areas are reinforced; you can insert foam pads. Prices range from around the $100 mark to over $300, but considering the fact that some designer street labels cost that much or more, it’s definitely worth the money spent.

Textile Motorcycle Pants

Textile Motorcycle Pants

Textile pants are generally made from abrasion resistant fabric such as Cordula or Aramid. This is the best abrasion resistance you can get outside of leather. Once again, you’ll get the benefit of reinforcement, better stitching, and color options. In addition, most will feature built-in armor and some will even offer you the ability to fit knee pucks.

Leather Motorcycle Pants

Leather Motorcycle Pants

At the top of the ladder are leather pants. Leather offers you the most abrasion resistance. While textile gear is generally good for one use, leather may be re-used, repaired, and cleaned. Many leather pants are also made with matching jackets that you can purchase separately, or you can mix-and-match. Overall, that will ensure maximum coverage and protection.

Bonus: One-Piece Riding Suit

One-Piece Riding Suit

If you are inclined to remain in street clothes from top to bottom, then your only option for protection is a one-piece suit – specifically, one that is designed to fit on top of everything. Aerostich is the most well-known manufacturer of such suits, but there are other options out there. Abrasion resistance, armor and weather protection are all satisfied with such suits.

So, as you can see, there are options available when it comes to suitable motorcycle riding pants. They are made solely with your safety in mind, both on the bike and if you happen to come off the bike. With all this in mind, there should be no reason for you to settle for street pants and the complete lack of protection they offer for motorcycle riding. Always go for the safer option and protect yourself as much as you can.



  1. May 30, 2017

    Definitely motorcycle jeans offer much more protection. And legs are the most vulnerable area of the body after head.

  2. B Fall
    February 8, 2019

    This was informative. And condescending.

    “If you wish to stay in your street pants for whatever reason”

    How about that I work for a living and 300 dollar jeans full of machine oil isn’t pleasant?

    “Your riding pants must come from an actual motorcycle-oriented store”

    No– according to you, I just need an aramid fabric underlayer so I don’t gash arteries.

  3. October 27, 2019

    While street jeans are not adequate slide protection for motorcycle riding, saying they are no better than bare legs is terribly presumptuous. I would rather have the first few feet of a slide be taken by a pair of jeans than to instantly lose flesh if I’m half naked as you imply. They will take at least a little of the damage before your legs do.


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