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There’s no shortage of terrible examples of folks riding with trash motorcycle gear on the internet. From buying used helmets to thinking a t-shirt and sandals cut it while riding on the highway, everyone thinks they’re invincible. But one of the easiest—and most inexpensive—pieces of gear is always the one item I see people clutch their dollars so tightly on: pants.
Though when you think of motorcycle safety gear, you tend to think about helmets, jackets, boots, and gloves, motorcycle pants keep your legs and butt cheeks pristine and that’s a lot of real estate. And not just in the event of you going down, but also when the inevitable Camry doesn’t see you and tries to merge into your lane without looking. Ask me how I know about that one…
But motorcycle pants range in style, fit, and material. So where do you start when you’re just getting into riding or when you’ve swapped your Honda CB650 for a tour-de-force Ducati Multistrada? Thankfully, selecting the right motorcycle pants isn’t all that difficult. So let’s talk about it.
What Type of Riding You Do
Different riding disciplines require different types of pants. You don’t want off-road ADV pants if you’re just hopping down to the shops, nor would you want full race leathers for a trip into the backcountry.
As such, there are a couple of different types of motorcycle pants you have to choose from, including adventure off-road, street-style denim, sport-themed leather, and full race leathers.
You can also get rain gear that goes over your regular riding pants, but that’s a different story.
Each also offers different features that go with that particular discipline, though all good offerings have integrated armor built into the knees and butt of the pants. Here’s an easy breakdown of those types of pants.
Off-road, adventure pants are designed to be both protective and adaptable to the rigors of any type of adventure you find yourself on. They’re made of textile materials, not denim, as textile materials offer better insulation, water resistance, and adjustability for off-road use.
They also often have inserts that allow for both cold and warm weather use, zippers for better air circulation, pockets galore, as well as suspenders to keep everything sinched up when you’re really caning it through mud and water.
Street, Every Day Use
Everyday use motorcycle pant material is dominated by Jay Leno’s favorite material: denim. However, unlike his wardrobe, the denim that’s used for motorcycle pants is far stronger than his shirts and often features interwoven Kevlar and stronger denim fibers to ensure that even if you go down, you won’t likely need a skin graft.
Sport and race pants are pretty similar, as they both feature Kevlar, denim, and textile materials to ensure the maximum amount of protection when riding extremely fast. The only real difference is that race-spec pants are often integrated into the jacket to form a full-body suit, rather than a single piece of protective clothing.
Finding Your Fit
Just as you’d select a new pair of pants for your everyday use, you’ll want to select your motorcycle pants similarly by getting two key measurements and then making sure that your normal size lines up with the manufacturer’s specifications.
Step 1: Find Your Waist Size
This is pretty easy, as you already have pants! At least I hope you already have pants. Do you have pants? Are you wearing said pants? Oh god…
…We’ll just gloss over that and just say that you have pants. Grab them and check the waist size, which is the first number in a series that looks like “34x32” for most male-designed pants. All you really need to do is match up your waist size with the motorcycle pants’ waist size and you’re golden.
Women’s pants, however, will often have just a single number that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and makes sizing incredibly difficult. Seriously, it’s dumb. Thankfully for women riders, most motorcycle pant manufacturers offer actual waist size charts measured in inches, so you’ll need to break out the garment tape measure and check your size compared to the provided charts. That said, a lot of the same BS sizing for inseams is still there. Sorry, ladies.
Step 2: Find Your Inseam
Again, dudes, you’ve got it easy. That same number series in your pants has your inseam, it’s just the second number this time.
Women, you’re sorta stuck with whatever inseam comes with your waist size, as most manufacturers don’t offer the size variation that men’s motorcycle pants have. It’s trash, I know, and I’m sorry.
Step 3: Check for Size Irregularities
Both men and women, however, will find that some manufacturers’ sizes don’t quite line up with your normal size. For that, I always check forums and reviews to see if pants fit small, loose, or large. It’s a quick check and makes it way easier to ensure everything fits the right way.
Step 4: Check Fit Before You Ride
Last, but not least, try them on after you get them. Either try the pants on in the store or right after they arrive in your mailbox, as you don’t want ill-fitting pants when you go out on your first ride. Not only will they be potentially uncomfortable, but they could also be dangerous or not as protective as a set of good-fitting motorcycle pants.
Hopefully, this guide helped! Stay safe, and enjoy the ride, folks!