Which Type of Motorcycle Denim is Best?
A few years ago, if you were riding a motorcycle then you’d almost certainly be wearing leather trousers, but now - with the advance of new abrasion-resistant technologies - motorcycle denim is a viable and on occasion an even safer alternative.
But which type are the best?
We’re not in the business of recommending specific brands here at RideTo, but what we will say is that quite often your best bet is to go with a brand that you’ve heard of.
There are a lot of well-made, incredibly sturdy riding jeans on the market coming through from up-and-coming brands such as Crave or PandoMoto, but equally there are a lot of cheap imitations that promise much but offer little.
Companies like Dainese or Alpinestars will not put their reputation on the line by offering an inferior product.
Raw denim will not protect you if you fall off of your motorcycle. It doesn’t matter how ‘heavy’ the denim is or how thick the padding may be; regular denim will offer you absolutely zero protection from either impact or abrasion. If you fall off your bike at any decent speed and you’re just wearing normal jeans, then you can expect to suffer grazes, rash and the loss of skin. So errm… Don’t just wear normal denim if you value your body.
Abrasion Protection ‘types’
The first riding ‘jeans’ were actually denim that were lined with Kevlar. These internal panels meant that in the event of a fall, the denim would wear away during contact with the road but the Kevlar lining would protect the rider from any major abrasion damage. The only real downside for this type of trouser was that the Kevlar lining coupled with the denim made them extremely heavy and hot.
Over the years however, the technology has developed and there has been some success with denim and Kevlar being woven together into a ‘single’ fabric. This has made the jeans easier and lighter to wear, but not quite as safe as the heavier, lined versions. As with all things in life there are pros and cons to each and the final decision will come down to individual preference.
Cordura is another fabric designed for heavy use and has traditionally been used because of its resistance to abrasion, tearing and scuffs. It’s nylon based and was used as a tyre liner in military vehicles for many years. Despite Kevlar being the ‘go to’ lining or fabric when considering a motorcycle jean, many tests have claimed that Cordura actually has more abrasion-resistance than Kevlar and that the elasticity that the nylon-based Cordura provides actually makes the fabric far more ‘useful’ when involved in a fall from a bike.
Whilst you might be familiar with the Kevlar name, you can be forgiven for not realising that’s actually just a brand name used by the chemical firm DuPont. The actual type of fibre that forms the Kevlar fabric is called a ‘para aramid’ and if you see a brand that says they use an ‘Aramid’ fibre within their denim construction, you can pretty much assume that it’s essentially similar enough to Kevlar (only without the backing of the mighty DuPont company name).
In order to remove the heat and heavy nature of the aramid-lined denim designs, companies have begun to investigate single ‘architexture’ weaves of fabric that combine the abrasion-resistant technology with the actual denim strands themselves. Armalith is a branded type of this solution.
Combining denim fibres with UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) strands, Armalith claim that their fabric provides core protection with the mechanical performance of the more traditional leather.
The benefits of which are - of course - that you can still expect protection from abrasion but you should also be riding in similar comfort to that you’d experience if you were wearing just an ordinary pair of denim jeans. In theory this means, maximum protection, minimum discomfort and a light fabric that you can ride in the summer heat.
Don’t forget the armour. It’s all well and good protecting your skin from scrapes but if you don’t protect your bones and the rest of your flesh, then a grazed knee isn’t going to be the nastiest thing you’ll have to worry about.
We could talk for hours about different armour technologies, but the best advice would be to look for something with as high a level of CE protection as possible and for a jean that has pockets for as many impact points (knees, hips, shins etc) as you feel comfortable with.
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