We all want to stay safe when we ride, but comfort and style are also valid concerns. Sometimes wearing full leathers is just not practical, especially if you’re commuting. Many riders are forced to make a choice between safety and work attire. I mean, you can’t show up for work in racing leathers when the dress code is business casual. That’s where Kevlar comes in.
Can Kevlar jeans protect you as well as leather riding pants can? The short answer is no. Leather provides better protection against abrasion. That’s why professional motorcycle racers wear them. But, Kevlar riding jeans can still be a viable option for riders looking for style, comfort and protection.
Kevlar is a product developed and patented in 1966 by a Polish-American chemist named Stephanie Kwolek while working for DuPont. Yes, a woman (girls rule). The scientific name for the material is Poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, and was branded Kevlar. It was originally developed to make a better, stronger tire, and, while it is used in tires to this day, it also has many, other applications. Kevlar can even be found in your iPhone. It’s most commonly known use is in body armor. Kevlar has been protecting our law enforcement and military personnel for many years.
Kevlar is not the only protective fiber out there. Technically Kevlar is an aramid fiber and there are several other types in existence; para-aramids and meta-aramids. Brands such as Norex or Technora manufacture meta-aramid fabrics which are not quite as strong, durable or light weight as Kevlar which is a para-aramid fabric. It’s important to know this distinction because some jean manufacturers will use Norex, providing a cheaper alternative to the, sometimes expensive Kevlar lined jeans.
Because of its anti-abrasion properties and it’s light weight, it makes sense that Kevlar would be used in protective clothing such as riding pants. Kevlar jeans have gained popularity over the years as riders have been looking for alternatives to bulky riding pants, or riding with no extra protection other than a thin layer of denim. Riders want the style and comfort of jean, but they also want protection.
Hands down, leather provides the best protection agains abrasion. Good leathers can often still be worn and effective even after a crash or slide on the pavement. They are incredibly durable and will hold up for years and years.
Kevlar jeans, still provide good protection against abrasion, once or twice depending on the severity of the slide. They are incredibly heat resistant and will not melt under the friction of a slide. There have been a lot of unscientific tests on kevlar jeans to see how the hold up to being dragged on the pavement. You can conclude from some of these tests that Kevlar jeans will not guarantee 100% protection against road rash. They do have a breaking point where they will eventually wear through, but, they are much more abrasion resistant than plain denim.
A simple pair of riding jean, or leather pants for that matter, is not sufficient impact protection. All good riding pants will include armor and the knees and hips, the most common impact points. Good riding jeans will include a set of knee and hip armor with pockets to place them in. What’s great about this is that you can remove the armor and leave it in your gear bag while you’re not riding.
Different manufacturers will have different style armor pockets, some requiring you to drop your drawers to remove them. Others may provide an outside zipper at the knee allowing you to remove the armor quickly and easily right there at your bike. No ducking behind a bush needed.
So, compared to leather riding pants, Kevlar jeans can provide just as much impact protection on your knees and hips depending on the durability of the armor plates used. One thing to consider when purchasing jeans, is whether or not they come with the armor or if you have to provide your own. Jeans that come with armor are more likely to have pockets that are custom sewn to fit the shape of the armor, preventing it from moving around. Other brands may or may not insure a good fit.
Both leather and Kevlar jeans are going to get wet in the rain, however, leather will give you slightly more protection depending on how heavy the rain is. On the downside, leather takes a long, long time to dry and if you find yourself soaked, there’s no guarantee your leathers will be 100% dry by the next morning, even if you hang them out overnight. Kevlar jeans, however, can be thrown in the dryer and will be ready to go the next day.
So, in short, neither of them can be considered protection against rain, and neither of them will be comfortable once they are soaked. But, at least Kevlar jeans will be ready to go when you need them. Holy heck, you could even stop at a laundry mat and toss them in the dryer if push comes to shove.
Riding jeans are getting more and more popular with motorcycle enthusiasts and clothing manufacturers are listening. Riding jeans come in a number of styles from grunge to work appropriate chinos. You can find them in styles that are similar to Levi’s 501’s or 550’s. The will come in a variety of colors like, black denim, dark blue, acid wash or stone wash. Some include features such as a strip of reflective material across the back, or elastic gathers above the knees to allow more flexibility when you ride. If you need to dress up a little more, you’ll find Kevlar lined pants that look like Khaki’s making them perfect when commuting to work.
Women’s styles are becoming more popular as well. It’s nice that us women have the option to choose something that looks stylish but without compromising safety. While other riding pants are suitable for all riding, it’s nice to be able to jump off the bike and walk into a restaurant without have to strip off your gear or run to the ladies room for a quick change.
Buying Kevlar Jeans
With so many styles of riding jeans on the market, it’s hard to choose which one will be best for you. Look for features that you think you might like or that work for your situation. Do you prefer to have armor that is easy to install and remove, look for zippered knee pockets. Do you want jeans that don’t ride up your boot when you sit on the bike, or a waist that doesn’t slide down your butt exposing crack like Joe the plumber? Then, you could consider jeans with expandable elastic above the knees and at the waistband. Do you commute to work in a business office that requires you to step it up a knotch from casual Fridays? Then choose a Kevlar lined chino in black or khaki. There are plenty of choices.
As mentioned earlier, we aware that there are a lot of companies making riding jeans, but they don’t include Kevlar. Instead, they will manufacture these jeans with heavy denim and reinforced knees. This is not the same a Kevlar or other aramid fabrics and will not provide you with the protection Kevlar will give. So, be sure to check the materials listed.
So, we’ve answered the original question; Are Kevlar jeans as good as leather? As far as protection goes, no, they are not. However, Kevlar jeans are a great option if you’re looking for more style and more protection than a basic pair of denim jeans.