There are quite a few options on the market for pants these days. I know it can be difficult to choose, which one do I need? What should I consider for commuting to work vs. touring/traveling? Is there a difference? Absolutely.
Do I really need motorcycle pants?
When we ride, we should be covering our entire bodies. Not just our head and hands. All too often, people forget about the lower half. Why is one part of our body less important than another? I don't know the answer to that question, because I value every inch of mine. Your hips, knees and feet are all impact points. Meaning, they are all likely to hit the ground or the object in question. If you crash, it's not like your hips, knees and feet are just as vulnerable to injury as the rest of your body.
Wearing a pant can offer your protection at your hips and knees. At the very minimum, any pair of pants you buy should have CE rated armor. And better than that, EN rated armor. Just as your jacket does, not only will your pants provide protection on impact, but abrasion resistance too. When the weather starts to turn colder or wetter than you expect, they can also be windproof, waterproof and warm.
Also, when you're going to wear a riding pant, always consider your baselayer. Think about this, it's 85 degrees out and you've decided to go for a ride. You have your summer textile, ventilated riding pants. What do you think is the best baselayer under those pants? Cargo Shorts? Running shorts? Maybe the latter. But you'll be better off with a good moisture wicking, comfortable base layer such as a running pant, bicycling short or similar athletic type pant. If you can invest a little money in motorcycle specific baselayers, they can be a little more comfortable with less seams (especially down your butt cheeks!).
- Full length zippers from hip to toe
- Zippers offering ventilation
- Access pockets
- Connection (6" and full length) zippers for your jacket
- Waterproof and windproof protection
- Reflective tabs/stripes/piping for visbility
- Street/sport, touring or track fit
- Accordion panels above the knees for a more comfortable fit in riding position
- CE / EN (Removable) armor at the hips and knees
- Reinforced knee panels for impact
- Abrasion resistant materials such as Cordura, Kevlar and Ballistic Nylon
They should be a little bit long in standing position so that they aren't too short when you're sitting on the bike. If you ride a sportbike, touring pants will be uncomfortable. If you're on a dual sport/upright bike, track pants will be uncomfortable. Make sure you sit on that bike and doublecheck how comfortable it is in riding position. You'll never squat, so don't do that either.
One thing that can be difficult to combat with leather pants is saggy butt syndrome. Textile pants can be very fitted and not be as saggy due to the way they're cut and the material itself is more flexible/stretchy. It's also lighter than leather.
When you sit on the bike, your knee armor should sit right over you knee caps, with a couple inches above the knee. Your armor shouldn't move and when you walk, the leg shouldn't be so wide that your armor is able to move side to side either. Some pants don't taper enough at the knees and are only snug on the bike. But you really do want them to be fitted off the bike as well.
Pants that are cut specifically for women will have more room at the hips and a waist that tapers a little bit (hourglass shape).
Which ones do I need?
Hybrid Pants such as these offer leather and textile. Since these are such a unique pant for women, I had to include it in my list. A hybrid pant like this is perfect for weekend trips, carving the twisties or even riding around town running errands.
The textile portions offer ventilation and breathability, whereas the leather portions along the outside of the leg, hips and knees (impact areas) will offer abrasion resistance and some wind protection.
If you're looking for something with more ventilation than a traditional leather riding pant, this is a great option.
They're to be worn as pants not overpants. Frankly, it's almost impossible to find a leather overpant.
These pants are comfortable in an upright or sport riding position as well. You can see that the trouser fit allows for you to wear them over your riding boots.
Leather pants such as these are perfect for track days!
The large stretch panels along the groin allow your legs to swing out and hopefully drag your knees. :)
Although I don't do trackdays frequently, I would definitely wear these for weekend rides along the twisties as I practice my body positioning techniques.
The fit is very sport oriented and is the most comfortable as a rider or passenger on any sportbike (even more upright sportbikes such as Triumphs or Ducatis).
The pucks are always removable (because they assume that you'll be dragging that knee!) via velcro so you can always remove them for weekend riding and them put them back on when you get ready for track days.
The legs also taper so you can wear them inside your boots (with the exception of Dainese that design their pants to be worn over the boots).
Overpants are really useful if you're a commuter, and ride to work or school every day. You need something that's fairly quick to get in and out of. They're also convenient if you're traveling and want to take off your riding pants when you stop for lunch.
You can tell the difference between pants that were meant to be overpants by how far the zipper goes up the leg. If they fall just below the knee, then those are meant to be worn as pants. If they exceed the knee, then you know they're overpants. Not that you can't wear a regular pant as an overpant, but you do need to spend extra time (~30 seconds) taking your boots off and on.
Many overpants offer removable liners (thermal and/or waterproof) as well. With the liners, you can wear the as pants. Without the liners, you can wear them as overpants. I highly advise trying these on with AND without the liners. If you can get the pants on over your jeans with a thermal liner attached, they might be a size too big. Just try them both ways to that you're 100% sure.
If you see sealed zippers or velcro flaps over the them, you know they're designed to keep the water and wind out. If you see exposed zippers and no removable liners, they're probably spring/summer pants and designed for warm weather riding. These are the warmest pants for cold temps.
Then you have street/touring fit leather pants like these. As you can see there are no knee pucks for track days. And the waistline has a more casual look and fit to them. They're kind of like a jean that's been made out of leather. But other features like stretch panels at the groin make sitting more comfortable.
Accordion panels above the knees make for a more comfortable fit in sport, dual sport or cruiser riding positions.
The legs have a straight fit to them and are designed to wear over your riding boots. You'll probably find a small zipper from the ankle up the leg about 12" long. They may come with a removable insulated liner in case you're riding in cooler temps.
The only ventilation you'll get in these pants are the stretch panels at the groin. Some leathers come in perforated versions, but I've only seen track pants come that way. Typically, you do track days in the summer/spring/fall (in CA) months, thus the need for perforated leather.
These would also be great for weekend rides, touring and traveling, if you're a rider or passenger.
Lastly, these are meant to be worn as pants. They have a zipper that fall just short of the knees. They offer 2 removable liners, one is waterproof and the other is windproof.
Ideal for touring, commuting or weekend rides. Considered 4 season since they have 2 ventilated zippers in the front.
I wear these pants during the winter months when the temps fall into the 40s/50s. A winter textile like these will always insulate better than leather. Leather is like your skin, it gets cold and doesn't insulate. You can pair your leathers with thermals to help, but for really cold winter temps, a pant like these are much better.
You'll also find textile pants with mesh panels above and below the knees for summer/spring weather riding. But since these don't have any, they're a little better for cool weather riding.