1. Whether they’re leather or textile, most of the riding pants we looked at were designed for general motorcycle touring. But ever since editor Hall got bit by the track day bug last year he’s been reassessing his riding gear, and a critical piece missing from his rack was a proper set of race pants. That’s why we decided to check out Joe Rocket’s Speedmaster 5.0 Pants, a piece of gear designed with some racing in mind. Made from 1.2mm-1.4mm cowhide and designed with input from Joe Rocket’s factory riders, the Speedmaster 5.0 pants feature beveled knee sliders for track control, CE-approved knee armor and adjustable high-density hip padding in case you hit the tarmac. Fit is greatly improved thanks to pre-curved legs with full flex leg stretch panels, and the waistband has three adjustment tabs, one at the front and two at the sides. There’s also an 8-inch and a 360-degree zipper for jacket attachment. Given our warm climes, Hall opted for perforated leather (you can specify unperforated, as well) to help keep him cool out on the track. Nicely made and reasonably priced, these are purpose-built pants that should hold up to the kind of abuse they’re sure to receive. $349.99-$364.99.
2. We’ve been impressed with our textile Firstgear Kilimanjaro, a rugged, good looking, no-nonsense riding jacket directed at the adventure riding set, so we thought we’d check out the Firstgear HT Overpant, a partner to the Kilimanjaro in Firstgear’s Legacy collection. The HT Overpant was designed for superior fit when riding. That doesn’t mean they don’t look good when you’re standing, but the real test of riding gear is how it works in the saddle, and the HT Overpant works great. Extended side zippers make them a breeze to get in and out of even with boots on, and the knees are articulated and equipped with CE-approved armor, as are the hips. The shell is made from 420-denier Hypertex nylon and features an insulated zip-out liner for cold weather riding. A pair of waterproof outside pockets with flaps for access to your street pants is a nice touch, and there are also thigh-level vent flaps for warm weather riding. There are adjustable side waist tabs, and rubberized pants cuffs help seal the legs against water in wet weather riding. A built-in 10-inch zipper lets you attach it to your riding jacket. $229.95.
3. If you like substantial-feeling leather riding gear, you’ll love Fox Creek's Leather Overpants. Constructed from 1.2mm-1.4mm premium American hide, these Made in the U.S. leather pants are soft and supple, with quality stitching and exceptional attention to detail. Full-length brass YKK side leg zippers make getting in and out easy — you can zip the front and back panels completely apart if you want — and lower snap leg closures secure the leg bottoms. Cut like a comfortable pair of jeans, the Fox Creek Overpants feature front and rear pockets and a two-thirds length nylon interior liner. Quality made by a family-owned company in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, they’re available in regular and long sizes and come with a lifetime warranty. $345-$448.50 depending on size.
4. Ask anyone to name the company known for the toughest, longest-wearing touring gear on the planet and chances are they’ll say Aerostich, and for good reason. A pioneer in the use of textile fabrics and Gore-tex for riding apparel, Aerostich has garnered due praise for its one-piece Roadcrafter suit and subsequent line of hard-core, high-end riding gear. We decided to try a pair of their AD1 pants, a less expensive but still tough-as-nails alternative to the well-known Roadcrafter and Darien pants. The AD1 is made with fully seam taped but unlined three-layer 600-denier nylon/Gore-tex (the Roadcrafter uses 500-denier Cordura/Gore-tex). The legs feature full-length side zippers for easy on-off and full-length inner and outer flaps keep moisture from getting through the zippers. Position-adjustable, impact-absorbing TF3 pads in the knees provide critical protection, with optional TF5 hip pads available. Pockets include a waterproof hook-and-loop double-flap pocket on the left leg and a waterproof vertical zippered cargo pocket on the right, plus left and right single-flap hook-and-loop pockets. Stiff fabric means they take ages to break in, but once they do you’re set for the long haul. $317.
5. Classic in design and cut, River Road’s new leather Bravado Overpants are the perfect match for your favorite leather jacket. The legs feature snap closures at the bottom for a secure fit, and full length zippers ensure easy on/off even with boots on. The inside of the Bravado features a full-length mesh lining designed not to cling to your street pants, and the two front pockets are zippered for added security while a generous stretch panel across the back ensures a flexible, comfortable fit in and out of the saddle. Stretch panels in the knees also aid riding comfort, and the knee panels are reinforced for extra strength. Available in men’s sizes 32-46. Two-year warranty. $229.95-$249.95.
6. Another great piece of gear cast in the adventure riding mold, Sliders Adventure Motorcycle Pants feature a 600-denier polyester outer shell with genuine Dupont Kevlar Aramid fiber in critical impact areas. The two-thirds length leg zippers have triple flaps to keep out water, with hook-and-loop gatherers at the bottom to keep them tight on your boots. The CE-approved knee armor can be adjusted up or down in one of three positions, plus there’s removable internal foam hip padding and permanent padding in the hips and lower back areas. Front pockets feature rubberized zippers for dryness, as do the thigh-level vent panels, which feature shock cords to ensure ample air flow. A removable thermal Taffeta liner ensures cold weather comfort, and the waist band features stretch panels and two hook-and-loop adjustment tabs for riding comfort. Reflective piping and lower leg panels aid nighttime visibility, and there’s an 8-inch zipper for jacket connection. An affordable, nicely featured pair of pants. $139.99.
The Jeans Alternative
Modern textile and traditional leather gear is still the choice for ultimate protection, but Kevlar-lined riding jeans offer a good everyday option. We’ve sampled Kevlar-lined jeans from Cortech, Aerostich, Fast Company and Diamond Gusset, to name a few. The fit is typically more flattering than standard riding gear, and while we’ve never had to test them in a hit with the road — thankfully — we’d expect them to give far superior abrasion protection than that favorite pair of Levi’s. MC