Price and availability confirmed at time of publication. Subject to change, please visit the product website for the latest prices and availability.
1. Hang ’Em High Jeans from Speed and Strength are made from 13-ounce denim that comes in a pre-distressed, light blue color. Sewn inside the seat and the knees is a layer of aramid fiber to provide extra protection. They also feature articulated knees and boot-cut legs. We found the fit to be quite tight, so consider ordering these one size bigger in the waist and one size longer in the legs if you want them to be a little looser in the seat and to come all the way down to your ankles (and over your boots) when riding. The aramid lining is cool and comfortable, and aside from the “Speed and Strength” lettering across the right back pocket they’re fairly understated. Price: $89.96 More info: www.BikeBandit.com
2. Icon’s Insulated Denim Pants are a bit loud for our tastes, but they sure are functional. Made of 14-ounce denim with integrated aramid reinforced knee and hip panels (but not in the seat), these jeans feature a removable, insulated, washable lining (think flannel pajama pants) that helps keep you warm on cooler days. We found the cut to be full if a little baggy, but the extra material made them comfortable riding a variety of different bikes. Their extra length keeps them covering the tops of your boots while riding, and though loose fitting, they don’t seem to flap in the wind like we feared. We like riding jeans when it’s warmer and prefer a pair of leather or textile overpants when it’s cooler, but these would be another great option to have in the closet for those in-between times. Price: $125. More info: www.BikeBandit.com
3. Made of 14-ounce denim with Kevlar-reinforced panels in key areas for safety and abrasion resistance, these Shift Lodown Jeans also feature stretch rib panels for maximum mobility. The most affordable jeans here, they feature a five-pocket design and a relaxed, ergonomic fit. They are available in both a lighter blue shade and the dark indigo shown here. We ordered a 34/34 and found them to fit very loosely compared to regular jeans. Unless you like your jeans baggy, we’d recommend considering another pair in this list. Price: $79.95. More info: www.BikeBandit.com
4. The DSX Denim Pants from Cortech are made of 13.5-ounce denim with perforated Brazilian leather panels used as a lining in the seat and knees. The panels also form a pocket in the knees for holding the removable CE-approved knee armor. We like that they come with knee armor, though we didn’t find it to be very comfortable once installed. With a bit of break-in we think the pads would soften a bit and become more comfortable. Without the pads, they are nice jeans right from first wear. We’ve found these pants to fit a bit small, and would advise ordering them one size larger in the waist than what you normally wear. Available in classic blue (light blue), blue or black. Price: $99.99. More info: www.TourMaster.com
5. These aren’t jeans in the purest sense. They’re canvas, but the idea remains the same — they’re casual pants with more protection than regular jeans. Made of 12-ounce canvas and featuring a gusseted crotch and double-layered panel from knee to mid-thigh, these Arborwear Gusseted Canvas pants from Aerostich were originally designed for tree climbing. Aerostich has them made with a hook-and-loop closure at the bottom of the double-panels, creating pockets for holding a set of knee pads. An extra $20 nets you a set of TF3 knee pads, the same pads Aerostich uses in its great Roadcrafter and Darien suits, but housed in a bag that’s unique to these pants. Once the pads were in, the pants were still surprisingly comfortable as the outer layer of the pads is fairly soft. That said, we doubt we’d want to wear these all day at the office with the pads in, but since the pads are easy to pop in and out (thanks to the pockets being on the exterior) these are especially good as commuter pants. After just one washing the slightly-stiff canvas is already breaking in nicely. Charcoal in color. Price: $97 (with pads) or $77 (without pads). More info: www.Aerostich.com
6. The Relaxed Draggin’ Jeans have the same Kevlar protection as the Classic Draggin’ Jeans we’ve featured before, but with a little more room in the legs and seat. We love the fit of the Relaxed Draggin’ Jeans and found them to fit true-to-size. They feature a traditional five-pocket design, except the change pocket is on the left side. Made of 14.5-ounce denim, they feature a 13.5-ounce Kevlar lining in the seat and also in each leg, wrapping all the way around the knees and shins. Each pair of Draggin’ Jeans is handmade in the USA. We ordered our pair with the available SaS-Tec Knee Armor Kit ($23.95) that attaches by Velcro to the Kevlar knee lining to provide a customizable fit. Without the pads, the jeans are comfortable and require no break-in, and while the pads are a little intrusive, we like the protection they provide. Available in dark blue or black. Price: $109.95. More info: www.DragginJeans.com
7. Triumph Kep Jeans are made of ring-spun denim with a dark indigo wash. They have a relaxed fit with large Keprotec-reinforced panels in the knee, thigh and seat with hook-and-loop attached pockets perfect for holding a set of knee pads (not included). They feature a cool Union Flag patch on the change pocket and a small Triumph patch on the corner of the right- side back pocket, along with a leather Triumph logo on the back waistband. Editor Backus wore these for a few days during a recent Triumph test, and found them to be both comfortable and stylish, though the knee pad pockets quickly came out because they rubbed uncomfortably. Price: $149.99. More info: www.Triumph.co.uk/usa
ATGATT vs. Reality
I’m going to be honest: While some people can stick to the mantra of ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time), I just can’t do it. Yes, I care about my safety, and very rarely anymore do I even care how dorky I look suited up like a spaceman in full gear. Better safe than sorry, right? Well, sure, sometimes.
When I tour, I have no problem wearing a full set of gear. It’s worth the extra time of putting everything on when I plan to be on a bike all day, especially traveling at highway speeds. But if you’ve ever ridden across the middle of Kansas in August, you know just how warm it can get and how uncomfortable a set of nice, safe leather riding pants can be. I should invest in a pair of mesh riding pants with good ventilation, but I haven’t, and so what happens is I wear jeans. Dumb? Yup. I also live two miles from the office, and it often seems like too much effort to put on all my gear for a four-minute ride. On those days I ride in with a helmet, a jacket and gloves, but no overpants — just jeans or khakis. Dumb? Yup.
There’s an old saying that the only gear that protects you is the gear you actually wear, and that’s where jeans with added protection come into play. Several of the pairs of jeans featured here are comfortable and normal looking, and while they aren’t as safe as good leather pants, they provide more protection than your average Levi’s. And while Editor Backus and I are both skeptical about how safe any of these riding jeans really are, they’ve got to be safer than pants without special linings in terms of abrasion resistance. So if you’re heading to work (if you can wear jeans to work), out to run a couple of quick errands or even on tour and you know you have no intention of putting on your overpants before you leave, would it be smarter to put on a pair of these jeans instead of a normal pair of Levi’s? Yup.
— Landon Hall