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June 09, 2011  |  Finding the right trousers  |  87954 hit(s)

For motorcycle riding, I have an Exo-700 helmet (required by law), a Fieldsheer jacket with integrated padding, Arial leather boots, and various flavors of gloves/gauntlets. What I keep experimenting with is pants.

Motorcycle gear serves two functions. One is to protect you from the euphemistically named "road rash" in the event that you should find yourself in contact with something other than the motorcycle. The other is to keep you warm. Given that I ride in Seattle and that we're apparently now experiencing 9-month winters, the latter function has been my primary focus when looking for pants.

Most of the time, therefore, I wear flannel-lined jeans, which I happen to get from Eddie Bauer. Between those and my knee-length boot socks, this keeps me warm, or at least as warm as I'm going to be in 40-degree weather. When it gets warmer, haha, as if, I have two other options. I have a couple of pairs of Carhart double-front jeans. I also have a pair of Fire Hose jeans from Duluth Trading Company, which are made (they say) from the same material that fire hoses are made of.

The Carharts and Fire Hose jeans in theory offer some measure of protection against road rash. What they are not, as I happen to know, is warm. In fact, the Fire Hose jeans are the opposite — the weave on this supposed firehose materials is such that the pants are in fact well ventilated, which is oh so noticeable on cold days.

I'm a wee bit skeptical, actually, that any of my current pants option will do much to protect me in the event of a spill. The traditional protection for motorcycle riders is of course leather. But I don't like leather for a few reasons. One is that this is Seattle, and I ride a great deal in, um, moist circumstances. Leather is also astonishingly heavy. And then there's the fashion statement that leather makes, all the more so when it's motorcycle gear, that I don't feel is, you know, the real me.

All the gear you wear and strap on in some sense undoes the sense of freedom that you have on a motorcycle. On very rare occasions I'll ride the bike without gloves, perhaps even in shorts — for example, right after I've washed it, to "dry it." It's a completely different experience from riding in a cocoon of safety gear. Moreover, on hot days, all that gear is even stifling, at least till you get out at speed on the road. Still, I would never take the bike out at speed without protection, even if it is, as might be true for my trousers, illusionary protection.

[1] They offer a flannel-lined version and a fleece-line version, neither of which I've tried yet.

JaAG   11 Jun 11 - 2:45 PM

I don't use a Exo-700 helmet and I'm within the limits of the law. No, really!

mike   11 Jun 11 - 4:04 PM

Heh, Jim, should "of" had you edit this beforehand. I will choose to leave this little editorial point for subsequent folks to find. :-)

ross   01 Jul 11 - 5:26 AM

Gad sakes, man, you need some purpose-built motorcycle pants. My current favorite is Rev-it's ventilated pants: the come with a Goretex liner for cool or wet weather. You can zip it out when it's warm. In colder weather, a pair of rain pants over the top makes them comfortable into the forties. And they provide the same protection as your jacket, with armour in the knees and hips to protect in a crash.

There are many other brands.

ATGATT: All the gear, all the time.

mike   02 Jul 11 - 11:41 AM

Hi, Ross. You're correct, of course. One thing about gear for me, tho, is that I'm resistant to adding clothing that is not multi-purpose, so to speak. I have discovered over time that I'm willing to wear/don any amount of gear if I can shed or change it when I get to my destination. Hence I'll wear layers of rain gear if I'm riding to work, where I can hang the sodden outerwear to dry off, and where I can keep a proper jacket or sweatshirt that I can put on in lieu of the riding jacket. However, I have a psychological barrier, I guess, to wanting to change pants at work. (It's also just slightly possible that this is related, who knows, to the fact that if I were 20 pounds lighter, I'd find it considerably easier to deal with trousers altogether, hmm.)

And of course if I'm riding to meet someone for lunch or toward some other engagement where there is no closet of options at the other end, I'm really disinclined to suit up any more than the bare minimum.

That said, thanks for the suggestion. It's been days, perhaps even weeks, since I indulged in some new gear. About time, I'd say. :-)

ross   03 Jul 11 - 9:21 AM


Another option is the Aerostitch Roadcrafter suit, the gold standard for riding apparel. Not for the hottest weather, but the one-piece suit zips ingeniously over whatever you're wearing and goes on and off in a few seconds. No need even to take off your shoes. Wear it over shorts or a buisness suit. Wear it to the opera.

Expect to pay accordingly, but I have friends who've worn theirs for years.