Motorcycle-specific denim jeans that can resist abrasion have been around since the late 1990s. Draggin Jeans pioneered them, staging displays at motorcycle events that involved dragging someone on their backside for lengthy periods. There was no doubt the products worked and it was largely down to the use of Kevlar® inserts, a protective ‘aramid’ fibre registered as a trademark by the DuPont company. Kevlar remains a trademark and several other clothing brands use the original DuPont product, but ‘kevlar’ has become a generic term for the type of jeans that use aramid protection.
Motorcycle-specific jeans are becoming very popular. But Andrew at TSS Red Baron was keen to emphasise they are not a universal solution. “They’re basically a fourth choice,” cautions Andrew. “A leather one-piece is number one for abrasion resistance, with a joined-together two-piece close behind. Then you have something like a good quality Cordura suit, and behind that you have aramid-reinforced jeans. They are great for comfort and breathability, and they offer a lot more protection than ordinary clothing, but they shouldn't be thought of as highly protective.”
With that proviso, Andrew says they can be a useful part of any rider’s wardrobe. “There are circumstances where you’re not going to wear a full protective suit, like zipping between meetings where you don’t have the facility to change in and out of your gear. For those sort of occasions, teaming protective jeans with a good quality motorcycle jacket makes sense.”
Same but different
Not all ‘kevlar’ jeans are created equal, however, as Andrew points out. “Some of the top-line modern products are significantly better than earlier or more basic designs. If you look at the Resurgence jeans we are bringing into stock, they have a new type of aramid called PEKEV that’s stronger, lighter and more water resistant than normal fibre. There are products out there that are not as well designed, have really basic aramid protection and, frankly, you’d be just as well off in a stout pair of American-made jeans.”
So what does a good pair of ‘kevlar’ jeans look like?
Resurgence PEKEV® range. RRP $299
Resurgence is a Canadian brand, designed in California, and the spec is top notch. “Older style aramids lose 80% of their abrasion resistance when wet,” says Andrew. “PEKEV is much more resistant to wet weather, and it also stands up to washing - they say performance is pretty much unaffected for 30 washes. You’ve got triple stitched seams, plus genuine Knox hip and knee armour.” Resurgence line the entire jean with PEKEV, right down to below the calf. “Overall, they are as protective as many textile suit pants and pass the European Union ‘EN’ standard for abrasion resistance.”
Rhino range. RRP $169
“There’s always a market for under-$200 gear, including jeans, and we’re very happy with this Rhino range,” says Andrew. “They’re New Zealand-designed and they have a lot of the features you should look for. Most styles have a closure at the ankle, because someone really thought about what happens in a crash: the lower reg can ride up, taking away your protection.” Rhino jeans have aramid panels protecting around 45% of the garment, plus removable hip pads and CE Level 1 knee armour. “One of the staff crashed in a pair and took great delight in holding up the hip pad while showing his bruising,” recounts Andrew. “All around the pad was bruised but there was a perfect hip-pad shape with absolutely nothing.”
Rhino emphasise that the aramid they use is soft-knitted and non abrasive, to be comfortable and breathable. It’s also relatively light, at 280gsm (some jeans use 550gsm). The range covers women’s and men’s sizing, different styles and a choice of colours and camo designs.
- Knee armour is a must. Aramid can protect from abrasion but that’s only half the story: it does virtually nothing for impact injury. Preferably, look for hip armour too
- Look for CE standard EN13595/1 and /2 for the garment as a whole. If you see CE Level 1 and CE Level 2, that only relates to the armour
- When judging fit, it’s not just how good they look on you. Ensure the armour fits in the right place
- Avoid loose, baggy jeans and look for tight closures at the bottom of the legs. This will help stop the leg area riding up if you slide feet first, which will expose skin and displace armour. A ‘skinny fit’ is also good for the same reason
- It’s important to be able to zip the jeans to your jacket. Most jeans come with a zip, as do most jackets. If they don’t match, a tailor or alteration shop will be able to replace one side of the zip
- Make sure the seam in the seat is triple-stitched. In normal jeans the two sides are just overlapped then double-stitched. Slide down the road and the abrasion would wear though the threads in an instant, and the jeans would fall apart. The seam should be folded over and stitched again so the main seam is inside and protected from abrasion
- Aramid can lose most of its abrasion resistance when wet. Choose a make with higher water resistance and, preferably, don't wear ‘kevlar jeans’ in wet conditions
- Washing gradually breaks down aramid’s protective qualities - sometimes in as little as five washes. Choose a make that’s more resistant, try to wash them infrequently and be prepared to throw them away or use only casually after their protective ‘life’ is over.