Three Summer Pant Styles For Riding

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Summer Pant Styles For Riding

In this follow up to my Why Summer Jackets Are Better Than Sunblock article I will talk about summer pant styles for riding. Riding pants are just as useful as a jacket for riding in the summer; they offer more protection than jeans, they have the same benefits of protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun and they provide the same cooling effect as the jacket helping air circulate over the skin.

One other benefit of riding pants is the additional comfortable layers of material that are placed between your bottom and the seat. I know for me it allows me to ride much longer distances before experiencing an uncomfortable seat and constantly needing to stop and stretch. The materials used in a lot of riding pants are very good at moving moisture away from the skin helping to avoid the dreaded wet butt scenario.

So what are my pants options? There are multiple options, sub options, and variations on those. I am going to concentrate on just three styles of pants for summer riding.

UglyBros Echo-K Motorcycle Jeans
On-bike comfort is excellent, despite the addition of Kevlar to the weave, movement is not restricted.

Motorcycle Jeans:
There are several brands out there, Deth Killers, ICON, Draggin jeans and several others. These are a nice options but tend to be heavier denim with the Kevlar lining stitched or otherwise attached to the inside. They are not very good at directing air flow, they don’t wick moisture away and denim has a tendency to bunch uncomfortably. Denim generally holds moisture close to the skin keeping you wet and has a tendency to cause chafing. They do offer better crash protection than your old Levi’s and some can be fitted with armor. Variations of these protective jeans have vents or other cooling features but may not be as comfortable or incognito off of the bike.

2014 Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie

Regular Fit Mesh Riding Pants:
These pants fit the same sizes as jeans, they have a traditional fit cut and are designed to wear over performance layers, think compression shorts or products like Heat Out so you can ride in a large temperature range. Some of these pants come with thermal liners or waterproof liners that also help make them very versatile. They are usually too tight to go over jeans without buying a significantly larger size than you normally wear. This style of pant is extremely versatile but not the best to ride to a destination where you are going to spend a lot of time off of the motorcycle. You will generally have to take other pants to wear at your destination and it’s not always easy to change to your undies in public.

Fieldsheer Over Pants

Over Pants:
Whether it’s mesh or some other material allowing for warm weather use these are exactly what they say they are. They go “over” your other pants, shorts, skivvies, whatever you want. They are easy to take on and off which allows you to change when you reach your destination by simply sliding them off, or in some cases unzipping the entire side of the pants, to easily remove them. Most over pants and regular fit pants have armor built in. Over pants generally are purchased based on your normal waist size. They are more convenient than other pants but are a compromise depending on what you wear underneath. The denser the material you wear underneath the less effective these will be in hot weather. These do allow for a combination of wearing shorts for your destination, while having the benefit of full protection riding apparel making them a very appealing option.

  • it_weenie

    I love overpants, both in the winter and summer. I have a mesh set from ICON for the summer. Allows me to wear khakis to work and not have to change. The leg openings are big enough that I don’t have to take off my boots to get them off. Pass through openings let me get to my front pockets easily. In the winter, I have a non vented set from another brand…I can’t remember which. They keep my legs warm without the need for heated liners and have the same wardrobe benefits.

    • awwshucks

      The winter ones you mention might be the Firstgear HT Overpants. They’re an good value, and I wore them comfortably all winter.

      • Tall Jones

        Great value, and they fit my long inseam (36). I am picking up a pair of RevIt mesh overpants now to help with the summer heat.

    • Gerection Gerection

      Winter comes round these parts and we, sadly park our bikes for the season :S

  • Koczk

    Summer gets hot, there is no doubt. And these are good options.

    Nevertheless, it would have been nice to see this article quickly remind readers that nothing beats leathers in the safety department. When you go down at 100km/hour, and those $200 Kevlar jeans split open as you slide down the asphalt, you’ll wish you had decided not to worry about comfort so you could ride another day. I may sound like a party-pooper, but riders should wear the best, safest gear they can. So pack a pair of Levi’s in your bag, and remember that comfort is secondary.

    • Michael Howard

      Yes, leather is great. But leather is also overkill for most riding situations and the extra protection is outweighed by the downsides. My “not as good as leather” Cordura Roadcrafter has survived sliding down the pavement at 60 mph twice now.

    • JamesM

      I completely agree every rider should “wear the best, safest gear they can AFFORD” -Even though there is a 2mill grain leather racing suit I can buy, I might not be able to afford it. :D

      • Koczk

        Very true. Getting entirely geared up is a big financial hit when going leather, and I totally respect compromises need to be made. But a good pair of leather racing pants on clearance can be had for a fraction of the price. I’ve got a pair of 2mm pants I bought for $125, regular $499 – just takes the patience to shop around.

        And frankly, anytime someone buys a bike they SHOULD set aside somewhere between $500 and $1000 for a decent helmet and other gear. If you can’t do that, don’t buy a bike. I just worry because I see so many guys these days going out and buying a GSXR (or something similar), only to take every shortcut possible in the gear department.

    • William Connor

      This article was more to talk about summer weather riding pants. While leather certainly is an option from a safety perspective I focused in temperature control and comfort not just outright best protection. The easiest way to get people wearing gear is to make it less of a hassle.

      • Koczk

        Very fair point. If it gets more people gearing up, then I’m all for it. And I’d totally believe that your comfort impacts your riding ability and safety, which adds further value to these summer options. Many riders use comfort as an excuse to wear less gear than they should, so I guess that was where I was coming from.

        But I recognize that’s arguably outside the scope of this article.

        A very useful piece, of course. Do you know of any well-vented leather pants, Will? I’ve never come across any myself…

        • William Connor

          This is the closest I know of to what you were asking for. Very versatile since they can be fully waterproof with the liner installed.

          • Koczk

            Those are slick.

            Thanks Will! Appreciate you looking into this.

            There seems to be a market for ‘street leather’ that isn’t being served. I recognize it’s naturally going to be the warmest thing in the summer, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere…leather tearaways? ;)

            • Josh Greenbaum

              I have those and love them. Very versatile. The mesh lets a ton of air in during the summer, and the waterproof liner makes for a great windproof barrier as well when temps drop. With thermals under the liner, you can wear them deep into the cooler seasons. The jacket is just as versatile too!

    • Timothy Gray

      If you come off the bike at 100km an hour you were riding too fast to begin with or were not paying attention. the first thing you do is hit the brakes and a modern bike with discs will slow from 140km per hour to 50 km per hour in a very short distance. So either you were doing 220-250km per hour and are reckless or you were staring at the bird wearing the leather shorts and ate the rear of the lorry at speed.

  • JamesM

    My ICON Rouser Jeans (along with Deth Killers and now Dainese and Rev’it) have the Kevlar woven into the weave. This dramatically increases the burst strength from say 20 denier (year old Levi’s) – closer to 1000 denier (30% Kevlar blend). Combined with basic CE rated Armour and you have a great middle ground of protection and style. The ICON Rouser also has a mesh liner that travels nearly the full length of the pant (for the Armour pocket) which doubles a wicking barrier.

    To say modern Kevlar jeans are no better than your standard Levi’s is a complete farce.

    • William Connor

      That’s not what I said. I said they are better protection than your old Levis.

      • JamesM


        I’m going to blame this on my ADD. :P Sorry and edited.

  • daveinva

    I wish more Kevlar jeans manufacturers adopted the “Ugly Bros” method of knee armor, where the armor is inserted into pockets on the *outside* of the jeans. This way, you can easily remove the armor when you arrive at your destination, so you don’t look like a housepainter walking around.

    Also, jeans shouldn’t forget about hip armor– many only have knee armor, if they have any armor at all. I generally won’t buy a Kevlar pant that doesn’t have pockets for armor; even if the armor itself doesn’t come standard, how hard is it for manufacturers to sew pockets into their pants?

    That said, when it gets REALLY hot, I switch to the mesh pants. Oh, and liberal application of Monkey Butt powder, too ;-).

  • Rob M

    I picked up a pair of Icon Compound leather/textile overpants this spring. I’m a huge fan. Easy to toss them on over my work pants, and I’m off. I haven’t ridden with them in hot weather yet (yay Minnesota), but they breathe pretty well in the mesh areas, and I can wear shorts under them.

    • zedro

      Yeah I picked up the leather/mesh version half price (they are blowing them out everywhere). Excellent all round pant, been using them for DS duties as well as commutes. They are a bit short wasted but that’s my only complaint. Once they’re sold out, there’s nothing else on the market that has the same features. I don’t understand why icon is dropping them.

  • Luke

    I wear a set of “under armor” pants under my Kevlar jeans. Basically, they are just breathable compression pants with armor at the knee, hips and coxsis (that one is removable). I find they keep the armor where it’s supposed to be much better than the armor I could install in the Kevlar jeans. Helps a bit with fatigue too (at least I tell myself that…)

  • motorock

    Overpants (Fly butane) FTW- esp in the winters- best friends in rain, snow everything- and not that expensive.
    For the summer, my AGV Corsica jeans seem to be doing fine so far with their armor in the city- for anything outside the city, the Fly Butanes come into play- they have 2-way zippers that can be zipped down from the thighs to let air in (not the best option but get better protection from road rash and all that)- valuable IMO

  • Adrastos34

    I like the idea of wearing something more casual for doing around town stuff. I looked into getting Kevlar jeans and then the Draggin Kevlar liner so I could wear any of my own jeans over it. I looked into how durable a pair of jeans/liner like this would be with frequent washing and didn’t really like what I found out. For something on the pricier side Kevlar just degrades faster then I would like. Someone suggested I look at a company called Bull-It jeans who make jeans that use a new material called Covec. It doesn’t degrade with moister and they sell fully lined jeans that
    look good. It has a much higher abrasion resistance then Kevlar and
    doesn’t rapidly heat up like Kevlar in crashes when sliding. In fact the
    jeans they sell are the only CE EN 13595-1 Level 2 approved jeans in
    the world. When their best Covec jeans were tested they stood up to the
    abrasion test for 7.97 seconds. It scored a 5.4 in Abrasion resistance
    and a 5.6 in burst resistance (for reference many leather race suits
    have this exact same score. Amarids-aka Kevlar are about 4.4 seconds).
    The material was originally developed for NASA to replace Kevlar. It
    also has a high cut resistance so rocks, glass, road crap doesn’t cut
    through it when you are sliding. If you want to check them out this is
    the website
    . While they don’t offer just a liner as I was hoping, I can live with
    it if the material holds up to daily use. I will be ordering a pair to
    try out very soon.

    • William Connor

      Pretty good pricing compared to most motorcycle protective jeans. $217 dollars versus $400. Still though I prefer an over pant because I can wear anything underneath and I buy one. If I want to ride several days in a row and not have my same sweaty jeans on I need to wash them a lot or buy several pair.

  • Davidabl2

    re the comments along the lines of “leather is the best protection”… Guys can you really imagine yourself sitting at a stoplight at midday when outdoor temps are pushing triple-digits and you’re wearing leather pants? Much less leather pants AND leather jacket? Even if they’re vented/perforated/or have mesh panels?

    • eddi

      Under those circumstances, there is nothing truly comfortable. (That’s me agreeing with you and adding my 2¥) At that point ice vests and soaked-down T shirts are not just for comfort but to prevent sun stroke or passing out in mid-turn.

      • Davidabl2

        I have one of those vests and an old JR jacket that’s mesh except on the shoulders and elbows.
        If anybody made shorts or pants lie that I might buy ‘em :-)

        • Timothy Gray

          Carhartt Dungarees burn through as fast as levis. buddy swore by them and he is now missing a kneecap and a left butt cheek from a high side at 35mph.

          • Davidabl2

            Bummer . A high side is always a very serious situation . As to gear I always wear knee protection and would only wear non reinforced denim if it were very hot. Prefer armored leather&mesh overpants that Icon used to sell

    • enzomedici

      I do it in Las Vegas even when it is 110 degrees. I’d rather sweat a bit than get f’ed up. As long as you are moving then it isn’t a problem.

      • Davidabl2

        In the words of Rudyard Kipling; “you’re a better man than i Gunga Din”

      • Michael Howard

        I’d rather wear textiles and sweat a little bit less while still not getting f’d up. ;)

  • eddi

    I wear Draggin Jeans just about year around. I add weather-proof overpants when it gets to 50(F) or rains, and downshift to mesh overpants and regular light weight jeans when it gets past 80(F). Some of the more recent Kevlar jeans look good, but I’m not quite ready to replace my current pairs.

  • mickedard

    Can you guys review the “Kushitani EX 413 Leather Mesh Jeans”? Thanks.

    • William Connor

      If I could get a pair I would gladly review them.