Think wearing regular jeans when you ride is enough to keep you safe in a fall? Think again. Regular denim does very little on its own to protect you from abrasion, and it does nothing at all to protect you from an impact. Motorcycle-specific riding jeans are built especially for riders, with added layers of abrasion-resistant fabric and, in many cases, armor. If you’re interested in learning more about how riding jeans are constructed and how our motorcycle apparel works to keep us safe, check out our Riding Jeans For Dummies article.
We gathered 9 pairs of women’s riding jeans to wear, both on and off the bike, and compiled them into a Riding Jeans Buyer’s Guide. All the jeans we’ve tested here are made specifically for motorcycle riders, and incorporate some form of abrasion protection. Some, but not all, also include or have pockets for knee and hip armor.
Notes on fit:
Jenny’s Waist Size – 29 inches
Jenny’s Hip Circumference – 38 inches
Jenny’s Inseam – 34 inches
Most riding jeans seem to come in two general variations: boot cut and slim/skinny. In the photos below, I am wearing riding shoes with the slim/skinny jeans and boots with the boot cut jeans.
Diamond Gusset – Defender
Since 1987, Tennessee-based Diamond Gusset has been making jeans with their signature “diamond gusset” crotch right here in the U.S. of A. Their Defender line of motorcycle jeans features that same gusset, as well as a Kevlar lining and a hook-and-loop strap at the cuff to cinch them down over boots.
The first thing we noticed about the Defenders is the denim, which feels well broken-in right out of the box. There’s no stretch to it, but it’s not stiff at all, making the jeans quite comfortable. The men’s jeans are cut in a traditional relaxed fit, but the women’s version is a curvy boot-cut; they will likely look great on a curvier woman, but unfortunately that is not me!
The other thing we noticed is that the Kevlar lining is only on the upper butt area, a small section on the hips and the knees. There’s none down the sides and back of the legs. Armor is not available. On the plus side, the deep hip pockets are great for keeping your stuff from popping out while you ride—no one likes making sacrifices to the Road Gods.
Abrasion protection: Kevlar liner
Stitching: single-stitched liner on butt and hips, double-stitched at the knees
Price: $126.95 (women’s), $125.95 (men’s)
Size tested: 6 (32-inch inseam)
Tobacco – Women’s Jean
From the heart of Los Angeles, the denim capital of the U.S., comes fresh-from-Kickstarter brand Tobacco. Founder Dave Ackerman was frustrated by a lack of protective riding jeans that lived up to his high standards of quality construction and good looks, so he decided to do something about it.
Tobaccos are made from premium selvedge denim, which will make your jeans aficionado hipster friends nod with approval. Selvedge denim is raw; instructions are to wash infrequently (like, twice a year). If they get stinky, throw them in the freezer overnight. I’m not kidding.
One positive side effect of the infrequent washing recommendation: Kevlar degrades with moisture and the use of laundry detergents, so your jeans will last longer.
Speaking of the Kevlar, it runs far down the legs, past the knees. It has been thoughtfully omitted from the crotch area, for just a bit of heat relief (Kevlar doesn’t breathe well). The women’s fit is slim through the legs, but the waist stretched out by almost a full size after a month’s worth of wearing on the bike. This didn’t result in an awkward gap, and it made them more comfortable when in the riding position. Those with bigger legs and/or calves might find them a little too slim. The men’s fit is similar to a Levi’s 501: straight and fashionably slim, but far from tight. Armor is, unfortunately, not available.
Tobacco men’s jeans come in two materials (selvedge denim and canvas) and four colors (Indigo, Sand, Black and Carbon), while women have to settle for one material (premium denim) and two colors (Black and Indigo).
Abrasion protection: 100-percent Kevlar liner
Stitching: liner is double-stitched to denim shell
Price: $340 (women’s), $360 (men’s)
Size tested: 28
Dainese – Belleville Lady Slim
Dainese is perhaps best known for its race wear, but its offerings run the gamut from ADV to scooter apparel. The one defining characteristic is a quintessentially Italian style and fit. Dainese makes several models of riding jeans for both men and women, all of which are European in fit (read: tailored and close-fitting, not loose). I chose the Belleville Lady Slim as the representative sample for our review.
The Belleville is made of a slightly stretchy Kevlar-lined denim, with a slim fit that blends right in with today’s skinny jeans trend. The Kevlar only covers the butt, hips and knees, however, leaving a lot of real estate exposed to potential abrasion. The good news is that the included soft ProShape knee armor is CE-rated to Level 1, and thanks to its innovative design, it’s almost undetectable. Only the external seams for the armor pockets betray these as riding jeans. Reflective strips on the back pockets and the inside of the cuffs add a bit of safety for nighttime riding.
Like many Dainese products, they run small; I advise ordering one size up for comfort’s sake. One thing you can bet on is that you’ll look great in these jeans; they are the winner for off-the-bike looks.
Abrasion protection: Aramid liner
Stitching: Double stitched butt and hip liner, single stitching on knees
Armor: CE Level 1 ProShape knee armor included, hip armor optional
Size tested: 29
Worse for Wear – Crosstown Slim
Men’s clothing has always offered at least some level of custom fit; dress shirts offer various neck and sleeve lengths, jeans allow you to choose your waist and inseam measurements, suits are often tailored to fit. Women, however, usually are left to abide by arbitrary and often confusing numeric sizing.
Which is what makes Worse for Wear such an exciting product. Every pair of WfW jeans is made to order, and they are cut and sewn in WfW’s Richmond, Virginia workshop. It currently offers only one cut: Crosstown Curvy (made, as you can guess, for curvy women); however, a straight cut is in the works, and I got a chance to test out a prototype. Sorry guys, this one is just for the ladies.
The high-quality denim is quite stretchy, with ease in the hips for the included SasTec armor. In fact, the hip armor disappears in the clever tailoring. The knee armor is thicker, and can be visible if the jeans fit your legs tightly enough, although there are no external seams. In fact, the smooth, classic dark indigo wash has no fake “whiskering” or embellishments at all. There are no metal rivets to scratch your paint, and the triple-stitched seams are sewn with a bonded nylon thread for strength. The only logo is a small (1-inch) red embroidered W on an upper corner of the right rear pocket.
WfW uses Armalith 2.0 fiber, which is woven into the denim for a cool, lightweight and slim fit. Be honest with your measurements when ordering, and you’ll end up with perfectly-fitting jeans that look good and offer great protection.
Abrasion protection: 33-percent UHMWPE (Armalith 2.0)
Stitching: Bonded nylon thread, double- and triple-stitched throughout
Armor: CE level 2 SasTec knee armor and CE level 1 SasTec hip armor included
Price: $379 (Price is for Crosstown Curvy jean; Crosstown Slim may be different)
Size tested: Custom fit
Drayko – Drift Women’s
Another U.S.-made (Australian-owned) jeans maker is Drayko. As one of the first riding jeans manufacturers, Drayko claims to be the first casual brand to achieve a CE rating for their jeans. It offers six men’s styles and one for women, which is the style I tested: the Drift.
Drayko bills the Drift as a “mid-rise” jean, but I would classify it as low rise…and quite tight. The denim is pretty stretchy, so they aren’t terribly uncomfortable, but I would recommend ordering a size up if you don’t like a skin-tight fit. Both the men’s and women’s versions of the Drift are boot-cut, and there are visible seams wherever the Kevlar lining is sewn in. The inseam (there is only one available) was not long enough for me, especially in the riding position.
The Kevlar liner has a terrycloth finish to it, making it soft and comfy, but also a bit warmer than the other brands. Coverage is good, and it’s sewn in with double stitching for added strength. The men’s Holeshot jean ($449) is CE approved to level 2, and includes armor.
Be aware: the Drift jeans have a large Drayko “D” logo on each back pocket. I found it a little hokey, but whether or not it’s hokey enough to influence your buying decision is up to you.
Abrasion protection: 84-percent Kevlar, 8-percent Dyneema liner
Stitching: Double stitching throughout
Armor: Pockets for optional knee armor, no pockets for hip armor
Price: $189.95 (men’s and women’s)
Size tested: 4
Bilt – Women’s Iron Worker Iron Jeans
Cycle Gear house brand Bilt has a casual line of jeans and shirts, but if protective jeans are what you’re after, you’ll want to look for the Iron Workers Steel (men’s) or Iron (women’s) Jeans.
The Iron Workers were the only jeans we tested with a back zipper for attaching to a jacket—great for ATGATT, but sort of contrary to the point of wearing riding jeans (which is to look like you aren’t wearing riding jeans). They also have a lot of visible stitching where the Kevlar panels are sewn in.
The good news is they are comfortable; the denim is soft, and a tall rear rise won’t gap when you’re on the bike. The included CE level 1 knee armor is not adjustable, so I had to remove it (it sat far too high on my long legs), and the one available inseam length wasn’t long enough for me. Since these are boot-cut jeans, I couldn’t hide the length issue by tucking them into my boots—a common trick for me. The men’s inseams start at 32 inches, so this will likely be less of an issue for the guys.
The Iron Workers Iron jeans appear to be a good option if you’re on a budget, and you fit the sizing offered.
Abrasion protection: 60-percent Kevlar liner
Stitching: Double stitching throughout
Armor: CE level 1 knee armor included, hip armor optional
Size tested: 6 Regular
iXS – Cassidy II
I’m a huge fan of my iXS Finja jacket (read my review of it here), so I was excited to see what this Swiss company had to offer in the way of riding jeans. The Cassidy II (available for both men and women) is reminiscent of high-end designer jeans, with carefully applied distress marks and fading.
The Kevlar lining reaches well past the knees in front, and all the way down the backside of the thighs, equaling the best coverage in the test group. The included CE level 2 knee armor is flat, making it rather uncomfortable, so I pulled it out and replaced it with some curved D30 I had from another pair of pants. Hip armor is not included, but pockets are there if you want to add it.
The fit is classic straight-leg, Levi’s 501-style; it’s not a slim fit jean, and therefore not quite suited to today’s female fashion, but I imagine the men’s version looks fantastic. The straight legs fit well over boots. Because of the quality denim and extensive 100-percent Kevlar lining, the Cassidy II jeans feel very protective, but they’re also a bit warm.
Unlike my Finja jacket, the fit (at least for the women’s cut) is slightly large. I have a 29-inch waist and the size D28/34 fit me perfectly. When looking at the size chart, consider ordering a size down from what you normally might.
Abrasion protection: 100-percent Kevlar liner
Stitching: Double- and triple-stitched throughout
Armor: CE level 2 knee armor included, hip armor is optional
Price: $439 (men’s and women’s)
Size tested: 28 x 34
AGV Sport – Aura
Looking at price alone, you may be tempted to dismiss the AGV Sport Aura women’s jeans. There’s no way good riding jeans could be so inexpensive…right? Wrong. I’m not sure how, but AGV Sport has managed to make riding jeans that look decent, are comfortable and have good protection for not a lot of money.
The Aura’s Kevlar lining extends past the knees on the front, and curves from the crotch across the backs of the thighs to the knee area on the side. A mesh liner holds pockets for the optional knee armor (hip armor pockets are sadly absent) and is surprisingly comfortable.
The 13.5-ounce cotton denim is slightly stretchy and is a perfect slim (not skinny) fit, which is great as it allows enough room for the knee armor without looking bulky. The Kevlar lining is sewn in with black thread, which disappears nicely against the dark indigo wash. The high waist (it sits just below your belly button) covers you front and back, with just enough stretch to stay comfortable in the riding position. In fact, these jeans are my winner for comfort.
They do run a little large, so I would recommend ordering a size smaller than you normally might.
Abrasion protection: 80-percent Kevlar liner
Stitching: Double stitching throughout
Armor: Knee armor is optional, no pockets for hip armor
Size tested: 4 Long
Bull-It – SR6
British riding jeans specialist Bull-It prides itself as a leader in the jeans segment. It was the first to earn CE level 2 abrasion certification for riding jeans, and it even uses its own proprietary protective fabric, Covec (you can read more about Covec in the Riding Jeans For Dummies segment).
With such exciting technology, I was looking forward to trying out the ladies’ SR6 riding jeans, which are CE level 1 certified for abrasion resistance. This means they will provide protection for 6 seconds—that’s a long time to be sliding along the ground. The SR6 does not disappoint, with its thick, stretchy denim, water-resistant treatment, Covec liner covering the butt, hips, thighs and below the knees, fashionable vintage faded-indigo wash and mild boot cut that easily fit over my Sidi Deep Rain ADV boots. The optional CE-approved knee and hip armor fits into a mesh liner that is also supposed to help keep you cool.
Unfortunately, I found the SR6s to be very bulky. They bunched up around my waist and the mesh liner folded and wrinkled against my skin, making it feel like I was wearing baggy shorts under a pair of pants. While they did feel like they’d protect me in the event of a crash, the SR6s just weren’t all that comfortable.
Apart from the bulkiness, the fit was true to size, and with the high-tech protection on offer, the SR6s will remain in my gear closet for chilly or damp rides.
Abrasion protection: 100% Covec liner
Stitching: Double- and triple-stitched throughout
Armor: CE-approved knee and hip armor is optional
Size tested: 6 Long
Can we just bail on riding jeans altogether? I haven’t seen a study, but they seem to give a false sense of actually wearing protective riding gear. They don’t. Most of them don’t have adequate kevlar liner coverage, many lack any type of knee, hip or tailbone protection, and the with the one’s that do have knee armor, it’s usually not in the right position and not adjustable. I only multiple pairs (through a former job), including Alpinestars, Arbor Wear, Icon, and (another brand I can’t remember!). Only the A-stars and the Arbor Wear pants have knee armor. The A-stars have a full Kevlar lining but the knee armor doesn’t sit in the right place and with the Arbor Wear, they are tight around the knees causing discomfort after about 30 minutes of riding. And I never felt well-protected in any of them. Fine, quality *protective* over-pants mean that you have to carry them around after you get to your destination, but, what price protection? We already carry around our helmets, jackets and gloves and stomp around in our boots, what’s the big deal about carrying around some *real* riding pants? Besides, you can use a cable and lock to secure all of that stuff (well, not the boots and gloves…) to your motorcycle.
Counterpoint: Just because there’s a range of quality (like every other type of gear) doesn’t mean we throw out the baby with the bath water or claim they give a “false sense of protection.” The great thing about riding denim is – having replaced all my jeans with them – I can just get up a go for a ride without a “suiting up” montage with the theme from Iron Man playing in the background. Running to a restaurant or movie doesn’t involve a bunch of logistics about storage and security. And it gives riders an option other than “look like a geek/Power Ranger” and the all-too-often choice of “nothing.” You just have to choose well, same as all your other gear.
As far as armor – I buy jeans with hip armor included but skip everyone’s knee armor and wear my Forcefield limb tubes under everything. Unobtrusive, comfortable, stays in place better than anything included with the pants.
I agree. I have two pairs of the Diamond Gusset riding jeans and, though I wish they had some more kevlar, I wear them because they are so much more comfortable than “typical” riding pants. No false sense of protection, but I do know that they’ll help with abrasion resistance if need be. The fact that I am wearing them instead of regular jeans is reason enough for me to believe they’re a good alternative. Armored riding wear does not fit me at all and are much too expensive to just let hang in the shop. Like a helmet, if it doesn’t fit and is uncomfortable, you’re less likely to wear it.
Counter-point: I bought a nearly-new Aerostich Classic Roadcrafter jacket (in my size WITH the modifications that I new I wanted from owning previous ‘stichs) for $125 and used-but-in-excellent-condition pants (my size, no mods) for $242 on Ebay (new: over $1,300). Threw in the hip pads and back protector I already had and, BOOM! Ultimate protection (equal or better to anything else on the market as well durable–they last for many years AND you can get them refurbished) for $370. You wear it over your regular clothes, zip in and out in less than 30 seconds (and you can keep them zipped together). You can lock it to the bike or carry it with you, no big deal. And there is no question that those pants are WAAAAAAAAAAY more protective than any riding jeans, with or without armor.
“The fact that I am wearing them instead of regular jeans is reason enough for me to believe they’re a good alternative.”
That’s like saying, “The fact that I’m wearing flip-flops is reason enough for me to believe that they’re a good alternative to motorcycle boots.” Those are opinions, not facts.
Yes, you’re right, if it’s uncomfortable, you (or any rider) aren’t going to wear the thing. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try and find something that will work. And I happily trade off some comfort for protection.
All you have to do is search on the interwebs for images of roadrash and I hope you’ll change your mind. A little inconvenience is a lot better than being in a hospital burn ward and possibly suffering through skin grafts or worse.
WHO CARES HOW YOU LOOK ON YOUR MOTORCYCLE? Unless you are riding for other people’s benefit…and I don’t choose my gear with the thought, “I wonder what other riders will think of my gear.” I wear the gear I do because it’s smart, it protects me from the elements, and provides as much safety as possible (although there’s no such thing as “safe” when it comes to motorcycle riding) and even lets me ride longer.
Also, I can wear my gear year-round in any weather. What do you do when it rains or its cold and you’re wearing riding jeans? Do you just suffer? Do you stay home? Do you take your car when you would really rather do some riding? Do you put a rainsuit on? (And, with that last, you could just have real riding pants and not worry about that.)
I’m not saying that I’m “Mr. Hardcore Rider” and that I ride regardless of conditions or don’t drive sometimes, but unless it’s snowy or icy, I have the ability to go ride in all weather and not worry about hypothermia because the weather is bad, or I stayed later than planned and it got cold, or I didn’t look at the weather report and it started raining at some point after leaving home…or roadrash.
It’s one thing to be unaware of the protective riding gear that’s available. It’s another to know about it and make justifications and compromises regarding your safety.
One last note: Obviously, I feel passionately about the issue of rider safety (and wearing earplugs as part of that). I know what can happen to people when they don’t wear full safety gear and I DON’T want it to happen to other riders. I don’t want them to suffer the pain of preventable injuries or injuries that would have been lessened by wearing proper riding gear. I don’t want the stigma that those injuries attach to motorcyling in general that affect ME as a fellow rider. I don’t want riders getting badly injured and leaving motorcycling “‘cuz it’s just too dangerous”.
This conversation went much farther than I’d intended. I simply said that I feel much more comfortable, and a little safer, wearing my Diamond Gusset riding jeans. They fit, and their gusset style crotch allow the “boys” some freedom and comfort therefore I’m much more inclined to wear them. As I said earlier, I would be much less inclined to wear something that was uncomfortable, hot, and did not fit. I am glad that there are jeans makers who offer these alternatives to regular jeans and/or full on armored pants or suits. Your analogy that choosing to wear kevlar jeans is the same as choosing to wear flip flops compared to riding boots doesn’t jive. As a matter of fact it is an unprovoked insult to a veteran rider. Due to time constraints, icy roads, and other commitments I usually only get to ride about ten to twelve thousand miles a year and have only been riding for forty-six years. Yes, I have had road rash a time or two, so I know exactly what I’m getting myself into each and every time I mount up. For the past twenty years I have worn a helmet 95% of the time (again, my choice) and I always wear gloves and long pants with boots. I have taken several MSF courses and constantly work on my skills. You will, I’m sure, continue to scoff at those of us who choose to ride with such minimal protection. Many of us, on the other hand, will wonder to ourselves how guys like you can wear a full compliment of armor-clad gear in 100 degree heat. To each his own. I think the purpose of this comparison article that was written by the “Rider” staff was to help explain the differences and options available to riders who prefer to wear jeans. I appreciate their insight. I am not, however, looking for a condescending lecture.
First: you don’t seem have read my “One last note” comment.
Second: my analogy is completely accurate. while wearing riding jeans IS better than just plain denim (at least if they actually have kevlar lining, thicker/tougher denim, and knee armor), riding jeans are to real riding pants as flip-flops are to motorcycle boots.
Finally: re: your comment that “Many of us, on the other hand, will wonder to ourselves how guys like you can wear a full compliment of armor-clad gear in 100 degree heat.” Really? Why? Because the injuries one can receive in a crash are EXACTLY the same regardless of the weather. They are exactly the same weather you leave your driveway and ride around the block or go out on a two month journey.
I can see this is going nowhere as you are obviously one of those who knows they are always the smartest in the room. Comparing flip flops to kevlar lined riding jeans was your downfall. And obviously you did NOT read that I wrote, “to each his own”.
And you lack reading comprehension skills and apparently never took a scholastic aptitude test in your life. I did not compare flip-flops to riding jeans. Also, I wasn’t being condescending earlier.
But I am now.
I disagree. My wife fell off her bike at 70+ mph and slid on her Kevlar-reinforced jeans for a decent 150+ feet. She slid mostly on her left butt cheek and the pants held up really good. The rear pocket stitching came unsown at the bottom but stayed in place. The abrasion was not enough to perforate the aramid denim and no holes formed. She walked away from that one with nothing more than a blister (on her left shin) product of there heat generated by the friction during her slide. She was wearing a pair of Alpinestars. Nothing beats leather when it comes to abrasion resistance, but for summer riding leather can become unbearable. The next best thing is Kevlar denim and it does the trick.
Nice reviews! However, I just wanted to point out that Scorpion Covert Pro jeans actually do NOT include any armor for the price mentioned in the review-at least not from a major gear supplier (Revzilla). Adding both knee and hip armor would add a bit over $50.- to the cost.
wheres “dragging jeans ” in all this. I agree with the above poster, safety is false unless you have gone down once already, price wise, most are out of everyone league.
I’ve been wearing Diamond Gusset jeans for about ten years. They fit me perfectly. The “Defender” jeans are as comfortable as their regular jeans and wear like iron. Being made in the USA is very important to me and I wish you would have made note of country of manufacturing in all of your reviews. I do wish there was more kevlar coverage in the DG jeans and I also have found the lower pant legs to be flimsier than I’d like. They ride up in the wind and the velcro/denim strap on both my pairs don’t cinch them down like I think they should. I plan on reinforcing the bottom of the legs with some leather this winter.
How does Drag-in jeans compare to these?
[…] The new Crosstown Slim riding jean receives a favorable review from Jenny Smith at Rider Magazine. You can read the entire review here, along with a review of the French riding jean brand, Bolid’ster.(http://ridermagazine.com/2016/09/29/gear-review-riding-jeans-buyers-guide/) […]
[…] as stealth goes, the knee armor is pretty obvious on me, though I haven’t noticed it in other photos (maybe I just have knobby knees?), but the hip armor might as well be nonexistent. The only clue […]
RST jeans also. they have adjustable knee pads, fit well and are not as over priced as some of those reviewed.
Thanks for the suggestion! We confess, we stuck to those brands that are available and have a distributor in the U.S.
Thank you for this article! I’ve been looking for suitable riding jeans and finally I’ve found it! I think I will try Bull-it jeans since it has all type of protection that I need.
ATWYLD!!! Best kevlar lined womens jeans on the market! https://atwyld.com/product/womens-kevlar-lined-motorcycle-riding-jeans/
Is that a man or a woman in the photos? I’m a woman and would like to know how they fit on girls.
It’s a woman, and her measurements can be found at the beginning of the article. There are some notes on fitment in each review as well. Hope it helps!