Motorcycle jeans buying guide | CE ratings, lined vs single-layer, everything you need to know

If you’re honest, you’ve probably ridden a motorbike in normal denim jeans before (I certainly have). The ease and comfort of throwing on your favorite leather jacket, gloves and a helmet and heading out the door is very tempting.

Best jeans at a glance

But in our heart of hearts we know that if something goes wrong we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to injury and that’s where armored riding jeans like the ones in this page come in.

There are several different types to consider, ranging from A-AAA safety standards and with a single layer of reinforced denim or a liner, depending on your budget and the level of comfort/protection you’re after.

Jump to:


AAA-rated motorbike jeans

Triple A jeans offer the top CE rating for bike jeans and not too many years ago was reserved for just the most protective leather garments. Advancements in textile tech (and a slight change in the testing process) means that there are plenty of denim options that meet the criteria now, too.

Find our full list of AAA-rated jeans

Single-layer with CE level 2 armor

Tested by Deputy Head of Digital, Ben Clarke for 12 months and 3000 miles

"When it comes to this kind of summer and casual kit I’ve always aired on the side of comfort – using the theory that if I’m comfortable I’ll be able to focus on the ride better. But the Roadskin Taranis jeans let me keep that level of comfort with the added peace of mind that they won’t fall to bits in a slide.

"No, they’re not the cheapest, but they look great on and off the bike and achieving a AAA rating for a denim garment should be applauded.

"I would certainly spend my own money on a pair without thinking twice."

Read our full and in-depth Roadskin Taranis review

Pros

  • Comfortable on and off the bike
  • Look like normal jeans
  • Peace of mind from AAA rating

Cons

  • Not the cheapest but in line with similar spec alternatives
  • Partial liner a the top
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Practicality
    3.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Protection
    5.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Overall
    5.0
Construction Cotton, Kevlar, PE, Cordura, Lycra
Type Denim riding jeans
CE rating garment AAA
Armour CE-level 2 hip and knee
  • Available in three lengths
  • High and low knee armor positions
  • Stretch fabric
  • Single layer (partial mesh lining)

AA-rated motorbike jeans

If AAA rated jeans are out of budget and you mostly ride around in town or city centres, then a AA pair could be just the ticket. These won’t perform so well in a faster slide but can still be fitted with level 2 armor and do a better job than standard pants.

Find our full list of AA-rated jeans

Lined jeans with CE level 2 armor

Tested by Head of Digital, Gareth Evans for 2000 miles/four months

"I wear jeans when I ride on the road unless I’m absolutely sure I’m getting rained on, so these relatively robust items fit the bill perfectly. That’s because they’re heavy-duty enough to wear in lower temperatures - down to around 12 degrees centigrade (50 Fahrenheit) - without feeling cold. In fitment terms they’re great too, almost exactly mirroring the Levi’s I wear when I’m not riding in both length and waist sizing.

"These jeans have AA protection rating, so while not the outright best in terms of abrasion and tear resistance compared with AAA items, they do have Level 2 CE armor in both knees and hips. The outer shell is Demin, while the yarn is a blend of Dyneema, Cordura and Polyester, with a tiny bit of Elastane woven in for stretchiness.

"They won’t stretch around my sporty Blade boots, though, which means I have to look a little silly if I want to wear those too. But then I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to – I have some casual shoes for when I’m simply out for a gentle bimble.

"The seriously strong zip and large button make doing them up a joy, even after a particularly large breakfast, and they’re great from a practicality perspective. There are large pockets on either side of the front, with a coin pocket on the right, and a pair of large back pockets. They’ve got six double belt loops too, which adds strength to their construction, and orange double stitched detailing to contrast the dark hue.

"You’ve got a choice of two other colors – black or stone wash – and while I wear a regular size, you can also buy them in a shorter length."

Pros

  • Heavy duty build means I'm confident in their waterproofing, protection and endurance 
  • They fit really nicely onto my body shape, and they're around the same sizing as my Levi's, albeit with heavier fabric
  • CE Level 2 armor offers decent peace of mind that if I have an unintentional knee-down incident, they'll look after me

Cons

  • Their slim lower leg design means they don't fit over some taller boots, so if that's a style you like, take this into consideration
  • Thicker materials can feel a little too warm on the hottest summer days
  • Comfort
    3.0
  • Practicality
    4.0
  • Looks
    4.0
  • Quality
    3.0
  • Protection
    4.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Overall
    4.0
Abrasion resistance AA
Hip armor Level 2
Knee armor Level 2
  • Adjustable knee armor
  • Five pockets
  • Double stitching detail

Single layer with CE level 2 armor

Price: £99.99 (was £149.99)
Tested by Deputy Head of Digital, Ben Clarke for three years/5000 miles

"I’ve reviewed a few of pairs of riding jeans for MCN now and, despite most looking pretty similar, there is a massive range of difference between them. Some use multiple layers to achieve a higher safety rating, which obviously improves their performance in a crash but also means they’re bulky looking, hot and heavy to wear.

"Others look pretty much like a normal pair of jeans but achieve this to the detriment of safety. This pair from Oxford manages to walk the line between the two perfectly – they don’t look strange when you’re off the bike, keep you cool in hot weather but still retain an AA safety rating.

"So, when I open my wardrobe to pick out gear before I go for a ride, these are usually the first pair I pick up. Over thousands of miles on various test bikes these have remained comfortable and aside from a little discolouration on the knees from crawling around securing chains and padlocks they look pretty much new.

"They come with CE level 2 armor at the knees and hips although for most of the time I must confess I do without the slightly bulky hip armor. This isn’t a criticism of these jeans in particular, though, as I do the same in other jeans too. The knee armor is sewn into a fixed position rather than the adjustable arrangement on some other pairs but they sit in the right place for me in my usual trouser size.

"Riding a motorbike requires a certain level of flexibility (quite a high level on some sport bikes) and the stretchy property of the denim used in these jeans means this is simple. Whether you’re swinging your leg over a tall bike seat, flexing to reach an awkward sidestand lug or unexpectedly chucking out a leg to steady yourself during slow speed maneuvres these jeans have got you covered.

"It also makes them very comfortable over distance as the fabric doesn’t constrict at the joints and cause any numbness. Over a very long distance – a whole day of riding - you start to get a little saddle sore in sensitive places but that is true of every pair of denim jeans I’ve ever worn on a bike (including Target’s finest)."

Pros

  • Balanced design that doesn't compromise on appearance or safety
  • Retain an AA safety rating while looking like normal jeans
  • Keep the wearer cool in hot weather
  • Include CE level 2 armor at knees and hips for enhanced protection
  • Stretchy denim provides flexibility and comfort during various riding maneuvers
  • Durable and maintains appearance over long-term use, with minimal discoloration
  • Comfortable for long-distance rides due to fabric flexibility

Cons

  • Hip armor is slightly bulky, often removed by the wearer
  • Knee armor is in a fixed position, which might not fit everyone ideally
  • Can cause saddle soreness over very long distances, similar to other denim jeans
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Practicality
    3.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Protection
    3.0
  • Value
    5.0
  • Overall
    4.0
Abrasion resistance AA
Hip armor Level 2
Knee armor Level 2
  • Triple-needle stitched, fully felled seat
  • Durable twill pocketing
  • Riveted pockets
  • Ultra-secure belt loops
  • Reinforced lined yoke
  • Lined back pockets

A rated motorbike jeans

The lowest protection level with abrasion and impact resistance (there is a B rating for abrasion only and C for impact only but that’s more for off-road kit). This is for the lightest of use at slow speed, maybe moped riding around town.

With the price and options available on the market today with AA ratings and above, there’s not really a need to drop down to a single A pair of riding jeans. A quick glance at Revzilla shows that A rated jeans are only $25-40 less than a superior AA rated pair at full price and more than some of the offers to be found.


Waterproof motorbike jeans

Denim is mostly a fair weather material, but there are some options out there that claim a water resistant coating or even to be fully waterproof. Fully waterproof materials will never be as comfortable as porous denim when the weather is good, though, and sometimes a reliable set of waterproofs in a backpack are the better option. And hopefully, you won’t need them!

Find our full list of waterproof jeans

Water-resistant

Price: £89.99 (was £149.99)
Tested by Editor, Rich Newland for three months/1200 miles

"The trade-off between protection, comfort, style and versatility is one that rages almost every time we get on a bike. I’ve tried to get the options down to two set choices over the years: Jacket and jeans, or a textile suit. Even I can usually make a fast decision between only two options. 

"My absolute default – even in winter when it’s dry – is riding jeans and a jacket, so having highly protective but comfortable jeans is crucial, especially as I often spend all day in them, either in the saddle or while wandering about having ridden to a destination. I’ve tested a large number over the years, and these Bull-It jobbies are definitely in my top three (Draggin and Spidi make the other two on my podium). 

"These Tactical Icon IIs were superbly comfortable from the moment I put them on. Much of that is thanks to the construction and stretchy feel of the material, and the fact that they’re single-layer, meaning they’re almost indistinguishable from normal jeans in terms of weight, flexibility and comfort. Where they differ, is that they’re certified AA rated for protection and, if you want to, they can be fitted with knee and hip armor as well. Personally, that’s one of my trade-off items, and I don’t have the armor fitted, but I have ridden with it fitted, and the armor is comfortable in position. The supplied protectors slot into sewn-in pockets within the jeans which fasten with Velcro closures.

"The armor doesn’t move, sculps well, and doesn’t look cumbersome beneath the material. The armor is CE161 Level 2 at both knee and hip. And while the jeans are single layer, there is a mesh liner to knee height on the front and the aforementioned pockets for armor, but all the extra bits are integrated without rough seams or scratchy panels – so they don’t detract from the feeling of a lightweight jean. On the bike they offer a good connection to the seat – they’re not overly sticky or slippy – and are stretchy enough to offer some give. In hot weather they stay appreciably cool, and they’re just like a normal jean to walk around in.

"They come in sizes 30-44 for men, with different leg lengths available. In my size, they’re ever so slightly large, so try them first. A ladies’ cut is also available (see Tactical Icona II below) in sizes 4-16. 

"After 1200 miles and four washes they still look new, and I really like the detailing in terms of the 5-pocket design, branded button – and the use of a proper YKK zip. They look and feel (and perform) like a quality high-end garment, for a price that feels like exceptionally good value."

Pros

  • Soft to the touch
  • Pliable material
  • Comfortable and protective to a high standard

Cons

  • Try before you buy to ensure a good fit – mine came up large
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Practicality
    4.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Protection
    4.0
  • Value
    5.0
  • Overall
    5.0
Construction Lined Covec
CE rating AA with level 2 armor at hips and knees
  • Tactical Oneskin outer shell with premium Covec stretch recovery yarns
  • Covec high-performance AA stretch denim CE Level II hip and knee armor included
  • Water resistant finish
  • Adjustable protector pockets

Ladies’ jeans and leggings

Some bike kit is more unisex than others, but jeans are a garment that lends itself to a female-specific cut. There are also popular CE-rated leggings to consider if you prefer the comfort and freedom and you’re likely to ride in mostly warm conditions.

Find our full list of ladies’ jeans and leggings

Comfy and great protection

Price: £89.99 (was £139.99)
Tested by Deputy Editor, Emma Franklin for two months/1000 miles

"These AA-rated single-layer jeans have become my go-to pair because they fit so well and also are comfortable, even on warm days. Styled like slim-fit fashion jeans, I like how the Icona IIs (like all Bull-it jeans) feature a high waist to prevent your lower back from becoming exposed (low waist riding jeans are a pet hate).

"Abrasion-resistant stretchy denim ensures a good fit and has the bonus of holding the included Level-2 hip and knee armor perfectly in place. It’s a pretty clever trick Bull-it have pulled off here, as the jeans fit just as well with the armor as they do without, so I’ve got no reason not to wear the extra protection.

"As an added bonus, the jeans are also shower resistant. Bull-it were the first to make a product to pass the old, tougher (and largely ignored) CE abrasion standard, so making good protective product is at the core of their ideals."

Pros

  • AA-rated for safety
  • Comfortable fit, suitable for warm weather
  • High waist design prevents lower back exposure
  • Abrasion-resistant stretchy denim ensures a snug fit
  • Level-2 hip and knee armor fits perfectly and does not alter fit
  • Shower resistant fabric

Cons

  • 'Only' AA rated not AAA
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Practicality
    5.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Protection
    5.0
  • Value
    5.0
  • Overall
    5.0
Construction Tactical Oneskin outer shell with premium Covec stretch recovery yarns
Type Denim riding jeans
CE rating garment AA
Armor CE Level II hip and knee armor included
  • Stretchy
  • Water-resistant finish
  • Adjustable protector pockets

Ladies’ leggings

No fear of a muffin-top

Tested by Office Manager, Alison Silcox for 3 months/1500 miles

"Getting riding jeans to fit has always been a nightmare because sizing is so out of step with non-riding gear. In ‘normal’ clothes I’m a size 12 with long leg length but over the years I’ve ended up with jeans ranging from 12 to 18, which does a lady’s ego no good! It was like a breath of fresh air trying on these super-stretchy leggings because the sizing is accurate.

"With aramid reinforcements, knee protectors and pockets for hip armor, they are CE approved but only to the lowest level (A) so they’re best used for lower-speed urban riding. However, being made from stretchy material means they fit perfectly. There’s a high waistband, so no awkward gap between jacket and jeans, plus no fear of a muffin top.

"You can also purchase a belt connector so that you can zip them to your riding jacket. Front pockets are large enough to stow keys or a phone when you’re off the bike. The leggings look stylish and can be worn with either short baseball-style riding boots or touring boots. They’ve been through the wash a few times and they haven’t lost shape or color.

"They don’t claim to be waterproof and I can absolutely confirm this is true. When I got caught in a shower, they absorbed water like a sponge. They come in a full range of sizes and three leg lengths, I opted for long and, for once, they’re slightly too long. Also available in khaki, grey and burgundy."

Pros

  • Accurate sizing matches non-riding apparel
  • Made with super-stretchy material for a perfect fit
  • Features aramid reinforcements and knee protectors
  • Optional pockets for hip armor
  • High waistband prevents gaps between jacket and jeans
  • Front pockets are functional for keys or phone
  • Stylish design compatible with various riding boots
  • Maintains shape and color after washing
  • Available in multiple colours and three leg lengths

Cons

  • Only CE approved to the lowest level (A), suitable for lower-speed urban riding
  • Not waterproof; absorbs water heavily in rain
  • Length may be too long, even in the correct size choice
  • Comfort
    4.0
  • Practicality
    3.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    4.0
  • Protection
    3.0
  • Value
    4.0
  • Overall
    4.0
Construction Denim with aramid liner
Type Denim leggings
CE rating garment A
Armor CE Level 2
  • Designed for women
  • Casual-looking
  • Reinforced belt loops

What to look for when buying riding jeans

“Riding jeans” is a catch-all term that covers a large range of products constructed from denim reinforced with various super materials depending on the product. These include Kevlar, Covec, Aramid, Pekev, and others being trademarked all the time.

Jeans will typically also include armor at the knees and/or hips, which is made of the same sorts of materials as the armor in your riding jacket and can be rated to CE Level 1 or Level 2. Level 1 gives less protection but is normally less bulky while Level 2 is safer but can take up more space.

Safety ratings

You, and only you, can decide what level of protection is right for you. My advice is always to buy the highest level of protection you can afford BUT if you only ever ride a moped through town, is it really necessary to have AAA jeans with CE Level 2 hip and knee armor? I’d argue not, but similarly you need to feel confident and comfy, so it’s entirely up to you.

Riding jeans are tested against lots of different criteria designed to replicate what happens to them in a crash and a slide. Find a full list of denim CE testing here. A passing garment will receive a rating under the EN 17092 testing standard.

Any level of reinforcement in your jeans will offer better protection than a normal cotton garment, however, and so please consider buying a pair before you throw a leg over your bike for a Sunday scratch in national speed limits.

There are a few pitfalls to watch out for, some garments carry a CE rating for the fabric they are made from rather than the garment as a whole. Others mention the CE Level 2 armor included but have no garment rating at all.

Single layer or lined?

Once you’ve picked the safety rating you need, now it’s time to think about the structure of the jeans. Some use a standard denim outer shell with a lining that does the work of protecting you. These are generally bulkier and hotter, but also cheaper on the whole than comparable single-layer options.

Single-layer jeans use a fabric impregnated with their super fabric of choice for a lighter and cooler garment, more akin to everyday jeans. These are often more comfortable and cooler to wear in summer. Between the two there are all kinds of variations of partial linings available.

If you want riding jeans because you intend to stay in them at your destination – a day at work or the BSB, a drink down the pub etc, then single-layer will probably work better. If you want something cooler than leathers that give the illusion of jeans but you’ll mostly just be staying on the bike, then lined jeans might be an option.


FAQ

What does single layer mean?

Generally, motorcycle riding jeans can either be single layer, where the abrasion-resistant material is woven directly into the outer layer; or they can be formed in a regular cotton denim outer with a separate inner lining formed in the abrasion-resistant material, usually aramid fibers or material like Kevlar, for example.

How are motorcycle jeans tested?

Riding jeans classed as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) earn certification by being subjected to a range of tests under the standard for motorcycle clothing of EN 17092. These tests include:

Impact energy absorption

This covers the impact protectors fitted, which are mandatory in class AAA and AA garments for shoulder, elbow, knee and hip. Hip protectors are optional for class A. Protectors must cover the appropriate body part and be certified to EN 1621. There are two classes for protectors, level 1 and 2, with the latter offering greater performance.

Impact abrasion resistance

This test measures how well a garment performs when worn by an average rider (weighing 165lbs and measuring 5ft6 tall) in a slide. Three samples of the same garment are mounted in a rotating rig at different angles and impacted on an asphalt surface at a prescribed speed. They’re allowed to come to a natural stop before being measured. If the samples do not hole, they’re subjected to this twice more, and to pass there must be no hole bigger than 5mm (just over 3/16 of an inch).

Seam strength and structural closures

All seams, including those of the protector pockets, and zip fasteners are subjected to this test (EN 13594) to ensure that they have sufficient resistance to being torn apart.

Tear strength

A number samples are taken from the garment to measure their resistance to further tearing once they have been split.

Dimensional stability

To ensure that a garment is not affected by through washing, it is subjected to five separate controlled washing cycles. Any fixed armor must remain in place and the garment must not shrink any further than 5% during the process.

Innocuousness

In order to make sure that the garment is safe to wear against the skin in normal use, this test covers the chemicals and dyes used in the production process that remain in the fabric.

Fit and ergonomics

The garment is tested by an assessor to ensure that the necessary range of movements can be carried out for the application and that the fit tallies with the manufacturer’s size guide.

Classification

Assuming a garment achieves a pass in all tests, classification is awarded according to the performance level as follows

AAA (EN 17092-2:2020) The highest achievable for abrasion resistance.
AA (EN 17092-3:2020) A lower pass for abrasion resistance.
A (EN 17092-4:2020) The lowest classification for abrasion resistance.
B (EN 17092-5:2020) This is for garments which have no impact protection but do offer abrasion resistance.
C (EN 17092-6:2020) For garments offering solely impact protection without abrasion resistance, such as armored shorts or vests designed to be worn as a base layer.


How MCN tested these riding jeans

Riding motorbikes in protective jeans

At MCN, our team of expert journalists have decades of experience gained over hundreds of thousands of miles. We don’t test our kit to destruction, we use it exactly how you do; in the real world and in all conditions. That means we can deliver impartial buying advice you can rely on.

Each of our writers has an in-depth understanding of the needs of today’s biker… because they are one.

All of the jeans in this page have been tested in the real world by a member of the team and scored at least four stars overall.

Motorcycle jeans are tested against comfort, practicality, looks, quality, protection and value before being awarded an overall score out of five.

Our scores explained

When we review a product, we award it a score out of five. In the ratings tab of a given product, you may also find more specific scores for the different aspects of a product’s performance to help you make an informed decision. Here’s a guide to what each number score means:

  • 1 star – Poor performance in this category or overall. A product with a single star rating has fallen below the expected standard and should be avoided.
  • 2 stars – Basic performance in this area or overall. A product with a two-star rating has managed to perform to a barely acceptable level and there is room for improvement.
  • 3 stars – An average performance in this area or overall. A product with a three-star rating has achieved a basic level of performance and is deemed adequate.
  • 4 stars – A product has performed over and above the accepted averaged in this category or overall. A product with a four-star rating has surpassed expectation and delivered in a particularly impressive way.
  • 5 stars – A product has performed at the highest possible level in a particular category or overall. A product with a five-star rating has delivered to the highest possible level, impressing the tester with its performance. We would happily spend our own money on it.

To find out more, head to our dedicated page explaining how we test motorcycle products


- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us.