Since we adhere to ATGATT (All the Gear, All the Time), Rider doesn’t show photos of folks riding in T-shirts, without gloves or wearing novelty “beanie” helmets. Very rarely you’ll see photos of someone riding in jeans; usually it’s Clem because, well, he’s Clem and with 55 years of riding experience he makes up his own mind regardless of editorial guidelines.
Denim jeans are undeniably cool and quintessentially American. I’ll admit, when I started riding as a cash-poor student, jeans were standard riding gear. I maxed out my credit card on a top-shelf, black leather jacket for protection but also because it looked cool, especially with jeans. But I also dumped a bike wearing jeans and they offered almost no protection. The all-cotton denim ripped and their was no protective armor underneath. I skinned up my knee pretty good. Fortunately I was just putting around town and hit some wet cobblestones. Had I been cooking with gas, it would have been grim.
Over the past decade or so, apparel manufacturers have tried to strike a compromise and offer specially-designed riding jeans with protective features. Aerostich/Rider Wearhouse recently addedProtekt Riding Jeans to its catalog. Aerostich starts with 100-percent cotton, unwashed 14-ounce denim, which is heavier-duty than the 10- to 12-ounce denim used in jeans you’d typically buy at the mall. For added durability, a second layer of 14-ounce denim is sewn into the knees and seat. Also, there is double or triple stitching in critical areas. A diamond-shaped gusset at the crotch enhances comfort with less binding when you move around in the saddle.
Aerostich’s coolest innovation is the patent-pending knee-pad pockets accessed via hidden zippers on the outer seam. For an extra $20, you can order a set of rectangular TF armor knee pads, the same high-tech armor used in Aerostich’s Roadcrafter, Darien, Transit and other riding suits. During normal use the TF3 pads are soft and flexible, but upon impact they instantly stiffen to protect your knees. Thanks to the handy-dandy zipper pockets, the armor pads can be inserted before your ride and easily removed and stashed in a tank bag or backpack when you arrive at your destination. Front and back pockets are just like those you’d expect to find on your favorite pair of jeans.
These dark blue jeans have a relaxed fit and look great. Due to the thick denim and extra layers, they feel heavy—wearing a belt is recommended. After a few washes, they soften up nicely. With the wide TF armor pads inserted, the front of the Protekt jeans flare out a bit and feel rather awkward. You’ll definitely want to remove the pads when walking around off the bike.
This convenience—as well as the extra protection of state-of-the-art armor—make these the best riding jeans I’ve worn. What would make them better, at least in terms of crash protection, would be an internal layer of a more abrasion- and tear-resistant material such as Kevlar and the ability to add internal hip pads.
Aerostich Protekt Jeans are American-made and come in sizes from 32-30 to 42-42. They cost $97 without pads, $117 with. Available directly from Aerostich/Rider Wearhouse:www.aerostich.com.