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Common Tread

Best motorcycle riding jeans of 2020

Mar 05, 2020

While standard blue jeans have always been popular riding pants, motorcycle-specific jeans are a relatively new development in the industry. They might look like regular dungarees, but don’t let them fool you.

Under the surface, this new breed typically hides armor and abrasion-resistant materials. Even better, good riding jeans are cut to keep you comfortable and flexible on the bike, often incorporating stretch material throughout. They strike a good middle ground between safety and style. Most people won’t even know you’re wearing armored clothing!

All good stuff, with one little problem: riding jeans mostly look the same because they’re all trying to look like, well, a pair of jeans. They can also get pretty expensive, so how do you know which riding jeans are best for you? We’ve laid out four rider types and our top moto jean picks for each, and we’re betting you’ll find one that fits your ride.

The best motorcycle jeans of 2020
Motorcycle Jeans Category Price Details
Street & Steel Oakland Best under $150 $130
  • Armor at the knees included
  • Big value with low cost
Merlin Olivia Best women's $149
  • Kevlar lining in impact zones
  • CE armor at the knees
Scorpion Covert Ultra Most popular $200
  • 7x abrasion resistance of denim
  • Advanced breathability
Rokker Rokkertech Rider Best premium $280
  • Single layer PolyArylate
  • Athletic cut and intricate details
Klim K Fifty 2 Best overall $290-$309
  • Cordura denim/nylon blend
  • D3O EVO knee and hip armor

The selection process

Stop by the RevZilla headquarters and you’ll spot plenty of folks wearing riding jeans. (If you know what to look for, that is!) Not only do we handle all the newest motorcycle jeans as they come out, many Zillans also wear them for their daily rides to work. That means the testing goes beyond the mandatory on-road stuff. Riding jeans need to be able to pull double duty as casual pants, and if a particular pair can’t pass that test, well, you sure won’t see them on our riders! All our miles with riding jeans have identified standout options for the entry/basic rider, the people’s choice, the premium gear aficionado, and the standard rider. Let’s start with the most affordable option.

Best jeans under $150: Street & Steel Oakland Jeans

For under $150, the Street & Steel Oakland jeans are a perfect entry into the world of riding jeans, as well as a solid choice for the rider who doesn’t need any frills, just protection. They’re cut looser than a skinny jean but tight enough to move with the rider and avoid flapping in the wind. The cuffs are widened to fit over riding shoes, a very thoughtful detail.

Street & Steel Oakland Jeans
Street & Steel Oakland jeans. RevZilla photo.

What really sets the Oakland jeans apart is their 12-ounce stretch denim. It looks just like regular jeans, yet moves in a completely different way. That stretch makes it easy to swing a leg over the bike, move up and back in the seat, and work the controls. Comfort means more miles, and more miles means more riding! Under that denim, Street & Steel places aramid reinforcement panels at the seat, hips, thighs, and knees. Aramid significantly increases slide resistance time, and those key areas are usually where you’ll need it if you hit the deck. The Oakland jeans are available in black, blue, and light blue, in both men’s and women’s variants. If you’ve never had a pair of riding jeans before, and a slim fit sounds like your style, these are the jeans to get.

Nitpicks: If anything lets the Street & Steel Oakland jeans down, it’s the CE1 armor. It’s always nice to see it included with any riding gear, but in the Oakland jeans’ case, the armor is bulky and not very flexible. Fortunately, the armor is not very hard to remove and you could always upgrade it to something slimmer and more flexible. Considering the $130 price point, these jeans would still be great even if they didn’t include any armor at all.

Best women's jeans: Merlin Olivia Women's Jeans

Women looking for some sub-$150 riding jeans should also take a look at the Merlin Olivia jeans. They’re Merlin’s everyday, every-ride offering and they serve a very similar role to the Oaklands: an entry-level or basic riding jean for the rider who wants to upgrade from street clothes.

Merlin Olivia Womens Jeans
Merlin Olivia women's jeans. RevZilla photo.

The Olivia jeans carry Kevlar reinforcement in the impact zones, plus CE armor at the knees. Armor can be added to the two hip pockets down the road. It’s a nice upgrade, especially with how thin and flexible armor’s getting these days. The Oxford Super Leggings, while technically not jeans, are ultra-popular and provide a third women’s option for around $130.

Nitpicks: If anything, we’d just like to see more players in this space. Oxford and Merlin were smart to bring compelling women’s riding jeans to market, and any additional competition will just improve the category.

Most popular jeans: Scorpion Covert Ultra Jeans

In terms of sheer sales numbers, the Scorpion Covert Ultra jeans were the clear winner over the last year. The people have spoken, and they want Scorpion Covert Ultras! You might, too, if you’re in the market for a straight-legged pair of riding jeans that are a step above the budget choices.

Scorpion Covert Ultra Jeans
Scorpion Covert Ultra jeans. RevZilla photo.

Offering a more relaxed, straight cut fit than the Oaklands, the Covert Ultra jeans sit at the top of Scorpion’s Covert lineup. The Covert Ultras are more upscale in that they don’t use a layer of abrasion-resistant material under a denim chassis. Instead, the Covert Ultras have Cordura and Kevlar woven directly into the main construction. That means no inner panels, no telltale stitching, and abrasion resistance everywhere instead of just the critical zones. The jump from multi-layer riding jeans to a single material is huge for comfort and all-over protection, and the Covert Ultra jeans are one of the least expensive ways to get that next-level jean construction. Scorpion claims their design is seven times more abrasion resistant than regular jeans!

If that isn’t enough to entice you, the Covert Ultras have a DWR coating for some water resistance, plus some reflective accents at the cuffs for riding in low-light conditions. These are practical, no-nonsense riding jeans that outperform the entry-level stuff for only a little more money. No wonder so many people love them.

Nitpicks: There’s only one catch. Armor isn’t included. The Covert Ultra jeans’ pockets will accept most armor varieties. We’d load up the knee and hip pockets with Scorpion’s SAS-TEC Flex armor for about $40 extra. (That armor was actually featured in our “Best advancements in motorcycle gear in 2019” article.)

Best premium jeans: Rokker Rokkertech Rider Jeans

Rokker is the brand to beat when it comes to premium riding jeans, and for 2020, they remain undefeated. Yes, these jeans are nearly $300, and yes, they’re worth it if you’re willing to invest like that in a pair of riding jeans. Rokker is also big on style, so their take on jeans will have to appeal to you, as well, to get you to choose these jeans. But if you like the look and have the money, Rokkers are legendarily bombproof, and they only look better with age.

Rokker Rokkertech Jeans
Rokker Rokkertech jeans. RevZilla photo.

The Rokker Rokkertech Rider jeans are actually the least expensive jeans we’ve ever seen from Rokker, and we’re glad to see that they haven’t sacrificed the quality that sets them apart from some of the competition. With the Rider jeans, Rokker delivers a slim, straight fit with a very nice  12.5-ounce denim, mixed with one to two percent elastane for easy movement on and off the bike.

The real innovation, however, is inside. Rokker uses a blend of cotton and PolyArylate, with stretch fabric incorporated for better mobility. PolyArylate, a close relative to RokkerTech’s usual UHMW-PolyEthylene, has a high melting point, low thermal conductivity (less heat passed through the material), and excellent abrasion resistance, all at a lower price than the existing RokkerTech offerings.

Class-topping protection, unparalleled comfort, and some actual style? That is why these jeans are $300.

Nitpicks: Again, armor isn’t included. We’d recommend the same SAS-TEC Flex armor for the Rider jeans’ hip and knee pockets.

Best overall motorcycle jeans: Klim K Fifty 2 Jeans

If you watched last year’s jeans gear guide, you saw the Klim K Fifty 2s take the Every Rider pick… and they’re back again this year. They continue to be a great choice for just about every kind of rider who would wear riding jeans, across lots of different body shapes and riding disciplines. They have very good abrasion resistance, armor is included in the box, and they just look good. What more could the average rider ask for?

Klim K Fifty 2 Jeans
Klim K Fifty 2 jeans. RevZilla photo.

To recap from last year, these jeans were modeled after the ubiquitous Levis 501s. Klim’s styling is super-sano, with no seams or lines that would be out of place on a regular pair of jeans. Inside, they’re anything but normal. Armor is included in the form of D3O Evo hip and knee armor, plus Poron XRD tailbone protection. The K Fifty 2s are constructed with burly Cordura denim, with a full poly mesh liner for comfort. Knitted Kevlar is sewn into the hips, knees, and seat. Knitted is an important distinction to make, because it breathes much better than woven Kevlar. That makes for a much more comfortable ride when you’re really putting the miles on.

Klim’s attention to detail is present throughout the rest of the jeans, where you’ll find rubberized rivets to prevent tank scratches. Pick ‘em up in black, stealth blue, and dark blue. If you want these jeans with little more room, the Klim K Fifty 1 jeans are the exact same, just with a more generous cut.

Nitpicks: It would be nice to see Klim move from dual-layer to single-layer construction on these jeans. However, their use of knitted Kevlar works well, and it keeps the price of these jeans under the $300 mark.

Buying the best motorcycle jeans... for you

That wraps up our picks for the best motorcycle jeans of 2020. Some you have seen before, and some are new, but our testing has shown these to be the best of what’s available for now. As one of the hottest categories of motorcycle gear, we expect to see more advancement in the coming years, but why wait? This is as good as motorcycle jeans have ever been. Use our motorcycle pants sizing and buying guide to help figure our the right pair for you, gear up and get riding!