June 09, 2011
Finding the right trousers
For motorcycle riding, I have an Exo-700 helmet (required by law), a Fieldsheer jacket with integrated padding, Arial leather boots, and various flavors of gloves/gauntlets. What I keep experimenting with is pants.
Motorcycle gear serves two functions. One is to protect you from the euphemistically named "road rash" in the event that you should find yourself in contact with something other than the motorcycle. The other is to keep you warm. Given that I ride in Seattle and that we're apparently now experiencing 9-month winters, the latter function has been my primary focus when looking for pants.
Most of the time, therefore, I wear flannel-lined jeans, which I happen to get from Eddie Bauer. Between those and my knee-length boot socks, this keeps me warm, or at least as warm as I'm going to be in 40-degree weather. When it gets warmer, haha, as if, I have two other options. I have a couple of pairs of Carhart double-front jeans. I also have a pair of Fire Hose jeans from Duluth Trading Company, which are made (they say) from the same material that fire hoses are made of.
The Carharts and Fire Hose jeans in theory offer some measure of protection against road rash. What they are not, as I happen to know, is warm. In fact, the Fire Hose jeans are the opposite — the weave on this supposed firehose materials is such that the pants are in fact well ventilated, which is oh so noticeable on cold days.
I'm a wee bit skeptical, actually, that any of my current pants option will do much to protect me in the event of a spill. The traditional protection for motorcycle riders is of course leather. But I don't like leather for a few reasons. One is that this is Seattle, and I ride a great deal in, um, moist circumstances. Leather is also astonishingly heavy. And then there's the fashion statement that leather makes, all the more so when it's motorcycle gear, that I don't feel is, you know, the real me.
All the gear you wear and strap on in some sense undoes the sense of freedom that you have on a motorcycle. On very rare occasions I'll ride the bike without gloves, perhaps even in shorts — for example, right after I've washed it, to "dry it." It's a completely different experience from riding in a cocoon of safety gear. Moreover, on hot days, all that gear is even stifling, at least till you get out at speed on the road. Still, I would never take the bike out at speed without protection, even if it is, as might be true for my trousers, illusionary protection.