It’s no surprise that sales of leather motorcycle trousers have declined over the past 10 years.
Adventure bike gear is in fashion and that means that leather trousers – the staple for bikers over the past 30 years – is no longer the go-to choice for most bikers.
That’s a shame because nothing quite fits like a decent pair of leather trousers. They’re flexible, no hotter than most textiles on the bike, they hold armour in place better than most textile options and they offer so much more feel than textile trousers, kevlar jeans or adventure-gear.
Then there’s the safety aspect. All motorcycle leather trousers needed to meet EN 13595 in order to be CE approved but not there’s a new standard PrEN 17092: 2018. It is being phased in, as of Summer 2019, so look for either rating on the gear you’re buying.
Leather motorcycle trousers come in three main styles:
We’re defining Sports trousers as ones that feature knee sliders. They also have a closer fit, usually with more stretch panels and fabric around the crotch, inner thigh, back of the knee and calf areas to enable you greater flexibility to get around the bike.
The vast majority are designed to tuck into your boots. Almost all Sport leather trousers have a matching jacket which can be connected with a full-length waist zip.
While hardly any leather motorcycle trousers are fully waterproof, Sports ones will be the least waterproof of all, due to the stretch panels and the fact that some of them will also have perforated leather panels.
They’re a great option for track day riders or bikers who ride sportsbikes or sports tourers but don’t want to wear a set of one-piece leathers or who want something more protective than textile trousers.
Lastly, most Sports leather trousers are available in different colour options, not just black.
We’re defining Touring motorcycle leather trousers are those without knee sliders. They’re often a slightly roomier cut than Sports leathers but far from baggy. Generally speaking, they have a wider boot cut and are designed to go over your boots (which is handy if it rains).
Some sportier options (let’s call them Sports Touring) are like a roomier Sports leather trouser. Touring leather trousers tend to have fewer fabric panels and the leather used is usually thicker than that used in Sports leather trousers. Some will also use a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex, Outdry, D-Dry or other similar fabrics.
There are fewer stretch panels as the cut is more generous but most will still feature stretch panels in areas like the calf or behind the knees. A majority of them will also have a matching jacket or will almost certainly zip into another jacket by the same manufacturer.
Most feature CE approved armour in the knees and some will come with a couple of zippered coin pockets too.
Custom motorcycle leather trousers are a much looser fit and look more like a normal pair of casual jeans but made from leather. They tend to not feature any stretch panels or armour. None the less, they offer good protection. They’re the go-to choice for cruiser and Harley types, café racers and classic bike riders.
We’ve created this review of the current range of motorcycle leather trousers in the two most popular categories: Sports and Touring. There are 100s of picks out there but we rate the products below as worthy of your attention.
The thicker the leather, generally speaking the more protection they'll offer in a crash. The trade-off is flexibility. Look for trousers that use a minimum of 1.1mm cowhide but 1.3mm is preferable. Leathers with more stretch panels will tend to offer more flexibility and a more figure-hugging fit.
Perforations & Vents
If you're after a set of leather trousers for sunny days, then perforated leather panels or zip-close vents will help keep you cool. However it (almost) goes without saying; perforations mean your trouserswon't be much good at keeping you dry if it tips it down.
If you're after a set of leather trousers for all year riding, then look for pairs that have a removable thermal liner and a waterproof membrane. These will run slightly warmer than traditional leather trousers but you'll have the ability to use the thermal liner to keep you warm and dry when it rains.
Most Sports or Touring-style leather trousers will feature CE approved armour in the knees but not all will have it in the hips. You can always buy separate hip armour but make sure the trousers have internal pouches to install it.
It makes sense to buy a set of trousers from the same manufacturer that made your jacket. That way you'll have a far greater chance of being able to zip the two together, to offer more protection and more weatherproofing. If they won't connect you can always buy a connecting zip from Amazon and get it sewn in.
Some models feature a vertical zip on the calf, which when unzipped reveals an extra piece of fabric. In short, it slackens off the calf area, making the trousers more comfortable. A nice touch.
Some styles will be available in different leg lengths, usually Long or Short, allowing you to get a pair of trousers that fit really well.
If your trousers come with a mesh lining it'll make them far easier to get on and off and they'll feel less sticky in hot conditions too. Ideally, the lining will be removable so you can wash it, to keep your trousers fresh. Stink-ehh!
Some touring trousers will come with a boot cut, which will allow you to run the trousers over the top of your boots. This is a great way of channelling water away from your boots and keeping your feet dry. If you plan to ride in all weathers, this is a feature worth looking out for.
Below are our two picks for the best leather motorcycle trousers for sportier riders. They both feature knee sliders, can both be zipped into jackets to form a two-piece that’ll enable you to ride on a trackday and they both feature CE approved armour. These are our best picks.
RST’s Blade leather trousers are everything you could want for trackdays or weekend blasts. All seams are double-stitched, with triple stitching in impact areas. There’s CE approved hip and knee armour and double layer leather on the seat for added abrasion resistance. They’re fully lined to improve comfort and they feature stretch zones in the crotch and inner thigh for added range of movement. There’s a waist adjuster (for those Sunday fry-ups) and RST’s kneesliders are included. All in all, an amazing spec at a great price.
Made from premium 1.3mm leather with a full internal mesh lining. There are CE Level 1 knee protectors and pockets for hip armour. They’re pre-curved for a more comfortable fit and feature ankle and waist adjustment as well as accordion leather areas above the knees and stretch fabric in the crotch and calf to make them super-flexible. Priced quite a bit higher than our Top Pick but if you fancy treating yourself; Alpinestars gear is very special.
If you want comfort and protection then a pair of Touring leather trousers is likely your best option. They can be bought in many styles, including with waterproof membranes or liners, leather/textile mix, mesh liners and even cut slightly looser, for added comfort. These are our best picks.
There aren’t many waterproof leather trousers on the market but these Hydra trousers from Weise didn’t get our best pick on weatherproofing alone. Made from 1.2 – 1.4mm leather and featuring a fully waterproof lining, CE approved armour in the knees and hips. There are stretch panels in the (deep breath), crotch, calf, knee, inner leg and lower back making them supremely comfortable. There’s a waterproof-zipped vent on each thigh and perforated vents on the upper thigh meaning you can remove the lining and have a quality set of summer trousers or an all-weather set with the lining. They’re not cheap but they’re built to last.
If you’ve ever seen the quality of Dainese’s leather gear, you’ll know that these Alien trousers are a cut above the rest. They only lose out to our Top Pick due to the fact they’re not waterproof but if you’re not bothered about the rain, go for these. Made from Dainese’s premium D-skin leather, they feature CE approved knee and shin protectors and CE approved soft hip protection. Abrasion-resistant bielastic stretch zones, fully lined and featuring double calf zips for added comfort. There’s a full connection zip to connect to a Dainese jacket. These are quality leather trousers that, if looked after, will last for a decade or three.
Cheap isn’t always the best option when it comes to motorcycle leathers. They should last you for a good 5 years of regular use, so is it really worth spending £70 on a cheap pair of trousers when around £120 will get you a fair better set, built to last?
We shopped around for the cheapest motorcycle leather trousers we could find. The cheapest ones are generally leather jeans, made for cruiser riders. They tend to have no armour and are a basic cut, hence they’re cheaper.
We found this pair of Soft Premium Leather Motorcycle Pants from a brand called Bikers Gear Australia. They feature 1.2mm leather, CE approved armour and YKK zips. They get very good reviews from owners. Not a bad bet for those on a budget.
While the cheap ones will do the job, if you can afford to push the boat out a little bit, then check out these DXR Kickback Leather Jeans which cost around £120. They’re made from 1.2mm cowhide and feature CE certified knee protection, a removable cotton lining, and patches on the knees to accomodate kneesliders.
Don't rule out sports leather trousers if you want a more fitted trouser. You can always remove the knee sliders.
If you've already got a leather or textile jacket, then motorcycle trousers from the same manufacturer will almost always zip into the jacket.
There are only a handful of leather motorcycle trousers that claim to be waterproof. Most will be water-resistant but you can always improve this by using a water-repelling treatment such as Nikwax, which takes just minutes to apply and works well.
We were expecting to see thin pickings for female motorcyclists in this category but of over 250 pairs of leather motorcycle trousers that we found, over 60 of them were made specifically in women’s fit, which is excellent.
What to pay
We reckon these Dainese Assen leather trousers are a great buy. A specific women’s fit, they’re a sporty leather trouser but not garish and could easily do the job on a touring trip or the daily commute.
Made form cowhide and fully lined, they feature stretch panels in the crotch and backs of knees. There’s CE approved armour in the knees and leather patches which you can replace with knee sliders. Hip adjustment and a zip to connect to a jacket. They’re a stylish option and pretty well-priced.
Are leather motorcycle trousers waterproof?
No, but they can be rain repellant. Most leather trousers will withstand a light shower but a prolonged downpour will saturate the leather and soak in. Once they’re wet, they take a long time to dry.
You can buy products like Nikwax Fabric & Leather waterproofing which will hugely improve the waterproofing of your kit, from leathers to textile jackets or gloves but if you are caught out in a downpour and want to stay dry, you’ll need a pair of waterproof motorcycle trousers.
Does anyone make Gore-Tex leather trousers
Not that we could find. A good few years ago (possibly a decade – doesn’t time fly!?) Alpinestars made a leather touring suit called the 365 GTX. This was mega-expensive stuff, costing around £900 for the trousers and probably about the same for the jacket. They were, however, incredible. I rode from Barcelona to Gibraltar in a day, around 750 miles in total, all of it in the pissing rain and I mean, palm trees bent sideways kinda weather. I didn’t feel a single drop of water creeping in, which was about the only good memory from that day. Alpinestars stopped making them about a year after they were introduced. Surprisingly, not many bikers had £2,000 to drop on a leather touring suit…
Can I upgrade the armour in my leather trousers?
The answer is most likely: yes. If your armour is removable then you can buy any aftermarket armour and slot it in. A lot of jeans will come with knee armour but many don’t have any hip armour. You can buy soft armour from companies like D3O and Rev’it, which is well worth it.
Are leather motorbike trousers hot?
Honestly, they’re not that bad. On seriously hot days, any bike gear is hot but I’d wager you’d be more comfortable in leathers than you would in textiles. Unless you have lots of zipped vents, which allow lots of air in. But if you like being hot, definitely don’t wear Kevlar motorcycle jeans on a sunny day; you’ll bake.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this leather motorcycle trousers review: