Made of modern textiles or tough leather, and reinforced with armor and strong stitching, motorcycle pants are built to keep your skin safe in an unscheduled meeting with the asphalt. If you’ve recently invested in a pair, then you might be wondering what exactly you should be wearing under your motorcycle pants.
Under your motorcycle pants, you should wear compression leggings or compression shorts. When it’s hot outside, they wick away sweat to keep you cool and dry, in the winter they retain body heat. Many compression garments offer additional protection.
Read on to find out more about the various options available to wear underneath motorcycle pants, and which combinations are suitable for different types of riding.
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What to Wear Under Motorcycle Pants
There are pants designed to keep you cool in the summer whilst offering comfort and protection.
In winter there are various thermals available to keep you warm and trap body heat whilst allowing free movement of limbs.
Let’s take a look at a few different types...
Cold Climate – Turn up the Heat with Thermals
If you’re like me, you want to ride year-round, but riding in the winter months comes with its own set of variables.
Apart from the obvious physical obstacles of ice, hail, and snow, you’ve got the low temperatures and the wind chill factor.
Quality motorcycle riding pants will deflect and detour the wind.
Still, they won’t be enough to keep your body temperature at the level required for optimum homeostasis during a severe chill.
What can help is throwing a nice pair of thermals on underneath those riding pants.
You need to layer-up for winter riding without bulking up or interfering with your mobility, focus, comfort, and safety.
You’ll need under-layers that are efficient at retaining body heat but also thin enough to move swiftly.
My first choice recommendation would be BMW’s Functional Thermal Pants.
BMW’s functional underwear is not the same as long underwear designed for typical outdoor activities.
It’s specifically designed to meet the needs of motorcycle riders in cooler temperatures.
High-tech textiles and construction will add significantly increased comfort to your colder weather ride.
If outright warmth is your number one priority you may want to consider wearing heavier, more insulated over pants on colder days.
If you don’t want to bulk up there are warmer choices such as Under Armour or Nike Cold Gear.
Alternatively, you could look into some extreme weather hiking gear although, this is not designed specifically for motorcyclists it is still an excellent choice.
Plenty of reliable brands make polyester longjohns intended for cold-weather activities like hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and these are excellent base layers for motorcycle riding.
Active-wear-centric winter undergarments are designed with mobility in mind, keeping you warm while also being as thin and comfortable as possible.
Thermals trap your body’s heat and keep it from escaping, utilizing the natural heat-generator your body has the potential to be.
Whatever you choose, be sure to keep your base layer as tight to form as possible.
Loose-fitting clothing traps cold air between and your skin, whereas form-fitting thermals keep the air out and your body’s heat in.
Remember, comfort is king. Being distracted on a motorcycle even for a split second can be fatal. Keep yourself warm without infringing on your agility.
Hot Weather- Cool with Compression
If it’s hot out, compression leggings and compression shorts are the way to go.
Compression garments absorb your perspiration and distribute it evenly.
Once soaked into the compression cloth, sweat behaves like an evaporative air-cooling system, cooling the body down with the passing airflow the breathable summer riding pants allow with their ventilation.
Not only does compression wear help you regulate your body temperature, but it also provides a more satisfying result than non-compression wear when it comes to pulling sweat away from the body.
Compression wear also presents some less biker-specific benefits by reducing muscle cramping and even potential damage on long rides.
Compression gear increases blood flow, improving strength and stamina for those marathon hauls you hit hard during the tour you bought those riding pants for in the first place.
A few other examples of excellent wicking substances are upgraded polyester and polypropylene.
You notice that cotton isn’t on that list. Cotton is comfy, but it’s a bad idea for a hot-weather base-layer.
It takes forever to dry, so once it absorbs all the perspiration, it stays wet and bulky, and you’ll be left uncomfortable for the rest of the day.
You may also be interested in our article: Riding a motorcycle with Airpods / Airpod Pros
Do You Wear Jeans Over / Under Motorcycle Pants?
Jeans are the least comfortable thing to wear underneath riding pants and they should not be worn over or underneath riding pants. They do not provide any of the mobility and body temperature regulating properties that base layers offer.
The exception to this is if you’re wearing chaps, or something similar, designed to wear over your street clothes, then jeans can be worn underneath.
What Should You Wear Under Motorcycle Leathers?
Depending on the weather conditions you’ll want to wear something that’s appropriate for the climate.
In the warm weather, wear base layers in the form of compression garments underneath your leathers.
Compression clothing will spread out the sweat so that it evaporates more efficiently.
The evaporation cools the compression clothes, which being next to the skin, helps keep you cool.
Very thin compression clothing will keep you cooler than bare skin.
My first choice recommendation is Alpinestars Ride Tech Summer Race Undersuit.
The honeycomb open mesh structure of the material yields maximum breathability for optimal hot-weather comfort, while the compression fit reduces muscle fatigue to allow you to ride harder for longer.
Another good choice is HEAT-OUT Cool’R Long Johns which are designed to keep you cool and comfortable when temperature spikes.
In the cold weather, thermal base layers designed specifically for motorcyclists are the optimum choice with thermals designed for hiking or skiing an excellent option also.
When it’s hot, base layers help you keep cool by allowing your sweat to evaporate and do its job and, when it’s cold, base layers with some thermal properties won’t hold in moisture and make you feel cold and clammy.
The main difference between base layers and compression garments, is that while most compression garments are base layers (with the moisture management properties), not all base layers are compression garments.
Can You Wear Shorts Under Motorcycle Pants?
Wearing regular shorts underneath motorcycle pants isn’t recommended, as they tend to ride up towards your pelvis, making you uncomfortable or even cutting off blood flow during long rides. Compressions shorts or cycling shorts on the other hand are a viable option.
Compression shorts come with a whole host of benefits including reduced muscle fatigue, strain prevention and some come with additional protection.
The Alpinestars Bionic Freeride Shorts are a solid choice offering padding and hard armor to protect critical areas and can be picked up for $109.95.
Another option is the riding shorts available at LD Comfort, although these lack armor protection they are great for long-distance rides boasting features such as:
- Inner dry layer
- Chafer buffer
- Fast drying
- Rapid moisture transfer
Cycling shorts are an alternative solution, made from lightweight material they can breathe really well under motorcycle pants. A good, reputable brand is Pearl iZumi who offer a wide range of shorts.
Types of Motorcycle Pants
Now that we’ve looked at what to wear underneath your pants let’s dive into the different types of outer-layer motorcycle riding pants we might be talking about.
From chaps to be worn over your jeans to all leather riding pants, leather pants come in various styles.
Leather is a practical and stylish way to defend against abrasions like road rash and wind rash, etc. If well maintained, leathers last a long time and, if damaged, can be repaired.
What leather doesn’t do is absorb impact like armored clothing does. If you plan on more aggressive riding, consider pants with pads and armor built into them to protect the areas most susceptible to damage.
Leathers are great at protecting you from wind, rain, rocks, debris, and that gritty material routinely flung back at us by the truck up ahead that won’t let us pass.
Leather pants are water-resistant, but in the real gnarly rains, you’ll still have to bust out your rain gear and slip it over them.
Now in hot weather, you should avoid leathers.
They have zero airflows, and since they’re water-resistant, they don’t absorb the moisture you’re sweating out.
Your sweat gets trapped between the leather and your skin and sloshes around in there uncomfortably.
Synthetic Textile Pants
Motorcycle riding pants made of synthetics like polyester or Kevlar are lightweight and flexible, making them one of the more comfortable options and a viable solution to the problems that leather pants present in the heat.
That said, they’re not very insulated, so you’ll need to re-read that section above about under-layering up in the cold.
Like the leathers, synthetic pants resist water, and they dry quickly, but they’re not waterproof.
Once again, you’ll have to be sure to pack that rain gear and keep it handy.
Kevlar pants do an excellent job of preventing abrasion and absorbing some impact, but not all of it, while polyester pants do neither.
Many synthetic textile pants come equipped with padding impact prone areas, like knees and thighs, etc.
Denim Motorcycle Riding Pants
There’s a growing interest in riders to wear motorcycle riding pants that don’t loom like riding pants. Denim riding pants look, move, and feel like regular old jeans.
Like the synthetic pants, the denim riding pants generally comes with impact-absorbing padding or armor on the volatile regions of your legs.
They’re significantly more comfortable than leather or synthetic riding pants.