In motorcycling there’s always a trade off between protection and practicality. Currently the best protection you can get is probably leather (with built in airbag naturally), not forgetting CE Level 2 armour to chest, back, shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and presumably crossed fingers. Trouble is, the full kit can weigh up to 20 kilos, and trudging round in that lot on a hot day is no fun.
As bikers we all make judgements about risk. Here at BBM our attitude to road-riding is that we don’t expect to be able to remove every last decimal of danger from the equation. And we’ll settle for a fair compromise; gear that cuts injury severity, but is still wearable on and off the bike. Essentially we’re trading away a bit of protection for more comfort and useability.
This is where Kevlar motorcycle jeans come in. For our purposes they’re just about right – good enough damage protection but still light enough to wear off-bike. They protect, but invisibly – no one would know you’re wearing anything other denim. We tested a pair of Draggin’s ‘Biker’ jeans, but we’ll also look at the technology and the wider range.
What’s on offer
Draggin’s an Aussie company that pioneered Kevlar biking jeans back in the ’90’s. Nowadays the basic principle is familiar enough; a denim outer jean with a Kevlar-based inner lining at key crash points. Kevlar, as you’ll probably know (yawn) is 5 times stronger than steel, gram for gram, blah, blah. Stitching is usually double or treble (in Kevlar thread) and sometimes there’s removable armour for knees and hips.
Draggin’s range has now grown to include numerous styles of denim jean, cargo pants and jackets. They’ve also kept evolving the technology. Kevlar is now blended with another super-fabric known as Dyneema, and as well as stylistic differences, the range includes a number of protection level options.
The science is a bit cleverer than special fabrics though. Crucially the yellow lining is knitted and not woven. This produces a soft material in which the loop of the fabric faces the road. This is more than twice as effective in dissipating heat and resisting abrasion than a flat weave and also results is faster deceleration.
Most recently a CE Level 2 jean – the ‘Holeshot’ – has been added, and this sits alongside last year’s ‘Evo’ model, a Level 1 product. Both CE approved jeans include removable armour, but its important to realise that the CE badge relates to the protection level whole garment not just the add-on armour, and includes abrasion and tear resistance assessment as well as seam burst testing.
The top of the range Holeshot can now last for an incredible 7 seconds of on-road dragging before holing, which is substantially more than some leathers and about 16 times longer than ordinary denim. Most crashes typically last 3 or 4 seconds in terms of abrasion time.
CE certification is still something rare in biker clothing and is consequently an achievement that puts these products into a rather select club.
Draggin’ ‘Biker’ jeans
The ‘Biker’ model costs £175, and comes in stonewashed blue or grey with yellow stitching. Sizes run from 28″ (71cm) to 44″ waist-wise. there’s a standard 34 inch leg, which is fine if you want to wear stilts. The rest of us will have to get a needle and thread out.
The denim material feels soft and slightly elastic which helps fit if, like our Dave, you’ve been on the pies again. The cut is straightish with a very slight flare at the bottom of the leg to fit over boots (usually known as a boot cut).
The seams are triple stitched and the belt loops are extra wide in case you feel like wearing one of those daft leather belts with a huge eagle on the buckle. The zip is extra strong (to contain the beast within, naturally) and there are two front pockets. Of course, the jeans are machine washable.
Sizing and fit
Sizing is pretty accurate waist wise. In terms of length, the standard 34 inches for men’s jeans and the stock 32 for the specific women’s products is likely to be a tad long for some people, but of course you can always take them up. Before you do though check them when you’re on the bike. They need to fit when sitting down remember…
There’s no doubt that Kevlar jeans are effective. Our research shows that online forums testify to this and most people have now seen the famous video in which the company’s owner Grant Mackintosh put his bottom where his money is, being towed behind a car while wearing them at 60 mph. In case you haven’t, click on the pic. below to go to video.
Your choice of Draggin’ model depends on style, how much of the protective material you want and whether or not you want hard armour as well. Broadly speaking the more protection the more expensive the product. the fairly basic Biker jeans we tested came in at £175, whereas the Evo can be had for £220 and the CE Level 2 Holeshot at £260.
The ‘Biker’ Jeans have a pleasant faded stonewash colour and a soft, stretchy feel with Kevlar only in key impact areas; rear, knees and hips. We liked this. The trouble with larger amounts of protective material stuff (Holeshot is lined from waist to ankles) is that you get warm very quickly when off the bike. The ‘Biker’ jeans however have just the right amount to protect most likely areas of impact but, while warm enough on-bike, are still cool enough to walk about in. Cool enough to stroll over to the burger van anyway. It’s that ideal compromise we’re always looking for.
Despite the £175 price tag, the Biker Jeans don’t come with armour as standard some retailers throw in free knee armour – so shop around). We think that’s wrong and removable armour should be standard. The fixing method also needs improvement. In the Biker jeans you’re supposed to press Velcro-fitted standard armour against the Kevlar lining where it’s expected to stick. This is too haphazard a system to ensure the stuff stays in place in a crash and is also less than comfortable to wear, with plastic rubbing directly against the skin.
Mrs Dave ran up a couple of crude but effective hand stitched inner pockets from old bed sheets. Together with the Velcro that worked fine. Shouldn’t have to do it at this price though. Similarly a choice of leg lengths wouldn’t go amiss either.
There’s no doubting the quality of the product, with good zips, triple stitching and a fine feel to the denim. We’re confident enough of their protective capabilities to make Draggin Jeans our prime riding trouser for this summer season.
Draggin’ provide a comprehensive range of products to chose from, including jeans in various colours and styles, cargo pants, some gents and ladies versions and the two top-notch CE approved items at the top of the list.
Prices are not cheap, but what is these days? And how do you put a price on peace of mind coupled with all-day wearability and practical on and off bike usage? After a week wearing ours we struggled to remember how we’d got on without them. Good stuff.