Most citybikers don’t wear leg protection because leather pants look silly walking around (Ross in leather pants), and you can’t take your pants off in public the way you take off a motorcycle jacket. Unfortunately nothing beats a pair of good perforated leather track pants for comfort, control and safety…but that doesn’t mean you have to wear nothing at all.
Textile pants look okay in public (although they can be dowdy looking). And if you get them a size larger you can usually throw them on over your work pants. The benefit there is that you don’t have to worry about getting your work pants mucked up on the commute, and you can take off over-pants anywhere…although people might get uncomfortable when you take your pants off in front of them…go figure! The down side – and this is a big down side for me – is that they are so darn slippery. I never realized how much grip regular jeans give me on my seat and tank until I hit the brakes (on my maiden voyage wearing Alpinestars Cargo pants) and nearly flew off! Teflon coated denim offers more protection than regular jeans but offer less protection than textile riding pants with CE armor, but they are much less slippery. Cruiser riders will probably manage just fine wearing textiles because of their forward footrests, but for sportier bikes the solution is to get Stomp Grip pads for your tank… But without Stomp Grips, textile pants are too slippery, so avoid…
Icon, Alpinestars, and Dainese all sell knee pads that you can wear under or over your pants. Although the Alpinestars and Dainese models look good, I liked the look of the Icon Field Armor better. A couple of years ago I picked up a pair of these, so here’s a little review (or you can read a better review here).
That’s me with my knobby knees wearing my Icon Field Armor Leg Protection
The ICONS tend to be on the smaller side, so if you have huge calves these aren’t for you. I like the hard plastic armor shell (kind of like GP armor – although these pads are not CE rated), and the velcro straps keep it in position well enough. Wearing them under a pair of loose fitting jeans or khaki’s no one can tell I’m wearing them…sort of… Although if when you’re standing straight the fabric tends to bunch up a little at the knees a little adding a little frump to your look. Are they comfortable? I wouldn’t say they are “uncomfortable,” but they’re not really “comfortable.” I wouldn’t want to wear them around all day (but I have worn them for 6 hour stretches and survived). And unless your pant legs are super loose, you will probably need to take your pants off to take off the armor.
So until race leathers come into fashion, I think a good pair of textile pants (with Stom Grips) or knee armor are must-haves for your riding kit for when your taking longer commutes or touring.