Riding Pants vs. Chaps for Motorcycles in Florida
There are many options for protective gear when one rides a motorcycle, but during Florida summers it is hot. Unfortunately, some people make the unwise decision to skip the hot protective gear. Shorts and t-shirts are the norm. Some may not even wear helmets. A few ditch the shoes for flip-flops. The results can be catastrophic, which is why people should consider their options for protective gear in the summer heat. This includes the consideration of riding pants vs. chaps.
Why Safety Gear?
If road rash doesn’t paint a cringe-worthy picture for you, then you need to do some research. The impact of a crash while riding a motorcycle can cause major damage, but typically the road rash is the worst. This is because road rash is the abrasion of skin and muscle away from the body. These abrasions can be superficial and heal on their own. They can also be severe and require surgery that may include skin grafts. In severe cases, major abrasions can require multiple surgeries and cause lasting mobility and nerve problems.
Safety gear that covers the arms, legs, head, and torso can eliminate or minimize road rash. Depending on the type and quality, a person can skid across the roadway for many feet at a high rate of speed and remain relatively unscathed. You ever wonder how motorcyclists walk away from big wrecks? It’s because of the safety gear. The riders who don’t have a very different and painful story if they survive at all.
Types of Riding Pants
There are multiple types of motorcycle pants (and chaps) that all have various qualities that appeal to different riders. From mesh to leather, these options all offer better coverage than going without. Some qualities to consider in riding pants are:
- Ease of Use
Safety used to mean leather, and this was the primary material used for motorcycle chaps or pants. Things haven’t changed much over the past decades. Leather is naturally tear resistant, and many people still consider it the best protection against road rash.
Typically, safety in leather gear can be measured by thickness and construction. The thicker the jacket, the more protection it offers. However, the way the leather was tanned and processed also affects safety. More importantly, you want to make sure the leather panels are double stitched together. Single stitch or glued panels are likely to tear apart when put to the test.
Man made pants and chaps are made out of materials that can be about as safe as leather. The big difference is that man made materials are more combustible, which means they may melt faster during high speed slides. Still, there are many breathable options that will make wearing them during the summer more acceptable.
The major difference in safety between pants and chaps is coverage and fit. Chaps don’t always have full rear or groin coverage, which makes those areas of the body less protected. Chaps still offer acceptable coverage for many motorcycle riders.
Leather is warm, and it can be difficult to get on and off in the summer heat. Still, it is so protective that it is worth considering. There are also perforated and vented options that increase cooling air flow. Man made materials are often more popular for their cooling features. Kevlar riding jeans, for instance, are warmer than regular jeans but some feel they do a better job of keeping the body cool.
Chaps offer an advantage when it comes to warmth because there is a gap in coverage in the groin and rear area. Some people who ride in cold conditions in northern regions of the U.S. actually complain that they get cold because of this gap. It’s a bonus to get any cooling feature in the South during the summer.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is a problem with some motorcycle pants, and chaps are easily removed without undressing. However, many motorcycle pants now come with side zippers, so you can easily remove them too. Either way, it is something to consider.
Another ease of use issue is if you can discreetly wear them in public. This is most achievable with riding jeans, as riding pants and chaps are typically recognizable.
If you are going to take them off when you get to your destination, portability may be a problem. This is especially true for tall or husky people because their clothes don’t pack into as small of a bundle. Chaps are sometimes chosen because they are more likely to easily fit in saddlebags. With new materials being thinner while still offering protection, this may not be an issue with some pants.
After safety, motorcycle riders typically look to comfort. This includes how hot they will get in the summer heat, but it also includes fit. A proper fitting pair of leather motorcycle pants will hug the body like a second layer of skin. Many riders report that leather is the most comfortable riding material. There are other things you can do to increase comfort no matter what the material is such as wearing proper under layers that keep you cool and dry. Both chaps and pants are reported as being comfortable for motorcycle riders.
Cost varies, but if you go cheap with chaps or pants, you may pay later in medical bills. Generally speaking, chaps are less expensive than pants. If you are trying to save money, make sure you pay attention to construction. It is possible to get good gear without spending a ton of money. You must be careful to consider spending a little extra if you cannot find well-constructed pants or chaps.
Appearance is at the end of the list. This is not because people don’t consider it important. For many, it is the MOST important aspect. Still, motorcycle riders definitely try to achieve one of a variety of looks, and it is an important aspect of the process of picking out riding gear. Chaps have a stigma for some, but many motorcyclists rise above the stigma and choose their pants or chaps based on personal preference. The appearance is generally dictated by leather or man made materials. Man made materials tend to look more modern, and leather is more traditional. There are many exceptions to this.
Don’t Leave Your Skin on the Road. Get Riding Pants or Chaps, and Wear Them!
If there is one take-home message to all of this information about riding pants and chaps, it is that you need some gear. The heat is a terrible excuse not to wear things that will keep your skin on your body and off the road. This is especially true because there are so many options, and many of them will help to keep you cooler than traditional gear.
Think twice about complacency when it comes to gear. You may be a great rider, but the open road is filled with drivers who don’t see motorcycles, and this results in terrible crashes. For the person with good gear, he or she has an opportunity to walk away from a crash with minor injury. For the person in flip flops and shorts, they have a long road to recovery.