I recently got sucked in by a well-known motorcycle gear website with a seasonal sale email. I’m deep in the rabbit hole, browsing the pages full of deeply discounted gear. I spot a pair of women’s riding leggings that catch my eye. My first step is to always head to the reviews. I like to see what other people think. I find this review below:
I bought these and wore them all day yesterday. We got rained on, so they get wet and grimy from the road. When I washed them today I realizes there THERE IS NO KEVLAR in these leggings. For some unknown reason they decided to replace the Kevlar lining with yellow Polyamide. Polyamide=nylon. I am sure all you ladies already know that nylon melts easily and is not abrasion resistant.Jessie B
Table of Contents
Polyamides are a generalized category for synthetic fibers. Under this umbrella name, you will find aliphatic polyamides. This is the group that nylon falls under. Another group is the aromatic polyamides, which is where aramid fiber falls. Marsupials and primates are both categories under the mammal umbrella. You wouldn’t say humans (a primate) and kangaroos (a marsupial) are the same. The same concept applies to aramid fibers and nylon fibers.
What Is Aramid Lining?
An “aramid fiber” is a type of polyamide. The fiber is synthetic with a long-chain molecular construction that has short interconnections. At least 85% of the amide linkages are attached to two aromatic rings. The US Federal Trade Commission defines this standard.
This molecular structure gives aramid fiber a mechanical strength better than steel or glass fibers when compared on an equal weight basis.
Scientifically, there are a lot of aramid fiber compositions. However, not all of them are commercially produced or sold. There are six that are actively used for commercial purposes. Not all six are used for motorcycle gear. The rest aren’t used commercially simply because it doesn’t make sense for various reasons. Essentially, someone hasn’t figured out how to make them profitable.
History of Aramid in Motorcycle Gear
The first aramid fiber-reinforced motorcycle gear first hit the market in the 1960s. You may remember Nomex®. In the following years, Kevlar®, Zylon® or PBO, and M5® fibers came out. Today, you see name-brand and generic “aramid fiber” or “polyamide” used to indicate that highly abrasion-resistant fibers are present in clothing or gear.
M-aramid Fibers, P-aramid Fibers, and Aramid Co-polymer Fibers
There are three categories of aramid fibers. Nomex® is the trade name for an m-aramid fiber example. These semi-crystalline fibers have high heat resistance. A wet spinning method is used to make the fibers. Kevlar® is a trade name for a p-aramid fiber. These full crystalline fibers have high strength. The production method is a dry-jet wet-spinning method using spun or continuous filaments. Finally, co-polymer fibers have an acrylic resin binder that bonds with the aramid fiber.
How Is Aramid Different From Kevlar®?
Kevlar® is a brand name from DuPont. Kevlar® is made from aramid fibers. Nomex®, Twaron, Covec, Pekev, and Technora are also brand names for aramid fibers. Just because you don’t see “Kevlar” on the tag does not mean the clothing or motorcycle gear doesn’t have aramid fibers. It just means the manufacturer didn’t want to pay DuPont for the branded stuff. It’s like buying the store brand instead of the name brand in the grocery store.
How Is Aramid Different From Cordura?
This is what that reviewer thought of when they called the lining nylon. Except that Cordura is actual nylon fiber. It’s a synthetic fiber made by blending synthetic materials with cotton or other natural fibers. Cordura is more abrasion-resistant than plain natural fibers but is not as strong as aramid fiber.
Why Is Aramid So Strong?
Aramid fibers get their strength from their molecular structure. The bonds between the molecules are short, making them stronger.
Is Aramid Stronger Than Leather?
This is a question that gets asked all the time, yet the answers are always all over the place. There is no denying that an AAA-rated leather suit is the most protective motorcycle gear you can wear while riding. However, most of us aren’t fully suited to go cruising around town. So, let’s leave the racing suits out of this conversation.
So, is aramid fabric or leather stronger? That depends. What do you mean by stronger? Let’s focus on abrasion resistance. Not all leather is the same quality and, therefore, does not have the same level of abrasion resistance. Aramid-lined clothing is not all the same quality either. A low-quality piece of motorcycle
gear in either category will let you down. High-quality motorcycle gear in both categories can effectively protect you.
The source of a lot of confusion is the abundant amount of anecdotal evidence. The problem with this type of evidence is that it does not consider variable factors. There are a lot of variables that can impact the performance of motorcycle gear or clothing in the event of a post-accident slide.
- Quality of the aramid fiber
- Quality of the leather
- Speed of slide
- Distance of the slide
- Condition of the surface you are sliding on
- Condition of the gear
- Age of the gear
- Weight applying pressure on the gear in contact with the road during the slide
Most rider slides last a few seconds. So you need motorcycle gear that will protect you for that amount of time. There are aramid or kevlar® riding jeans that can do this. The outer material may look torn to pieces, but your skin underneath will be fine.
What Are the Disadvantages of Aramid?
It seems like the more protective clothing and motorcycle gear are, the hotter and more uncomfortable it tends to be. Aramid-lined riding jeans are more protective than regular jeans. But they are also hotter, stiffer, and heavier. The more aramid lining there is, the warmer the jeans feel.
Why Is Aramid Fabric Yellow?
Aramid fibers are naturally yellow. The traditional textile dying process uses one of the two methods. Either dye molecules enter the strand and become trapped, or they chemically adhere to the fiber. Neither of these processes works for aramid fibers.
Changing the color of aramid fibers from yellow to something else requires a resin binder. This extra process would make the clothing or gear unnecessarily more expensive.
Can Aramid Fiber Stop a Bullet?
No! Your Kevlar®-lined clothing does not make you bulletproof. While technically, the plates in a bulletproof vest do use aramid fibers, the manufacturing process is different. It takes multiple layers of fibers to build strength enough to stop a bullet. I happen to own some body armor. As you can see, the plate that goes in it looks very different from the lining in my riding jeans.
Does Aramid Degrade Over Time?
Yes! Aramid fiber is not immune to degrading. The quickest way it will degrade is by getting exposed to extreme heat. Thankfully, you probably aren’t hanging out in 932 degrees Fahrenheit. However, aramid is also susceptible to UV rays, acids, and some salts.
Aramid fibers change color and lose their strength when exposed to UV rays. This is kind of a problem when you’re wearing it while motorcycle riding. US rays do go through clothing. Albeit denim does block US rays better than other fabrics, it does not completely prevent them from getting through. So, wearing your gear while riding on a sunny day could be slowly causing your aramid underlayer to degrade over time.
Aramid fibers can be treated with a light screener or ultraviolet absorber during manufacturing. This protects the fibers and improves their performance. However, this isn’t commonly mentioned or talked about in motorcycle gear descriptions. If you ride a lot in a sunny climate, like where I live in Florida, maybe consider replacing your aramid-lined clothing every few years or so. You replace your helmet and armor inserts; why not your clothing?
How to Shop for Kevlar® and Aramid-Reinforced Motorcycle Clothing
When shopping for Kevlar® or Aramid-reinforced motorcycle clothing, the best thing to do is turn it inside out. That way, you can get a clear view of what that piece of cloth protects. You will quickly learn that not all pieces are made the same or protect the same. For example, some jeans only have the abrasion-resistant lining on the seat. Others have it around the seat, hips, and front. Others also have it on the knees. Then, there are the jeans that are fully lined from waistband to cuff.
You will also see that there are single and double-layer pieces. With the double-layer pieces, the inside-out method works. However, the single-layer method weaves the aramid fibers into the fabric. The cloth fibers (like cotton) go in one direction, and the aramid fibers go in the other.
The single-layer clothing pieces are lighter and easier to wear. High-quality ones feel almost just like a regular pair of jeans, albeit heftier. However, the single-layer fabrics haven’t always been particularly effective. Modern technology has significantly improved this, though. Check out Halvarssons, Spidi, Rokkertech, and PMJ for quality single-layer aramid reinforced riding jeans. Be careful with low-cost options! You may be buying single-layer riding pants that do not have aramid. Instead, they use Cordura. As discussed earlier, this is not the same and won’t be as protective.
What jeans are best for motorcycle riding?
The best jeans for motorcycle riding are those specifically made for it. They will have more stretch in the fabric to make them more comfortable. They will also have extra space in the crotch. They will also have protective measures that will protect you in the event of a fall.
Are regular jeans OK for motorcycle riding?
While you technically can wear regular jeans for motorcycle riding, they are not the best idea. They are not designed to be abrasion-resistant or have any protective qualities.
What is the difference between motorcycle jeans and regular jeans?
Motorcycle jeans have a different pattern for their structure. They also have abrasion resistance and pockets for armor. They also come in longer lengths to account for them getting shorter when you bend your knees while riding.
Are Kevlar riding jeans worth it?
Buying Kevlar riding jeans is worth it because they will provide you with more protection than wearing regular jeans. They are also more comfortable and breathable than wearing leather.
Does a beginner motorcycle rider need pants?
Yes, all riders need proper motorcycle gear. Whether you are starting out or have been riding for years, you should wear proper gear and attire that will protect you.