Riding Pants vs Knee Guards: Decoded


A quintessential question each motorcycle rider has in mind before buying safety gear for the legs and the knees: Are knee pads good enough or should I go in for proper riding pants? After reading the article below, you will be able to make an informed decision about the same.Let us compare them on the following points:


  • Knee pads can be largely classified into two types: Bionic and non-bionic. Bionic ones are worn on top of your regular pants/jeans. They usually extend over the shin bone as well. They fit over your knees with the help of two or more straps. The non-bionic ones are generally worn inside your pants/jeans and most have have shin protection too.
  • The biggest drawback of knee guards is that they only provide protection to the knees and/or shin bone. The hips are not protected and moreover, since you are wearing regular pants/jeans, no abrasion resistance is present. What this means is, with just the knee guards on, the remaining parts of your legs will scrape on the tarmac and could cause severe skin and cartilage damage in case of a fall.
  • Another gripe with knee guards is that they sometimes tend to slowly slide down as you ride. This could be potentially dangerous as the knee guard could get displaced and leave your knee exposed during a fall.
  • Note: For knee guards that are meant to be worn on the inside of your pants, do not get tempted to wear them on the outside for the sake of comfort, because the knee guards are sure to slide down if worn on the outside.
Knee guards

Knee guards shall only protect the knee and shin bone. The regular jeans over them have no abrasion resistance during a fall


  • When it comes to riding pants, they come with inbuilt knee guards and most also have hip guards. The biggest difference though, is that these pants are made of abrasion resistant materials like leather or synthetic materials like nylon, Cordura, mesh, Kevlar, etc. This shall surely save your skin from scraping the tarmac.
  • One drawback of most riding pants though, is that they do not have shin protectors. (Note: This drawback is eliminated if you wear full-length riding boots as they provide shin protection)
  • While buying riding pants, make sure you sit on your motorcycle and ensure the inbuilt knee pads fit perfectly over your knee and don’t move around. This is extremely important as you do not want to have the pads getting displaced on impact.
  • Another important but unknown benefit of wearing riding pants is: Say you are riding somewhere with standalone knee guards and decide to halt at a restaurant. You remove your jacket gloves, helmet and knee guards to get comfortable. Now while getting ready to leave, you put on your jacket and other protective gear. But suppose you just need to ride a few more kilometers to reach your next stop point, you might think there is no point wearing the knee guards again, and you may end up asking your pillion to hold on to the knee guards, or you may put them inside a bag. Now imagine a mishap happening within these few kilometers of riding, and you will badly repent not wearing the knee guards. This particular tendency is completely eradicated with riding pants, as you cannot take them off until you reach home.

To know about the importance of riding pants, click here.

Riding Pants

Along with knee and hip protection, riding pants also provide abrasion resistance during a fall


  • Riding pants are way more comfortable than knee guards. The knee guards that go under your jeans are particularly uncomfortable, what with the straps sitting tight against your legs causing itching and irritation after a while.
  • Wearing riding pants while walking is more comfortable than walking with knee guards.
  • Most riding pants also feature vents for cooling and also have a detachable rain/thermal liner. This virtually makes riding pants usable in almost all weather conditions.
  • One disadvantage of riding pants is you cannot always wear them on daily commutes to office (If you need to wear formal clothes), or to parties or to say, a business meeting. In this case, you can opt in for standalone knee guards. Another partial solution is to wear riding pants made of denim, which include protective armor along with reinforced Kevlar at the impact points.



  • Riding pants are generally quite a bit more expensive than knee guards, but totally worth the extra cost considering the extra safety benefits.



I strongly recommend using riding pants over knee guards as much as possible. But for situations where wearing riding pants is not possible, you can opt for knee guards and ensure you buy genuine CE certified ones. The same holds true for riding pants: ensure that the knee and/or hip armors are CE certified and authentic.

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Suraj Patil

Founder/Editor-in-Chief at Moto Gear Advisor
A techie on weekdays, Suraj makes a Ninja-shift to being a hardcore rider on weekends and administrator of Moto Gear Advisor at night.

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  • http://www.ashwinram.in Ashwin Ram

    Good article..
    I have a doubt..
    Are the knee protectors on the riding/touring pants as good as the knee guards?
    I recently has a major fall and the MadBike knee guards took a huge blow and saved my knee, while leaving my legs to be abraded.. The steel caps that fit on the knees used to be convex, which became concave after the heavy impact. When I imagined the same situation with riding pants, I think the foam padding would’ve transferred a good part of the impact to my knees, while the steel guard absorbed all of it..
    So what should I do? I am looking for a solution that includes full abrasion resistance, thigh and hip guards too and proper impact absorption on the knee section. I will buy full size boots soon, so the shin part may be covered..

    • http://motogearadvisor.com/ Suraj Patil

      Hey Ashwin, first of all, hope you are fine after the fall.

      Coming to your query, well, the logic behind any armor is: it should dissipate as much impact energy as possible within the armor itself, and must transfer least energy to the impact point, in your case it’s the knee. So the type of armor you get in a riding pant is flexible and not too rigid. The flexible nature allows the dissipation of energy within the armor. On impact, the armor compresses at the knee and dissipates energy effectively.

      In your case, the metal cup took the brunt of the impact force. Well, I cannot say for certain if this is better than what you get in riding pants. Will have to have a look at those knee guards. The metal cup would have benefitted only if it is specifically designed to absorb energy on impact.