Can I Ride A Motorcycle With Shorts?

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There’s a lot that goes into riding a motorcycle and some of that includes the apparel you wear. Because motorcycles leave you much more exposed than cars, wearing the right gear is important for your safety.

Most people understand that a helmet is a vital part of riding a motorcycle, but what about the other gear? And why are they so important? The appropriate type of riding pants is sometimes misunderstood among motorcyclists.

Can I ride a motorcycle with shorts? While there are no laws prohibiting you from wearing shorts when riding a motorcycle, it is not advised to do so. Wearing shorts leaves your legs exposed to possible burns from the motorcycle engine and exhaust pipes as well as making them susceptible in the case of an accident.

You’ll see a handful of motorcyclists throughout the year wearing shorts while riding. And I’ll admit, I’ve done it myself before. While wearing shorts can make a ride more comfortable, there’s a lot of negative possibilities that can happen to your legs and this article can explain the importance of wearing the right type of pants.

Why Riding With Shorts Is Dangerous

I completely understand that wearing long pants while riding a motorcycle can be uncomfortable, let alone be less fashionable as well. But there’s a lot more to riding a motorcycle than looking fashionable.

There’s a reason motorcyclists need to wear long pants while riding: safety. Wearing shorts makes your legs so much more susceptible to a lot of elements offered while out for a ride.

You need to remember that while you’re riding a motorcycle, your legs are next to extremely hot exhaust pipes and an extremely hot engine. It’s not uncommon for a motorcyclist to occasionally get burned from either of these components and any seasoned rider will tell you it’ll happen eventually if it hasn’t already happened to you. This is something that happens just during a simple ride.

In addition, if the motorcycle were to tip over on top of one of your legs after it had been running for a while, your legs are even more exposed and the burns will be even more severe.

Shorts also won’t protect your legs from the debris the road has to offer. Though good riding pants won’t completely protect your from projectile objects, they’ll help with some damage control. There are so many things such as rocks, glass, and shrapnel that can easily collide with your legs in which shorts will do nothing to protect you.

If you aren’t properly maintaining your motorcycle, specifically the chain, you’ve put yourself in more danger by wearing shorts on top of that. It’s possible for a motorcycle chain to break and whip up against your leg. It’s never happened to me, but you can imagine how much that would hurt with zero protection?

Let’s not forget how much shorts won’t protect you during a motorcycle accident. Your legs are completely exposed so there’s nothing between you and the asphalt. A lot of people will argue that jeans or even motorcycle pants don’t do much good for you either and will only save you about two seconds before they rip and expose your legs.

Two whole seconds, however, can make a huge difference. I’d rather have two less seconds of asphalt impact than to have completely exposed legs from the start.

On that same note, those who wear shorts while riding a motorcycle are more likely to wear the accompanying comfortable shoes such as sandals. You don’t very often see someone wearing shorts and boots at the same time while on a motorcycle. This increases the chance of injury even further because now your feet are completely exposed to the same components and elements we previously discussed.

What You Should Wear Instead

Aside from knowing that you shouldn’t wear shorts while riding a motorcycle, some motorcyclists out there know they need to wear long pants but aren’t sure about the type of long pants that are suitable.

Honestly, any type of long pants are much better than wearing shorts. Again, though it may only protect your skin a few seconds longer, that’s much better than having to feel those few seconds on completely exposed skin. Any time you ride a motorcycle, always wear long pants accompanied by boots that cover the ankles.

Denim should be the minimum that’s covering your legs. I’ve had great success with denim in helping me prevent burns caused by parts on my motorcycle. Though I’ve been slightly burned while still wearing denim, I would have had significantly more injury had I not been wearing denim in the first place.

Denim can also help prevent the amount of injury caused by debris thrown at you from the road you’re riding on. Denim is a sturdy cotton textile that tends to be stronger than other everyday generic materials. That’s why it’s recommended to use as a minimal type of coverage while riding a motorcycle. Click here to see the jeans I recommend for riding.

But if you want to do motorcycling right and wear the right gear, the best type of pants to wear while riding is kevlar, leather, or other synthetic materials specifically made for riding. Materials like these were made to heavily withstand a motorcycle accident. While it may not prevent broken bones, it can greatly help with skin to asphalt contact a rider may experience.

How To Counteract The Heat

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons a motorcyclist will wear shorts while riding is because of the heat. I totally get that; wearing long pants in hot weather is pretty uncomfortable and may even impact the way you ride.

Luckily, engineers and manufacturers are way ahead of all of us on this one. There is plenty of merchandise out there suitable for summer wear for a motorcyclist that will make them just as comfortable but still provide the best protection.

A lot of motorcycle pants are made out of some sort of mesh or other type of high ventilated material. Materials like these are very welcomed among motorcycle enthusiasts that love to ride during the hot summer days. And if anything, these are more comfortable than wearing shorts because they have ventilation everywhere; regular shorts can still make it uncomfortably warm in the butt and crotch area.

When you’re looking for gear to wear during the summer, make sure you read the description and understand what type of material it’s made out of. Winter riding pants are very different from summer riding pants and you don’t want to accidentally wear the wrong type on a hot day.

Other gear you need to wear while riding a motorcycle can also be found with cooling ventilation systems to keep a rider comfortable. Such gear includes helmets, jackets, and gloves. If you’re wanting to keep yourself as protected as possible while still riding in the summer, invest in ventilated gear altogether instead of wearing shorts.

There are other things you can do to keep yourself cool on a ride that doesn’t involve gear. Such ideas may include keeping yourself hydrated before, during, and after your ride. If you must ride in the heat, make sure to take frequent breaks; you can easily become dehydrated without knowing it.

If the weather is hot enough to tempt you to wear shorts on your ride, make sure to take note of how your motorcycle is doing throughout the day. Hotter weather can increase the chances of a motorcycle engine overheating. An overheating engine can make it very hot for you since you’re literally a few inches away from it.

Wearing shorts can be incredibly tempting when riding a motorcycle, especially when you’re going down the street a few blocks or don’t plan on riding for too long. But an accident or a burn from the bike only takes a few seconds. A quick stroll consists of many seconds and opportunities to get hurt while wearing such attire.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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