When you’re running one of the world’s biggest motorcycle websites, a lot of gear passes your desk. Some of it is great, most of it is average, and a few pieces miss the mark completely.
Unfortunately, it’s the younger companies that usually fall short. Their founders often have ambition, but not the skills or the access to technology to take on the big guns. Exceptions to this rule are rare: Aether Apparel, Pagnol Moto and Velomacchi spring to mind.
So when I first heard of Saint, I was cynical. The motorcycle denim market is littered with failures. And it’s notoriously hard to figure out exactly how tough a pair of jeans is. Worse, when it comes to safety standards and the testing of jeans, … let’s just say it’s easier to understand the plot of Inception.
No wonder the most effective jeans marketing technique was to film some poor ‘stunt man’ being towed along a road by a motorcycle until his buttocks started smouldering.
But right from the start, Saint seemed to be different. Their early pieces were well made, with intricate detailing on a par with household name brands. And the technology and manufacturing process seemed to check out as well. (The company founders have experience in the high-tech sports clothing market, and it shows.)
Saint now has the game changer: the new Model 4 jean. The protection is built into the fabric; it’s not a separate, hot or bulky lining. So it’s the jean itself that has passed the coveted CE 1 rating, not the add-on armour inside. It has a ‘slide time’ of six seconds, or around 75 metres.
This makes all the difference. The fabric is obviously not as gossamer-smooth or flexible as the 11oz denim on your whiskered old pair of Edwins: it feels more like a heavier weight of selvedge, with a slight canvas texture. The detailing and stitching is immaculate.
The fit is comfortable and you’re immediately aware that there’s no Kevlar lining shifting around on the inside. The supplied armour is discreet and doesn’t mess up the fit. And unlike heavy selvedge, there’s little pressure on your bent knees: there’s a ribbed section halfway down the leg for extra flexibility.
The disadvantage? The price. At a smidge over US$300, the Model 3 jeans are not cheap. But then again, a Tesla is not cheap either. You’re paying for ground-breaking research and technology, and Saint is at the top of this particular game.
As the cliché goes, “If you’ve got a ten dollar head, buy a ten dollar helmet.” I’m not a fan of leather trousers or heavy textiles, and much as I admire Valentino Rossi, I don’t want to look like the president of the VR46 fan club when riding to work or the local café.
Until now, wearing motorcycle jeans has meant a compromise between safety and style. That gap has just narrowed dramatically.