Date reviewed: July 2023 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £229.99 | www.merlinbikegear.shop
The Merlin Maynard riding jeans on review here are yet another reason, in my view at least, not to bother buying any motorcycle riding jeans rated below AAA, the highest level under EN17092. These motorcycle jeans are more proof that, with clever design, you can offer the abrasion resistance, seam and burst strength necessary to provide a good level of protection where it matters.
I’ve been wearing these jeans on an R1250GS and a VFR800 to find out if they’re worth the money, and if they really can provide comfort as well as protection…
While the Merlin Maynard jeans feel very much like a single-layer construction (with no separate aramid liner), they do of course have pockets for the armour at the knees and hips just as all others jeans do.
Where they differ though is in having an additional internal panel on the bum too.
EN17092 is the certification standard for jackets and trousers, and only in its highest level is the bum considered a key-impact area, meaning it must perform as well as the knees, for instance, in abrasion testing.
The additional panel of material (the same as the outer) in the bum, as well as behind the knees and hips, does make these a set of part-lined jeans, but apart from the very gentle pressure of the armour at the knees, you wouldn’t know they’re anything different to a pair of normal fashion jeans.
The main material is a stretch denim with Cordura woven in, the brushed cotton armour pockets feeling comfortable against the skin.
Comfort is of course extremely subjective, but while these are very much a slim-fit jean, and I’m at the top end of my sizing thanks to a medical condition known as cake-retention, I find the fit to be very good indeed due to the stretch material.
Helpfully, the well-secured knee armour pockets are easily adjustable to three height levels, and the jeans come in short or regular leg lengths across all sizes of 30, 32, 34, 36, 38 and 40.
Available in ‘used black’ or ‘used indigo’ colours, I have black in 34 regular. I’d say the leg is a good length, with enough spare to turn them up an inch or two, if that’s your thing.
Turn the legs up four inches and a pair of reflective panels are revealed at either side of the legs – a clever design, but I find the jeans a little short for me at this point.
I did find some of the Velcro in one of the knee armour pockets was a little scratchy at first, but adjusting it soon cured this.
UPDATE: The Merlin Maynard jeans have now verified with the Bennetts High Performance Gold Award, which recognises products that meet the highest safety standards.
Good armour positioning and retention is vital in any riding kit, and the slim-fit and stretch properties of the Merlin Maynards help them perform brilliantly: I’m very confident that if I did fall off, the D3O Ghost armour in the knees and hips would stay exactly where it’s needed.
This is Level 1 armour, though you could swap it out for the new – slightly thicker – Level 2 Ghost armour if you wanted increased impact protection.
The armour fitted is fine for size at the knees, and while it’s well-positioned and unobtrusive at the hips, I’d personally have preferred the slightly larger Type B protectors here, rather than the Type A, just to get a little more protection around the sides.
It is important to understand that under EN17092, AAA is the top level with only a pass/fail criteria. That means that there’s no way of knowing how these jeans compare with other AAA-rated kit unless they appear on the Australian Motocap site, where more in-depth testing is carried out.
There’s no mesh comfort liner included in these jeans, which could have made them a little warmer in Spring and Autumn, but can also help prevent skin-sheer injury. However, the additional layering would allow the outer material to move separately to your skin in a crash at the key impact areas (including the bum), so the risk is potentially lower than with some other jeans.
Note: Some stores and brands claim ‘official CE test slide times’ to promote the abrasion resistance of the jeans they sell. The only CE testing that gives a time is through using the Cambridge machine, which sees samples of the clothing dropped onto a moving 60 grit abrasive belt, and timed to failure. However, this has only ever been considered a ‘relative abrasion time’ to compare products and MUST NOT be confused with a real-world crash protection time.
We’ve also seen times as high as almost seven seconds and beyond claimed, contrary to testing we had carried out by an independent notified body when looking for the best motorcycle jeans.
Our recommendation would be to ignore these claims and focus on the testing required for the current PPE regulations until clear evidence is provided, either through the Bennetts High Performance Award scheme, or through seeing a COMPLETE and verifiable test report from a notified body. If bold claims are being made, ask the seller to prove it.
All motorcycle clothing sold in the UK and Europe is deemed to be Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This is a good thing for riders as it can help them choose kit that has provable levels of safety because, to meet this legislation, it must be tested to a recognised standard. To fully understand the labels found in all bike kit, click here.
The Merlin Maynard jeans have standard pockets – two at the hips big enough for even a large Pixel 7 Pro phone without it digging in, a coin pocket, and a pair of good-sized pockets at the rear. The coin pocket's a surprisingly useful width without being too deep (especially compared to some others) – ideal for popping your earplugs in.
Rivets at the corners of the front pockets are smooth, reducing the chances of scratching your bike’s paintwork.
There’s also a vertical loop by the left hip pocket, presumably to hang your keys or baseball cap to.
A smooth-faced, secure button holds the top of the Merlin Maynard jeans closed, with a YKK zip for the fly making it easier to get where you need to in a hurry.
There are six belt loops fitted, with two at the rear helping to keep the jeans snug around the waist, with a horizontal loop at the back for compatible jackets.
There’s no adjustment in the Merlin Maynards, but the sizing seems accurate, and the stretch fabric gives plenty of room for seasonal variations.
The lightweight design of these jeans makes them great for summer riding, air passing through them well. While the armour does restrict airflow, the vented design of the D3O Ghost protectors and the lightweight additional layers mean a good job is still done of keeping you cool.
These aren’t jeans you’d want to wear into winter, and even at 12°C they felt cold. Paired with a base layer they’d be okay, but these are really designed to be used in the summer months, where they excel.
The Cordura denim outer is treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, but while this does cause water to bead on it at first, it’ll only be effective in a very light shower as it doesn’t take much for the rain to soak in.
There are ‘waterproof’ jeans available, but they’re hotter to wear due to the membrane laminated to the back, so aren’t really recommended for summer use. Realistically, most riders will likely not be wearing motorcycle jeans in rainy weather.
There are now AAA-rated motorcycle riding jeans at a wide variety of prices – here are just three alternatives…
Buying any motorcycle riding kit is always going to be about compromise, but you need to decide what fits you well, what features you’re looking for, and what budget you have.
The Merlin Maynards are extremely lightweight and comfortable despite the additional layering, proving to be brilliant in the summer, and while they’re not going to be as protective as a set of quality leathers, Merlin isn’t making any of those silly claims.
I’ve been very impressed with the Merlin Maynards, which have proven that good design can have great results. As they’re so comfortable and easy to wear all-day long (I’m in them as I write this review sat in front of the computer) and great in the summer, I see no reason why you’d consider anything with a lower protection rating.
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