If you hang around adventure riders or ADV forums, you hear questions about certain pieces of gear. What’s the best jacket? What’s the best helmet? What are the best gloves?
What you almost never hear is a question about the best pair of motorcycle pants. I don’t know why, because they’re just as important as a good jacket, and depending how your pants are set up, they can make life in the saddle convenient, or a pain in the neck every time you get off the bike.
With that in mind, I set out looking for a good pair of riding pants to try in 2018, and settled on the Olympia Dakar pants, which carry a $262.99 MSRP. Mine were provided to me by Olympia.
I was looking for several features that led me to the Dakar pants, and the most important was breathability. I intended to use these as dual-sport pants in the hottest days of summer, and didn’t want to cook on the trails. The Dakar pants are part of Olympia’s Mesh Tech line, which means they’ve got a significant amount of mesh paneling.
Another feature I wanted was cargo pockets. I’ve always found cargo pockets extremely convenient for carrying my wallet, passport, and other similar items while riding; if you keep them in your hip pockets, you’ve got to dig around for them, if you’re wearing a 3/4-length jacket, and they just don’t sit there comfortably when you’re in the saddle. Same goes if you keep them in your jacket pocket, I find. Overall, the Dakar pants have eight pockets; two on the back, six on the front.
Obviously, you’re highly unlikely to find one-layer waterproofing along with mesh panels; the Dakar 2 pants use the waterproof liner system instead. I’ve ranted about the inconvenience of these systems before, but it’s part of the game with mesh gear, so I can’t fault the Dakar pants for that.
The majority of the Dakar pants’ shell is actually made of 500D Cordura, and there’s a mesh lining that keeps them more comfortable and also stops passersby from spotting your tighty-whities through the airflow panels.
The hips have foam EVA armour — nothing special, but it’s there. The knees have removable/adjustable CE Motion Flex armor.
An interesting and uncommon feature on the Dakar pants is a set of zippers that turns them into shorts. While I wouldn’t suggest riding in them this way, it can be a comfortable option for lounging around a campsite, as long as the blackflies don’t savage your appendages.
Another oddity with the Dakar pants is the lack of a factory hem. Olympia has done this for years: when you buy their pants, you take them to a seamstress or tailor and get them to give you a custom inseam length. Or you pester your spouse, partner, mother-in-law, or tackle the job yourself. If you take it to a professional, expect to pay about $20 for the job.
There’s an 8-inch zipper that connects the pants to a compatible jacket; like all the zippers on the pants, this is a quality YKK unit.
All in all, although the Dakar pants would be considered budget-friendly gear, they have a respectable range of features.
How’d they work?
I put the Dakar pants to work immediately after receiving them, riding around the California hills in blazing heat, and found they did an excellent job of breathing air and keeping me cool. Unlike Kevlar-lined riding jeans, which always carry the promise of cool comfort, the Dakar pants actually flow a decent breeze, and I would consider them an excellent choice for hot, dry weather.
From there, I pressed them into regular dual-sport duty all summer long; if I was riding the trails, I was wearing my Dakar pants, and I always found them comfortable in the heat. If they got wet, they’d dry out quickly, too, thanks to the mesh airflow panels.
I can’t speak to the efficacy of the rain liner. I lost the liner shortly after acquiring the pants, which didn’t bother me, as I was planning to use my Scott rainsuit over them anyway. This arrangement worked well until I crashed at slow speed while running the Fundy Adventure Rally. The rain pants were shredded, and that day generally went downhill from there.
However, it’s worth noting that crash did not shred the Dakar pants; in fact, they weren’t visibly damaged at all, nor did I end up with any bruises or bumps. Not only are they comfortable, they’re crash-proof, within reason. Had I gone sliding down chipseal pavement at speed, I might not have been so excited with the pants. There is, after all, a trade-off when you replace heavy-duty Cordura with mesh airflow panels, but thankfully there haven’t been any more sliding excursions down the pavement since getting these pants.
While I found the Olympia Hudson jacket suffered from what I’d call “Wal-Mart styling,” the Dakar 2 pants were plain black, with no goofy budget-looking trim, and I think that works fine.
I did feel these pants would have been improved with a suspender system, something similar to the ones seen on Dainese or Alpinestars adventure riding gear, but an enterprising owner could easily add a set if they felt they really needed them. Without the suspenders, you’re left with a choice. Belt the pants tightly to keep them from falling down, and have them dig into you while you’re crouched on the bike? Or loosen the adjustable waist, and risk mooning the rider behind you? Zipping them into your jacket does somewhat prevent this from happening, but the pants’ zipper won’t be compatible with all jackets.
Another change I would like to see: the larger front cargo pockets were very spacious and useful, but they need a zipper at the top, to make sure stuff doesn’t fall out. I didn’t have this happen, but was mindful the Velcro closure might have let smaller items drop out unnoticed.
Olympia’s Dakar pants offer enough protection and capability for most riders who don’t have racing aspirations. You can spend a lot more, but you don’t have to. If I was spending my own money on riding gear, these would be some of the first pieces of gear I’d look at. Other gear might have a more cushy fit, have a few more vented panels, or might look flashier, but these will get the job done for most, and you’ll have a lot more money left over to actually go riding.