Dainese New Drake Air Textile Pants Review Summary
The New Drake Air Textile pants from Dainese might not look like what one would think of for summer/hot weather riding pants but looks can be deceiving. Venting is better than expected and the trade-off of protection from solid textile versus the use of mesh appears to be worth it.
At the time of this writing, the first official day of Summer is only a couple of weeks away. As such, it’s time to start breaking out the hot weather riding gear. A lot of riders will be reaching for riding gear that includes mesh fabrics in the construction. I’m one of those riders and I’ll be the first to admit that a lot mesh gear is a compromise between ventilation and protection.
For my jacket, I currently wear a Knox Zephyr (first gen) which is a combination of a very tough mesh material and solid, abrasion-resistant fabric. In this case, I feel the mesh material is strong enough and well placed that the jacket itself should offer reasonable protection for street riding. The Zephyr is also close-fitting so the armor installed should remain in place during a crash.
As far as pants go, that’s a different story. My current mesh pants are a pair of Olympia AirGlide pants which I wear as overpants for commuting duties. Like most mesh/textile pants, these are loose-fitting so while they work fine as overpants, they are too loose, in my opinion, for standalone use when riding.
By the way, in case the powers-that-be at Knox Armour are reading this, if a pair of pants designed in a similar way as the Zephyr jacket became a reality, I’d be first in line to buy a pair. Just sayin’ -B
I’ve also found that mesh pants that include mesh at the shin area can actually be a “cooling liability” as engine heat can get straight to one’s lower legs. Not all bikes create this problem but my Triumph Sprint 1050 did and my Ninja 1000 does expel some waste heat at the ankle/shin level. In these cases I’d rather have something solid blocking the wind in that area.
The point is that my current riding gear didn’t really include a pair of pants that worked well for hot weather riding, commuting aside. The hunt was now on for a pair of riding pants that had a mix of ventilation and protection that also didn’t break the bank and here’s where I landed.
Don’t let the name fool you, the New Drake Air Textile pants from Dainese have been around for while now. I couldn’t find the exact year they were introduced but I found reviews on Revzilla running back for years. That said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Let’s have a look at the details.
The Drake’s appear to be your basic, black, textile riding pants. The branding is very subdued with a solitary DAiNESE logo found above the left knee in a light gray reflective material. Beyond that, the only other color consists of red anodized waist adjustment D-rings at either side of the waist. Pretty stealthy on the looks front.
Some of the stealth is lost though when walking in the pants as the material does make a bit of a “swoosh-swoosh” sound. I find it a bit less distracting than other textile riding pants as the weave here is very fine so it’s more hushed than some other riding gear I’ve had. Frankly, I’ve never been that concerned about this aspect since protection and comfort are my priorities but I’m here to report the facts.
Pockets & Fasteners
At the front are two zippered pockets with vertically angled openings. These are good-sized pockets which should accommodate even the largest smartphones. At the rear there is one pocket on the right side. It is a little smaller than the front pockets but still large enough for wallets or a mobile phone. The rear pocket also close with a zipper-like the front pockets.
On the topic of zippers, there is a jacket connection zipper that runs about 270 deg around the waist which should connect to certain, but not all, Dainese jackets. At the lower leg is an 11” (28cm) zipper that allows for expanding the opening and more zippers are located at the knees for fully opening the venting panels located there.
All the zippers are from Coats “Opti” line and while not the smoothest zips I’ve used, they seem very solid and secure. The zip pulls are a bit on the small side considering they will often be grasped with gloves. Have an extra leather or fabric pull added on would have been nice.
The main closure at the front is a traditional button and zippered fly arrangement similar to your typical jeans. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a simple and effective closure system used here. No special clasps or feats of dexterity required here. However, this was a point of failure on this particular pair of pants, and I’ll get to that in the next section.
According to Dainese, the main shell of the New Drake Air Textile is Cordura® Comfort fabric. I’m not able to find any specs from Cordura® for “Comfort Fabric” itself but I understand it is a 750D fabric which contains 93% nylon, 5% elastam (elastane), and 3% polyurethane. So basically, a medium-weight Cordura® material with a bit of stretch to it.
Compared to other implementations of Cordura® I’ve handled, the weave is finer and the two-way stretch is something welcome to riding pants. This fine texture to the fabric gives the pants a less “technical” look up close but they do kind of look like snow pants at a glance.
The overall subdued look hides some interesting features starting with the integrated vents on top of the thighs. What looks like a side pocket opening on the leg unzips a triangular flap that, once released from the lower edge of hook and loop fastener, reveals a mesh fabric panel for ventilation.
Further up the thigh is a single snap that receives a mate from the corner of the flap. This allows the rider to fasten the flap down and hold it open for the best airflow. It also keeps the panel from flapping in the breeze (ask me how I know).
Inside the vent opening is a zippered closure that allows access to the included knee/shin armor. This armor is larger than typical “knee only” armor typically included with riding pants and provides complete coverage of the shin. We’ll take a closer look at this armor shortly.
The interior is completely lined with a soft, lightweight polyester mesh for comfort. This works very well against the skin as these pants are not designed as over pants but rather intended to be worn over underwear or a lightweight base layer.
Overall the construction is very neat with tight, evenly spaced stitching throughout. The snaps all close together very solidly and the general “feel” is of very good quality control, except for one item.
Watch That Button
The first time I tried on the pants, the button for the main closure at the front fell apart. It is one of those press-fit two-piece buttons that essentially rivets itself to the fabric. Unfortunately, the press-fit didn’t work as the two pieces separated as I tried to unfasten the pants the first time.
As it happens I had some extra hardware on hand that had been included with a pair of Bull-It jeans I had previously reviewed. This included an extra button that fit the location perfectly. Once pressed into place it has held firmly in place.
I have no doubt that Revzilla/Dainese would have replaced the pants or at least sent a replacement button but as I was able to quickly remedy this on my own I didn’t see the need. It still needs to be called out though so Dainese might want to make sure they check things a little more closely before shipping them out.
The shell of 750D Cordura® should provide decent protection from abrasion. Of course, 1000D fabric would be better and lower counts like 350 would do worse. So… middle of the road, right? These are not designed for racing so for the intended purpose of sport/sport-touring /commuting the 750D material should offer reasonable abrasion resistance.
The knees (and shin) are where the New Drake Air Textile pants really shine. Unzip the pocket hidden behind the vent flap and inside is a plastic over foam protector that would look at home strapped to an off-road rider’s leg. Offering a full sixteen inches (over 40cm) of coverage, it stops about 3 inches (7.6cm) over my ankle.
While only rated at CE level 1, the coverage is much better than what is typically found in textile riding pants I’ve encountered. Another benefit is that the armor can easily be removed from the outside. This offers convenience for riders that might want to have some extra comfort walking around off the bike.
One thing I would have liked to see is an option to adjust the position of the armor in the pocket. Since it fills nearly the entire space there isn’t much room for it to shift. In my case, the height works perfectly but not everyone is built the same.
Not So Hip
On the New Drake Air Textile pants, hip armor is included, however, I feel it could have been implemented in a better way. The protectors are medium density foam padding that is about ⅜ inch (.92cm) thick and, like the knee/shin protectors, provide a lot of coverage.
The pads measure about 10.5 by 8.5 inches (26x21cm) which are larger than any other hip protection I’ve seen. The problem is that there is no CE rating I can find for the padding and the armor is permanently attached between the mesh lining and shell.
I feel it would have been a better move for Dainese to have made it easy for the owner to remove/replace this padding in case they want something more sturdy in this location. Perhaps a “Newer Drake Air” is on the way that will address this in the near future?
Overall the protective features get a “very good” from me but they could have easily been much improved if one at least had the option to replace/upgrade the hip armor.
With my 36 inch waist and 30-inch inseam I went with the size 52 (short) and they fit me perfectly. There’s enough adjustment at the waist to fit 37 inches comfortably but I don’t think they would work for the 38.2 inches Dainese’s size chart claims. There are two adjustment straps at the waist to get the fit just right for the waist which is good as there aren’t any belt loops here.
The inseam measures right at 31 inches sitting in the right location on my ankle when seated on the bike without bunching up too much when standing. Unlike a lot of textile riding pants I’ve worn, the New Drake Air Textile pants are a medium waisted pant. They don’t come up too high nor are they “low-riders” which is how I like them. At the same time, the rear portion does come up a couple of inches higher than the front which is useful when leaning forward on the bike.
Overall one should be safe using the chart to choose the right size but if one is between sizes, it might be wise to go to the larger waist. As mentioned earlier these pants are not designed as overpants so if that is your intent, go one size larger.
I found these pants to be very comfortable due in no small part to the accuracy of the sizing chart. This along with the mesh lining and mid-waist height up front make for a comfortable place to spend hours on the bike.
The fit around the legs is closer than most riding pants but not as snug as sport leathers. It’s a nice balance for those looking for pants they can wear just over underwear. They fit close enough to keep the knee armor in place but not so snug as to be distracting. The shell fabric also has some stretch to it which adds to the comfort level.
Looking at the New Drake Textile pants it isn’t readily apparent these would be a choice for hot weather riding. The fact they are only available in black is the first reason but the fact they appear to be a solid textile shell doesn’t instill confidence in potential ventilation.
However, as pointed out earlier, there are vents on the thighs that can be opened via a triangular flap above the knees. Unzipping on the side edge and pulling open the hook and loop fastener apart at the bottom reveals a triangular panel of open weave mesh. The flap can be held open using a snap allowing air to flow through the open weave mesh (and the polyester mesh lining).
At only 10X7X8 inches (25X2018cm) this might seem a bit small and I was a bit skeptical about how well this venting would perform in the heat and humidity of the midsouth. The temperatures have been reaching up into the high 80’s (~30°C) and we even had a couple of days of low 90’s (33°C) recently so I’ve had the opportunity to see how well (or if) they work.
I have to say within the first few minutes of riding I was already impressed. Even rolling down the road around 30 mph I could already feel the airflow. It wasn’t even that hot yet but the point is I could feel good airflow and at lower speeds and this really surprised me.
That surprise is based on having a pair of leather/textile pants in the past that had vents in a similar location and I found they didn’t do much at all for airflow. Frankly I was pretty skeptical before I got on the road with these pants.
Once underway at higher speeds the news continued to be good. The temps were also rising and reached 89°F during that first test ride. That may not be very hot for some riders but the humidity in this area makes it feel warmer. All the while, the ventilation was working well.
Certainly, these are no Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh pants, but they did a good job in real-world warm weather riding conditions. The warmest day I had the chance to test was 92°F (33.3°C) and while I was warm overall, I never felt any warmer or stifled in my lower half than I did in my upper half while wearing my Knox mesh jacket.
But What About Cooler Weather?
With the morning temperatures in the low 60°s F (~16°C) closing the vents kept out the cool air and made for a comfortable commute to work. I even got caught in a light rain one afternoon and, though these are not waterproof pants, no rain got inside that I could tell.
Out of curiosity, I left a roughly bowl-shaped portion of the pants with some water sitting in them for 30 minutes. After that time I found no moisture on the other side of the material. That isn’t to say that moving at speed on the highway isn’t going to force water droplets through the fabric, but at least they can stand up to light rain for a little while without soaking through.
In the end I’m pleased with the New Drake Air Textile pants. I have to say at first glance that these didn’t appear like something I would think of as”hot weather” riding gear, but the ventilation works well and is better than expected considering the mostly solid textile shell.
Comfort is an important factor and these pants bring it. The liner feels good and the stretch of the fabric helps keep them comfortable on or off the bike. The ease of removing the knee/shin armor from the outside is a definite plus when riding to destinations that will involve time off of your ride.
While the knee armor is good, I feel Dainese is letting themselves down a bit by making the hip armor permanently attached. Being able to upgrade this armor to a higher level of protection would be a welcome option. Also the defective front button is something that should never have slipped through quality control.
Despite the negatives, the positives outweigh them enough for me to give the New Drake Air Textile pants 4 out of 5 stars. The price is a bit higher than other textile pants but they are some of the most comfortable textile pants I’ve tested and that means a lot on a long ride.
Very good venting*
Excellent knee/shin protection
Good fit and comfort
*this will vary depending on rider build and motorcycle type/design