LAST UPDATED: November 5, 2019
Best Mountain Bike Shorts: Ride in Comfort and Style
Hit the trail and ride comfortably with these high-quality mountain bike shorts
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON November 5, 2019
Mountain biking is a great way to get in shape. Whether you like to ride through the forest for fun or take part in competitions, you will need the right gear for the job. As a cyclist, one of the biggest and most troublesome things on the bike is the seat. It can be uncomfortable and over time become painful. To make the ride more enjoyable and comfortable, get a pair of padded mountain bike shorts. They make a big difference and enhance your riding experience. Here are some of the best mountain bike shorts on the market.
A comfortable pair of water-repellent and padded mountain bike shorts with four-way stretch fabric for improved comfort and fit.
They are made out of a combination of polyester, spandex, and PVC, feature removable padding for convenience and versatility, and the fabric are light and breathable.
They may be a bit short, especially when riding. The padding may need to be adjusted slightly to sit firmly where it needs to, and the material can be scratchy.
A lightweight pair of MTB shorts made from 92 percent polyester and 8 percent Lycra. Has an adjustable waistband for a proper fit.
The zippers can get caught at times. They don’t include padding, but you can add layers with padded underwear, and they may run small.
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Benefits of Mountain Bike Shorts
- Storage. Having some storage for mountain bikers can be a big plus. Having an energy bar, some cash for a refreshment, or even a trail map in your pocket can be really convenient. Do be careful what you store in your pocket, though. You don’t want to get unnecessarily hurt in a crash.
- Protection. Mountain bikers need protection from branches and debris. Mountain bike shorts offer some protection, as they are generally made of a tougher material than running or sports shorts. Plus they’re use-specific, so you don’t have to worry about ruining your good casual shorts on the trail.
- Water Repellent. Most mountain bike shorts offer some degree of water repellency. While not fully waterproof, water repellent shorts will shed water and mud after splashing through a puddle before they have a chance to soak in.
Types of Mountain Bike Shorts
Cross-country is all about the miles, so cross-country mountain bikers need a short that is tough but breathable and allows a full range of movement. Cross-country shorts feature shorter inseams than other mountain bike shorts to allow an improved range of motion while pedaling. There’s less concern of fitting over a pair of knee pads, so the leg openings don’t need to be very big. The material is lighter than other mountain bike shorts as well to reduce weight and drag.
Downhill and Enduro Style
Downhill and Enduro are two styles that put mountain bikers in some tough spots, meaning their shorts need to be tough too. These shorts have longer inseams than cross country shorts and will fit over the knee pads that these riders typically wear. Enduro shorts are built for going up mountains as well, so they feature greater range of motion. Downhill shorts are built to protect the rider in rough terrain, so the material is a little heavier and range of motion is a little less focused on.
Lycra and Spandex
Lycra and Spandex are both used by cross-country racers to give them a form-fitting, low drag short with a full range of motion. They’re very similar to the shorts worn by road bike racers. They’re very lightweight, aerodynamic, and very good at wicking moisture away from the body. These shorts are less popular with mountain bikers on the trails where baggy shorts rule.
Getting its start as a suspension company for motocross bikes, the Irvine, California brand is well-known in the racing community. FOX Racing produces high-quality products like mountain bike suspension forks, helmets, and shorts. Check out these awesome FOX Racing Ranger Shorts with TruDri moisture-wicking technology.
Troy Lee Designs
What started as a helmet painting business in a signmaker’s garage has since turned into one of the biggest names in racing. Troy Lee Designs makes everything from racing helmets and jerseys to trail gloves and shorts, like this pair of Troy Lee Designs Skyline Shorts. They come in a bunch of different colors and are ideal for trail-riding.
The Japanese company, Pearl Izumi, got its start in 1964 after the founder of the company created a cycling jersey based on an Italian nylon design. Since then, Pearl Izumi has lived and breathed cycling, creating some of the best gear for mountain bikers around the world. These Pearl Izumi Summit Shorts are perfect for a cross-country ride.
We would be amiss to not mention Zoic in an article about the best mountain bike shorts. Zoic designed the first pair of them over 25 years ago. Since then, they’ve offered cool clothing to the mountain biking community on and off the trail, like this pair of Zoic Ether 9 Shorts for cross-country rides.
Mountain Bike Shorts Pricing
- $30 and under: While you may not get the big names in this range, if you’re tough on shorts, this might be a good bracket for you. If you destroy a pair of shorts in this range, it’s less likely to break the bank.
- $30 to $60: There are some good choices in this range from the big names. You’ll have your choice of cross-country or enduro style shorts, and maybe even some downhill styles.
- $60 and up: Shorts in this range are built for speed and toughness. You’ll find the best materials with waterproofing, moisture-wicking, breathability, and durability.
Quality shorts often offer some type of adjustability. This can be in the form of Velcro straps on the sides of the waistband, an elastic waistband, a built-in drawstring, or a built-in belt. Our choice is for quality Velcro adjustment tabs. Some shorts also have adjustable leg openings, which is very helpful when trying to fit them over your knee pads.
No one likes a pair of soggy shorts. Purchasing a pair of shorts in a moisture-wicking material is always a good idea. The material will pull the sweat from your body and transfer it to the outside of the shorts, where it can evaporate and make you comfortable for a long ride.
Along the same vein as moisture-wicking, ventilation is key when it comes to comfortability. Many pairs of shorts offer ventilation solutions like mesh pockets or gussets in the groin that allow air to flow through the shorts. This is especially helpful on very warm days when you’re more likely to sweat and become uncomfortable.
- Chamois Shorts. These are tight shorts that riders wear under their outer shorts. They provide padding and comfort in the area that makes contact with the saddle. We suggest these shorts if you’re going to spend any reasonable amount of time on the saddle, as they are moisture-wicking and more comfortable than just a pair of shorts on long climbs or cross-country sprints.
- Insert and Outer Shell Combos. You can purchase a combination of outer shells and liner shorts in a bundle and save money. This may be a good idea for you if the fit is right. However some riders prefer their liner shorts or chamois a size or two smaller than their shorts. This minimizes material and friction with the saddle.
- Bib Shorts. Bib shorts perform the same tasks as liner shorts, but they have built-in shoulder straps. These stretchy straps help hold these shorts in place, making them ideal for an enduro racer or all-mountain bike rider who doesn’t want to stop and fix their liner shorts several times during an outing.
Best Mountain Bike Shorts Reviews & Recommendations 2020
These MTB shorts from Ally are our Best Mountain Bike Shorts Overall pick for 2020. These baggy shorts come with a removable, washable, padded insert for comfort. These Ally shorts are made of a lightweight material that breathes well, wicks moisture away, and is water-repellent. They also provide four-way stretch for improved range of motion.
Made from PVC, spandex, and polyester, these shorts breathe extremely well and are very lightweight. The included padded liner is a nice touch. The Velcro tabs on the hips for adjustment make getting a perfect fit easy.
The lightweight materials do leave something to be desired. Users have stated that these shorts feel scratchy to the touch. Also, you may find that these shorts may be a little too short for your taste, especially while pedaling on the saddle. Speaking of saddle time, if you get uncomfortable, it’s probably because the padding has shifted. Some riders say the padding moves and needs to be adjusted during the ride.
We chose the ARSUXEO MTB Mountain Bike Shorts as the ones with the best value. At this price point, they offer a lot of value for an all-mountain style short. These MTB shorts are 92 percent polyester and 8 percent spandex, providing comfort and stretch. These ARSUXEO MTB Shorts come in several colors, and the five zippered pockets offer some storage for necessities.
While not waterproof, these ARSUXEO shorts feature water-repellent materials and moisture-wicking, so staying dry won’t be an issue. You’ll also be able to achieve a proper fit, as the Velcro tabs and elastic waistband make adjustment easy. They’re also breathable, so hot weather rides won’t be uncomfortable.
There are some things to consider before you purchase these, however. The ARSUXEO Mountain Bike Shorts may not run true to size, so it may be wise to order a size or two larger. Also, some users have stated that the clasps on the waistbands have broken after light use, so if you’re hard on your shorts and don’t want to replace them often, this might not be the pair for you.
This pair of mountain biking shorts from Cycorld definitely deserve an honorable mention. These baggy shorts are a longer short meant for enduro and trail riding. They offer breathable materials and high-quality components. The longer inseams are ideal for fitting over knee pads as well.
The Cycorld Mountain Biking Shorts are a cool style and offer nice features. We like the YKK zippers, which show Cycorld didn’t skimp on material. The material makes them water-resistant and very breathable. These shorts also feature reflective strips in the event you’ll be doing some low-light riding.
These enduro style shorts do have a few issues you need to be aware of. These shorts don’t come with a chamois or any padding, so you’ll need to buy a separate chamois if that’s something you’re looking for. Like other shorts in this category, they do run small, so consider sizing up when you purchase.
- Don’t worry about getting a pair that is larger than normal. Many come with a drawstring to tighten them to fit you more comfortably and snuggly.
- To make things even more comfortable, get a larger seat with a thicker pad. Or you can find cycling underwear equipped with its own padding.
- Get a pair of shorts that are form-fitting. Too much loose fabric can catch on trees and bushes, causing them to rip or tear.
- Check the size chart before buying a pair of mountain bike shorts. They tend to run small, so consider a slightly larger pair to fit you comfortably.
Q: Do all cycling shorts look ridiculous because of the padding?
A: While many feature the pad on the outside of the shorts, others include it inside the material as underwear. The look isn’t the coolest or most stylish, but you will be far more comfortable on the bike than you would without having them at all.
Q: What can I do to make biking shorts more comfortable and to reduce chafing?
A: You can wear mountain biking shorts without underwear, like a pair of swim shorts, since they have a layer that acts like underwear built into them. Also, apply anti-chafe cream for long-distance rides or more intense rides to reduce hot spots and abrasions.
Q: What’s the best way to wash a pair of mountain bike shorts?
A: Put them in the washing machine with your other bicycle gear. Some may not be machine-washable, so you should check the tag to make sure. Otherwise, you can use warm water and soap and wash them by hand.
Check out the Ally MTB Mountain Bike Shorts for a pair of light, padded, and comfortable mountain bike shorts. Or, consider the EZrun 3D Padded Mountain Bike Shorts, which are less expensive and come with thick padding and easy-to-access storage pockets.