Best mountain bike shorts: comfortable, protective, waterproof, stash storage, stylish... whatever you're looking for in, you'll find it here.
We’ve assembled a good range of the best mountain bike shorts from a wide range of price points so you can find the right baggy short for you. Mountain bike shorts are baggy shorts that are specifically shaped and designed with off-road cycling in mind. The best ones look cool off the bike whilst still performing well on the bike. Some come supplied with separate padded liner shorts but most are purely over-shorts.
Best mountain bike shorts in our testing
Best trail shorts:
- Endura SingleTrack Lite – winner trail
- Sweet Protection Hunter
- Race Face Stage
- Fox Flexair
- Specialized Trail Cargo
Best waterproof shorts:
- Madison Addict – winner waterproof
- Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB
- Altura Five/40 Waterproof
- Ion 3-Layer Traze Amp
- 7Mesh Revo Gore-Tex
Best storage liner shorts:
Like all outdoor sports, mountain bikers have a uniform and for most that’s a baggy short and a loose-fitting riding jersey. Both are way more flattering than tight roadie Lycra but they still use high-tech fabrics that can help with heat management, wicking, water run off and to improve the fit.
Baggy shorts are sold with or without a liner short and we have both represented in this test. A liner is simply an inner short that’s shorter in the leg and being underneath another layer, it’s often made from a lighter-weight, breathable mesh material.
To reduce chaffing it’s essential the liner fits snug against your body but to do so you may have to mix and match inner and outer sizes. Price wise a good baggy short can cost any thing from £50 to over a £100, with a quality liner included.
For something that you use every day, your uniform needs to be comfortable and in the baggy that means no thick or uncomfortable seams in the crotch area, a breathable construction and comfy liner. The only way too put these to the test is by riding them for long sustained bursts. Which is exactly what we did.
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Best trail shorts:
Endura SingleTrack Lite
So good you forget you’re wearing them
Price: £69.99 | Sizes: S-XXL | Colours: Blue, black, green, orange
Pros: Perfect combination of fabric, tailoring, sizing/length/colourway options
Cons: Not a lot wrong with these premium pants
If you’re like us at mbr, chances are the weather has to be pretty blinking warm before you opt to wear short instead of lightweight riding trousers. The fabric of these shorts is a combination of nylon and elastane. In other words, they’re a little bit stretchy but still hang away from body-clinging. Despite beig an overtly warm weather short, they are coated with a light DWR treatment to help prevent water from soaking in (it beads up and rolls off instead). The adjustment cinches are rear-mounted to prevent tummy bunching, which is a good idea. They carry off the trick of being on-trend fit-wise whilst still being actually decent performing sportswear.
Sweet Protection Hunter
Stylish, comfy and durable
Price: £119.99 | Sizes: S-XL | Colours: Black, green | Weight: 281g
Sweet Protection has the length spot on with the Hunter, they’re longer on the front than the back and the leg finishes with a separate panel of material that wraps around the knee horizontally like an oversized cuff. This makes the short hang perfectly when you’re riding, it stays perfectly in place even when wet, while the material is good too – light, but not so flimsy it gets blown around or rides up and sits on your knee pads. There’s some great detail inside the leg openings, where Sweet Protection has made the Hunter seamless and added a slippery ribbon to keep it moving on knee or pad. After three months use I’m seriously impressed by how robust this short has been, it still looks box-fresh. If you can live with the price, there are few shorts to match the Hunter’s blend of durability, style and sheer comfort.
Race Face Stage
Short for all seasons
Price: £89.95 | Colours: Blue, brown, grey | Sizes: S-XXL
A good short for wearing at any point in the year, bar total deluge days. It has a degree of water repellency and also a reinforced seat to stop things wearing through prematurely. They also are a good length, as is usual with Race Face, so they play nicely with knee pads with no readjusting or gapping experienced. They might not have any vents but that also means there’s fewer seams and less bunching, so it can be interpreted as a less-is-more bonus. They are a bit on the pricey side however.
Coolest short in the world
Price: £80.00 | Sizes: 28-40in | Colours: Black, grey, blue, green, red
Well, the best news is that to all intents and purposes the Short is a carbon copy of the Fox Flexair Pant. The Fox Flexair Pant (trouser, to us Brits) is my bottom of choice these days, it’s supremely comfortable, stylish and practical… I’d sleep in it if I was allowed. Naturally, the short version is missing the bottom half. The material is made from the same TruMotion 4-way stretch fabric, and that makes it ideally compliant when you’re riding, without being so stretchy as to hook up on your saddle. A perfect summer short, especially for those riders who prefer to wear riding trousers for the rest of the seasons.
Specialized Trail Cargo
Contemporary tailored cut
Price: £75.00 | Sizes: 30-40in
Pros: Great all-round fit for most riders with excellent material.
Cons: A smidge on the short side for taller riders.
The Specialized Trail Cargo Short is no leg hugging number, it’s very definitely a baggy short, but there’s less material to flap in the breeze than some out there. It’s stylish, but there’s a lot more going on than just good looks, starting with the material. It feels velvet-soft to the touch and it’s also extremely stretchy – put both those together and you have a very comfortable bottom half. Specialized says this space-age fabric is extremely durable too, but we can’t really vouch for that as we’ve (yet) to lay it down in the dust. What I can say is it shrugs off rain showers and splashes well enough.
Best waterproof shorts:
Price: £64.99 | Colours: Green, red, black | Sizes: S-XXL
As with arguably all weather-proof softshell-y shorts, if it’s absolutely hoofing down for extended periods then rain will permeate through and you’ll get damp. But if it’s showers and puddles you want to keep at bay, these are an excellent short option. The airier fabric, combined with generous venting, also means they’re less sweaty to wear than full-on waterproof shell shorts. Sizing all round is generous so we recommend sizing down.
Altura Five/40 Waterproof
100% waterproof and durable
Price: £69.99 | Colours: Black | Sizes: S-XXL
This short is intended to protect you from wet weather at all costs. It uses Altura’s Shield fabric which is significantly thicker than a lot of other fabrics. Which, while having an impact on weight and suppleness, does make for a reassuring barrier against the elements as well as being able to withstand scrapes and crashes better than most. Despite the sturdy material, the tailoring and use of stretchy back panelling, means the shorts are comfy to ride for a long time in. Warmer than most waterproof shorts too, which is a good thing in our book.
7Mesh Revo Gore-Tex
Ticks every box
Price: £150.00 | Colours: Blck, blue | Sizes: XS-XXL
If you need, or just want, the absolute best waterproof short currently available – here it is. And yes, it costs a fortune. These shorts are much better approached and understood as being a waterproof jacket for your legs. The fabric is excellent. It keeps you dry in all the worst of weathers without turning into a boil in the bag affair. But the best aspect of these premium shorts is the cut and tailoring. There’s a lot of sophisticated work and shaping going on here to goes some way to explain the price tag.
Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB
Best braced baggies for British biking
Price: £99.99 | Colours: Ink/lime, graphite/orange | Sizes: S-XXL
The Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB short has a set of removable braces to keep them in place without reverting to a restrictive waistband. The perfect baggy short for pretty much six months of the UK year. Are they good value? If you think of them as jackets for your legs – rather than as basic baggy shorts – yes they are.
Best storage liner shorts:
Bontrager Troslo Inform
Best way to stuff your stuff
Prie: £59.99 | Colours: Black | Sizes: S-XXL
The Bontrager Troslo inForm short comes in the most sizes and is excellent quality. It’s Lycra down the centre but you get mesh panels either side and in the bib area. Breathability is very good and it feels snug without being restrictive. Bontrager’s BioDynamic chamois is not overly thick but it still has good support and never felt clammy. The wide compression leg grippers are some of the best – they’re just as secure as silicone but they don’t rub or pull on leg hair. There’s a ton of storage at the back with three large elasticated pockets and yes, either of them can take a standard water bottle. Lower down there are two knee pockets but they’re too bit short and they don’t feature any elastic, so anything thing we put in them usually fell out. Comfortable, great and available in the most sizes, what stops it getting a prefect score is the saggy side pockets.
Specialized Mountain Bib Liner
Original and still amongst the best
Price: £80.00 | Colours: Black | Sizes: S-XXL
Specialized made the first storage shorts as part of its SWAT (Storage Water Air Tools) range. It was originally included with a baggy short but the Mountain Liner is now available separately. Specialized has made a couple of changes since the last time we tested it. There are still three lumbar pockets but these are almost a third deeper. The centre pocket has looser opening, so is designed to take a water bottle, but you actually can fit a bottle in either side pocket. There are additional pouches on each thigh and on the old short these were split into two. They’re now single pockets that are also deeper and we found we could get a bottle in either of them too. The body of the short is a lightweight breathable mesh with elasticated band rather than silicone gripper on the legs. The short features a shaped Body Geometry Mountain chamois, with tons of padding over the sit bones. Loads of storage, super stable and great value.
Madison Flux Capacity
Not just a brilliant name
Price: £54.99 | Sizes: S-XXL
Like most storage shorts, the Flux Capacity features an integrated bib to stop it hanging low when fully loaded but it does means you will need to shed upper layers if you want to squat down for, you know, a few minutes. If you only need to stop briefly there is a fly opening at the front, handy since the front of this short sits quite high on the chest. Niggles? The chamois pad is on the bulky side, the pockets are a bit fiddly to access and the silcone leg grippers are rather basic.
What to look for in the best mountain bike shorts
Baggy shorts have definitely become are part of the mountain biker’s uniform. There are performance aspects to wearing them off road — they’re less restrictive, more practical, hard-wearing — but it’s about style. That said, they still have to be comfortable, practical and affordable.
Velcro tags on the waist allow you to tweak the fit of the short. You see them inside and outside; the former are neater, but the Velcro can scuff your skin. On the outside, they can catch on jerseys and passing foliage. Some shorts have big buckle straps which can cause issues in a crash.
Not essential, but nice to have — these are perfect for car keys, small change or a phone. If they’re deep, you shouldn’t need zips.
To stop the waist popping open accidentally, it should have a press-stud fixing. Extra studs and/or a small strip of Velcro provide additional security. Belt loops are a good idea if there are no waist adjusters.
They may sound like a great idea for carrying extra clobber, but they put all your gear in the worst place for an accident, and the contents are more likely to bang against your thighs when pedalling. We’d avoid them.
The only way to guarantee complete comfort is to wear an inner liner short. Most baggy shorts DO NOT come spplied with a liner these days, because most riders prefer to use their own liner, often a bibshort. You will pay extra to have a liner short included. It has to be comfortable and highly wicking. The best liners are often shorter in the leg, and since they go beneath another layer, are made from a more breathable mesh fabric or thinner Lycra. Factor in about £25 for an aftermarket liner if your short doesn’t come with one. There is nothing stopping you mixing and matching brands.
This is a water repellent treatment that is applied to the fabric when new. It does what it says on the tin, but it needs renewing fairly often, as it can lose its effectiveness after repeated washing and wear against the saddle.
The longer the leg, the more protection it provides against brambles and scrapes. Also, a longer leg is less liable to ride up when using kneepads. Look for at least a 13in inseam.
Bibs on the best mountain bike shorts
Bib shorts are cycling shorts with upper sections and straps/braces that go over your shoulders. There are pros and cons to bib shorts.The benefits of bib shorts is that they stay up and stay in place. No more constantly tugging up on drooping waistbands. On a related note they also lead to a more comfortable, less bunched-up feeling around your waist when you’re baggy shorts over the top. The disadvantages of bib shorts is not only that they’re typically a bit more expensive than regular liner shorts but also that they make it more difficult to go to the toilet and they can also cause the baggy shorts worn over the top of them to slip down (which causes you to overtighten your baggy short waistband, thus removing the comfy-waist advantage of bib shorts!)