Best mountain bike shorts: comfortable, protective, waterproof, stash storage, stylish... whatever you're looking for in, you'll find it here.
The best mountain bike shorts as reviewed and recommended by our panel of expert testers. This short list includes a spread of baggy mountain bike shorts at a wide range of price points as well as specialist waterproof examples and padded liners to make your time in the saddle more comfortable.
Looking for more leg for protection from falls or foul weather? Read our guide to the best mountain bike trousers for everything you need to know about full-length options. If you’re after a complete wardrobe, have a look at our buyer’s guide to the best mountain bike jerseys.
Best trail shorts for men:
So good you’ll forget you’re wearing them
Sizes: S – XXL | Colours: Blue, black, green, orange | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Perfect combination of fabric, tailoring, sizing/length/colourway options
Reasons to avoid: 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 being 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.
Best lightweight option
Sizes: XS – XXL | Colours: Loam, Black, Midnight Blue, Redwood | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Invisible barely-there fit and articulation. Perfect pocket placement. Good moisture shedding
Reasons to avoid: The premium price means you can buy two shorts elsewhere for this cash. Hook and ladder waistband not ‘infinitely’ adjustable
This Glidepath is a lightweight, super breathable trail short made with a four-way stretch fabric and six different size options. It’s exceptionally cool and comfortable, and offers more stretch than any other on test. 7mesh has nailed the cut everywhere, with a close-fitting shape that never flaps, but also doesn’t cling or grab while pedalling or pulling shapes on jumps and descents. All told, it is a pretty much perfect lightweight summer trail short, and also looks cool off the bike. Its high levels of performance are matched by a high price, but the lifetime crash replacement policy means this is a short that will last, and that helps to justify the upfront cost.
Stylish, comfy and durable
Sizes: S – XL | Colours: Black, green | Weight: 281g | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Great fit, sizing, length, comfort and durability. The redesigned waist adjustment is a welcome improvement too.
Reasons to avoid: The price is too high, and the zippered pocket on the leg too low.
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.
Best for ventilation
Sizes: 28 – 40in | Colours: Black, grey, blue, green, red | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Comfortable and stylish. The laser cut holes really make it cool and breezy too
Reasons to avoid: The laser cut holes really make it cool and breezy, restricting its use to summer only.
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.
Best trail shorts for women:
Comprehensive sizing and summer ventilation
Colours: Blue, black, green, orange | Sizes: XS-XL (regular and short length options) | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Long and short sizes. Well ventilated.
Reasons to avoid: On the tight side, so you may want to size up.
These are a summer short best suited to hot weather, and the flexibility to pick your perfect colour, and leg length make them an attractive choice that works for various body shapes and personal preferences.
A stretchy short that hits the spot
Colours: Black | Sizes: 6 – 18 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Eco-friendly and sustainably produced. Comfortable and well-designed.
Reasons to avoid: Waist closure is overkill. You may need to size up on the larger sizes.
The Adidas Five Ten Brand of the Brave shorts are really well shaped for hips and bums and boast a good length, nailing a fit that feels like it could suit almost everyone. Although you might want to size up if you fall in between sizes.
Best storage liner shorts:
Best way to stuff your stuff
Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 9/10
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.
2. Specialized Mountain Bib Liner
Original and still amongst the best
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.
Not just a brilliant name
Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 8/10
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.
How we tested the best mountain bike shorts
All the shorts here were tested over a variety of summer conditions, from really hot and humid, to damp and mild. We assessed the fit, sizing and comfort while pedaling, the position and capacity of pockets and the effectiveness of waist adjusters and fly closures. We looked for any knee pad gap, as well as measuring all the inseams. To test the DWR effectiveness, we also sprayed each pair of shorts with a set amount of water and measured how much had soaked through after a set period of time.
What to look for in the best mountain bike shorts:
As befits mountain biking’s relaxed, chilled-out vibe, its clothing has always favoured a baggier, more casual disposition compared to the tight, performance-driven options worn by road riders. From the early jeans and work boots repurposed by the Repack pioneers, through surf shorts in the 90’s and heavy-duty protective freeride wear in the early noughties, mountain bike clothing has evolved dramatically, with standard issue kit boasting lightweight, hi-tech fabrics, built-in stretch, wicking properties and waterproof coatings. For a relatively simple garment, mountain bike shorts have been on quite a journey in the last 40 years.
And the reason shorts have made such great strides is that, globally, the sportswear market is worth a staggering $353 billion. Annually. So there is no shortage of budget swilling around to fund research and development. And that means that MTB clothing benefits from innovations being made across the entire sportswear industry.
A good pair of shorts blends a whole host of factors, but if we focus on fabrics to start, we now see that most MTB shorts are made from a polyester/elastane mix. Polyester is, of course, a man-made fabric with excellent durability as well as resistance to shrinking and stretching. It’s also easy to look after and quick-drying. The elastane element gives the garment a stretchy property, making it more suitable for high intensity activities involving lots of movement. And yes, you probably know it better by one of its trade names; Lycra or Spandex.
On top of these highly technical fabric blends, many brands add a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating. And while that might seem like a waste of time on a pair of shorts, where water can splash up the leg, it actually makes a lot of sense to prevent the seat area becoming saturated from spray. No one likes a soggy bottom, after all.
Mountain bike shorts also need to have a secure fly closure, pockets for storage and a cut that allows freedom of movement without billowing in the wind.
For this test we’ve assembled 10 of the latest shorts from an assortment of the most popular brands. Read on to find out which are pants and which are the bee’s knees.
All the shorts tested here use some variation of nylon/polyester/elastane mix. On average there’s around 10-15 per cent elastane to add sufficient stretch to the fabric. Flatlock seams are popular to join panels of material as they are strong and low profile, so there’s less abrasion on bare skin. Some shorts are now ultrasonically welded, or taped, which not only creates a more waterproof join, but it is impressively unobtrusive, eliminating chafing.
Fashions come and go, and with them hem lengths. Most trail shorts now have a relatively tailored, slim-line cut with a length at or around the knee. While length is really down to personal preference, it does depend to some extent on whether or not you wear knee pads. Too high and the short can ride up above the pad and expose an unflattering band of skin – known as the pad gap.
To add an element of adjustability, and room for a post-ride slice of cake, most shorts come with some form of waist adjuster. These can be subtle and hidden or external and easy-to-access.
Buttons, buckles and poppers – no, not the stomach contents of an 80’s raver, but different ways of fastening a fly. Whichever method is used, it needs to be quick and easy to fasten and unfasten, as well as secure; the last thing you want are your shorts falling down when you have to get off the back of the bike on a steep chute.
As riding packless has become more and more popular, so pockets have become more and more important on trail shorts. You don’t want huge cargo pockets that let you carry around the kitchen sink, as these will just flap against your thighs, but you do want enough space for a phone and a key at a bare minimum. Ideally the pockets should keep the contents secure against your body so they don’t rattle around.
Zipped vents let you tune the amount of cooling air that can enter your shorts on a hot day, but these add weight and cost. So the latest trend is for laser-cut holes around the inside thigh.
Durable Water Repellent
Or DWR for short. This is a treatment, or coating, added to the fabric to make water bead on the surface and run away, rather than pool and be absorbed. It’s useful on shorts to prevent uncomfortable wet bottoms while pedalling.