Riding trousers/pants have become more and more popular for mountain biking in recent years, with summer options now lighter, more breathable and less restrictive, while waterproof winter trousers make a lot of sense for keeping you warm and dry in muddy conditions.
If you want to ride throughout the whole year, then there’s one item of clothing that’s well worth investing in – a pair of mountain bike trousers. There are now loads available on the market, from lightweight ones for summer riding and protection, all the way through to waterproof mountain bike trousers which, when combined with the best waterproof mountain bike jackets, will ensure you can ride through the wet winter months and stay warm, dry and relatively clean.
Looking for women-specific riding pants/trousers? Check out our guide to the best women’s mountain bike pants.
The best trail trousers/pants
Sizes: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Four-way stretch fabric allows unhindered movement. Ratchet fly is super secure. Trendy tapered fit. Zip pockets.
Reasons to avoid: Inseam is short if you have long legs.
This is old Fox Indicator pant renamed – everything else from the four-way stretch fabric to the zip pockets remains the same. While not a full waterproof winter trouser, there’s a durable water repellent coating that shrugs off damp days cursed with constant drizzle and frequent splashing. The tapered fit keeps it tangle-free, while the stretch fabric gives you plenty of freedom to move around the bike. And even though riding pants are the hot ticket right now, the Flexair remains breathable enough to keep you comfortable as well as stylish.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Lightweight and airy. Great fit and comfort. Well priced considering the quality, fit and performance. Women’s version also available
Reasons to avoid: Potentially less durable than the DH-orientated MT500 Burner pant
We’re big fans of Endura’s MT500 Burner Pant, it looks good and offers great durability and protection. This new Lite version is arguably better for trail riders though, because it’s incredibly light at 268g, or nearly half the weight of the downhill pant.
Pants are never going to be as breezy as shorts, but the Burner Lite comes closer to any I’ve tried thanks to the lightweight material that feels breezy, and never clammy. There are also laser cut holes galore, with a score or more either side of the knee to draw in air. I’m happy in the Burner Lite up to 20°C or so, which means I’ve been wearing them all this summer without problems.
The Burner Lite is cheap for a premium brand and by today’s standards, at less than £100. The cut is excellent, it’s comfy, the length and width perfect and it’s the most breathable pant I’ve worn.
Sizes: XS – XXL (28 – 40in) | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Quality fabric. Comfortable, relaxed fit. Nice range of features. Excellent pockets.
Reasons to avoid: Might not be tight enough for some riders. More expensive than some options.
While Rapha might be a brand more often associated with road cycling, its trail mountain bike range is impressive, and we found these offered comparable performance to the Troy Lee Skyline trousers during testing.
The fabric is think with four-way stretch plus a DWR coating to ward off drizzle and splashes. Inside, a soft facing feels good against bare skin. Sizing is true to size with a generous cut but without being baggy, and waist adjusters allow you to customise the fit, plus belt loops mean you can add a belt if you want.. A tapered leg plus elasticated hems makes getting them on and off easy.
While the price is higher than the Endura MT500 or Fox Ranger pants, this is offset by an included repair kit and free crash repair service. Overall, these are quality riding pants that fit great, feel comfortable and work in a range of conditions.
Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Good value. Not too tight. Decent ventilation. Sturdy waistband adjustment. DWR treatment.
Reasons to avoid: Not the tidiest stitching. Pockets are a bit deep.
Leatt has done a great job with the inspiringly-named MTB Enduro Pants 3.0 V22. They’re excellent value, the cut is tapered and slim without being skin-tight and restrictive, and there are a smattering of useful features, such as numerous ventilation holes and five storage pockets. The backside is reinforced and boasts a waterproof coating for protection from the odd puddle.
Read our full review of the Leatt MTB Enduro Pants 3.0 V22
Sizes: 30, 32, 34, 36, 38in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Superlight and great freedom of movement. Chain protector panel.
Reasons to avoid: Ultra expensive. Only one pocket.
The Sprint Ultra is also lighter weight than the old Sprint simply because Troy Lee has ditched the mesh liner, but to retain the durability there’s an abrasive resistant material in the seat area and a cowhide leather patch on the ankle to stop chain wear – it’s the only trouser to get this feature. With its excellent venting and superb fit the Sprint Ultra is a great trail trouser, that’s also durable enough for downhill use – a jack of all trades and master of some then. At £175 it is pricey and we really struggled with that, but this is easily the best on test and in that regard it’s definitely worth it.
Sizes: S-XXL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Great value. Four-way stretch fabric. Ratchet waist closure is secure. Zip pockets.
Reasons to avoid: A function-focused rather than on-trend brand.
This trouser was developed with the help from the Athertons, so it has a bit of a gravity focus in terms of the cut, and extra room at the knees for pads. On the outside edge you also get a little bit of 3D moulded knee protection – it’s a bit of a token gesture, especially when you have a full pad underneath, but it’s better than bare skin. That said, the 500 Burner Pant II is also a great trouser for just riding trails – it fits well, the breathability is good, the fabric is harder wearing than the rival Specialized Demo Pro pant, and it is better value.
Sizes: XS-XXXL (28-41in) | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Comfortable material. Quick-drying.
Reasons to avoid: Cut is a bit odd, with tight legs and baggy bum.
The material is lightweight, dries incredibly quickly and feels great next to the skin. It’s not the most durable though, and there’s a lack of reinforcement in the knees, seat or driveside ankle area, so one hard smash on gravel and you could go through it. The Trigger hasn’t cut up though, despite lots of riding through brambles and the dense undergrowth. To keep the trouser stable there’s some silicone print on the inside of the waist and two Velcro adjusters. Despite the extra volume in the rear, the Trigger is probably the most comfortable trouser on test. The Trigger feels great to ride in, especially in warmer conditions.
The best waterproof mountain bike trousers/pants:
Sizes: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40in | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Great on-bike comfort. Decent waterproofing. Stylish.
Reasons to avoid: Nothing of note.
You might not be able to tell from the pictures but the Fox Ranger 3L Water Pant doesn’t have that typical nylon trouser construction, it’s more of a soft shell. The face fabric contains a high percentage of Spandex, which means it has a four-way stretch ability, is less noisy and, in our opinion, way more comfortable. But don’t let that imply this trouser is less effective at keeping you dry because it’s actually really good. It uses Truseal, a three-layer fabric that features a membrane middle layer to boost wicking and waterproofness. We don’t have any figures but during tests we’ve found it breathes as good as the Endura MT500 pant and is close in terms of waterproofness.
Combine performance, comfort, fit and the price and you have the best on test – totally recommended.
Sizes: 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40in | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Nice stretchy fabric. Good cut. Useful pockets.
Reasons to avoid: Premium brand means a premium price. Ankle cuffs can be quite tight when removing over wet socks.
For a brand based in sun-kissed southern California, Troy Lee has nailed the winter trouser brief with its new Resist pant. It fits well (although you may need to size down as the fit is generous at the waist) with plenty of mobility, so it doesn’t actually feel like you are wearing a waterproof pant. In fact we’d happily wear these on cool spring and autumn days, even when it wasn’t raining. Zipped hip pockets and well-placed reinforced panels add to the practicality. Only the price washes a little of the lustre away.
Sizes: 28-38in | Waterproof rating: 10k | Breathability rating: 10k | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent waterproofing. Goldilocks fit – neither too tight nor too baggy. Breathable.
Reasons to avoid: Waistband is too loose.
This 100% waterproof trouser uses a 2.5-layer fabric with a little bit of stretch and is rated 10k for both breathability and waterproofness. While it’s true that other quality riding trousers with a DWR coating that keep you dry-ish in less severe conditions can be had for half the money, the Hydromatics are priced in line with other fully winterised equivalents. As such, they are genuinely waterproof and can handle full days in horrible conditions.
Know your mountain bike trousers:
We’ve tested a whole load of mountain bike pants, and all of the ones we’ve selected above have scored highly enough to make our list of the very best out there. They’ll all get the job done, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the more expensive options will be a bit more durable and comfortable to wear.
These are just simple Velcro tags that allow you to fine tune the fit. They are often supplemented by some belt loops and some trousers also have an adjustable fly, which is often a ratchet buckle borrowed from motocross pants.
This stands for Durable Water Repellent and it’s a coating that’s sprayed onto the fabric surface to boost pooling, so water runs off rather than being absorbed. None of the trousers here are fully waterproof, but this coating helps ward off trail splatter and also makes the trouser easier to clean.
They add bulk and complexity but they’re a must have for keys, phone, cash and multi-tool. A zipped security pocket on the rear is a feature on some trousers, but it’s often tiny and hard to get to.
This is either a full regulation zip or it can be a simple flap – the advantage with the latter is it can’t break. A waterproof zip, extra press studs (if one fails you’ve got a back-up) and Velcro tabs are a bonus.
Often on the bottom of the right ankle area on some trousers there is a reinforced piece of leather or Cordura, the purpose of which is to stop the chain/chainrings cutting the trouser when you’re laying it over in a corner or pedalling.
Like shorts, full trousers have perforations in the crotch area and extra mesh panels at the back of the knees for breathability. We’ve seen zipped vents, but another zip is just something else to go wrong.
Some trousers are cut roomier in the knee, so they don’t tighten up as you pedal and also allow you to wear knee pads underneath. A few trousers even have reinforced material over the knee, so if you do skin your knees you’re less likely to put a hole in the material.
Most quality waterproof trousers are built from a laminate fabric, which consists of a waterproof/breathable membrane which is either sandwiched between two nylon layers or stuck to the inside of one. The membrane is the bit that keeps you dry and Gore-Tex is the most common brand.
All waterproof fabrics are rated for waterproofness and anything over 10,000mm is pretty watertight in normal conditions. Breathability is also rated – look for the MVTR (Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate) figure. Above 20,000g/m²/24hr means good breathability.
Manufacturers describe their garments as having three two or layers but what does this mean? A two-layer fabric is made up of an outer face fabric bonded to the waterproof membrane, usually with a mesh liner hanging inside. On a 2.5 layer, the mesh liner is replaced with a micro (or half) layer, which is either bonded or printed onto the membrane. A three-layer garment has the membrane sandwiched between two Nylon layers.
To be honest, on legs, vents are generally unnecessary but some of the pants here do have them.
Adjustable cuffs and hems stop water getting in but also help regulate airflow the inside of the garment. To reduce weight, Velcro cuffs and ankles are often replaced with simple elasticated band.
Pockets are handy on the trousers but a waterproof zip is a must if you intend stashing a phone down low.
On waterproof trousers look for a baffle gutter behind the fly to stop water ingress.