Wearing padded liner shorts under your baggies helps you ride longer and further in total comfort, and with storage bib shorts you even have room for a few more snacks! Stay comfortable in the saddle
The best MTB liner shorts can bring an extra layer of comfort to your mountain bike ride without feeling bulky or cramping your style on the bike. Choose from minimal boxer-brief style padded liner shorts for cycling, or more traditional bib shorts with the added bonus of internal storage for tools, tubes and snacks to help you ride without the burden of a backpack.
Whichever you prefer, the best padded liner shorts will help keep saddle sores at bay and let you ride longer and further in comfort. And don’t forget you’ll need some baggy shorts or mountain bike pants/trousers to go over the top!
Best MTB liner shorts for men
Best minimalist padded liner short
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XXL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Light, minimal, not restrictive at all
Reasons to avoid: Pad feels a bit weird at first if you’re used to a traditional full-length chamois
7Mesh’s Foundation undies come with a minimal foam pad that differs from most on the market by only covering bum cheeks, rather than also wrapping up the front, and also has perforations in the groin area for extra ventilation and heat escape.
The body-hugging stretchy fit stays put while pulling shapes and the thin fabric resists wetting out, unlike cotton boxers or briefs that can turn into a sweaty mess on hotter days. The key to its success, I think, is how the thinner pad doesn’t bunch up or wriggle, and also doesn’t need a ‘perfect’ position on the ischium (bum bones) like a road chamois. Combine this with the stretchy material breathing really well around thigh and glute creases and cracks, and the whole set-up keeps you fresh and reduces any chafing.
Best overall padded liner shorts
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XXL | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Super comfortable. Cool fabric. Elasticated/silicone cuffs don’t dig in.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive for an undershort.
Rapha’s liner is built using a Nylon and elastane mix, features a performance series chamois pad and gets grippers on the legs and elastic waist. However, the material has a compressive effect, and also features an antibacterial and sweat wicking treatment. You also get mesh panelling at the sides to boost air flow. £90 is a lot for something you don’t see, but we reckon this is probably the best liner we’ve tested, and some things are worth paying extra for. If you’re currently rocking a liner you got free with a pair of baggies (or worse), you should treat yourself.
3. Scott Trail Underwear Pro +++ Men’s Shorts
Most breathable liner short for hot weather
Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: N/A
Reasons to buy: Minimal bulk, breathable, comfortable
Reasons to avoid: Expensive when bought separately
Scott has done a fantastic job with its Trail Underwear Pro. The 3+ rated chamois pad is 3D formed, so matches your body superbly, while its just the right size and thickness to provide additional comfort without feeling like a nappy off the bike. Four-way stretch perforated fabric gives unrestricted movement, good wicking properties and dries quickly. It’s expensive on its own, but you basically get the same liner free with Scott’s Trail Vertic and Trail Tuned shorts, which is the smart way to buy them.
Best storage bib liner short
Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: The original storage liner short. Excellent design throughout.
Reasons to avoid: Premium price
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.
Best MTB liner shorts for women
1. Endura Women’s Singletrack Liner Shorts
Best women’s liner shorts
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent quality lycra with stretch and support, great value for money, good size range, wide waistband and leg cuffs, breathable mesh, comfortable chamois
Reasons to avoid: Leg length might be on the long side for shorter riders
The Endura Women’s Singletrack Liner shorts are outstanding. Constructed from a breathable, stretchy yet supportive mesh, they fit comfortably under baggy shorts. The wide waistband and leg cuffs sit nicely in place without squeezing, and prevent the top rolling down or the legs rolling up.
The Women’s Singletrack Liner Shorts come in sizes XS to XL, and in our experience, thanks to the stretch and design, XL will fit a size UK18. The chamois is super comfortable, with a medium thickness, though of course chamois comfort is also a question of personal preference. Also, as a tall rider I appreciated the length of these liner shorts, which comfortably reached just a couple of inches or so above the knee. However, the flip side of this might mean shorter riders find the length too long.
Overall, these liner shorts represent the ideal package of comfort, performance and price. I’ve ridden in them extensively and washed them frequently, and they’ve stayed in good condition. In fact, these are now my go-to liner shorts for all my rides.
2. Rapha Women’s Trail Liner
Best premium liner shorts with excellent comfort and fit
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Simple but super comfortable fit and design, breathable mesh side panels
Reasons to avoid: Premium price tag, limited size range for larger riders
Rapha might be well known for its road cycling kit, but when it decided to develop trail kit, it didn’t do it by half. In fact, pretty much all of the Rapha kit we’ve reviewed has scored top marks, like its kneepads and trail pants.
These shorts continue in this theme. The lycra is exceptional quality, offering comfortable support and firmness yet feeling soft on the body. These shorts sit in place and stay there, no matter how much you’re throwing yourself around the trail. We liked the flat front panel over the stomach, which meant no harsh seams or bands. We also loved the mesh side panels which add breathability and temperature regulation when riding in warm weather. There are even storage pockets on each side constructed from that mesh, and they’re deep enough to pop in a phone should you want to.
The chamois is medium thickness; thicker than the Specialized Women’s Mountain Bib Liners, and comfortable for long and short rides. They are on the pricey side, which isn’t unexpected what with this being a Rapha product. That said, the quality of the fabric and design shines through, so if you have the money to invest, then you won’t be disappointed.
3. Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner Bib Shorts with SWAT
Best women’s storage bib shorts
Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Very comfortable, plenty of on-board storage pockets, great fit, drop tail for comfort breaks
Reasons to avoid: Strap set up a bit confusing, limited size range for larger riders
Not a fan of carrying a bag? There’s storage aplenty in these women’s specific bib liner shorts from Specialized. SWAT – which stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools – is Specialized’s name for its various on-board storage systems for bikes and clothing.
There are 4 pockets on the back of Women’s Mountain Liner shorts, one of which is a secure zipped pocket, plus a pocket on each thigh that’s perfect for stowing your mid-ride snacks. The back pockets sit on a kind of separate flap, which is good in that it means the contents are pulled into your back, but it does mean if you put anything bulky in there, it’ll bulge out the back of your jersey. On the upside it sat securely and didn’t move about when riding.
The chamois is fairly thin, and has great coverage. We found it super comfortable for long rides. We also loved the mesh fabric the shorts were cut from; super soft, and stretchy yet firm, plus nice and cool and breathable for hot-weather riding. Other features include little poppers so you can attach them to your baggy shorts, and a drop tail design which means all you need to do is pull the back down for toilet stops.
And as a side note, we’d generally recommend being cautious about putting anything too hard or spiky in any of these pockets, especially anything close to the spine, as they might cause injury in the event of a crash.
4. Velocio Women’s Trail Mesh Bib Liner
Best for inclusive sizing and hot-weather riding
Colours: Black | Sizes: XXS – XXXL | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Inclusive range of sizing, lightweight breathable mesh is great for hot days, wide comfortable straps
Reasons to avoid: Mesh feels rough when stretched tight, narrow chamois
There’s lots we loved about these fully mesh trail liners from Velocio. Firstly, the mesh itself is stretchy, relatively soft and a definite godsend in hot weather.
The bib straps are nice and wide with lazer cut edges, so there’s nothing to chafe or pull. They have an additional strap across the upper back which means no more yanking up the shoulders when then start to slide down. This design also means it’s possible to just pull the back of the shorts down for toilet stops – Velocio call this its ‘Fly Free’ design.
Generally speaking, the Cytech chamois, which is on the thicker end of the spectrum, is very comfortable. There’s also a small mesh pocket on each thigh which is handy for the storage of riding essentials. Or snacks. Mostly snacks, if we’re honest.
One point in the negative column; on longer rides, we experienced chafing at the inside top of each leg where the chamois stops. This seemed to be in part due to the narrowness of the chamois, and the fact that the mesh fabric can feel a little rough when stretched or bunched. On shorter rides, there was no issue, but after about 4 hours it was uncomfortable.
We were particularly impressed to see the wide range of sizes these shorts are available in. It’s a much more inclusive sizing range than pretty much any other brand out there, going from XXS to XXXL, so smaller and larger riders are well catered too. Velocio also have an online sizing guide that takes weight as well as height into account, to help you find the best fit.
How we tested
All of the shorts above have been thoroughly tested by our team of expert reviewers. Each pair of shorts above have been ridden on a number of mountain bike rides in a range of conditions, and judged for value, comfort, fit and features. By testing and judging the shorts head-to-head, we know that the shorts included in this guide are the highest scoring and best performing ones we’ve tested.
What to look for in the best padded short liners for mountain biking
1. Chamois or pad
This is the pad that sits between your nether regions and the saddle, and it’s usually made of foam, gel, or a combination of both. It’s designed to sit next to the skin (so no knickers, boxers or pants underneath!). Chamois pads come in different thicknesses and sometimes also width fittings, and it’s very much a question of personal preference on what you go for.
2. Lycra or mesh fabric
The shorts themselves will be constructed from a stretchy Lycra material. You can also get more lightweight shorts, ideal for summer or hot-weather riding, that are either completely constructed from mesh, or have mesh panels.
Lots of liner shorts now come with pockets, usually located on the thigh or at the small of the back, and made of the same lycra or mesh as the shorts themselves. These pockets are handy for carrying snacks or change if you’re looking to ride light, or if you need more storage on longer rides.
4. Waist shorts or bib shorts
There are two types of liner shorts; waist shorts which are a bit like tight boxers, and bib shorts which have shoulder straps. There are pros and cons to each of them, and again it’s a matter of personal preference which you go for.
To work effectively, the liner shorts should sit next to the skin like leggings or tights. This is to prevent the pad moving around or bunching up, which would be uncomfortable, and to prevent chaffing, because no-one wants that going on in this region of the body.
What are padded liner shorts?
Padded liner shorts for cycling and mountain biking are lightweight lycra shorts that have a cushioned pad – called a chamois – that’s positioned to sit between the genitals and bum to provided cushioning, support and comfort while riding. They are made of a lightweight material and are designed to be worn against the skin; they are essentially cycling underwear, so you don’t wear underwear underneath them. Many mountain bikers wear them underneath their baggy shorts.
Are padded liner shorts worth it?
Many riders swear by padded liner shorts, especially for longer rides, but other riders prefer to just ride in their normal underwear under their baggy shorts, and that’s totally cool too.
Obviously we can’t dictate what you want to wear while riding, and a lot comes down to how comfortable you feel wearing un-padded underwear.
But we would suggest that there are some pretty strong reasons for wearing a specific padded liner short – namely performance fabrics will help wick sweat away from the body and dry much quicker than pure cotton, the pad/chamois itself will help support and isolate your soft tissue area during long periods in the saddle, it’s unlikely there will be any annoying seams that can cause chafing, and some models give you storage options, which can help spread the load and allow you to ditch your pack for shorter rides.
Do I wear underwear under padded liner shorts?
That’s a big no! If you do opt for padded liners, then think of them as cycling underwear. They’re designed to be worn next to the skin, as that’s when you’ll get the greatest benefit from the features that have been designed in.
Should I go for a boxer-style padded liner or a bib-short liner?
Once again this is very much down to personal preference, but each type does have it’s specific advantages and disadvantages.
Boxer-brief style padded liners are lightweight and minimal so you can wear them as normal underwear and not feel constrained or self conscious. They also make it easy to take a comfort break on a ride.
Bib shorts, on the other hand, can require a fairly extensive level of undress or some creative techniques when you need to go to the outdoor bathroom, unless they have built-in features to make this easier – most women’s bib shorts are designed to be able to easily pull down the back for toilet stops. They’re also more restrictive when you’re not actually riding, such as hanging out after a ride or driving to and from the trailhead. But the bib loops keep the short from slipping down and help prevent bunching up, so they can be more comfortable on longer rides.
That extra support from the shoulder straps also lets brands incorporate pockets and storage, for holding water bottles, tools, pumps, inner tubes and snacks. This can be a real bonus if you want to ditch your pack but still carry all the essentials. However, we would urge caution here, as carrying objects on your person can potentially cause injuries were you to crash and land on one of them.
Do I have to buy a padded short liner separately?
No, absolutely not. Many – but not all – baggy shorts come with padded liners included, and many of them are very good and save a load of money compared to buying the outer short and the liner short separately.
Is there a difference between padded cycling shorts for men and women?
Yes. Since the chamois pad on the shorts is designed to sit directly on the skin, and given that there are certain anatomical differences between male and female genitalia, it’s no surprise that there are usually different designs of shorts to suit men and women.
The shape and structure of the pad will be slightly different, the cut of the shorts themselves will be different, and women’s bib shorts in particular usually have features that make comfort breaks in the wild a bit easier – for example, the rear of the short will detach or pull down, so you don’t have to take your top off to relieve yourself.
But again it’s down to personal preference – if you feel comfortable wearing the shorts, just do it!
What is chamois cream, how do I use it and do I need it?
Chamois cream is an antibacterial anti-chaffing cream that is used to prevent rubbing between the chamois pad on liner shorts and the skin, specifically the delicate skin around the genital and bum region.
There are lots of different kinds with different consistencies and formulas, scented and unscented, but it usually comes in either a tube or a tub and has a creamy consistancy and a white colour.
To use chamois cream, take a generous scoop or squeeze and apply to areas of skin that will be in contact with the saddle via the chamois pad. Some riders also apply chamois cream to the chamois pad itself.
As to whether you need it, that’s a matter of personal preference. For a lot of trail riding, uplift days and short rides, most riders don’t bother. However if you’re planning on being in the saddle for a long time, and particularly if you know you’re going to be doing a lot of pedalling, it can really help avoid friction and potentially saddle sores.