Whether you're looking for waterproof mountain bike trousers for wet-weather riding or lightweight MTB pants for protection and comfort, we've tested plenty to bring you the best
Long gone are the days of heavy, shapeless motocross pants; modern mountain bike trousers come in a range of technical fabrics to suit different conditions and there are more choices than ever for women. They’re an increasingly popular alternative to shorts, with lots of different options on the market.
In the winter, heavyweight trousers and waterproof trousers will keep bad weather at bay, especially when paired with one of the best mountain bike jackets you can get. In transitional seasons, they provide a breathable layer that provides protection from sun, undergrowth and the odd unexpected shower.
Weight: 459g | Sizes: XS – XXL | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Great fitting winter trouser
Cons: Too hot for sizzling summer days.
You might expect a more relaxed fit with baggy in the title, but don’t be fooled into thinking these are a shapeless offering – far from it.
Good on length and well tapered, they have zipped ankle closures, that give you more room in the lower leg should you wish, and help you get them off over shoes. Well shaped around the knees, there are no complaints with any thickness of kneepad run underneath. And up to the waist they have a double popper and zip closure and adjustable Velcro. These are a rugged all-weather pant that still pack a punch on style and features.
Weight: 385g | Sizes: XXS – XL | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Good fit. Excellent fabric fends off splashes but breathes sweat
Cons: Not much stretch to the fabric. Leg length is on the short side. Very expensive.
There’s no stretch in these trousers, so a good cut is essential, and Patagonia has delivered just that. Well shaped for hips and thighs, a really nice high- waisted back and slim lower legs with zippered leg openings to the knee for easy pad and shoe removal.
The waist has a simple zip and popper closure and a very subtle mtb-specific OppoSet waistband that allows you to tweak the waist size to your perfect fit. The only slight downside is length – if you are at the taller end of the scale then it may be a touch short in the leg.
Last up, we can’t not cover Patagonia’s ethical position. Taking impressive action in reducing its environmental impact, and its support of good causes, as well as its solid repair programme to keep your kit running for longer.
Shredly Cascade Pants
Best shorts for curvy and plus-sized women
Colours: Various colours including black, Mara red (pictured), Topo orange, plus patterned options | Sizes: US00 – 24 | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Excellent size range, comfortable waist band, durable fabric, plenty of colour options
Cons: Fabric isn’t the most breathable or technical
One of the first things to note is the extensive range of sizes that Shredly offers, which means a much greater range of women with different body shapes are able to find technical trousers that fit and look good. It’s something we wish more brands would do.
The pull-on style has a wide, stretchy yoga-legging style waist band, which hugs the hips and is great news if you’re curvy, and if ordinary trousers have a tendency to gape at the rear on you. A drawstring also means you can tighten and secure it to give a little more secure fit. However, I did find that these trousers had a tendency to pull down a little when riding – a problem we didn’t experience on the similarly designed Shredly MTB Shorts – possibly because of the pull of the fabric when worn over kneepads.
The cut is feminine but loose, with 4-way stretch to the fabric, and an articulated knee and elasticated ankle cuffs, jogger-style. Low- to mid-profile knee pads fit comfortably underneath the pants. I experienced some rubbing on my left knee when not wearing kneepads from a stray, scratchy thread which was uncomfortable over longer distances.
The styling and comfort is such that I’ve been using these pants for general wear; they’re also great for walking. Overall, there’s a whole lot to love about these pants, though I’d like to see some improvement in the waistband.
Weight: 475g | Sizes: XS – XXL | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Good value. Comfortable and stretchy. Mild and wild colour options. Zip hip pockets
Cons: Velcro waist adjusters could be longer.
If you don’t need as much protection from the elements, look no further than the Endura MT500 Burner pant. With a four-way fabric, it’s light and comfortable enough for all-day pedalling.
There is a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, which will stave off splashes, and a nice tapered cut that’s flattering and keeps the trouser from getting tangled in your chain. Finally, zip pockets are perfect for valuables. All for a great price at under £90.
Weight: 304g | Sizes: 4 – 18 | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Excellent value for money
Cons: Light fabric means they can be cold in winter.
For a non-mtb specific offering the Decathlon Women’s Mountain Hiking trousers deliver decent performance, and Decathlon have three colourways with black, grey and purple available. So if you fancy a more vibrant trouser to add to you wardrobe we think the purple pair look fab.
They’ve been designed to wick moisture for warmer days and dry out quickly on wetter occasions. They offer no water resistance or waterproofness, but we found them to be so speedy in drying out that they handled all but the worst deluge well. Two zip pockets at the hip and a zip pocket on the thigh, which houses a phone comfortably against your leg, mean you can stash your valuables easily.
Weight: 265g | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Good four-way stretch to the fabric
Cons: Very slim fitting.
Scott boasts a collection of kit for women serious about the way their bikes and equipment look and perform – and we think they’ve nailed it with these trousers.
They are incredibly comfy and move really well if you are undertaking more dynamic riding. The slim-line design runs down to a tight ankle fitting with elasticated backs to make them easier to slip on. Granted, you will have to remember to put your kneepads on before you hop into these pants, but the tighter ankle design means no erroneous and unwanted wet weather splashback up your legs.
The waistline is elasticated at the rear and has an adjustable aluminium loop fastening at the front, which can be a touch fiddly. The elasticated waist however, is a comfort godsend, reducing any pressure into your stomach when riding.
How we tested
Each of the trousers above have been rigorously tested on a number of rides in different conditions, with climbs, descents, sprints and over long durations, as well as being washed and tried according to instructions. These pants have been judged against performance, features, comfort, fit, breathability, durability and relevant elements like waterproofing or protection.
What to look for in the best mountain biking trousers or pants for women
If you’re looking for a great pair of riding trousers that’ll be comfortable and keep you protected, then the following features are worth considering.
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 is either a full regulation zip, or it can be a simple flap – the advantage with the latter is it can’t break. Some pants have velcro flies, and some use press-studs. A waterproof zip, extra press-studs (if one fails you’ve got a back-up) and Velcro tabs are a bonus.
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.
Some shorts come with even more water protection in the form of waterproof membranes. At the premium end, you’ll find the highly effective Gore-Tex membrane; other brands will use other waterproof membranes or their own membrane. Waterproof trousers are absolutely brilliant for wet weather riding, keeping you protected from the elements.
They add bulk and complexity but they’re a must have for keys, phone, cash and multi-tool. Most trousers will have a pocket on each hip, and occasionally more. These can be completely open, or have a zip closure to help keep the contents secure.
Some trousers are cut roomier in the knee, so they don’t tighten up as you pedal and also allow you to wear kneepads underneath. A few trousers even have reinforced material over the knee, so if you crash, you’re less likely to skin your knees or put a hole in the material.
Modern mountain bike pants are a whole lot more breathable than those from even a couple of years ago. Breathability can be built into the fabric in the case of lighter-weight trousers, or it can be achieved using different, finer fabrics or mesh to allow moisture to escape, and finally it can be achieved through physical features like ventilation perforations at the crotch and knee.
Some trousers have a reinforced patch of leather or tough cordura fabric on the inner right ankle. This robust material is designed to protect the rest of the trousers from catching, ripping or cutting on the chain and chainrings while riding.
Do I need to wear liner shorts under my riding trousers?
Whether or not you wear padded liner shorts is a matter of personal preference. Many riders like the comfort they provide, but it’s not compulsory and if you feel comfortable without them, then go for it.