Whatever your budget or riding style, we've tried and tested lots of shorts to bring you our pick of the very best riding shorts for women.
Finding the best pair of women’s mountain bike shorts is, thankfully, easier than ever before with a huge range of choice from brands around the world, from mainstream to women’s specific. Garments have to be fit for purpose, and while not every short will suit every woman, the increased range means you should find a few options to suit your body shape, riding style and personal preferences.
And of course, if you want more coverage for protection from the elements or just because you prefer something longer, check out our guide to the best women’s riding trousers/pants.
Light and comfy all-rounder, whatever your leg length
Sizes: XS – XL (regular and short lengths) | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Breezy summer shorts. Two leg lengths
Cons: Summer use only
In peak summer these super-lightweight shorts will be in their element. Perforated vents run on the outer edge of the thigh, compared to the inner thigh on others, to further aid cooling. Despite being lightweight they have a water repellent finish, and Endura has worked to reduce its environmental impact by using a PFC-free coating. Endura also offers a repair scheme for any garment outside warranty.
The fit is comparable with their jersey counterpart, with a slimmer overall shape, although there is still good room for knee pads. Both Rachael and Laura sized up for a bit more room, opting for a medium and XL. One unique feature is that they come in two leg lengths – Laura ran a regular length, but Rachael opted for the short length. The waist closure uses a zip and snap fastening, silicone grippers and an adjustable Velcro strap. The adjusters sit on the back of the short, and when pulled in tight do result in a bunching on the waistband.
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.
Shredly MTB Curvy Long shorts
Best shorts for curvy and plus-sized women
Colours: Lots of patterns options including dinosaurs! | Sizes: US8 – 24 | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Excellent size range, very comfortable, plenty of cool prints, great length with different length options available
Cons: Fabric isn’t the most breathable
There is so much that’s right about these shorts. Shredly is doing something very different to a lot of brands – and it’s good!
Firstly, there’s the fact that the whole shorts range comes in a few different designs and two lengths; you can opt for a short or long version of these shorts. Secondly, there’s the MTB shorts which have a regular press-stud and fly closure and these the MTB Curvy shorts, which have a pull-on style with a wide, yoga-legging style top. This sits nice and high around the hips and waist, keeps the shorts securely in place without putting pressure on the stomach, digging in or rolling down. It’s a very comfortable fit, even on long rides in hot weather.
Secondly, the short fabric has a good stretch to it without deforming; they keep their shape but fit snugly but not to tight. The leg length is perfect, sitting to just below the knee covering knee pads while standing, and just at the knee while riding.
And if you’re bored of the usual plain mountain bike shorts out there, then you will love the fact that Shredly shorts come in a range of different patterns, colours and styles, such as the dinosaur print above, as well as plain choices.
There is a pocket on each hip, and also a zipped pocket on the left thigh that’s big enough to fit a phone in securely.
These have become my go-to mountain bike shorts for sheer comfort, plus the fact they make me smile every time I wear them.
Suitable for a good range of body shapes
Sizes: UK 6-18 | Rating: 9/10
Pros: Eco-friendly fabric. Versatile mid-weight construction
Cons: Doesn’t need so many waist features.
These Adidas Five Ten shorts boast good sustainability credentials, made from Primegreen – a series of recycled materials, in this case 90 per cent recycled polyester and 10 per cent elastane. The elastane offers a four-way stretch, perfect for improving freedom of movement and comfort, and they use a solid mid-range weight fabric to get you through all weathers.
While the styling is fairly relaxed overall, Adidas Five Ten has gone to town on the waist fastenings. There’s an internal tie cord, zip with additional popper closures, belt loops and silicone lettering spelling out Brand of the Brave on the internal waistband. Don’t get us wrong, we love the chance to adapt our shorts to our individual hip-to-waist ratios, but perhaps these are a little overkill – we’d happily see the belt loops dropped for a cleaner finish on the waistband.
The two hip pockets are nicely angled, which is flattering and one has an additional internal zipped compartment. It’s a nice touch but only just big enough to hold a set of car keys. A bigger pocket on the thigh just houses an iPhone 11. They fit nicely on both of us, really well shaped for hips and bums and boast a good length, nailing a fit that – like the jersey – feels like it could suit almost everyone. Although you might want to size up if you fall in between sizes.
Decathlon Rockrider Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts ST 900
Superb value if you’re not bothered about the brand name
Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 7/10
Pros: Super cheap but well made and comfortable
Cons: Could be longer in the leg.
Decathlon’s ST900 shorts use a stretchy, water-repellent material that’s at the lighter end of the fabric spectrum, and they’re available in three colours. For ventilation they have perforated inner thighs, and they are well served with pockets too; a zip rear pocket accommodates your keys, and there’s a thigh pocket for your phone that’s water resistant.
It’s a nice touch for keeping your valuables safe and clean, but the thigh pocket did feel a bit sweaty against bare skin if not paired with undershorts – they are not included but Decathlon does offer these separately. Rounding off the features is a loop on the right hip for your gloves. Don’t leave them in it and ride off as you’re bound to drop them, but for occasions mid-ride where you might stop for a chat or to take a photo, we found it to be a handy feature.
The position of the seams and panels are well considered to the female form and they are the only shorts on test with an elasticated waistband. Paired with a zip and a hook closure it feels secure. There’s no waist adjustability though, so if you have slimmer hips you’ll probably want to try them on before committing to a size.
Wearing these back-to-back with shorts up to four times more expensive highlighted just how amazing the value is. Tweaks could really elevate them, like adding an inch or two in length and bringing their ‘green’ credentials in line with the jersey, but if price is your number one consideration, they definitely do the job.
Slimline shorts with a nice stretch to them
Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Dialled shorts with good pocket placement
Cons: Not much variation between the larger sizes.
Marketed as longer-distance trail-riding shorts, TLD’s Lilium is focused on breathability and comfort. They deliver on both fronts, using a nice mid-weight material that, like the jersey, is Bluesign approved and available in either black with subtle oil slick branding, or ginger. It’s worth noting that the black version can be bought with a padded liner short for £130.
TLD has really got the pockets dialled on these shorts. Two zip pockets on the front are lined with nice complementary coloured mesh, but the real genius is the perfectly snug phone pocket, placed low at the back of the short – it’s the perfect size for an iPhone 11 and holds it securely in a place that doesn’t impede pedalling.
The fit is slimmer and more form fitting. If that’s not your thing, then TLD’s Mischief shorts have a looser and longer shape. The waistband is chunky yet slim-fitting all at once, giving a secure feel with zip and snap closure and Velcro adjusters, and silicone grippers on the back.
They did come up a touch small, and we did notice the difference between the large and XL was negligible – perhaps a blip in the samples we had – but we would like to see more differentiation between sizes.
They aren’t the longest of shorts on test, although a dropped hem on the front helped alleviate the dreaded knee pad gap. These are great all-round shorts, but the higher price tag and sizing anomalies keeps them from getting top marks.
Gravity short for the longer legged
Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Durable shorts for three-season use. Neat goggle bag included. Cons: Very baggy. Short placement means items can flap around.
These Nirvana shorts are one of our baggier options on test, are packed full of features and boast a gravity bias. The four-way stretch material is reasonably lightweight, coming in just heavier than the Madison and Endura shorts, so the Nirvana would work well in all conditions bar the arctic chills of winter.
Their cross season functionality is further extended by a splash-proof, shower-proof DWR coating, triple-stitching on the inner seams for durability, and thigh ventilation holes on the front and rear panels to keep them breathable in warm conditions.
Two bonded zipped pockets give good storage volume, but are pretty sizable, which means whatever you’re carrying can slap around inside. One comes with a soft goggle bag, which is handily detachable, and the other an internal D-ring to which you can clip your keys.
They are well fitted for hips and bums; perhaps the most accommodating on test thanks to their baggier styling. The waist has a zip closure and poppers combined with Velcro side adjusters, and the waistband sits high at the back. For shorter riders these may feel more like a three-quarters length short, but for taller riders, they are the perfect length, with a hem that will not only touch your knees, but comfortably cover them.
If you’re looking for more gravity styling and are a fan of a longer length short then these are a great all-rounder. But if you’re of average or below height, the leg length probably may well be a deal breaker.
Ethical and comfortable summer shorts
Sizes: 6-18 | Rating: 8/10
Pros: Lightweight fabric is a joy in summer heat. Four-way stretch allows freedom of movement. Cons: On the tight side. Limited pockets and features.
Patagonia’s mountain bike clothing range has three different short lines, each one aimed broadly at a different riding style. The Dirt Craft shorts are longer and looser, best for more enduro-style riding. In the middle sits the Dirt Roamer – tested here – and finally there are the Tyrolean shorts.
All three are marketed using their associated leg length in inches, specifically 12in, 11.75in and 9.5in respectively. The Tyrolean shorts are the shortest and most fitted in the range, aimed at more XC/gravel riding.
The first thing to note about these shorts is they are slim fitting. When we first tried the size 10, whilst the waist was good, the fit in the thighs was barely baggier than a Lycra road short – not the most pleasant effect when wearing chamois shorts and knee pads underneath. Sizing up to a 12 gave a little more breathing room in the quads, although still definitely a more fitted short than others on test. If you have super-slim legs these may be the shorts for you.
Made from lightweight fabric, the Dirt Roamers are definitely a summer short. With a blend of 87 per cent recycled polyester and 13 per cent elastane, there’s a four-way stretch which gives movement instead of resistance when pedalling. The lightweight fabric also proved to give great breathability.
Once pedalling, these shorts felt amazing and we soon forgot we were wearing them (which is always a sign of great shorts). Although sceptical of the fitted design, out on the trails the fabric felt incredible against bare skin and the stretch provided great mobility, making pedalling super comfortable.
How we tested
All of the shorts above were thoroughly tested by an experienced mountain bike product reviewer. They were ridden for a number of rides on trails that included climbs, descents, sprints and long hours in the saddle to determine how each pair of short performed in a range of conditions.
Shorts were evaluated against their intended purpose, and were judged on their comfort, features, pockets, fit and size range, plus additional features where applicable eg waterproofing.
What to look for in the best women’s mountain bike shorts
There are now, thankfully, many more brands producing women’s mountain bike kit that’s fit for purpose. In fact, most brands that do men’s kit now do women’s kit lines too, to the same level of quality and performance, so it’s not an inferior version. And while not ever brand will do as extensive a range of women’s kit as they do men’s, there will certainly be several shorts options amongst what’s on offer, as it’s a key part of the rider wardrobe.
If you’re looking for a great pair of women’s mountain bike shorts, or you’re just getting started and aren’t sure what to look out for, we break down the key features and main considerations.
There are shorts available to suit every budget (especially if you look out for sale bargains) and more expensive doesn’t always mean better. It’s perfectly possible to get a great pair of shorts for a low price; they might not have all the features of their higher-priced equivalents, but they’ll be just fine for heading out on the trail.
Price will tend to go up as certain features and fabrics come into play. For example, expect to pay more for shorts with waterproofing, more pockets, or constructed from more premium fabrics and processes.
Fit and size
This is the big one, and unfortunately like any other type of clothing, there can be fit and size variations from brand to brand. in our experience, sizing is broadly consistent; a medium in one brand should be fairly similar to a medium in another brand, though things like style may affect how a pair of shorts actually fits you… more on which later.
In general, a medium equates to a UK12 or a US10, and most brands will provide a size guide to help you decide what size to go for.
One major limiting factor is sizing ranges though. These tend to be more limited than men’s ranges with regard to bigger sizes, and will often only go up to a large or extra large, which means women size UK18 or US16 and over may find it difficult to find clothing from most bike brands. There are a few exceptions, such as Machines for Freedom, Velocio and Fat Lass at the Back. Most ranges will go down to a small and extra small, with some brands going down to XXS.
Things that can affect fit include the stretchiness of the fabric and the waistband, with some brands providing stretchy waistbands or adjustable waistbands. For riders with curves, this can be extra helpful in keeping the shorts secure on the waist and stopping them falling or slipping down which riding.
Like fit, this can vary from brand to brand. Some short styles will have a shorter leg length; sometimes they’ll state this as a feature, other times, you’ll need to take an educated guess based on the product photos, which isn’t ideal.
A few brands produce shorts in two different lengths: Shredly is a good example of this. It produces a longer length that sits over the knees, and a shorter length that sits to the thigh above the knee.
There’s some variety in style which can also have an impact on fit. Some shorts are aimed more at cross-country riding, and these tend to be shorter and slightly more form-fitting around the leg. Shorts aimed at trail-, enduro- or free-riding will tend to have a looser fit about the leg, and a longer length, the better to reach and cover the top of kneepads.
Most brands claim their garments are breathable, but real world results can vary based on temperature, humidity and air pressure. Breathability matters most in the summer months when your body heat and sweat factor are likely to be high. The more breathable a garment, the better chance you have of keeping the body temperature regulated.
Some brands will include elements like a more breathable fabric in certain areas or lazer-cut ventilation holes in the crotch area to help with breathability.
Technical fabrics used in shorts enhance breathability and feel soft against the skin, but there’s often a trade-off with durability. While lighter-weight fabrics are more breathable, they can often get abraded through use, particularly in the bum area where grit on the saddle combined with pedalling can wear fabric down, particularly if you do a lot of riding in wet weather.
When it comes to shorts, features matter. We’re talking zips, pockets, buckles, air vents, waistband adjusters and the closure system, amongst many others – all can affect your comfort and pedal experience.
If the pockets are too small there’s no use having them. Some manufacturers opt for advanced waist closure systems without thinking about how easy the shorts will be to undo when you’re desperate for that mid-ride pee. A feature is only worth having if it adds functionality and works in the real world, otherwise it’s just extra weight and cost; the fundamentals of fit and comfort are the most important.
Integrated or attachable chamois
Some shorts will come with their own pair of liner shorts with padded chamois to be worn underneath, although this is less common now since liner shorts are a very personal choice and riders quite often prefer to use their favourite – if they wear a liner short.
A few brands, for example Endura, go for a baggy riding short that has poppers that can be attached to its own-brand liner shorts. They work well together if you want to use both, but likewise it’s not essential.
Clothing production and fast fashion is a huge contributor to global waste and carbon emissions. Many brands are now using Bluesign approved fabrics, Fairtrade sewing and some are even using fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles to help tackle that problem. Equally, some brands are working hard to ditch plastic packaging and hang tags, opting instead for Kraft boxes, paper bags and a strong/card hang tag combo. Simple changes that are all steps in the right direction.