Comfortable baggy shorts, protective waterproof shorts and storage liner shorts
We’ve assembled a good range of the best mountain bike shorts from a wide range of price points so you can find the right baggy short for you.
Baggy shorts have definitely become are part of the mountain biker’s uniform. There are performance aspects to wearing them off road — they’re less restrictive, more practical, hard-wearing — but it’s about style. That said, they still have to be comfortable, practical and affordable.
What to look for in the best mountain bike shorts
Velcro tags on the waist allow you to tweak the fit of the short. You see them inside and outside; the former are neater, but the Velcro can scuff your skin. On the outside, they can catch on jerseys and passing foliage. Some shorts have big buckle straps which can cause issues in a crash.
Not essential, but nice to have — these are perfect for car keys, small change or a phone. If they’re deep, you shouldn’t need zips.
To stop the waist popping open accidentally, it should have a press-stud fixing. Extra studs and/or a small strip of Velcro provide additional security. Belt loops are a good idea if there are no waist adjusters.
They may sound like a great idea for carrying extra clobber, but they put all your gear in the worst place for an accident, and the contents are more likely to bang against your thighs when pedalling. We’d avoid them.
The only way to guarantee complete comfort is to wear an inner liner short. Most baggy shorts DO NOT come spplied with a liner these days, because most riders prefer to use their own liner, often a bibshort. You will pay extra to have a liner short included. It has to be comfortable and highly wicking. The best liners are often shorter in the leg, and since they go beneath another layer, are made from a more breathable mesh fabric or thinner Lycra. Factor in about £25 for an aftermarket liner if your short doesn’t come with one. There is nothing stopping you mixing and matching brands.
This is a water repellent treatment that is applied to the fabric when new. It does what it says on the tin, but it needs renewing fairly often, as it can lose its effectiveness after repeated washing and wear against the saddle.
The longer the leg, the more protection it provides against brambles and scrapes. Also, a longer leg is less liable to ride up when using kneepads. Look for at least a 13in inseam.
Bib shorts are cycling shorts with upper sections and straps/braces that go over your shoulders. There are pros and cons to bib shorts.The benefits of bib shorts is that they stay up and stay in place. No more constantly tugging up on drooping waistbands. On a related note they also lead to a more comfortable, less bunched-up feeling around your waist when you’re baggy shorts over the top. The disadvantages of bib shorts is not only that they’re typically a bit more expensive than regular liner shorts but also that they make it more difficult to go to the toilet and they can also cause the baggy shorts worn over the top of them to slip down (which causes you to overtighten your baggy short waistband, thus removing the comfy-waist advantage of bib shorts!)
The best mountain bike shorts: reviews
Altura Attack One80
Not a short for the shy or retiring rider but if you like bold colourways then you’re in luck. Beyond the brightness (you can get black version to be fair) this short is very well made with tough stitching in all the right places and a two-layer area where you sit on the saddle. Sizing in on the generous side so if you’re in betweeny, size down. General tailoring is baggy trial rather than racy snug too. Good length for reliable knee pad overlap.
Madison Addict Softshell
As with arguably all weather-proof softshell-y shorts, if it’s absolutely hoofing down for extended periods then rain will permeate through and you’ll get damp. But if it’s showers and puddles you want to keep at bay, these are an excellent short option. The airier fabric, combined with generous venting, also means they’re less sweaty to wear than full-on waterproof shell shorts. Sizing all round is generous so we recommend sizing down.
Altura Five/40 Waterproof
This short is intended to protect you from wet weather at all costs. It uses Altura’s Shield fabric which is significantly thicker than a lot of other fabrics. Which, while having an impact on weight and suppleness, does make for a reassuring barrier against the elements as well as being able to withstand scrapes and crashes better than most. Despite the sturdy material, the tailoring and use of stretchy back panelling, means the shorts are comfy to ride for a long time in. Warmer than most waterproof shorts too, which is a good thing in our book.
Bontrager Lithos MTB
The Lithos MTB is a comfortable short suited to harder riding. The metal buckle adjustment should last longer than a velcro system. The short has a robust construction that holds up well to harder riding. In fact, Bontrager has aimed this short at the all-day enduroThe metal buckle adjustment should last longer than a Velcro system.
7Mesh Revo Gore-Tex
If you need, or just want, the absolute best waterproof short currently available – here it is. And yes, it costs a fortune. These shorts are much better approached and understood as being a waterproof jacket for your legs. The fabric is excellent. It keeps you dry in all the worst of weathers without turning into a boil in the bag affair. But the best aspect of these premium shorts is the cut and tailoring. There’s a lot of sophisticated work and shaping going on here to goes some way to explain the price tag.
Race Face Stage
A good short for wearing at any point in the year, bar total deluge days. It has a degree of water repellency and also a reinforced seat to stop things wearing through prematurely.They also are a good length, as is usual with Race Face, so they play nicely with kneepads with no readjusting or gapping experienced. They might not have any vents but that also means there’s fewer seams and less bunching, so it can be interpreted as a less-is-more bonus. They are a bit on the pricey side however.
Mavic Crossmax Ultimate H2O
These are a piece of kit that proves invaluable time and time again. We’ve ridden these to death over the last twelve months and they still bounce back almost as fresh as new. Highly packable and very lightweight so you can even use them as an alternative layer to pull on if the wet weather strikes mid-ride.
Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB
The Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB short has a set of removable braces to keep them in place without reverting to a restrictive waistband. The perfect baggy short for pretty much six months of the UK year. Are they good value? If you think of them as jackets for your legs – rather than as basic baggy shorts – yes they are.
Bontrager Troslo Inform storage liner short
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.
Specialized Mountain Liner Bib Shorts w/ SWAT
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.
The best mountain bike shorts: winners
The best mountain bike shorts all-rounder: Bontrager Lithos MTB.
The best waterproof mountain bike short: Altura Five/40.
The best storage mountain bike liner shorts: Specialized Mountain Liner Bib Shorts w/ SWAT.