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
mbr review: “Light, no nonsense and great value.he Attack One80 is intended as a summer riding short. It’s well constructed, with solid stitching and a second layer of fabric on the seat. Relaxed and long enough to sit over the knees, the fit is very much enduro/trail style but without it riding up at speed. A comfy inner hip band helped with ride comfort, without rubbing.”
Madison Addict Softshell
mbr review: “This three-layer waterproof and breathable DWR short is surprisingly weather-resistant. Rain gets through if it’s torrential, but it easily shrugs off wet trails and wheel splatter. It’s also more breathable than a full waterproof, and features two-way zipped vents down both legs, so you can expel a load of condensation when it heats up.”
Altura Five/40 Waterproof
mbr review: “Altura have a reputation for making solidly performing clothing, aimed squarely at the UK based rider. The Altura Five/40 provides 100% waterproof properties in a short that fits neatly between a lightweight trail short and waterproof over-short. The Five/40 is a versatile 3-season short, comfortable to use for more than just wet weather riding.”
Bontrager Lithos MTB
mbr review: “The new Bontrager Lithos mountain bike short has a robust construction that holds up well to harder riding. In fact, Bontrager has aimed this short at the all-day enduro market.The Lithos MTB is a comfortable short suited to harder riding. The metal buckle adjustment should last longer than a Velcro system.”
7Mesh Revo Gore-Tex
mbr review: “Shape is key with a waterproof short, because the lack of stretchiness can often mean the short hangs like a nappy around the backside. Thankfully, the well-cut Revo swerves this look and fits like a standard longer short but with excellent freedom of movement.It isn’t cheap, but 7Mesh’s product ticks every box to justify the asking price.”
Race Face Stage
mbr review: “The Race Face Stage is a short for all seasons. It’s made from a mix of Polyester, Nylon and Spandex so it’s lightweight, breathable and stretches easily. It’s also coated with a DWR treatment to help repel water. It also features a Cordura seat, which not only limits water ingress and won’t show the dirt, it also adds some extra reinforcement in a high wear area.”
Mavic Crossmax Ultimate H2O
mbr review: “These Mavic Crossmax Ultimate H2O waterproof shorts are perfect for providing wet weather protection for your legs. Highly packable and very lightweight. 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.”
Polaris Discovery Zoned MTB
mbr review: “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 is joint cheapest on test but it 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 a lot like the one on the Troy Lee, it’s not overly thick but it still has good support and never felt clammy. The wide compression leg grippers are some of the best here – 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 – easily the best short of test.
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.