If you currently wear any old pair of shorts out on the trail, stop right now.
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Your standard cargo shorts or swimming trunks aren’t doing you any justice. They might even hinder your performance or risk your safety.
Anyone with an interest in mountain biking needs to find the best mountain bike shorts for their style of riding. Whether you are an amateur or professional rider, these shorts are the difference between getting the mobility you need to ride safely or catch on your saddle and causing an accident.
Mountain bike shorts come in all kinds of materials, shapes, and colors. Some are standard shorts that look almost like streetwear, but others take on intuitive design to enhance performance and help you reach new levels in your hobby or career.
What are the best mountain bike shorts? We put together a complete list of our favorite pairs in our guide.
How We Chose The Best Mountain Bike Shorts
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Shorts, like most other cycling gear, appeal to personal preference. A trail or mountain rider’s favorite pair won’t match a cross-country or touring cyclists ideal build.
We gathered a list of as many types and styles of mountain bike shorts as we could find from some of the best-respected brands in the game. We chose the latest styles and reviewed not only material but form and fit to share how it feels to wear them on the trail.
We also read through thousands of comments to identify what riders love — and hate — about each pair and find common themes so that you can be better informed.
In summary, our list includes some of the best shorts out there based on a holistic view of each product.
Eight Best Mountain Bike Shorts
Are you ready to find your next go-to pair of mountain bike shorts? Our list occurs in no particular order, so make sure to read through each entry to avoid missing out on a pair that could be your soul mate.
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Zoic’s Ether Cycling Shorts offer riders a personal fit that can be hard to find among mid-range shorts. Each part of the construction is thoughtful and designed for comfort and performance.
Rather than a button and zip alone, you get an elastic back waistband that moves with you rather than working against you. Each side of the waistband also features Velcro side-adjuster tabs to create a secure fit that doesn’t need adjusting midway through your race.
Zoic attempted to provide a greater range of motion by adding a fusion inseam gusset to complement the 12-inch inseam. The gusset should stop seat hang-ups and give you the freedom to move your upper leg in ways that make sense for the sport.
The fabric features a built-in mesh to promote airflow and ventilation. The shorts differ from other pairs because they allow air to move not only from the legs but also from panels below the back waistband.
Colors available include:
Those who buy the Zoic Ether shorts find that these are the best you can buy in the price range, and generally, if you want a comparable product, you need to increase your budget dramatically. Riders love the color options available and the number of pockets.
There have been complaints about the zipper quality on some of the pockets. Pocket zippers may not come with stoppers at the bottom of the track, which can cause the zippers to break prematurely. However, contacting customer service about the zipper issue could easily solve it and win you a brand new pair of shorts.
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The Endura Hummvee Mountain Bike Baggy Cycling Short II is a high-end pair of shorts suited for a professional rider looking for features that stand out in value and construction.
The fabric is durable nylon that doesn’t rip even when you catch it on something particularly sharp. Endura finished the material with a DWR water-repellent to keep you dry no matter what the weather.
Waistbands make a significant difference when you buy mountain bike shorts, and the band on the Endura Hummvee is one of the better ones on the list. You’ll get an adjustable belt so that you can secure and fasten the shorts wherever feels most comfortable for you. There’s also a rear elasticated band to make adjusting it to the perfect position easier.
Endura even added belt loops, so you can add an extra, heavy-duty belt for security if you feel inclined.
If you like the idea of the waistband featured on the Zoic Ether, but prefer nylon shorts, then you might like the Endura Hummvee shorts.
You’ll also find the Hummvee shorts feature a good number of zippers. Both the thigh vents come with zippers as do the hand, cargo, and rear pockets. You get six pockets in all, giving you the option
We also like the seat panel. Unlike others, Endura went seamless, which makes it easier to make the shorts work for and not against you as you change positions on the bike.
Finally, ventilation features include thigh vents coupled with mesh inserts for more breathable wear. There’s also a removable inner as well as a 2000 series pad to add comfort.
Customers who buy these shorts tend to love them. However, there was a design change that primarily affected pocket placement. Some find the new side pocket placement annoying and prefer the older style. It’s unclear whether you can request the old design or if the style is still in stock.
Pearl Izumi Elite IN-R Cool
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The Pearl Izumi Elite IN-R Cool shorts are close-fitting compression shorts designed for speed and racing. The construction is a form-fitting 80 percent nylon, 12 percent elastane, and 8 percent polyester. Pearl Izumi used its ELITE Transfer In-R-Cool fabric when it created these shorts to keep riders cool on the track.
The cool fabric technology features what Pearl Izumi calls “cold black.” It reflects the sun and cools down your legs even as you sweat.
You might wonder about the comfort of a pair of form-fitting shorts, but Pearl Izumi worked hard to make the cut as sensible as possible. You’ll find the manufacturer’s ELITE Transfer fabric at the opening, which provides a soft but secure stretch. The design includes silicone at the leg opening for comfort and added grip to keep everything in place.
If you prefer long shorts or have long legs, keep in mind that the inseam on these is shorter than traditional mountain bike shorts. You’ll get a 9-inch inseam on a size medium.
As for ventilation, you’ll find direct-vent panels on each side of the shorts. You’ll also find Pearl Izumi’s ELITE 3D Chamois Reflective Elements on the shorts to provide extra visibility during low-light rides.
Customers who buy these shorts say that they preferred previous iterations of the design. They liked the older material more than the present nylon and elastane combination. Pearl Izumi also scrapped a ventilation panel at the back waist that you won’t find in the most recent design of the shorts.
If you’re not familiar with Pearl Izumi or compression shorts generally, we recommend ordering a few sizes to see what works best for you. Some people find that their size differs here compared to other shorts.
Leatt DBX 3.0
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Leatt’s commitment to safety in all motocross apparel is a fantastic reason to look at these shorts, and their quality doesn’t disappoint.
If you are already familiar with Leatt and know their 5.0 and 4.0 shorts, then you’ll find these 3.0 are everyday riding shorts with a lighter material.
The DBX 3.0 cycling shorts feature a lightweight fabric with a generous four-way stretch that promises never to restrict your mobility. Leatt goes even further with the fabric by adding a pre-curved fit that recognizes that riders come out not to go for a bike ride but to throw shapes. The design features give and curve, but the fit is tailored.
Leatt paid special attention to the knees on the shorts. The knees feature 3D shaping that matches what human knees actually look like rather than lying straight and flat like most shorts. As a bonus, you’ll find that these are perfect for wearing with knee pads. They don’t snag, and the shape prevents your kneepads from smashing the shorts to fit in.
You’ll also want to look at the seat construction of the shorts. Attempts by other companies to produce a seamless seat or add a removable liner don’t touch Leatt’s seamless, 500D three-layer laminated seat. Keep the seat in place with the back gripper that keeps the seat where it needs to be.
You can buy Leatt DBX 3.0 shorts in three smart colors:
Alpinestars Drop Pro
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The Alpinestars Drop Pro shorts come from one of moto- and bike-sports biggest and most dependable brands: Alpinestars.
The Drop Pro mountain bike shorts come from a lightweight poly-fabric noted as 100 percent “other fibers.” The poly-blend keeps the shorts lightweight and wicks moisture to keep you dry throughout your time on the trail. Alpinestars added a water-repellent treatment to the shorts to keep you dry even as you blast through mud and puddles.
The shorts come in four colors:
You’ll also find patches on each outside leg designed to add an extra layer of protection on areas where riders see higher levels of abrasion during falls.
SILVINI Men’s Mountain Bike Shorts Elvo
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SILVINI is a cycling heavyweight known for its sponsorships of professional teams and world-class athletes. Its Elvo mountain bike shorts represent its commitment to excellence as well as its ethos of creating cycling clothes that support natural movement in all its iterations.
The shorts best suit riders who prefer a comfortable, loose fit but also look for a strong, design-led focus. Put on the shorts, and you’ll find a 98 percent polyamide and 2 percent polyester fabric that SILVINI professes to be tear-proof. You’ll also find elastic panels on the shorts to encourage free movement.
The material on Elvo shorts is a light-weight elastic that comes in three colors: black lime, black red, and forest. SILVINI’s waistband features a hook and loop and zip as well as belt loops for adding extra security.
Safety features include reflective elements.
It doesn’t seem that SILVINI puts an emphasis on ventilation, but reviews are generally positive. People who like them say they hardly notice the shorts during downhill rides. Invisibility is always a good sign for companies trying to promote freedom of movement.
Sponeed Men’s Cycling Shorts
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The sponeed shorts are another pair of compression shorts available for those who prefer the close fit compared to loose long shorts.
Unlike other compression shorts, which come in colors like black and black, you can buy these in several colors including:
The colors don’t reflect the overall color of the shorts, but the color of the sponeed logo and design found on the side of the leg. If you prefer the brand to go incognito, you might want to avoid these shorts as the sponeed logo is very visible.
A common issue with compression shorts is the uncomfortable band that pinches, rides up, or both. Sponeed tried to eliminate the problem by using silicone leg grippers that keep the bottom of the leg in place.
Other features found on the shorts include a 3D gel pad for comfort, antimicrobial properties, moisture-wicking fabric, and ventilation.
We should note that these shorts include a fabric makeup of 80 percent polyester and 20 percent spandex lycra. We don’t love the combination, and many other brands focus on quality materials, but polyester does tend to dominate shorts at this end of the price spectrum.
Even still, customers love them and appreciate that they get a great product at a price they like, which is around half the cost of many well-known brands.
Urban Cycling Flex MTB Trail Shorts
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The Urban Cycling Flex MTB Trail Shorts are the kind of shorts you see on those serious cyclists who walk around in their gear even when their bike is nowhere in sight.
With a 9-inch inseam, these shorts are perfect for short and long trail rides. We like the adjustable waist and the quality zippers. Urban Cycling uses YKK zippered pockets to protect your trail accessories, which are more secure than other zipper pockets on our list.
One of the biggest selling points of these shorts is the option to buy them with or without the 3D padded undershorts. Many manufacturers include the pads without offering the option, and some cyclists complain that they would rather pay less for the shorts and skip the pads, given that they don’t use them. Here, you have the option to buy a pair of shorts you love without the added extras unless you feel the underliner is necessary.
What You Need To Wear For A Day On The Trails
Keen mountain bikers know that a successful day on the trails requires more than the right skills and bike accessories. What you wear out there plays a huge role in your safety and even how you ride your bike generally.
Buying mountain bike or cycling-specific clothing is essential because these pieces include protective layers that play a direct role in your ability to move on your bike. Some even protect you from minor injuries.
Finding The Right Shorts
Finding the best mountain bike shorts is part of the process. Usually, you’ll want shorts that include the shorts and the liner along with a well thought out seat or chamois. The chamois adds padding to the part of your body that meets the saddle for comfort during your ride. Choosing a thicker chamois doesn’t guarantee a better time on the trail. Sometimes, thicker pads contribute to chafing, which no one appreciates.
You’ll also want to try out a few pairs of mountain bike shorts according to your discipline or style of riding. Cross-country riders will prefer lighter, shorter pieces, but trail shorts tend to be longer and include more utility-based features like zipper-lined pockets.
Features to look out for on all shorts include:
Other Essential Items For The Trail
In addition to a suitable pair of mountain bike shorts, you’ll also want to buy a mountain bike or cycling-specific items in the following categories:
Base layers are optional items that make your ride more comfortable when the weather turns. Don’t be afraid of adding base layers even when it isn’t freezing outside. Choosing a quality item, like one made of merino wool, will keep your body comfortable and wick moisture.