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Hands-on Gear Review

Zoic Ether Stretch Review

Zoic Ether Stretch
Best Buy Award
Price:   $80 List | $59.99 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Removable inner liner, many well-placed pockets, affordable
Cons:  Poor quality chamois
Bottom line:  The Ether shorts are a solid well performing pair of shorts with the added bonus of being the cheapest shorts we tested.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Zoic

Our Verdict

If you are on a budget but are not willing to settle for an inferior quality pair of shorts, then look no further. The Zoic Ether Stretch is the winner of our Best Buy Award. The Ether short was a favorite amongst our testers, with solid scores in all of our tests, and best of all it retails for around half the price of many shorts included in our review. The Ether shorts truly hit the sweet spot when it comes to performance at a reasonable price.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Mountain Bike Shorts for Men


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Curtis Smith
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
June 16, 2017

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The previous version of the Ether short was also a Best Buy Award winner, the most recent version sees some solid improvements. We loved the old version and Zoic has managed to improve upon the original with Duraflex fabric higher quality zippers and a revamped waist adjustment system. The best part is that they have managed to keep the price competitively low. The Ether Stretch retails for less than half the price of the most expensive shorts we tested, and it outperforms many shorts in the review with a higher price tag. These are excellent shorts for a killer price.

Performance Comparison


When comparing the price to performance, it is easy to see why the Ether Stretch (shown in blue below) is the winner of our Best Buy Award.


Best Buy Award winning Zoic Ether.  They might be affordable but they don't look cheap.
Best Buy Award winning Zoic Ether. They might be affordable but they don't look cheap.

Style


Style is the most subjective category in which we rated our test shorts. We think most will agree that the Zoic Ether sits in the middle of the road between athletic shorts and casual shorts. The non-zip hand pockets and faux front belt loops give the short a casual feel, while the mesh vent panels and elastic waist back look more technical. We think that the Ether is casual enough to wear off the bike with the separating liner left at home.


The shorts used in our test were teal in color, and while the cut appears relatively casual, the color and the mesh vent panels make these shorts look like a mountain bike short. They are certainly less flashy than the 100% Airmatic but the bright teal color stands out. The fit is baggier than the ultra-fitted Kitsbow A/M but the cut is slightly articulated and designed for the pedaling position. One thing we can say with confidence is that the shorts do not look cheap, and most people we asked guessed they were in the $100 plus price range.

The Zoic Ether has a loose baggy fit and comes down to just past the knee.
The Zoic Ether has a loose baggy fit and comes down to just past the knee.

Features


If you thought that the most affordable pair of shorts we tested would be short on features, you would be incorrect. The Ether shorts tied with the Fox Sergeant for the greatest number of pockets, and also include an incredible and functional waist adjustment system.


A total of six pockets is found on the Ether. If loads of pocket storage space is high on your priority list, these may be the shorts for you. There are two unsecured jean style pockets on the front of the shorts that are ideal for food or other items you need quick access to. In addition, there is a zippered pocket on the lower leg on each side of the shorts that Zoic refers to as Active Access cargo pockets. There is also a zippered pocket on the right leg with a headphone port that fits an iPhone 6; it is a bit snug for any of the plus-sized phones we tried. You also get a zippered wallet style pocket on the back of the shorts and there's plenty of room for almost anything we can imagine the need to carry in our shorts.

The cell phone pocket with a headphone cable port is a nice feature of the Zoic Ether.
The cell phone pocket with a headphone cable port is a nice feature of the Zoic Ether.

The waist adjustment system uses Velcro laminated rubber tabs on the exterior of the waistband, similar to the Troy Lee Ruckus design. The rear portion of the waistband is stretchy elastic which when combined with the waist adjustment system makes for one of the most adjustable shorts in the review. The front closure is a single snap with a Velcro patch. These are the only shorts we tested that use this setup. We like the extra security of two closure methods, and it likely takes some of the stress off of the snap. A zipper rounds things out below for easy nature break access.

An adjustable waist is a critical feature  we prefer shorts with an external adjustment like the Zoic Ether.
An adjustable waist is a critical feature, we prefer shorts with an external adjustment like the Zoic Ether.

Durability


The Ether shorts held up well during testing, but they definitely fall within the more lightweight end of the spectrum, like the Kitsbow A/M. They do not have the burly fabric of more downhill oriented products like the Ruckus, but they are well made.


The lightweight stretch fabric on these shorts makes them perfect for pedaling, but they lack the ruggedness of shorts with heavier fabric like the Pearl Izumi Elevate. The mesh panels on the lower legs and hips are also more prone to damage and abrasion than shorts that omit this feature.

Extensive use of the black mesh ventilation patches decreases durability but increases ventialtion.
Extensive use of the black mesh ventilation patches decreases durability but increases ventialtion.

The stitching and zippers do not appear as robust as the hardware on the Troy Lee Ruckus, but everything held up well during testing. The interior of the pockets is mesh, so they can serve double duty as vents on a hot day if your pockets are not full. This design is not as durable as a solid fabric pocket, but it has its advantages.

The front hip pockets of the Ether do not have zippers and feature a mesh lining.
The front hip pockets of the Ether do not have zippers and feature a mesh lining.

Protection


The Ether has a 12-inch inseam, which means that the short falls just over the knee when standing, and provides a good amount of leg coverage in a crash. The leg openings are large enough to be worn with knee pads, which is a plus. For the best protection consider our Top Pick Award winner the Troy Lee Ruckus or the Pearl Izumi Elevate, which has a 3 inch longer inseam and is crafted from a burlier material.


The fabric on these shorts is similar in thickness to the 100% Airmatic and is not nearly as burly as the ripstop material found on the Troy Lee Ruckus. Abrasion protection, while not an afterthought in the design, certainly takes a back seat to pedaling performance and ventilation.

The Zoic Ether shorts have a loose fit and good leg coverage.
The Zoic Ether shorts have a loose fit and good leg coverage.

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


The fit of the Ether is slightly baggier and roomier than the 100% Airmatic, but the shorts do have a slightly articulated cut which improves pedaling performance.


The Ether is a solid short for long days in the saddle. The four-way stretch fabric does a good job of limiting resistance to the pedal stroke. The fabric slides easily over the skin and the seams in the shorts are not noticeable. There is certainly more material flapping around than you have with a short such as the Kitsbow A/M, but unless you are racing cross country, this is probably not a deal breaker.

The Ether is a great short for long days in the saddle  with great comfort and excellent pedaling performance.
The Ether is a great short for long days in the saddle, with great comfort and excellent pedaling performance.

Overall, the fit is a bit less performance oriented than our highest rated shorts, but Zoic has done an excellent job creating a short that balances a looser cut with good all day pedaling performance.

Comfort


The Ether ranks amongst the most comfortable shorts that we tested, only being outscored by the 100% Airmatic. For an $80 pair of shorts, this is quite an achievement and goes to show that affordability and reliable performance are not mutually exclusive.


The Ether is most comparable to the 100% Airmatic in its cut, and the slightly baggy design seems to lend itself well to good passive ventilation. As one of the cooler shorts in our test the Ether along with the Airmatic were go to shorts for our testers on hot days. Mesh panels on the legs and below the rear portion of the waistband further enhance ventilation. The Ether shorts do not wick sweat as well as the Airmatic or the Kitsbow A/M, but they are a solid warm weather performer.

Mesh ventilation below the waistband on the Ether shorts.
Mesh ventilation below the waistband on the Ether shorts.

Zoic sells the Ether short with their IPL Essential Liner. The liner is decent, but not nearly as well made or comfortable as the Airmatic liner short. The chamois is more rigid and does not conform to the body as well. Walking in the IPL liner is not nearly as comfortable as the Airmatic either. The liner is not likely to blow your mind, but getting a liner short at all in this price range is unbelievable. Even if you plan to replace the liner with something a bit nicer, having a spare pair of liner shorts is nice.

The Zoic Ether shorts come with a chamois liner  the budget price of the shorts is more apparent here  we were not all that impressed with the liner.
The Zoic Ether shorts come with a chamois liner, the budget price of the shorts is more apparent here, we were not all that impressed with the liner.

Best Applications


The Ether is a great all arounder. It is well suited to trail and enduro riding but is also a solid choice for the entry level rider who wants a solid pair of shorts and does not want to spend a lot.

Value


The Ether is by far the best value of any pair of shorts we have tested. These shorts score well in all of our performance tests, and retail for around half the price of many comparable shorts. The liner short is a bit of a let down if you are used to high-end chamois pads, but at this price, we are amazed that the shorts even come with a liner. If you need a high-performance pair of shorts and don't want to spend a fortune then these are the shorts for you.

Conclusion


The Ether shorts are the cheapest shorts we tested, and the winner of our Best Buy Award. For an $80 pair of shorts, they perform way above their price, with an overall score that puts them in the top four shorts we tested. There are higher quality shorts available, but at this price, there is simply not another short that even comes close.

The Zoic Ether might be one of the most affordable shorts we tested  but their performance is in line with the best shorts we tested.
The Zoic Ether might be one of the most affordable shorts we tested, but their performance is in line with the best shorts we tested.
Curtis Smith

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 16, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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