The 100% Airmatic is tops for protection and also provides comfort and fit. It might not be the most feminine or the most breathable, but for big mountain rides, we want this pair in our quiver.
Hands-On Review of the Airmatic
The 100% Airmatic was a favorite for technical rides and big days in the mountains.
Fit and Comfort
The Airmatic is an all-mountain short, no question. The inseam is 13 inches, one of the longest in the test, and works perfectly with knee pads. The material is burly but flexible, and overall the shorts are super comfortable.
The simple waist adjuster!
Talk about winning at waist adjustment! The simplicity of the waist adjuster on the Airmatic definitely had us questioning why other brands are using Velcro and buttons and making fit so complicated. The waistband incorporates a series of sewn openings in webbing that can accommodate a metal "mountaineering-inspired" hook. Though not the lightest adjustment system, we found this to work brilliantly, and along with the silicone grip pattern on the back of the waistband, these shorts fit right and stay put, without any bulk or extra fabric.
The Airmatic runs a little large, with the smallest size being a small. The 100% size chart is spot on and we recommend using it to select your size. We bought for a 35-inch hip, which is just below the bottom end of the small. The loose fit worked for us, but if you often wear an XS, you might be swimming in these.
The 100% Airmatic is made of a heavier weight material, suitable for an all-mountain short. Consequently, it is not as breathable as some other options, like the feather-light Dirt Roamer. However, there is a mesh back panel for added airflow, and it has a roomy cut.
With 4-way stretch, we had no problem moving and grooving in these shorts. While they really shine on technical rides with knee pads, they would be a great choice for big all-day rides in the mountains where weather can be unpredictable. The DWR finish helps keep you dry, and the length and weight offer good coverage and protection. The tradeoff for that protection is that they are a little heavy and a little warm for hotter days.
For technical and all-day rides, the Airmatic is a winner and scored highly in the protection metric. The 13-inch inseam works flawlessly with kneepads. On close, brushy trails the mid-weight material saved us from scratches and scrapes. In an unexpected rainstorm, they helped keep one tester dry. Though possibly not quite heavyweight enough for full-on downhill riding, these shorts would still be an optimal choice for almost all riding that requires extra protection.
The 13-inch inseam is protective with and without kneepads.
If you are more interested in spinning mellow rides after work before heading to the food trucks, check out the Club Ride Ventura Plaid which is tough enough to ward off grabbing branches while having a bit more street style.
With the inspired waist adjustment system, we had high hopes for excellent pockets. The Airmatic has three zippered pockets, two of which are stacked on top of each other on the left side. They are useful for snacks and lip balm, but the placement makes them a little awkward for pedaling. The phone-friendly zippered pocket on the side of the right leg is a good size and in the right place, but on a chilly 40-degree day a phone stashed in that pocket was covered in sweat droplets. If you have a waterproof cover on your phone this won't be a problem. For the rest of you, please note: this pocket is not super breathable.
What to do with these pockets?
Style is subjective, but a lot of lady riders are looking for a bit of flair when they suit up for a ride. The Airmatic are not a bad looking pair of shorts — they have a functional cut and flattering fit — but aside from being very bright blue, it lacks any specific feminine flair. There are no cute details or contrasting colors, no thoughtful design touches. They strike us as a dude short that is cut for a woman. These are mountain bike shorts, no doubt about it. If you appreciate some nice details and contrasting colors, the Yeti Norrie 2.0 is not overly girly while also being a strong performer. The Shredly MTB goes much further with fun patterns and wild colors, if that is your jam.
The Airmatic is an enduro/all-mountain short all the way. The longer inseam, DWR finish, and 4-way stretch are all working together to make for a good pedal up and great protection down. We found it to be a little bit warm on the hottest days, but the protection they provide was worth being a little steamy.
The Airmatic is comfortable pedaling and protective in technical terrain.
At $89, these shorts are in the middle of the bunch, price-wise. They are packed with features, however, and if you are an all-mountain gal that wants good protection and performance the Airmatic is a solid option. For ten bucks less you can purchase the Skyline which will get the job done, though it doesn't fit as well and is less burly. Ten dollars more will get you the Yeti Norrie 2.0, which has a little more flair and more useful pockets.
We are stoked to see a tough, well-fitting short like the Airmatic being made for women. It provides excellent protection and coverage and was one of the best with kneepads that we tested. It is not the most breathable, and the pockets are a tad confusing, but for riders that need protection and pedal-ability, we give it two thumbs up.