When we think of Patagonia brand clothing a lot of us think of fleece and puffy jackets, but their roots are in technical clothing, and the Dirt Roamer quickly won us over with its welded seams, super lightweight material, and excellent fit. These shorts are made for long days on the bike, making them our Top Pick for Comfort.
Just one ride in the Dirt Roamer, and we were impressed. Putting it to the test won us over. Lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and a perfect fit, it features an extremely minimal aesthetic and design that puts shorts in the back of your mind and biking at the front. These are made for big, long days on the bike. Of course, they handle shorter rides with ease, but the lightweight fabric, stretch, water repellency, and breathability had us dreaming of our next big mountain bike adventure ride.
While it can handle more technical terrain, this short doesn't offer up as much protection as we like when branches and rocks are involved, so we feel it is best for more open, less burly terrain.
This is a super minimal short that is lightweight, comfortable, and performs well. We are fans.
Fit and Comfort
We have never had a mountain bike short that we forgot we were wearing before testing the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. This short is so lightweight, so stretchy, and so functional, we quickly knew it was one of the most comfortable shorts in the test.
The Dirt Roamer comes in numbered sizes from 0-18, about twice the number of sizes offered from most other brands. This makes for a much better fit for more ladies. While many manufacturers count on the waist adjuster to dial in a good fit, this short is cut to fit, and the minimal waist adjustment system is only required for tweaking the waistline. The size 4 we tested fit as expected and we barely needed to adjust the waist, meaning no added bulky fabric to soak up sweat.
We barely needed the clever waist adjustment system of this short, but it helped tweak the waist.
We do want to give a shout-out to the waist adjustment system, however. Called "OppoSet" it uses the button at the top of the fly to leverage a webbing strap that is hidden in the waistline. It is super simple to use, even with gloves and adds almost no additional weight or bulk to the short.
The nearly 12-inch inseam provides excellent coverage from sun, wind, and weather. The asymmetrical cut means that they offer full coverage on top of the leg when seated on the bike without fabric bunching up behind the knee.
The asymmetrical cut on the legs provides extra coverage on the top of the leg without bunching up behind the knee.
This is where the Dirt Roamer really shines. It is made with four-way stretch (from recycled polyester and spandex), for just the right amount of movement while pedaling and descending. It flexes and moves without slipping or bunching up, no matter how steep the climb.
We rode in all kinds of weather, and the Dirt Roamer proved to be both breathable in warm temps and protective from wind and rain on blustery days. We have said this before but if we hadn't been testing and taking notes, we would have forgotten about this short altogether, which is a rare and high compliment to the fit, design, and technology that Patagonia put into it. These are simply the most pedal-friendly shorts we've tried, earning a perfect score in this metric.
We measured the inseam of the Dirt Roamer to be a hair under 12 inches, long enough to pair with kneepads. But the lightweight nature of the short doesn't scream protection, and indeed one tester acquired an impressively long scratch from a bitterbrush bush while riding down a narrow trail in these shorts. While the fabric of the short was unmarred by the encounter, it reminded us that we prefer burly material when we are tackling technical terrain.
Additionally, the tapered leg means that only very lightweight kneepads are compatible with the Dirt Roamer. However, for sun and wind protection, these are a favorite, with lots of coverage at a barely-there weight. The DWR finish worked like a charm to repel water when we encountered unexpected rain.
These shorts feature only one pocket, but it is zippered and big enough to hold a phone.
As you might expect from a super minimal short, the Dirt Roamer has only one pocket. But what a pocket it is! Welded onto the leg, it adds almost no bulk to the shorts when not in use. It is zippered and located just where we want it, on the side of the leg. It is also big enough to hold a phone, snacks, micro-trash, or keys. Because it is welded, it does not flap or sag with the weight of what is in it.
We all know that work on the bike generates body heat. As with most pockets that are not super breathable mesh, we did see some condensation build-up on the phone screen, though not to the degree of some of the burlier shorts we tested. For the minimal rider, this solo pocket does the job.
Welded seams make for an extra clean look (and no chafing!)
The super clean and minimal look of the Dirt Roamer may not be for everyone. The zipper pull is black, but otherwise, you are looking at a very monotone piece of clothing — even the button is the same color! Because the seams are almost all welded, there isn't any stitching to create contrast or texture. However, there are really lovely details that add feminine touches, including the asymmetrical taper on the legs and the overall flattering cut of the shorts. These shorts are sleek and ready to roll, and they look it.
This understated short excels at comfort and breathability.
The cost of the Dirt Roamer may seem like a lot of dough for a pair of shorts. But the details and quality are fully evident from the first ride. Being comfortable on the bike is priceless, so if you don't need a lot of protection, these are worth their weight in gold (which isn't the best metaphor since they weigh almost nothing).
We were surprised how much we enjoyed riding in the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. They are light, stretchy, well-made, and breathable. They are not the most protective short, but the fit is so perfect we hardly noticed that we had them on. All of the details are just right and that is why it is our Top Pick For Comfort.