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Trek Bontrager Rhythm - Women's Review

Board short style on the mountain bike! These shorts are lightweight and casual and we recommend them for mellow rides.
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Price:  $80 List
Pros:  Lightweight, breathable, longer inseam, casual style
Cons:  Not protective, imperfect waist adjustment system, pockets leave something to be desired
Manufacturer:   Trek
By Laurel Hunter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2019
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#10 of 11
  • Fit and Comfort - 30% 7
  • Pedal Friendliness - 30% 7
  • Protection - 20% 6
  • Pockets - 10% 4
  • Style - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The super casual Bontrager Rhythm is lightweight and breathable and perfect for mellow rides on hot days. While the inseam is long enough for kneepads, we feel that these shorts are better suited for cruising on rolling buff trails and then hanging at the park afterward.

The pockets leave something to be desired and the waist adjustment system worked fine if we weren't pedaling hard on a steep climb. However, for non-technical riding, these will do the trick, and the cheery red color and easy-going style works off the bike as well as on.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you are looking to go from the bike to the beach without a sideways glance, the Bontrager Rhythm is tops for being the most easy-breezy, casual style mountain bike short in the test. While it is not recommended for long or technical rides, it will keep you cool on hot days as you cruise some rolling singletrack.

Hands-On Review of the Rhythm

The Bontrager Rhythm is lightweight and breathable  perfect for warm days.
The Bontrager Rhythm is lightweight and breathable, perfect for warm days.

Fit and Comfort

The Rhythm is a very basic short that offers a loose fit and casual style. If you want a more fitted look and are between sizes you may want to size down, as we found them to run a little large.

The waist adjuster is simple to use but didn't always keep the shorts in place.
The waist adjuster is simple to use but didn't always keep the shorts in place.

The waistband has a built-in webbing belt that is adjusted by simply pulling on the buckle. While the webbing on the front of the short is stiff, it is sewn onto very stretchy webbing in the back. This makes sense in terms of offering movement in the shorts while riding, but in practice we found the nylon to be too stretchy and the shorts did not stay in place.

A short that offers a better performance fit with a similarly casual style is the Yeti Avery, which also has a larger zippered pocket.

Pedal Friendliness

With two-way stretch and super lightweight material, the Rhythm is super comfortable on the bike. The inseam, at 12.5 inches, is long and open enough to accommodate kneepads, though these wouldn't be our top choice for technical rides. Wearing kneepads when the shorts themselves don't offer much protection doesn't make a lot of sense to us. Instead, we appreciate the breathability that we gained from the loose fit and lightweight material.

Our main beef with these shorts is that they don't stay in place while pedaling. The waist belt is too stretchy and there are no silicone grippers on the waistband. There is nothing more distracting than feeling your shorts slide down your backside while you crank up a steep climb.

Another super lightweight short is the Patagonia Dirt Roamer which benefits from a more tailored cut and stiffer stretch to keep it in place.


The 12 1/2-inch inseam on the Rhythm offers welcome protection from the sun and wind, but we didn't find the very lightweight fabric to be successful against the pokey bushes of Central Oregon. The trade-off for protection is breathability and we like these shorts for keeping us cool on mellow trails.

If you are looking for more protection, we recommend the 100% Airmatic which has a slightly longer inseam and much beefier material to protect from grabbing branches and potential rock collisions.

Super secret pocket is zippered but not large enough to hold much more than an ID or small snack.
Super secret pocket is zippered but not large enough to hold much more than an ID or small snack.


Though the Rhythm boasts three pockets we were not impressed with our options. Two are hand pockets, which are great for casual wear but not so much for holding stuff on the trail. The third pocket is described as a "secret phone pocket," but unless you are rocking an old-school flip phone, it won't fit here. The inseam zippered pocket will hold your lip balm, key fob, or small snack, but we don't recommend that you carry anything too bulky or heavy as the placement at the bottom of the short is a bit awkward while pedaling and the pocket is not secured on the bottom, so items did some swinging.

Not every rider requires pockets, but if you happen to be a pocket fan, check out the Norrie 2.0 which has hand pockets and two zippered pockets that are well-placed and big enough to hold your 21st Century phone.

We love the poppy red color of the Rhythm shorts.
We love the poppy red color of the Rhythm shorts.


We admit that we were like hummingbirds, drawn to the candy red color of the Rhythm. Yes, they are also available in black, but the red is fun and cheery, just like these shorts. The style is loose and casual and perfect for wearing on chill rides and hanging out after. You might easily mistake them for board shorts, and we imagine they would function quite well in that capacity. Honestly, nothing about these shorts seems bike-specific, though the stretch fabric and breathability is perfect for a hot day on the trail.

Best Applications

We recommend wearing the Rhythm for short, less-technical rides when you are feeling casual, and maybe heading to a picnic at the lake right after. The lightweight fabric is quick to dry and especially nice on hot days.


At $80, the Rhythm is on the low end of the price spectrum of shorts that we tested. They are lightweight and comfortable, but not really packed with features. For the same price you could have the Club Ride Ventura which also has a casual style, but offers a better fit and more protection.


For a ride on a hot day that is going to end with a jump in the river, the Rhythm would be an easy choice. It does not offer a great amount of protection, we don't love the pockets, and the fit is not going to work for everyone. However, it has a very casual style and lightweight fabric that offers great breathability.

Laurel Hunter