Zoic was one of the first brands to make a comfortable mountain bike short that actually felt like it was made for women. While there are loads of options these days, the Navaeh is still a really functional and affordable model that is notable for its lightweight and stretchy fabric, as well as four functional zippered pockets.
A trail classic, these perform well on warm days and mellow trails.
Fit and Comfort
Not much as changed with the Navaeh over the years and you get the feeling that Zoic is taking an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to this model. It was one of the first comfortable pair of shorts, and it still is!
Researching this review we took a look at the size chart on the manufacturer's website and be warned that at the time of writing, it is not accurate. These shorts fit true to size — if you normally wear a small, you will fit in a small. They do have a baggy style, so size down if you are between sizes and like a more form-fitting short. With an impressive 4-way stretch, you won't feel overly squeezed.
One important change that has been made is that older versions of this model had much more rugged (and bulky) waist adjusters, so we are pleased to see the move to the softer fabric on velcro tabs that help dial in the perfect fit. However, we just aren't huge fans of velcro tabs. They catch on everything in the wash and the whole system ensures that you have double layers where the tabs are, meaning increased fabric to soak up and hold more sweat. They work, but we are happy to see many manufacturers solve the waist adjustment problem more creatively.
The velcro tab waist adjustment system is functional but always leaves you with bunches of unflattering fabric.
The waistband of the Navaeh is made of really soft material that lays comfortably across the back, and the gusseted crotch ensures room for movement on the bike without getting caught up on the seat or bunched up where you don't want it.
An 11-inch inseam provides ample coverage for most riding needs. The lightweight fabric is surprisingly durable but may not protect from the pokiest bushes or mishaps with lava rock. They are not quite long enough to work with knee pads, and if you try to pair them, you will likely get a gap. Truthfully, if you are riding technical gnar trails, you will probably want a burlier short anyway. The length provides plenty of coverage to protect from the sun, though the material is not waterproof. It dries quickly, but we prefer the Navaeh for fair-weather adventures.
An incident with the hydration hose reveals how water soaks into the polyester. Fortunately, it is also quick to dry.
Lightweight and quick-drying, the Navaeh is an easy-breezy model, especially when you are generating a lot of heat. The fabric is all stretch and testers loved that it moves well on the bike. We had no complaints or issues with these sliding down as we pedaled. Nor did the legs creep up as we pedaled.
Because the pockets are stretchy (see below), having a lot of things (or anything heavy) in the pockets made the shorts feel less stable. Shorts should stretch, but pockets need structure and preferably, they stay close to the body and out of the way.
The dreaded pad gap! A longer inseam would be better to have a seamless integration with knee pads.
With four zippered pockets adorning the Navaeh, you can squirrel away all kinds of things on your mountain bike ride! The top pockets on the waist are pretty small and limited to holding smaller items, as anything large will interfere with pedaling. The two side pockets are located on the outside of the thighs and are plenty large enough to carry a smartphone, energy bar, keys, as well as any trail trash or treasures you collect on your ride. One of the side pockets even has another pocket inside, which is useful for quick access to a small item like lip balm.
While we admit to being pocket fans, we don't 100% love the way these are constructed. The pockets are made of the same stretchy material as the shorts, meaning they have lots of give when holding heavier items. The side pockets are tacked with thread to the leg material, which keeps the pocket from swinging, but because the material is so stretchy, we found that heavy items tend to sag, and in the end, testers preferred keeping smartphones in their packs. However, the placement and access are perfect for snacks and other items that you might want to get at on the fly.
There is even a pocket inside the pocket!
While not the most stylish short that we tested, the Navaeh comes in a nice selection of colors and patterns, including the ever-present teal that manufacturers seem to think all women love. They are clearly a mountain bike short, and the scrunching of fabric that happens with this style of waist adjustment system is inherently a little unflattering. If style is a big concern, there are other options that move more gracefully to the apres ride party. These shorts are basic and functional, but really, they look just fine.
Curiously, the material of some of the Navaeh patterned shorts is slightly different from the solid and while that was not a part of this test, women reported to us that different patterns have different feels and stretch, something to keep in mind if one pair doesn't quite have the stretch you want.
There is enough taper in the legs to create a more feminine look, while still leaving room enough for athletic quads. Again, in the theme of not changing what seems to be working, the cut and fit of the Navaeh have not changed and a pair that we have from several years ago looks nearly identical.
The four-way stretch nylon moves every which way as you move on the bike.
The Navaeh is one of the lowest-priced shorts that we tested. With super stretch and lightweight material that has proven to be durable enough for most rides, this is a smoking deal and great value. If you ride mostly technical trails and prefer to wear pads, these might not be the top option, but they will work well for most riders in most situations, especially women who ride in warm locations.
As a pioneer model in the land of women's mountain shorts, the Navaeh has proven to be a high-performing option. It is not the flashiest or most innovative, but is comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and has more pockets than you can shake a stick at.
Lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and a low price - what more do you want in a mountain bike short?