100% Airmatic Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Stylish, functions well with knee pads, high-quality and reasonable price
Cons: Minimal waistband adjustment, over-complicated closure system
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Airmatic shorts scored well in most categories of the test. They definitely look good, have mostly sensible features, and appear to be built to last. They are comfortable with a nice fit and high level of pedal friendliness. While we found the waist closure system to be a little over-comlicated, we feel these are a great option for aggressive trail, all-mountain, and enduro style riding.
The Airmatic shorts are comfortable. The baggy is is relaxed, and there isn't any restriction of movement. The fabric has a pleasant feel against your skin and isn't prone to irritating the rider. This isn't a pair of shorts that we are dying to take off after a ride to change into something more comfortable.
We found the articulated waistband to feel good in the seated pedaling position, and we didn't experience any unwanted pressure from the waist closure. The seams at the knee are also well-executed, and we didn't have any issues with chafing on our skin or them hanging up on knee pads. As we mentioned before, these shorts do not come with a padded liner, also known as a chamois. Climbing comfort relies heavily on the chamois. We don't recommend skimping on this purchase.
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
The Airmatic offers a nice fit. They occupy a nice middle ground between the slim, tailored fit and the gratuitously baggy downhill style. The design seems dialed to deliver a baggy fit without tons of excess material or bunching in odd places. Some baggy shorts feel overly loose and less refined, creating what we call a ballooning of excess material. The Airmatic shorts feel like they had a far more precise design process. They are baggy but don't feel frumpy or flapping in the wind.We tested a size 32 Airmatic short. We found them to fit a little larger than expected. They felt slightly more in line with size 34 shorts we tested as opposed to other size 32 pairs.
These shorts deliver a high level of pedal friendliness. Given the longer inseam and baggier construction, they aren't as pedal-friendly as the top scorers in this metric. That said, for a baggy and relaxed fit short, they offer reasonable performance in the saddle. People who are used to more trim-fitting shorts may find these shorts to feel a bit cumbersome in comparison.
The Airmatic shorts have many sensible features. The pocket layout is great, the stretch panel on the rear creates a free range of motion, and the waistband is nice and wide. Unfortunately, we found the closure system to be a bit over-complicated with a limited range of adjustability.
The three pockets offer sufficient storage. The two side pockets located at the hip are substantial without being huge. There is ample space for whatever you might slip in these pockets like a phone, a wallet, multi-tool, or some nutritional bar. There is a slightly smaller pocket located on the front of the left quad about halfway down the short. This pocket is smaller and would be nice for lighter items like a credit card, and energy gel, or a folded up trail map. These pockets are all accessed by zippers. We found the tabs attached to the zippers to be on the small side, and they can be challenging to grab and use on the fly with gloves on. If you stop and get off the bike to use your pockets, you'll be just fine.
There is a stretch panel on the rear of the short just below the waist band. 100% calls this Stretch-mesh venting that promotes airflow and a free range of motion. We found this area does deliver an element of increased mobility, although we aren't sure it had a substantial effect on ventilation.
The most notable drawback of these shorts is the closure and adjustment system. The closure system is a metal hook on a flap that you pull over and drop into one of five slots to fine-tune the fit. 100% says mountaineering pants inspired this system. We found the actual closure system works fine; it just offers a limited range of adjustability. The only waist adjustability these shorts have is which of the five slots you connect the closure hook onto. There is no elasticity in the waistband or the closure system. Most shorts have some sort of adjustable elasticized band where you can pull the waist significantly tighter, allowing you to wear shorts that are slightly too large for you if need be. Yes, you can do some fine-tuning, but it's not the same as a fully adjustable waist.
Throughout testing, we observed no signs of serious wear that might spark durability concerns about these shorts. The sturdy fabric does not feel prone to wear through too quickly. We used the pockets frequently, and the zippers functioned flawlessly throughout testing. There is no fraying or disintegration of the stitching or seams.
One area that bears watching is the main seam running down the center of the rear of the short. The placement of this stitching is precisely where you are contacting your saddle. Shuffling around on your seat has some friction, and we have seen some seams split relatively easily from this. Again, the 100% shorts don't show signs of this being an issue. It appears the Airmatic have an extra pass of stitching to reinforce this seam.
The Airmatic shorts look good. Our pair of test shorts were the navy colorway, and they have a nice, stealthy look. These shorts have a clean appearance with strategically placed reflective logos. The Airmatic look like they would be home in the back of an old shuttle truck or riding the lifts at the bike park. The fit looks baggy, yet well-designed and practical.
These shorts ooze enduro or all-mountain style. They have a relaxed look but maintain a nice-looking fit with clean lines. Looking at the 100% website can be a little deceiving. On the web, we found that they look a little more fitted and tighter than we found them to be. We assure you, these shorts have a little bit more of a baggy look than the website suggests, but they are not overly baggy or ill-fitting.
There is a large 100% logo on the outside of the right lower leg. The text One Hundred Percent is a little bit smaller and sits on the front and outside of the lower left leg. There is also a reflective patch on the front of the waistband where the text Airmatic is printed. The 100% logo on the lower right leg is large. It is probably the largest logo on any of our test shorts, but it's still not obnoxious.
The Airmatic shorts don't have any specific protective features such as attachments for hip-pads or reinforced zones. That said, they work very well with knee pads, and the length of the short gives a little peace of mind. The fabric feels substantial like it could survive a tumble down some rocky trails without being torn to shreds.
Our short testing overlapped with knee pad testing, so we had plenty of pads to try on with these shorts. The longer inseam on the Airmatic shorts provides enough length to avoid any gap between the top of the knee pad and the bottom of the short. This is often referred to as pad gap and is somewhat of a faux pas in the industry. The leg holes at the bottom of the short offer enough clearance for most pads. Trail-oriented sleeve-style knee pads work great with these shorts. These are soft and slim knee pads that pedal well. Enduro-style knee pads that have a hard protective surface but are still on the slim side of things also work well. Downhill knee pads are a little tight. These are bulkier pads that maximize protection. That bulk doesn't leave a ton of room in the leg opening.
We are confident that these shorts could survive a healthy crash without being torn to pieces. They aren't a paper-thin like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer or Fox Flexair, and they have a bit of weight and thickness. While this isn't going to offer any significant protection, having a more substantial fabric can provide some marginal protection in the event of a crash where you slide a bit.
At their retail price, we feel the Airmatic shorts are a great value. They feel well-designed and perform well within their intended application.
These shorts do not come with a padded liner. Newer riders who may not have built up a stockpile of liners over the years will need to factor that in as that might be an additional purchase.
The 100% Airmatic shorts are dialed baggy shorts. They have a high-quality feel at an attractive price point. Features include well-designed pockets, a stretch panel that delivers a nice range of motion, and a soft and comfortable feel. These are great all-around shorts for the enduro/all-mountain rider.
— Pat Donahue