This version of the 100% Airmatic short has been discontinued and replaced by a new model that offers similar levels of performance. We just recently tested and reviewed the new version.
100% is best known for its motocross products, but its recent foray into mountain bike clothing and accessories is turning out some eye-catching and quality products. The Airmatic shorts indeed borrow from the styling cues of the company's moto gear, with bright flashy colors that make it hard to fly under the radar out on the trail. While the look and color options will be the first thing you notice, the Airmatic shorts are as much about performance as they are appearance. The fabric is amazingly comfortable, and despite a lack of mesh vents, these shorts have an uncanny ability to remain cool and well-ventilated on even the hottest of days. The combination of sublime comfort and moto styling make the Airmatic one of the finest shorts we've ever worn on the bike.
The 100% Airmatic shorts are not for the rider who wishes to go unnoticed. Bright colors and loud graphics are the calling card of the brand, and they are on full display. The moto influence is apparent across the full 100% mountain bike product range, and if you have been to an enduro race lately then you likely already know that bright colors are the norm in that segment of mountain bike culture as well.
Compared to the subdued colors and not so flashy designs of other shorts we tested, like the Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated and the Patagonia Dirt Roamer, these short stand out. Opinions were mixed out on the trail; some loved them and others not so much. If a more subdued pair is more your style, then options abound with shorts like the Patagonia Dirt Craft and the Specialized Enduro Pro being a bit less flashy. If you race enduro and like bright colors, you will be psyched. These might not be the shorts you would wear around town, but they look pretty darn good out on the trail. Some of our more reserved testers weren't stoked on the baggy and bright look, but other factors eventually won them over. In the end, in spite of or because of their looks, these shorts became a favorite amongst all of our testers.
Much like our other Editors' Choice Award-winning shorts, the Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated, the Airmatic shorts score high — not because of a multitude of features, but because the features that are present enhance the end user experience.
With only two pockets, these shorts do not have the storage space of the Zoic Ether which boasts six pockets, but the pockets presented are relatively spacious and provide enough space for gels, a car key and a cell phone. The Airmatic shorts have one pocket on the front side of the right hip and one pocket on the left thigh. Both feature a zipper closure for security and are far more spacious than the pockets on the Kitsbow Mescal. Unlike the Kitsbow shorts, the opening of the storage area of the thigh pocket is angled toward the front of the short. While this does not offer the ergonomic advantages of the rear storage configuration of the Kitsbows, it does provide more room and the ability to carry larger items like an iPhone 6+. The pockets on the Airmatic shorts are also a bit more functional for casual around town use due to capacity and location, when compared to the minimalist pocket layout of the Kitsbow.
The closure system on the fly features a zipper and double snaps at the waist. The snaps proved to be reliable and secure during testing, and we like the redundancy; if one snap were to fail, then the shorts would still be usable. The adjustable metal hook and webbing design found on the Fox Ranger Cargo, for example, is also an excellent design, but it is not as simple to use. Other shorts like the Fox Sergeant use a traditional button which looks decent but is not as secure. It's also likely not as durable because it relies on a reinforced hole in the fabric rather than a metal to metal connection.
One of our favorite features on the Airmatic is the waist adjustment system. It's nothing fancy, but it's on the exterior of the short which we found to be critical for mid-ride adjustments. An internal waist adjustment like the Velcro system on the Fox Sergeant makes mid-ride adjustments complicated and requires the button or snap to be released on the front of the short for access.
The Velcro pull tabs on the Airmatic are easy to grab and offer a broader range of adjustment. There's also an almost infinite positioning within the range, especially when compared to the fixed adjustment positions you get with a hook and loop system (like the Fox Ranger Cargo and the Patagonia Dirt Craft have). We like the durability and security of hook and loop systems, but for ease of use and micro adjustments, we prefer Velcro.
The Airmatic shorts proved to be quite durable during testing. As one of the more popular shorts in the test, they saw a lot of use and abuse from our testers. The fabric is not as thick or abrasion resistant as the fabric of the Troy Lee Ruckus, but if you do not find yourself in frequent contact with terra firma, then we do not anticipate you having any durability issues. For downhill or frequent shuttle use, the Ruckus is a better short.
The fabric thickness is similar to the Kitsbow Mescal, but these shorts do not have the stretch mesh panels found on the Kitsbows which enhances durability. Nearly all of the exposed seams are double stitched and show no signs of weakness following months of testing. Our only complaint was some slight discoloration and staining in the seat of the shorts following some very muddy days of riding. This issue dropped the score of the Airmatic, despite its more durable fabric when compared to the Kitsbow Mescal. These shorts are offered in different colors, and a darker color likely would not have shown discoloration, so if this is a concern, then it might be wise to choose one of the other colorways on offer.
The Airmatic is designed to be worn all day and provide good pedaling performance. With these design considerations in mind, the level of protection is relatively good. However, the lightweight fabric has its limitations especially when it comes to abrasion resistance which is the primary form of protection a mountain biking short provides.
We did find the Airmatic to be well suited for use with kneepads. The leg openings are larger than the Kitsbow Mescal or the Patagonia Dirt Roamer which allows the knee pad to slide inside the opening and prevents bunching of the shorts at the top of the kneepad. The inseam only measures 12", but the shorts sit quite a bit lower on the leg than shorts like the Kitsbow Mescal, due to a looser overall cut and more space in the seat of the shorts, meaning they hang a bit lower in the crotch area. The increased length provides better leg coverage and a bit more protection from minor encounters with trailside obstacles.
Enduro and trail riding shorts need to protect while remaining pedal friendly, the result is a less robust short. We would not choose this short for daily use at the bike park, but coverage is adequate for less rigorous use.
100% has produced one of the best pedaling shorts in the test with the Airmatic. We are more than willing to dig through the laundry pile to find these shorts for long alpine rides in technical terrain.
Compared to the Kitsbow Mescal which was the highest scoring short in this category, these shorts have a looser, more casual looking fit. They do not feature the tailored fit of the Kitsbow shorts, but most of our testers felt that they were nearly as good for pedaling. Our only complaint is the excess fabric that swishes around, but the four-way stretch fabric provides no noticeable resistance to the pedaling stroke. While the shorts ride a bit lower than the Kitsbow Mescal for most of our testers they sit just about perfect to prevent any significant friction at the knee during pedaling. Shorts with a longer inseam like the Pearl Izumi Elevate create a noticeable effect on pedal efficiency as the fabric of the short must slide over the knee with every pedal stroke.
We score the 100% slightly lower than the Kitsbow Mescal, which is the best pedaling short we have ever worn, but 100% has done an excellent job of balancing a more relaxed baggy fit with excellent pedaling characteristics.
The overall comfort of the Airmatic is one of its finest attributes. These shorts simply disappear when riding regardless of whether you are screaming downhill or grinding up.
The feel of the interior fabric on the skin is perfect, nearly frictionless; it glides along the skin even during hard pedaling efforts. The finish of the interior panels looks and feels like microfiber, very soft and supple. Even the stitching at the seams is less noticeable due to the pliability and softness of the fabric. The Kitsbow Mescal and out Top Pick for Comfort Award winner, the Patagonia Dirt Roamer are two other shorts in this test that also provide the top-notch comfort of the Airmatic.
In addition to the mind-blowing feel of the shorts themselves, the CyTech chamois included with the Airmatic is probably the best chamois liner we have ever worn. It is thinner than every other liner in the test, but the padding offers the perfect amount of cushioning while remaining soft and flexible enough to be nearly unnoticeable when you are hiking or pushing up a steep section of trail. The Zoic Ether also includes a liner short, but it is much stiffer and less comfortable both on and off the bike. The liner included with the Patagonia Dirt Craft was the thickest in the test, our testers found it to be less comfortable, and the bulkiness made it very uncomfortable for walking or hiking.
The only active ventilation feature on the Airmatic is a strip of vented fabric below the waistline on the rear of the short. Despite having fewer vents than shorts like the Kitsbow Mescal, these shorts have an uncanny ability to feel light and airy on even the hottest of days. They do absorb a bit more sweat than the Schoeller treated Kitsbow fabric, but they wick moisture away from the skin quite effectively. These are great shorts for riding in hot temperatures. If you value comfort above all other factors, then the Airmatic should be on your list. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in these shorts even when you are not riding.
The Airmatic shorts are best suited to trail and enduro riding. They are also a good choice for cross country use. While they are not quite burly enough for daily bike park use, they certainly would be up to the task in a pinch.
With a retail price of $129, these shorts are on the upper end of the price spectrum, but they are almost $30 cheaper than the Kitsbow Mescal and they come with an amazing liner short. Despite the price, we feel that the Airmatic are an exceptional value.
For trail and enduro riding, you are not likely to find a more comfortable short. We love these shorts for their comfort, great pedaling characteristics, and solid design. They are simply some of the best mountain bike shorts we have ever had the pleasure of riding in. When you include the amazing CyTech liner short, you have a product that sets the bar on which all other shorts will be judged.
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