The Fox Racing Flexair shorts are an excellent lightweight and minimalist trail riding short. They won't blow you away with flashy styling or crazy features, but they are an exceptionally practical short. The fit is dialed and trends towards the fitted, more trim, side of the spectrum. These shorts deliver exceptional pedaling comfort and offer excellent ventilation thanks to oversized laser-cut perforations. These are some of the most breathable shorts in our current test class. These shorts sell for $130 and come stock with a quality chamois, or padded liner.
Fox Racing Flexair Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Excellent in-the-saddle performance, lightweight, breathable, come with a quality chamois
Cons: Not the most attractive
Manufacturer: Fox Racing
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Flexair shorts score well on the most practical, cycling-focused, categories in our test. They may not be the most flashy or stylish short, and it lacks clever features. That said, Fox Racing nailed the on-bike performance. These airy shorts provide excellent fit and pedal-friendliness, and the comfort level is top-notch. Oh yeah, and the inclusion of a high-quality chamois liner deserves a tip of the cap.
Given the quality chamois, lightweight feel, and superb airflow, the Flexair shorts are exceptionally comfortable.
The padded liner helps make the in-the-saddle experience as comfortable as it possibly can be. Given the lightweight feel, these shorts have a fantastic, airy, feel that feels less like a bike short and more like a bathing suit or running short. Pair this light feel with the effective laser-perforated holes that promote airflow and the Flexair is one comfortable pair of shorts.
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
The Flexair shorts score well in terms of fit and pedal-friendliness. These shorts feel good, look good, and most importantly, are exceptionally comfortable spending a full day in the saddle. Additionally, the quality chamois, or padded liner, only adds to the positive experience.
The Flexair have a trim fit without feeling tight. Like the Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated and the Specialized Atlas Pro shorts, they have a more slender feel. The Flexair shorts have the shortest inseam of the three, so they sit just a touch higher. The elastic waistband causes the fit to tighten up a little bit around the waist.
These shorts really stand out for their pedal-friendliness. They are light, offer a great range of motion, and are only as long as they need to be. Also, they have an excellent airflow to keep you cool on those long, hot, summer grinds. There is no need to go into excruciating detail; these shorts are excellent when you're in the saddle.
The quality chamois is effective at reducing discomfort in sensitive areas. These shorts aren't exactly cheap, but it is always a bonus to have a decent padded liner, or chamois, come stock with the shorts.
The Flexair shorts aren't heavy on features. While they may not have all of the bells and whistles, something is reassuring about this simple approach.
The closure system on the front of the short works well. It is a simple ratchet-style mechanism. Think of a snowboard binding or a wheel attachment on a car bike rack. Simply feed the plastic tab into the closure ratchet and cinch it up as hard as you like. We feel this design works well enough. When paired with the elastic waistband, there is a relatively large range of adjustment with the Flexair shorts. The system is intuitive and even with thicker gloves, can be easily adjusted on the fly.
These shorts offer two pockets, plain and simple. They are located on the outer hip and are large enough to house most modern cell phones. If you have a huge XL Samsung phone or one of the bigger iPhone's it could be tricky to fit them in these pockets. The good thing about tighter pockets is it doesn't allow items to bounce around as easily. The pockets are accessed by zippers with substantial tabs that can be gripped on the fly while spinning on the bike.
The laser-cut perforations on the inner part of the lower legs are quite large. As a result, they provide a nice bit of airflow. Some shorts have tiny perforations, and we question how well they really work. With the Flexair shorts, it is safe to say these laser-cut ventilation holes do perform well. This is a nice feature for riders in hot climates or when you are out on a mid-day summer ride.
Throughout our testing, we didn't observe any areas of concern in terms of durability. The seams remained tight, and we didn't see any areas where the seams were starting to fray. The portion in contact with the saddle showed no wear. That said, we are not without our concerns.
Fox Racing does not have the best reputation in terms of the durability of their softgoods. This author has had multiple pairs of the Ranger shorts that wore out very, very quickly. Seams would open up within weeks of purchase, and shortly after that, the shorts are rendered useless. There have been similar experiences with the Fox Racing gloves over the past decade and a half. We can't knock the Flexair shorts for lack of durability or longevity because we haven't seen any warning signs. To be fair, the Flexair shorts are a high-end piece while the perpetually problematic Ranger shorts are the inexpensive, wallet-friendly short. With the Flexair short costing approximately twice as much as the Ranger short, it would stand to reason that the manufacturing and production are of a higher quality. Still, we feel it is important to make readers aware of our past experiences.
The Flexair shorts offer a simple and minimalist style. The colors aren't outrageous, there aren't a ton of lines and seams, and some might say the waistband looks a little clumsy on our dirt colored test shorts. Instead of flashy, they are clean-looking and simple. Text and logos are present, but they are not overly distracting from the overall appearance.
Fox Racing used a clean and straightforward approach with the Flexair shorts. We will never know if it was intentional, but these shorts are not over-engineered. Some of the Fox Racing products are real heavy on flashiness that immediately jumps out at you. The Flexair are far more subtle, and we think this is a good look. They bear some resemblance to the Specialized Atlas Pro shorts with the fitted, simple, and clean look. While style points in this comparison may go to the Specialized, the Fox look good too.
The Flexair shorts have a 13-inch inseam, among the shortest in our test. As a result, the shorts sit a little bit above the knee. This is a trail-riding look that might be most appealing to the crowd who leans towards the cross country riding style. The Troy Lee Designs Skyline and Specialized Atlas Pro shorts share similar styles. We think this trim styling looks good and works best with a lean, athletic, figure.
The thick black waistband on our dirt colored short looks a little out of place. We don't want to call it cheap looking, but it doesn't seem to have the same high-quality look as the rest of the short. The other colorways have waistbands that match the color of the shorts, and we think this creates a better overall appearance.
As we mentioned before, the Fox Racing gear can be a bit loud. They tend to be fairly heavy on the use of their logo. Our Flexair shorts are not super loud, but there is some large text and logo placement. On the outer right leg, the text Fox is written in large, spaced-out text. The letters are so spaced out that it occupies approximately half of the outer thigh. On the outer left leg, there is a Fox Racing logo that is about three inches wide. Luckily, both the logos and the text are written in black and don't stand out too much from the tan colored shorts.
The Flexair shorts offer little in the way of protection. This manifests itself in a few important ways. The length of the short offers little protection, and they don't work well with knee pads. The lightweight nature of these shorts isn't likely to stand up well to a crash.
The 13-inch inseam is among the shortest in the test. The Flexair shorts sit just above the knee and leave the knees exposed. While a slightly longer short won't make a crash hurt any less, it can, however, save you from additional cuts and scrapes on smaller scale crashes. The Flexair is not a short we would want to crash in. Also, the shorts are light and intended for long days in the saddle. The lightweight construction will most likely not stand up that well in a crash. We didn't crash them, but they feel like they would be easy to cut unlike the burly fabrics of the Troy Lee Designs Ruckus or 100% Airmatic shorts.
The Flexair shorts don't play very well with knee pads. Given the shorter inseam length and the above-the-knee fit, these shorts will deliver exceptional pad gap. Pad gap is typically found in the seated pedaling position and occurs when you have space between the top of the knee pad and the bottom of the short. This is somewhat of a mountain biking faux pas. If you don't care about the gap, these shorts fit a sleeve-style knee pad well enough.
The Flexair shorts make sense for a large group of trail and cross country riders. These would be an excellent choice for the cross country enthusiast who doesn't feel the need to wear tight-fitting lycra on trail rides. They are a great option for the riders who love to climb, like long rides, and don't feel the need to ride jumps or exceptionally rocky trails. In other words, it makes sense for a lot of people.
If you are an enduro/all-mountain/downhill enthusiast, look elsewhere. Gravity fiends might find these shorts a hair too short and trim. This group should look towards shorts like the 100% Airmatic or Troy Lee Designs Ruckus.
At $130, these are some of the more expensive shorts in our review. While that is a substantial chunk of change for bike shorts, it should be noted that they come with a quality chamois/padded liner. Many of the less expensive shorts will force you to buy a chamois separately, which quickly negates any savings.
Even at this price, these shorts are still a strong value. They are light, offer a high-end fit, and pedal very well.
The Fox Racing Flexair shorts are a stellar choice for cross country and light to moderate trail riding. Fox Racing knocked it out of the park and delivered a short with a minimalist approach, lightweight, and a dialed fit. While these trim-fitting shorts may not be for everyone, they are a sensible choice for a large group of riders. These shorts are some of the most expensive in the test. That said, the price tag is easy to swallow given the quality, performance, and the inclusion of a decent liner.
— Pat Donahue