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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Dirt Craft Review
Cons: Expensive, short inseam, not articulated
Bottom line: A versatile pair of mountain bike shorts that can serve dual duty for hiking or climbing.
The Patagonia Dirt Craft mountain bike shorts combine a casual hiking short look with technical features to enhance your riding experience. The versatility of these shorts is unmatched with a design that makes them ideal for hiking and climbing as well as biking. This design ethos led to lower scores in our testing, due to the compromises made to make them so versatile. The 2-way stretch nylon shell is paired with a thick chamois liner short. Ample pockets for storage and a slick hook and loop waist adjustment system show that Patagonia knows what mountain bikers are looking for in a solid pair of trail shorts. A shorter inseam length enhances the versatility of the short for off the bike activities but reduces leg coverage and knee pad compatibility.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Patagonia is ubiquitous in the outdoor clothing, producing everything from wetsuits to alpine climbing technical wear. We are excited to see them take on mountain bike clothing with the Dirt Craft line. In classic Patagonia style they have produced a pair of mountain bike shorts whose versatility goes beyond the bike. The casual style and short inseam length make the Dirt Craft shorts adept for mountain biking use and other pursuits such as hiking or a day of sport climbing. We like the versatility and suspect that for the minimalist dual sport athlete the draw of a multi-use garment will be a selling point. However, the dual function ethos has drawbacks that keep these shorts from holding a top position in our review.
If no one told you otherwise you would likely mistake these shorts for any other pair of hiking shorts that Patagonia produces. The fit is loose and lacks the articulation of purpose built mountain biking shorts like the Kitsbow A/M. The short 11.5" inseam ensures that these shorts will not be mistaken for a downhill moto-inspired short like the Troy Lee Ruckus. We like the casual look that does not scream "I race enduro!", but the look will appeal to some more than others. Our die hard mountain bike friends prefer the look of 100% Airmatic while our more casual mountain biking friends seem to really like this short.
Patagonia has done a good job balancing a short with dual purposes with the right features to make the short functional for most mountain bikers. The two open unsecured jean style pockets on the front of the shorts and the left thigh zippered pocket provide enough storage for a cell phone and some food. If you want to carry more gear we recommend the Zoic Ether which has six pockets purpose designed to carry all the mountain biking essentials. The waist adjustment system is a hook and loop design, similar to the Kitsbow A/M.
The only difference is that the alloy hook on the Dirt Craft shorts is anchored to the waistband with an elastic strap hidden in the fabric of the shorts. This provides a bit more range on each of the loop positions as there is a bit of stretch built into the system. A traditional button and YKK zipper keep the shorts in place. The Dirt Craft also have nylon straps with small snap buttons to attach the included chamois to the shorts so everything stays in place. We tried them during testing but found they were not really necessary.
The DWR infused nylon shell of the Dirt Craft shorts held up well during testing with no fading or staining. The fabric is much lighter than the ripstop material on the Troy Lee Ruckus so we would not expect it to hold up to frequent crashes. The DWR coating does do a solid job of preventing the shorts from becoming soaked on wet rides and seems to repel mud so that it doesn't become impregnated in the fabric. All of the stitching is double and exposed, but the layout of the seams prevents unnecessary wear when pedaling. Overall, the construction and materials are more than adequate for trail riding, but we would seek out a pair of shorts with a more heavy duty fabric like the Pearl Izumi Elevate for downhill use.
The 11.5" inseam of the Dirt Craft is on the shorter end of the spectrum, compared to shorts like the Pearl Izumi Elevate which has a 15" inseam. A shorter inseam equals less leg coverage, so these shorts would not be our go to for downhill use. We found that the short length also limited the functionality of the shorts for use with kneepads. The leg cuffs tend to ride up and bunch above most kneepads which reduce coverage and makes riding with kneepads uncomfortable, which means you are less likely to use them. The thin fabric also does not offer much protection from abrasion.
Fit and Pedal Friendliness
The Dirt Craft shorts have a loose fit, but they are slightly more snug than the Ruckus or the Ether. The cut is more comparable to a hiking short than a purpose driven articulated mountain biking short like the Kitsbow A/M. The lack of articulation leads to excessive fabric bunching at the front of the shorts near the hip joint and makes pedaling feel less efficient. The fabric is stretchy, but the 2-way stretch only allows expansion on the vertical plane as opposed to the 4-way stretch fabric of the 100% Airmatic which allows a truly unencumbered pedal stroke.
These shorts feel great off the bike for hiking or cruising around town. On the bike, the lack of articulation is noticeable and the fabric tends to bunch up when pedaling which reduces comfort. The fabric is not nearly as soft against the skin as the 100% Airmatic, and the seams are rough and can cause abrasion on long rides. Ventilation is minimal with no mesh vents or other ventilation openings, so despite the lightweight fabric, these shorts get rather hot on warm days. The Dirt Craft shorts do come with a chamois liner. The pad is one of the thickest we tested, which makes it comfortable for long periods of time in the saddle. However, the pad is so large and thick that it makes walking or hiking feel uncomfortable. We prefer the thinner, more form fitting chamois pad of the 100% Airmatic wich is as great on the bike as it is off.
The Dirt Craft shorts are best suited to the athlete who places emphasis on dual function gear. They are a great multisport short, with the ability to double as a mountain bike short in the morning and a climbing short in the afternoon. If you don't ride enough to have a pair of shorts solely dedicated to mountain bike, the Dirt Craft is a good pair of shorts for casual trail rides.
The Dirt Craft shorts retail for $149 placing them in the upper end of the price range with shorts like the 100% Airmatic which retails for $139. Despite their limitations for the hardcore rider, we feel that their dual functionality makes them a good value for the rider who values versatility over sport-specific function.
The Dirt Craft shorts from Patagonia are frankly not the best mountain biking shorts we tested. The design emphasis leans more towards multi-sport versatility than dedicated biking use. This limits the score of these shorts in many of our performance tests, that are designed to identify the best shorts for mountain biking. With that said, the shorts are well made and do have features like an adjustable waist and a chamois liner that show that use on the bike was not an afterthought. If you are looking for a no compromise pair of mountain biking shorts then there are better options, but if versatility for multiple sports is a priority then the Dirt Craft shorts are worth considering.
— Curtis Smith
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