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Specialized Trail Short Review

Highly functional trail-riding shorts that offer clean styling and a great in-saddle feel
Specialized Trail Short
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Price:  $80 List | $75.00 at Competitive Cyclist
Pros:  Clean style, reasonable price, pedal-friendly
Cons:  Deep pockets allow contents to flop around while riding
Manufacturer:   Specialized
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 25, 2021
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 16
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness - 20% 8
  • Features - 20% 8
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Style - 10% 8
  • Protection - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Specialized Trail Shorts are highly functional shorts that offer a clean look and a solid value for your hard-earned money. While they may not be loaded with flashy features, they fit great and simply get the job done on the trail. The waistband utilizes a clever and highly functional waist adjustment and the material is lightweight and pedal-friendly. Our biggest gripe is the pockets that are a little too deep for our liking causing cargo to bounce around. Regardless, we loved the understated look of these minimalist shorts and feel they are a great value. Specialized also sells the Trail Short with a Body Geometry chamois liner for an additional fee.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Clean style, reasonable price, pedal-friendlyTrim and clean fit, quality chamois, pedal-friendlyStylish, functions well with knee pads, high-quality and reasonable priceLightweight, comfortable, tailored fit, adjustable waist closure, quick dryingAffordable, comes with chamois liner, trim fit, clean style
Cons Deep pockets allow contents to flop around while ridingA little heavy, below average ventilationMinimal waistband adjustment, over-complicated closure systemTailored fit may be too slim for someHanging mesh pockets, limited ventilation
Bottom Line Highly functional trail-riding shorts that offer clean styling and a great in-saddle feelA trim pair of trail riding shorts that deliver exceptional comfort and pedal-friendliness but don't breathe particularly wellA dialed all-mountain/enduro short that ticks most of the boxes but has some minor waistband issuesComfortable and lightweight with a minimalist design and performance oriented tailored fitThese trail riding shorts offer an excellent combination of performance and affordability
Rating Categories Specialized Trail S... Troy Lee Designs Sk... 100% Airmatic Patagonia Dirt Roamer Fox Racing Ranger
Comfort (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Fit And Pedal Friendliness (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Features (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Durability (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Protection (10%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Specialized Trail S... Troy Lee Designs Sk... 100% Airmatic Patagonia Dirt Roamer Fox Racing Ranger
Shell Fabric VaporRize woven fabric 95% Coolmax polyester, 5% Lycra Polyester elastane stretch blend 4-way stretch 90 denier 87% recycled polyester/13% spandex with a DWR 2-way stretch ripstop fabric
Removable Inner Short? No (can purchase with liner) Yes No No Yes
Lining Main Fabric None AIR COMP CyTech Premium None Removable liner
Chamois None TMF 4-hour Foam pad None, but compatible with Endless Ride Chamois(sold separately) Dual Density
Inseam Measurement (inches) 13.5 inch 12.5 inch 12 inch 11.5 inch 12 inch
Number of pockets 2 2 2 1 3
Weight (ounces) 7.9 oz 8.6 oz 8.8 oz 5.2 oz 7.5 oz
Weight Liner N/a 4.3 oz N/a N/a 3.8 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Trail Shorts get the job done, plain and simple. No single aspect of their performance blew our minds. That said, it is hard to argue that these are functional shorts. The style is plain and simple, they fit well, offer nice levels of comfort, work well enough with knee pads, and they are reasonably priced.

Performance Comparison


These shorts have a good fit and the material is comfortable for any...
These shorts have a good fit and the material is comfortable for any length of ride.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Comfort


Overall, we found the Trail Shorts to provide a high level of comfort. The fit is casual, and the Vaporize woven polyester fabric feels good against the skin and offers plenty of stretch for unimpeded freedom of movement. Additionally, this material wicks away moisture and is quick-drying when you inevitably sweat in them. The shorts are well crafted with no pronounced seams to cause irritation while pedaling, and we found them to be comfortable on any length of ride. The shorts we tested did not come with a padded liner, although they can be purchased with a Specialized Mountain Body Geometry liner short for $40 extra. Obviously, we didn't have the chance to test the liner short, but based on our experience with Specialized liner shorts in the past, we imagine it's probably pretty comfortable too.

We found the Trail Shorts to be very pedal-friendly, suitable for...
We found the Trail Shorts to be very pedal-friendly, suitable for long days in the saddle.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


The Trail Shorts come in even waist sizes between 28 and 44. We like this approach since you can probably get closer to your actual size than with the small through extra-large sizing system. Our size 32 shorts fit true to size. If you twisted our arms, we would say they might fit ever-so-slightly on the small side of the spectrum for a size 32 waist. The waistband has external adjustment straps to quickly and securely fine-tune the fit. They have a relaxed, but not overly baggy, fit with a 13.5-inch inseam. When standing, the shorts drop down around the middle of the knee, and they rise just above the kneecap when seated and pedaling.

The Trail Shorts scored well in terms of pedal friendliness. We would have no problem sitting down and spinning away for hours on end while wearing them. The pedaling motion is unrestricted and the woven polyester stretch material feels good against the skin and doesn't put up any resistance. The length of the inseam feels just right and they don't hang up on the top of the knee, and they aren't so baggy that they catch a lot of wind or bounce around while pedaling.

We found the low-profile waist adjustment straps to be simple and...
We found the low-profile waist adjustment straps to be simple and effective.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Features


The Trail Shorts are absent of any flashy or sexy features. They are straightforward and almost minimalist in their approach. They are constructed with a VaporRize woven polyester material that is stretchy, quick-drying, and feels comfortable against the skin. This material also has Deflect UV 50+ protection built into it.

One small, yet functional detail that we really liked was the waist adjustment straps. On both sides of the shorts, there are cutouts in the waistband that expose a nylon strap. Pulling this strap, which is connected to the waistband by way of two small D-loops, cinches down the waistband. To loosen the waistband, simply pull on the D-loops. This design is very simple, low-profile, and surprisingly effective. It feels easier to use and more precise than velcro or other adjustment methods.

We found the pockets to work well off the bike, but their depth...
We found the pockets to work well off the bike, but their depth meant that their contents would shift around while riding.
Photo: Pat Donahue

The Trail Shorts have a total of two hand pockets, one zippered and one open. While the placement of the pockets is just fine, we found them to be a bit too deep. They are great for holding things if you're going to the store or driving somewhere, but we found that cargo tended to bounce around while riding. We wouldn't consider it a deal-breaker, but if you're the type who carries things in your pockets while riding it might be.

The material is pretty lightweight. We don't think they're the best...
The material is pretty lightweight. We don't think they're the best choice for hard-hitting gravity riding.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Durability


During our test period, we observed no signs of premature wear or breakdown of these shorts. They look just about as good as new. The button, zipper fly, and waist adjustment straps are all functioning perfectly, and all of the stitching is intact. As with most shorts, the vertical seam at the back of the shorts could be a potential failure point due to friction from the saddle. That said, we imagine it would take at least a couple of seasons of heavy use to get there. The material used in the short's construction feels quality, though it doesn't feel particularly burly. People who crash frequently or ride in places with lots of trailside obstacles like bushes and sharp branches could find the limits of this material's durability, though we didn't experience anything that would suggest they can't handle years of regular use.

These shorts have a clean, subdued style with clean lines, earth...
These shorts have a clean, subdued style with clean lines, earth tones, and a tiny logo.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Style


The term we would use to describe the style of the Trail Shorts is understated. While it may not sound like it, that is a compliment. These shorts don’t have a loud design, bright colors, gigantic logos, or whacky stitching/cuts. Instead, they offer a clean style that many people can get along with.

The shorts have a casual appearance with a relaxed fit and they come in three solid, neutral colorways. At first glance, these could be just a regular pair of shorts. They certainly don't give away the fact that they are riding shorts with bright colors, big logos, or technical-looking fabrics. The clean styling includes the barely noticeable waist adjustment straps integrated into the otherwise plain waistband and the two hand pockets situated on the front of the shorts. The pocket openings are small and aren’t easy to spot at first glance. The pocket on the user's right size does not have a zipper. The one on the left side does have a zipper. On the outside of the right leg by the hem, there is a small Specialized logo that is approximately an inch long. The back of the shorts shares the same relatively plain, simple style.

We found these shorts to work well with most knee pads, but they...
We found these shorts to work well with most knee pads, but they worked best with slimmer, trail-oriented models.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Protection


These shorts don’t have any reinforced areas or any special protective material. As we have mentioned numerous times, they are relatively minimal in their design. The Deflect UV 50+ protection is noteworthy and the average length of the legs offers decent coverage from the knees up for protection from the sun and brushes with bushes and the like. The model name of these shorts is the Trail shorts and the lightweight woven polyester fabric isn’t the beefiest. If you tend to crash on a somewhat regular basis, this fabric doesn't provide much in the way of protection. That said, they feel substantial enough for the less aggressive trail riding application. Hard chargers and big huckers should look for something a little more robust.

The Trail Shorts have a reasonably large leg opening and they work well enough with most knee pads. If your knee pads have a shorter sleeve and don't extend much above the knee, however, you may experience some dreaded pad gap. Pad gap occurs when there is some thigh visible between the bottom of your shorts and the top of your knee pad sleeve. Practically, there isn’t much wrong with this. That said, the mountain bike world views this as an undesirable trait. Being Trail shorts, not all users will be wearing knee pads.

We found a lot to like about these Specialized shorts, including the...
We found a lot to like about these Specialized shorts, including the reasonable price tag.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Value


We feel the Trail Shorts are a slightly above average value. The fit is dialed, comfort levels are high, and the styling is beautifully simple. Sure, there are shorts that cost roughly the same and come with a padded liner, but none that match the dialed fit, comfort, and good looks of the Trail Shorts. Specialized also sells these shorts with a chamois liner for an additional $40.

Conclusion


The Specialized Trail Shorts are simple and effective trail-riding shorts. The design team didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead, they delivered a highly functional pair of shorts with clean and subtle styling. The shorts function well on the trail and will work for a huge number of riders. In addition, they come at a reasonable price tag given the quality of construction.

As their name suggests, the Trail Shorts lean more towards the...
As their name suggests, the Trail Shorts lean more towards the trail-riding application. That said, they'll work for just about any style of riding.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Pat Donahue

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