Reviews You Can Rely On

Zoic Ether Shorts + Liner Review

This model is an excellent choice for the rider who demands a quality product at a reasonable price
Zoic Ether Shorts + Liner
Photo: http://zoic.com/
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $90 List | $90.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Removable inner liner, many well-placed pockets, affordable
Cons:  Not the best quality chamois
Manufacturer:   Zoic
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 15, 2018
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness - 20% 8
  • Features - 20% 7
  • Durability - 20% 6
  • Style - 10% 6
  • Protection - 10% 6

Our Verdict

If you are on a budget but are not willing to settle for an inferior quality pair of shorts, then look no further. The Zoic Ether Shorts + Liner is one of the most inexpensive models in our test, and they come with a chamois liner included. The Ether surprised our testers with its performance, with solid scores in all of our tests. Best of all, they retail for around half the price of many shorts included in our review. The Ether shorts truly hit the sweet spot when it comes to performance at a reasonable price.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $90.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$109.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$89.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$99.00 at Backcountry$89.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Removable inner liner, many well-placed pockets, affordableTrim 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 Not the best quality chamoisA little heavy, below average ventilationMinimal waistband adjustment, over-complicated closure systemTailored fit may be too slim for someHanging mesh pockets, limited ventilation
Bottom Line This model is an excellent choice for the rider who demands a quality product at a reasonable priceA 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 Zoic Ether Shorts +... 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%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Durability (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Style (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Protection (10%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Zoic Ether Shorts +... Troy Lee Designs Sk... 100% Airmatic Patagonia Dirt Roamer Fox Racing Ranger
Shell Fabric 100% Polyester 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? Yes Yes No No yes
Lining Main Fabric 95% Polyester, 5% Spandex AIR COMP CyTech Premium None Removable liner
Chamois Foam TMF 4-hour Foam pad None, but compatible with Endless Ride Chamois(sold separately) Dual Density
Inseam Measurement (inches) 12 in 12.5 in 12 in 11.5 in 12 in
Number of pockets 6 2 2 1 3
Weight (ounces) 10.2 oz 8.58 oz 8.76 oz 5.22 oz 7.5 oz
Weight Liner 4.4 oz 4.25 oz N/a N/a 3.84 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

The previous version of the Ether short was a Best Buy Award winner, the most recent version sees some substantial improvements. We loved the old version and Zoic has managed to improve upon the original with Duraflex fabric, higher quality zippers, and a revamped waist adjustment system. The best part is that they have managed to keep the price competitively low. The Ether + Liner retails for less than half the cost of the most expensive shorts we tested.

Performance Comparison


They might be affordable but they don't look cheap.
They might be affordable but they don't look cheap.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Comfort


The Ether ranks amongst the most comfortable shorts we tested, only being outscored by a few of our top-rated models. For the price, this is quite an achievement and goes to show that affordability and reliable performance are not mutually exclusive.

Mesh ventilation below the waistband on the Ether shorts.
Mesh ventilation below the waistband on the Ether shorts.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Ether is most comparable to the 100% Airmatic in its cut, and the slightly baggy design seems to lend itself well to good passive ventilation. As one of the cooler shorts in our test, the Ether was one of the go-to shorts for our testers on hot days. Mesh panels on the legs and below the rear portion of the waistband further enhance ventilation. The Ether shorts do not wick sweat as well as models with lighter materials, but they are a solid warm weather performer.

The Zoic Ether shorts come with a chamois liner, the budget price of...
The Zoic Ether shorts come with a chamois liner, the budget price of the shorts is more apparent here, we were not all that impressed with the liner.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Zoic sells the Ether short with their IPL Essential Liner. The liner is decent, but not nearly as well made or comfortable as the Fox liner short included with some of their shorts. The chamois is more rigid and does not conform to the body as well. Like other low-end liners, it's not likely to blow your mind, but getting a liner short at all in this price range is unbelievable. Even if you plan to replace the liner with something a bit nicer, having a spare pair of liner shorts is nice.

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


The fit of the Ether is slightly baggier and roomier than some of the newer tailored, slim-fitting shorts, but they do have a slightly articulated cut that improves pedaling performance. The Ether is a solid short for long days in the saddle. The four-way stretch fabric does a good job of limiting resistance to the pedal stroke. It slides easily over the skin, and the seams in the shorts are not noticeable. There is undoubtedly more material flapping around than you have with a short such as the Kitsbow Mescal Ventilated or the Patagonia Dirt Roamer, but unless you're racing cross country, this is probably not a deal breaker.

The Ether is a great short for long days in the saddle, with great...
The Ether is a great short for long days in the saddle, with great comfort and excellent pedaling performance.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Overall, the fit is a bit less performance-oriented than our highest rated shorts, but Zoic has done an excellent job creating a short that balances a looser cut with good all day pedaling performance.

Features


If you thought that the most affordable pair of shorts we tested would be short on features, you would be incorrect. They have the greatest number of pockets, and also include a nice, functional waist adjustment system.

The cell phone pocket with a headphone cable port is a nice feature...
The cell phone pocket with a headphone cable port is a nice feature of the Zoic Ether.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

A total of six pockets are found on the Ether. If loads of pocket storage space is high on your priority list, these may be the shorts for you. There are two unsecured hand pockets on the front of the shorts that are ideal for food or other items you need quick access to. Also, there is a zippered pocket on the lower leg on each side of the shorts that Zoic refers to as Active Access cargo pockets. There is also a zippered pocket on the right leg with a headphone port that fits an iPhone 6; it is a bit snug for any of the plus-sized phones we tried. You also get a zippered wallet style pocket on the back of the shorts, and there's plenty of room for almost anything we can imagine the need to carry in our shorts.

An adjustable waist is a critical feature, we prefer shorts with an...
An adjustable waist is a critical feature, we prefer shorts with an external adjustment like the Zoic Ether.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The waist adjustment system uses Velcro laminated rubber tabs on the exterior of the waistband. The rear portion of the waistband is stretchy elastic which when combined with the waist adjustment system makes for one of the most adjustable shorts in the review. The front closure is a single snap with a Velcro patch. These are the only shorts we tested that use this setup. We like the extra security of two closure methods, and it likely takes some of the stress off of the snap. A zipper rounds things out below for easy nature break access.

Durability


The Ether shorts held up well during testing, but they fall within the more lightweight end of the spectrum. They do not have the burly fabric of more downhill oriented products like the Ruckus, but they are well made. The lightweight stretch fabric on these shorts makes them perfect for pedaling, but they lack the ruggedness of shorts with heavier weight fabric. The mesh panels on the lower legs and hips are also more prone to damage and abrasion than shorts that omit this feature.

Extensive use of the black mesh ventilation patches decreases...
Extensive use of the black mesh ventilation patches decreases durability but increases ventialtion.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The stitching and zippers do not appear as robust as the hardware on some of the competition, but everything held up well during testing. The interior of the pockets is mesh, so they can serve double duty as vents on a hot day if your pockets aren't full. This design is not as durable as a solid fabric pocket, but it has its advantages.

The front hip pockets of the Ether do not have zippers and feature a...
The front hip pockets of the Ether do not have zippers and feature a mesh lining.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Style


Style is the most subjective category in which we rated our test shorts. We think most will agree that the Zoic Ether sits in the middle of the road between athletic shorts and casual shorts. The non-zip hand pockets and faux front belt loops give the short a casual feel, while the mesh vent panels and elastic waist back look more technical. The paneling definitely gives these shorts a less casual look than most of our favorite shorts, and we would be less likely to wear them around town as a result.

The Zoic Ether has a loose baggy fit and comes down to just past the...
The Zoic Ether has a loose baggy fit and comes down to just past the knee.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The shorts used in our test were teal in color, and while the cut appears relatively casual, the color and the mesh vent panels make these shorts look like a mountain bike short (they are offered in several more subtle colors). They aren't incredibly flashy, but the bright teal color stands out. The fit is baggier than some but the cut is slightly articulated and designed for the pedaling position. One thing we can say with confidence is that the shorts do not look cheap, and most people we asked guessed they were in the $100 plus price range.

Protection


The Ether has a 12-inch inseam, which means that the shorts fall just over the knee when standing, and provide a good amount of leg coverage in a crash. The leg openings are large enough to be worn with knee pads, which is a plus.

The Zoic Ether shorts have a loose fit and good leg coverage.
The Zoic Ether shorts have a loose fit and good leg coverage.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The fabric on these shorts is similar in thickness to the 100% Airmatic and is not nearly as burly as the ripstop material found on the Troy Lee Ruckus. Abrasion protection, while not an afterthought in the design, certainly takes a back seat to pedal performance and ventilation.

The Zoic Ether might be one of the most affordable shorts we tested...
The Zoic Ether might be one of the most affordable shorts we tested, but their performance is in line with the best shorts we tested.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Value


The Ether is one of the best values of any pair of shorts we've ever tested. These shorts score well in all of our performance tests, and retail for around half the price of many comparable shorts. The liner short is a bit of a let down if you are used to high-end chamois pads, but at this price, we are amazed that the shorts even come with one in the first place. If you need a high-performance pair of shorts and don't want to spend a fortune, then these are the shorts for you.

Conclusion


The Ether shorts are one of the least expensive shorts in our test and impressed our testers with an amazing price to performance ratio. If you're a rider on a budget seeking a great value in a high performance short that comes with a chamois liner, check out the Ether + Liner.

Curtis Smith