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The 6 Best Mountain Bike Shorts of 2024

We tested mountain bike shorts from Fox Racing, Troy Lee Designs, POC, Patagonia, and more to find the best
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Best Mountain Bike Shorts Review (We choose  10 of the best Mountain Bike Shorts available for our Men's Mountain Bike Shorts review.)
We choose 10 of the best Mountain Bike Shorts available for our Men's Mountain Bike Shorts review.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
By Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue, Nick Miley  ⋅  May 16, 2024

The Best Mountain Bike Shorts for 2024


Are you searching for the best mountain bike shorts? We purchased 17 of the most compelling options on the market for this comparative analysis. Since 2015, we have tested over 46 different mountain bike shorts. In this update, we spent hundreds of hours in the saddle riding everything from mega cross-country loops to lift-served bike park laps and everything in between. We rode a huge range of terrain and weather conditions while scrutinizing every aspect of design and performance. We kept ultra-detailed notes, nitpicked the smallest details, and scored each pair of shorts on predetermined performance metrics to help you find the best mountain bike shorts for your riding style and budget.

While many shorts are available in both men's and women's versions, they don't always perform the same for both genders. Not to worry, we performed in-depth testing by female reviewers in our women's mountain bike shorts review.

Editor's Note: Our MTB shorts review was updated on May 16, 2024, to include more info on our testing process and additional recommended shorts in our award section.

Related: Best Women's Mountain Bike Shorts

Top 17 Mountain Bike Shorts - Test Results

Displaying 1 - 5 of 17
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Awards Top Pick Award Top Pick Award    
Price $65.40 at Backcountry
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$139.95 at Backcountry
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$100.00 at Backcountry
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$69.50 at Backcountry
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$105.00 at Backcountry
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Overall Score
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74
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Pros Well-designed baggy fit, knee pad compatibility, stylishWater-resistant seat panel, robust construction, welded hemsFree ride fit, comfortable for peddling, durableWide range of use, wind/water-resistant, comfortableComfortable, extended coverage works well with knee pads, dialed fit for trail and all-mountain riding
Cons Not best suited for long days in the saddle, heavyLeg opening rides up, a little baggy in the seat, stiffer materialLimited venting, abrasive pocket zippersBoa system limits range of adjustment, busy designHidden pockets aren't that user-friendly, potentially polarizing design
Bottom Line A high-quality mountain bike short that works best for riders who let gravity do most of the workThese burly shorts are for those that favor weather resistance and durability over comfort and styleThese mountain bike shorts offer a loose, freeride fit with accommodating leg openings that prioritize pedal-friendliness while providing ample thigh protectionA quality pair of wind and water-resistant all-mountain shorts with some interesting design elementsA comfortable pair of all-mountain shorts that work great with knee pads but have some quirks
Rating Categories Troy Lee Ruckus Shell Endura MT500 Spray... Gorewear C5 Shorts 100% Celium Shorts POC Infinite All-Mo...
Comfort (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Fit and Pedal Friendliness (20%)
5.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Features (20%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Style (10%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Protection (10%) Sort Icon
9.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Troy Lee Ruckus Shell Endura MT500 Spray... Gorewear C5 Shorts 100% Celium Shorts POC Infinite All-Mo...
Shell Fabric 90% polyester, 10% spandex 4-way stretch front panels with DWR, waterproof 3-layer rear panels 46% Polyamide, 42% Polyamide (recycled), 12% Elastane, water-resistant Nylon/spandex 4-way stretch woven fabric with DWR Stretch fabric blended with Cordura and treated with DWR
Inseam Measurement (med or 32" waist) 13.5 13.5 13.4 15 13
Number of pockets 4 2 3 2 3
Weight (grams) 349 grams 262 grams 251 grams 196 grams 241 grams
Weight (ounces) 12.3 oz 9.25 oz 8.85 oz 6.9 oz 8.5 oz


Best Overall Mountain Bike Short


Troy Lee Designs Skyline


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.5
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 8.5
  • Features 8.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Style 8.5
  • Protection 8.0
Liner Included: No | Inseam Length: 13.75 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Comfortable
Good protection
Stylish
Useful off-trail design
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier weight
Single-point waist closure

The new and improved Troy Lee Designs Skyline are well-designed, sturdily constructed, stylish, and comfortable short, knocks the ball out of the park in our on-trail testing and off-trail evaluation. The Skyline is on the baggier side than others in the class but is decidedly not a downhill cut. On the contrary, the fit is great for longish rides. The waist adjustment is clean, discreet, and effective. The construction materials are stretchy – particularly at the small of the back – and have a smooth microfiber on the inside that limits chafing. With an inseam of 13 3/4" and leg openings of 21 1/2", the short offers a lot of protection as the cuffs overlap the kneepads and don't ride up when peddling. The Skyline is a great riding short offering a sharp look and useful pockets for use off-trail.

We don't have a whole lot to complain about with the Skyline. It checks all the boxes for a great pair of shorts both on and off the trail. That said, folks shopping for lightweight, tight-fitting, highly breathable shorts for long, hot rides may prefer another option. The material is a little heavier and stiffer, which might irritate on a long ride. The phone pockets are also positioned on the top of the thigh, which is not bad for peddling, although we prefer the back of the thigh. Lastly, the Skyline sports a single snap closure at the waist. We had no issues with this feature, but its lack of redundancy is cause for concern. Still, these shorts exceed all the requirements of a great bike short while not feeling or looking too busy or techy. We also purchased the Troy Lee Skyline Pant and are similarly impressed. It is a bit heavier and burlier than the Patagonia Dirt Craft Pants. We take the Dirt Craft on longer rides in warmer conditions and the Skyline Pant for everything else.

Read more: Troy Lee Designs Skyline review

mountain bike shorts - the skyline is the best do it all riding short that we&#039;ve tested...
The Skyline is the best do it all riding short that we've tested, and they won't look out of place out on the town.
Credit: Nick Miley

Best Bang for the Buck


Specialized Trail Short


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Protection 7.0
Liner Included: No (can be purchased with liner) | Inseam Length: 13.5 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Good value
Adjustable waistband
Casual style
REASONS TO AVOID
No ventilation features
Deep pockets allow contents to move around

The Specialized Trail Short is versatile and comfortable at a very reasonable price. Not only are they a great deal, but these shorts have a casual and straightforward style with a comfortable fit. They have two pockets; one zipped and one open, and an articulated waistband for seated pedaling comfort. The waist adjustment system is low-profile and effective, providing a comfortable and secure fit. The Vaporize woven fabric is lightweight and stretchy and allows for excellent freedom of movement and pedal-friendliness. The 13.5-inch inseam hangs right around the knee cap and plays well with most knee pads. Overall, we found these shorts sturdy and reliable at a reasonable price.

The Trail Shorts left us with a few minor complaints. They do not have dedicated ventilation features, so they rely on the material, its weight, and its wicking properties to control and regulate heat. They could feel a bit warm on hot days. The depth of the pockets can allow items to flop around a little while pedaling. Other than that, these shorts are comfortable, perform well, and look good, especially for the price. But if you need better ventilation, check out the Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short, which is our top pick for this very thing.

Read more: Specialized Trail Short review

mountain bike shorts - the trail shorts are highly versatile, comfortable, and sold at a...
The Trail shorts are highly versatile, comfortable, and sold at a reasonable price.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Best for Minimalists


Patagonia Dirt Roamer


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 9.0
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 9.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Durability 8.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Protection 6.0
Liner Included: No, Sold Separately | Inseam Length: 12.5 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Super comfortable
Timeless style
Lightweight
Quick-drying
REASONS TO AVOID
A little longer and roomier than the original

Patagonia is well known for producing some of the highest quality outdoor gear available, and they are becoming a larger player in the mountain bike apparel market. They recently updated their flagship Dirt Roamer shorts, and we feel they have made some notable improvements. Patagonia added an inch to the inseam, now 12.5 inches, providing more leg coverage and better compatibility with knee pads. They also revised the waist closure with two secure metal snaps and a dual-sided and super low-profile waist adjustment system. The shorts now feature two zippered thigh pockets, doubling their cargo-carrying capacity while maintaining their minimalist aesthetic. All those changes aside, the Dirt Roamer shorts still stand out for their impressive comfort level and pedal-friendliness. These shorts are so lightweight you barely even notice you're wearing them, and we feel they are an excellent option for XC and trail riders who spend long days in the saddle.

The updated fit of the Dirt Roamer shorts is a touch longer and roomier in the legs than the original. While this is generally a positive change, those who loved the fit of the previous version may find these to be a little baggier. This will also work better for those with larger legs and buttocks. These shorts also don't have any ventilation. Instead, the light material used in their construction is so breathable and quick-drying that you don't need any. Our testers found the Dirt Roamer shorts to be so comfortable that they found themselves opting for them more often than not. There isn't an exact pant version of this short. Patagonia makes the Dirt Roamer Storm but it is more of a rain pant. The Dirt Craft short has an impressive pant version that we've tested called the Patagonia Dirt Craft Pants. They are light, stretchy, breathable but not the most durable.

Read more: Patagonia Dirt Roamer review

mountain bike shorts - the lightweight, minimalist dirt roamer shorts are barely noticeable...
The lightweight, minimalist Dirt Roamer shorts are barely noticeable while you're riding.
Credit: Jeremy Benson

Best for Ventilation


Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Shorts


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.5
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 9.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Protection 7.0
Liner Included: None | Inseam Length: 12.5 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Minimalistic
Highly breathable
REASONS TO AVOID
Asymmetrical waist adjustment
Small pockets

The Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short is a pedal-friendly, hot weather, minimalistic short. The perforated inner thigh panels provide consistent airflow where needed, while the lightweight polyester and spandex material provides multi-directional give and breathability. The Summit Shell has a built-in, quarter-wrap flat webbing waist adjustment belt to fine-tune the fit, while the low-profile buckle is the waist closure. Dual zippered pockets are positioned high and to the back of the thighs, making them better suited to pedaling. The hem of the leg openings is welded to keep friction to a minimum as the short slides back and forth through the pedal cycle, thus adding to the comfort.

While we like the minimalistic design of the Summit Shell for longer, warmer weather rides, some might find the distinct lack of features limiting. Certainly, we found that the pockets were small and not ideal for carrying a cell phone. Additionally, the waist adjustment pulls the shorts to one side, which could be problematic for those on the small side of the size. Despite these design flaws, these shorts proved to be extremely comfortable on the longest and hottest day. Moreover, the short is stylish and will find a place in the wardrobe next to casual attire. If you want more features, consider the Troy Lee Designs Skyline, which includes a phone pocket located on the thigh.

Read more: Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short review

mountain bike shorts - the lightweight and pedal-friendly summit shell shorts have great...
The lightweight and pedal-friendly Summit Shell shorts have great ventilation for those long rides on hot summer days.
Credit: Nick Miley

Best for Weather Resistance


Endura MT500 Spray Shorts


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 6.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Durability 9.0
  • Style 6.0
  • Protection 8.5
Liner Included: None | Inseam Length: 13.5 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Water-resistant
Heavy-duty
REASONS TO AVOID
Cluttered waist area
Tapered leg opening

The Endura MT500 Spray Shorts excel in wet riding conditions. The short seat has a 3-ply waterproof panel that is seam taped to keep the rider's chamois and behind dry and comfortable. These shorts set a high standard for fit features and durable construction. The articulated waist area boasts grip strips at the small of the back, Velcro adjustment tabs at the hips, and belt loops to prevent short slippage. The heavy, 4-way stretch nylon offers great protection and durability, too. While the short doesn't come with liners, they have built-in snaps to secure Endura's “Clickfast” liners. The double-stitched seams are “serged” to prevent fraying, and the inseams are bar-tacked to prevent splitting. Added to the mix is DWR water-resistant coating throughout, and you can bet these shorts are ready for sloppy wet, rough, and tumble riding.

While there is no arguing that the MT500 are built to last, we were a little put off by the cut of these shorts and the busy waistline. The shorts are designed with knee pads in mind, yet the leg openings are pegged, which causes the shorts to pile on the knee pad and ride up when pedaling. Additionally, the zippered pockets located on the front of the thigh have mesh linings that are not sown in place, which allows items to shift around while riding. Finally, the large logos on both legs are far from subtle. Despite these criticisms, the MT500 is a beefy short that will withstand the toughest conditions and rider abuse. And yet, when it comes to knee pads, we prefer the unique cut of the POC Infinite All-Mountain Shorts.

Read more: Endura MT500 Spray Shorts review

mountain bike shorts - the mt500 spray shorts are a solid option when the leaves start...
The MT500 Spray shorts are a solid option when the leaves start changing or if you live in a wetter climate.
Credit: Nick Miley

Best for Gravity Riders


Troy Lee Ruckus Shell


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 6.0
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 5.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Durability 9.0
  • Style 7.0
  • Protection 9.0
Liner Included: None | Inseam Length: 13.75 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Durable
Good coverage
Compatible with knee pads
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Heavy
Poor ventilation

The Troy Lee Ruckus Shell shorts are burly and substantial shorts designed for mountain bikers who trend towards the downhill/gravity side of the spectrum. This rider is more concerned with charging down gnar as opposed to spinning uphill for hours. These shorts have a burly and tough feel that will withstand crashes. Also, the Ruckus are quite comfortable and have a generous fit and long inseam that plays very well with knee pads.

Due to their heavy feel, these shorts can't match the pedal-friendly nature of other pairs. Though you can do a huge, half-day ride in these shorts, it is not their strong suit. They breathe okay but aren't ideal for warm weather. When things heat up, we prefer the well-ventilated Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short.

Read more: Troy Lee Ruckus Shell review

mountain bike shorts - even though they are made from a ticker material, the zippered leg...
Even though they are made from a ticker material, the zippered leg vents on the gravity-focused Ruckus shorts still allow for some airflow.
Credit: Annie Clark

Best For Knee Pad Integration


POC Infinite All-Mountain Shorts


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Fit and Pedal Friendliness 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Durability 7.0
  • Style 8.0
  • Protection 8.0
Liner Included: None | Inseam Length: 13 inches
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent integration with knee pads
Smart cut in the knees
Killer fit
REASONS TO AVOID
Hip pocket closure design isn't user-friendly
Expensive

The POC Infinite All-Mountain Shorts have a unique design that provides more knee coverage and works very well with knee pads. The hem of the shorts is cut at a dramatic angle, making them significantly longer in the front than the back. They work well without knee pads, and the unique cut helps to prevent any pad gap when used with light to medium-duty pads. These shorts have a trim fit, high comfort, and pedal-friendliness. The wind-resistant stretch material is blended with Cordura for added durability and treated with a DWR to resist moisture. The seat is reinforced with a Nylon Ripstop, and zippered thigh vents help to keep the air flowing on warm days. External Velcro tabs on the waistband allow you to dial in the fit; a zippered back pocket is ideal for stashing cash or a card while you ride.

We liked almost everything about the Infinite All-Mountain shorts, but we didn't find the hip pocket design particularly user-friendly. An overlapping “envelope” style closure works okay, but retrieving items from it is a little annoying. Also, the unique cut and articulation of the knees might not be for everybody. Critiques aside, these quality shorts work great for trail and all-mountain riding. For a pair featuring a better pocket design, we like the 7Mesh Glidepath, which we found also works great with knee pads.

Read more: POC Infinite All-Mountain Shorts review

mountain bike shorts - the unique cut of the infinite all-mountain shorts provides extra...
The unique cut of the Infinite All-Mountain shorts provides extra leg coverage and won't leave you with a pad-gap.
Credit: Pat Donahue

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
83
Troy Lee Designs Skyline
Best Overall Mountain Bike Short
$140
Editors' Choice Award
78
Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Shorts
Best for Ventilation
$105
Top Pick Award
78
Patagonia Dirt Roamer
Best for Minimalists
$129
Top Pick Award
78
100% Airmatic
$89
78
7Mesh Glidepath
$150
77
Specialized Trail Short
Best Bang for the Buck
$80
Best Buy Award
77
Endura MT500 Spray Shorts
Best for Weather Resistance
$140
Top Pick Award
77
Gorewear C5 Shorts
$100
77
Rapha Trail Shorts
$158
75
Fox Racing Ranger
$100
74
Leatt MTB Trail 1.0 Shorts
$70
74
100% Celium Shorts
$129
74
POC Infinite All-Mountain Shorts
Best For Knee Pad Integration
$140
74
Patagonia Dirt Craft
$169
71
7Mesh Slab Shorts
$140
70
Troy Lee Ruckus Shell
Best for Gravity Riders
$120
Top Pick Award
66
Ripton Cut Off Jort
$69

mountain bike shorts - our testers put in some serious miles in each pair of shorts. you...
Our testers put in some serious miles in each pair of shorts. You can rest assured they have been put through the wringer.
Credit: Laura Casner

How We Test Mountain Bike Shorts


We're mountain bike fanatics. And we constantly scour the internet for the most intriguing mountain bike shorts. While all of the shorts in our review are “baggy mountain bike shorts,” they run the gamut from fitted cross-country-style shorts to longer, baggier, gravity shorts. Before our testing began, we designed testing categories (metrics) that collectively cover every aspect of quality shorts. Next, we rode out of the shorts with the metrics in mind. We evaluated their comfort, factored in how their fit helped or hindered pedaling, examined the functionality of the features, assessed whether they offered any sort of protection, and put them through serious abuse to see how well they held up. We also tested in all weather and on every trail type to inform the score that each model received in our comparative analysis.

Our mountain bike shorts testing uses six rating metrics:
• Comfort (20% of overall score weighting)
• Fit and Pedal Friendliness (20% weighting)
• Features (20% weighting)
• Durability (20% weighting)
• Style (10% weighting)

• Protection (10% weighting)

Why Trust GearLab


To cover the various trail types and rider builds, our testing is a collaboration involving several veteran testers. Former Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor and author of Mountain Bike Tahoe, Jeremy Benson was joined by Pat Donahue, and Nick Miley. These three riders bring several decades of riding and bike industry experience. From building bikes at Pat's bike shop to building trail – these guys put their bike clothing to work. More than that, thousands of miles of singletrack were ridden to make this review. Nick Miley has been riding mountain bikes for over two decades and has ridden in most of the iconic areas in the Western United States.

Related: How We Tested Mountain Bike Shorts for Men

We assess the quality of each short&#039;s waist adjustment system.
We assess the quality of each short's waist adjustment system.
Most importantly, we spend lots of time riding in each short to see...
Most importantly, we spend lots of time riding in each short to see how they work on the trail.
We also examine features like pockets including their placement...
We also examine features like pockets including their placement, size, and ease of access.

Analysis and Test Results


Our team of expert testers puts every pair of shorts in our selection through the wringer, riding in each on diverse terrain, on short and long rides. We scrutinized every aspect of their performance and analyzed how the design, materials, fit, and features play into their comfort and performance on and off the trail. We rated each pair of shorts on six metrics: Style, Features, Durability, Protection, Fit and Pedal Friendliness, and Comfort. Each metric is described in detail below with examples of the best-performing products.

Related: How to Choose Mountain Bike Shorts for Men

Value


We don't consider the cost when we score a product. However, do we appreciate a good value and take note when we see it. Usually, price and performance go hand in hand, but this is not always the case. Sure, many top-rated models are this class's most expensive shorts — but not always. The 100% Airmatic and Specialized Trail Shorts register at a fraction of the cost and perform very well on the trail.


Comfort


Comfort is key on long and short rides. While it's normal to fixate on how shorts look or even the features included in the design, all those considerations fall by the wayside when riding. All that matters on the trail is how shorts feel. In the best cases, one doesn't notice the shorts at all. Accordingly, comfort scores are based on several factors, including ventilation, fabric quality, and waistband design. The leading models in this evaluation are the Patagonia Dirt Roamer and Rapha Trail Shorts. These shorts go unnoticed when riding as their design, cut, construction, and fabrics are well thought out and of the highest quality.


While the Patagonia Dirt Roamer and the Rapha Trail Shorts set the bar in the comfort evaluation, two other models were recognized by testers as being very close seconds. Namely, the Try Lee Designs Skyline and Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short. Like the better-scoring Dirt Roamer and Trail Shorts, the Summit Shell and Skyline have great fabrics and excellent cuts. Let's delve into the specifics of each of these shorts to see how these materials and designs make for a better experience on-trail.

The Dirt Roamer was adored by all that tested it. This fondness is the result of the nicely tailored and articulated fit. The 4-way stretch fabric in this short's construction delivers a great feel against the skin and outstanding mobility for energetic pedaling. These shorts make it feel like you aren't wearing shorts at all. Likewise, the Rapha Trail Shorts prove that high-quality construction and material can make all the difference. The Trail Short's fabric feels very pleasant against the skin, the stitching is tidy, and it doesn't cause any irritation. The short's high-end construction is paired with an athletic, trim fit, making them great for casual lunch laps or all-day peddling marathons.

mountain bike shorts - comfortable shorts allow you to focus on the task at hand.
Comfortable shorts allow you to focus on the task at hand.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Troy Lee Skyline and the Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short share the same characteristic as those models discussed above though slightly less well executed. The Skyline is a slightly baggier short with a heavier, stiffer polyester weave. However, 4-way stretch vent panels just below the waistline and at the inseam make this model more suitable for long rides. Additionally, larger riders found that the Skyline's “baggier” cut was more comfortable as it limited the legs riding up when pedaling. Additionally, the waist design is low profile despite having Velcro adjustment tabs at the hips and a grip strip at the small back.

mountain bike shorts - the skyline offer a superior fit for riders on the larger side of...
The Skyline offer a superior fit for riders on the larger side of the sizing with leg openings that fit over knee pads.
Credit: Nick Miley

On the other hand, the Pearl Izumi Summit Shell is a more athletic fitting short. The polyester and spandex blended construction material is lightweight gives when stretched, and has a smooth finish. Cleverly, the inner thigh is perforated, offering maximum breathability for hot rides without adding extra material and seams – a great design decision for peddle-intensive rides. Finally, unlike some of the other tighter-fitting models we tested, the Summit Shell accommodated a chamois quite well without being baggy in the seat.

Objectively speaking, the Endura MT500 Spray Shorts are not the most comfortable shorts we tested. Yet, when it comes to weather resistance, these shorts go a long way to keep the rider comfy in cooler temperatures and unsettled weather. These shorts have a waterproof, seam-taped seat that helps to keep riders dry despite tire spray, and the thicker material helps to block wind, fighting the chill on shoulder-season rides.

mountain bike shorts - pedal friendly shorts typically are made from lighter, stretchier...
Pedal friendly shorts typically are made from lighter, stretchier materials and have a shorter inseam and slimmer fit.
Credit: Laura Casner

Fit and Pedal Friendliness


Depending on your riding style, the pedal friendliness of mountain bike shorts may be one of the most critical considerations or an afterthought. Cross-country and trail riders spending long hours pedaling up steep climbs will typically appreciate shorts with a more performance-oriented fit and materials that hug the body, stretching and giving with each movement. On the other hand, gravity-oriented riders are more likely to be concerned with a short's durability, leg coverage, and compatibility with knee pads. The Patagonia Dirt Roamer, Pearl Izumi Summit Shell Short, and Troy Lee Designs Skyline topped the charts in this assessment.

Even shorts with the perfect fit can be uncomfortable on long rides – particularly in the seat and crotch. We use Chamois Butt'r or similar creams on rides over three hours.


The Patagonia Dirt Roamer short is the closest that riders will get to the pedaling comfort of riding in spandex in a baggy short. This model stands out in a competitive class due to their lightweight construction, trim fit, and soft material. The trim, fitted design offers enough material for smooth movements while reducing flapping, bunching, and sagging. Testers felt the same way about Pearl Izumi Summit Shell for the same reasons. The Summit Shell shorts are so lightweight and stretchy that they felt like we forgot to put our britches on over our chamois

mountain bike shorts - the 4-way stretch &quot;aero tech&quot; micro ripstop panels on the inseams...
The 4-way stretch “Aero Tech” micro ripstop panels on the inseams and below the waistband in the back give the mid-weight Skyline shorts a much lighter feel.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Troy Lee Designs Skyline is a different beast than the abovementioned models. This short is cut to the baggier side of a fit spectrum for peddle-oriented shorts. The construction material is also substantially heavier though vent panels at the back and inseam do much to increase mobility and decrease friction. Balancing comfort on long rides with heavy materials is one of the impressive features that make the Skyline a great, do-it-all riding short.

Finally, Specialized's Trail Shorts performed well in the saddle while pedaling for hours thanks to the stretchy and soft Vaporize woven fabric used in their construction. The understated Fox Racing Ranger also delivered a noteworthy in-saddle experience due to the shorter cut and 2-way stretch material.

mountain bike shorts - external waist adjustments, like these on the patagonia dirt craft...
External waist adjustments, like these on the Patagonia Dirt Craft, are some of the features we appreciate.

Features


Functional features like ventilation panels, sewn-in mesh pockets, waist adjustment, and waist closure systems greatly impact a rider's on-trail experience. Our features assessment measures the usefulness of features and not just their presence. After all, what good is a phone pocket if it's too small or uncomfortably placed? And, what good is a waist adjustment if it is bulky or ineffective? We used and abused these shorts during testing. After hundreds of hours, we can tell you that the Endura MT500, Troy Lee Designs Skyline, and Specialized Trail Shorts get the features right.


The Endura MT500 takes the lead position in the features department. These rugged shorts have grip strips at the back of the waist to prevent slippage and Velcro waist adjustment tabs at the hips to ensure the perfect fit. And, if that's not enough, they have belt loops, too. Two snaps and a heavy gauge YKK zipper close the waist. Finally, the shorts have two large hand pockets with zipper closures that will take modern-sized smartphones.

mountain bike shorts - the mt500 has a lot of features, including grip strips, seam taped...
The MT500 has a lot of features, including grip strips, seam taped seat, and the Clickfast chamois attachment system, to name just a few.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Troy Lee Skyline is also flush with useful features. For example, the shorts sport two hip pockets that are mesh lined for breathability and sewn in to prevent the contents from shifting while peddling. The Skyline uses quality YKK zippers throughout the short, making for a smooth pocket opening even when peddling. Finally, these shorts boast excellent waist design features. Low-profile Velcro waist adjustments and grip strips at the small of the back ensure that the shorts will stay at the hip throughout the ride.

mountain bike shorts - the skyline has great features that work well on the trail and off...
The Skyline has great features that work well on the trail and off. The zippered hip pockets work well with everyday carries like keys or a phone.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Gorewear C5 Shorts and Leatt MTB Trail 1.0 offer riders a similar arsenal of features as the Skyline. However, both shorts add a third pocket at the thigh and redundant closing at the waist – the C5s uses two snaps, and the Trail 1.0 uses a hook and snap. Both models have Velcro waist adjustments as well. These models didn't score higher in this evaluation because the C5 hip pockets have chunky zippers that are uncomfortable against the skin, and the Trail 1.0's hook closure has a high profile that could irritate some. Finally, the vents on the Trail 1.0 seem gimmicky, requiring a lot of stitching in a sensitive area without providing a whole lot of benefit.

The Trail 1.0 shorts have good features throughout their build. We particularly liked the quick and secure hook and snap system closing the waist.
Credit: Jake Pritchett

The 7mesh Glidepath has four pockets — 2 zippered thigh pockets and two unsecured hand pockets. The thigh pocket garnered high marks from testers as it easily accommodated a phone, while the hand pockets made the shorts more useful for off-trail activities. The thigh pocket on these shorts loads towards the back of the leg. This design makes the pockets' contents accessible while peddling, allowing riders to access food and phone while keeping the contents from jostling about.

mountain bike shorts - the glidepath shorts host 4 pockets. the hand pockets make the...
The Glidepath shorts host 4 pockets. The hand pockets make the shorts useful for around town items like keys, while the back of the thigh pockets work well for riding applications.
Credit: Nick Miley

Durability


Mountain bike short manufacturers attempt to straddle a line between durability and comfort. It's easy to make a durable short and relatively easy to make a well-ventilated, comfortable short, but striking a balance between the two is challenging. With that in mind, it shouldn't be surprising that the most durable shorts performed marginally in the comfort assessment. Yet, while the Endura MT500 and Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Short Shell lead the class in rugged construction and heavy-duty fabrics, the Skyline wasn't far behind. That's quite an accomplishment considering the Skyline's high comfort rating.


Generally, we found that shorts with thicker and more abrasion-resistant fabric did a better job brushing off crashes and grazing encounters with trailside hazards. The Endura MT500 is the most heavy-duty shorts in the class. From the heavy gage zippers to the robust 4-way stretch nylon material and 3-layer rear waterproof panels, the MT500 is built to last. Heck, Endura even bar-tack the leg openings to ensure the longevity of the seam.

mountain bike shorts - the double-stitched seam of the mt500 is bar tacked to add an extra...
The double-stitched seam of the MT500 is bar tacked to add an extra measure of durability.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Troy Lee Ruckus Shell is also a highly durable short. The Ruckus Shell has a thick, abrasion-resistant fabric with top-notch construction marked by well-placed seams and double stitching in high-stress areas. Like the MT500, the Ruckus is geared toward the gravity crowd, and its thicker, protective material and exceptional durability are apparent.

The Skyline is like the little brother of the Ruckus Shell. The Skyline has high-quality surged stitching that is redundant in heavy-wear locations. However, the material is noticeably lighter and more supple. Additionally, the Skyline lacks the redundant waist closure, which is a concern for long-term durability.

mountain bike shorts - the skyline is a sturdily constructed mid-weight short. heavy...
The Skyline is a sturdily constructed mid-weight short. Heavy stitching joining high-quality material set these shorts up for a long life on the trail.
Credit: Nick Miley

We include machine washing in the durability assessment, as washing can shorten the life of a poorly made garment. Each model was washed multiple times. Across the board, we did not observe any negative consequences when following the manufacturers' instructions for laundering.

mountain bike shorts - not everyone will agree on style, but it is certainly worthy of...
Not everyone will agree on style, but it is certainly worthy of mention. We prefer to look good, and we imagine you do too...
Credit: Laura Casner

Style


If all mountain bikers were concerned with was performance, we'd all be wearing lycra like our roadie compatriots. Yet, seeing an enduro or downhill sporting skintight attire is rare. As it is, a typical mountain bike kit consists of loose-fitting shorts over a padded liner. While many riders are concerned with looking like mountain bikers, we weighted the style metric lightly as style is subjective and contributes nothing to performance. While most of the shorts rated the same in this metric, the Skyline was seen to be just a bit sharper than the rest.


During the testing process, we sought input from friends, partners, and other riders out on the trail, taking note of compliments or, in some cases, heckling. We wore the shorts to bars and restaurants for post-ride beverages and a bite to eat. We also wore them around town or out on the water. As was mentioned, the Skyline has a nice cut, but it also has low-key branding (logos) and coloring options. Despite being made of technical fabric, the Patagonia Dirt Roamer and the 7Mesh Glidepath have a decidedly casual look with subtle styling that masks their true identity.

mountain bike shorts - let&#039;s be honest, most of us mountain bikers are goofs. at least the...
Let's be honest, most of us mountain bikers are goofs. At least the Troy Lee Skyline shorts look good.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Rapha Trail Shorts has a tailored fit and casual style that belies its on-the-bike performance. These shorts sat a bit higher above the knee and were favored by some of our, ahem, more mature testers. This preference is evidence that this is a subjective assessment.

Regardless of your preferred cut, there is a pair of shorts in this review that will look good on you. So, if the laid-back, gravity-inspired style is in order, the 100% Airmatic and Troy Lee Designs Ruckus are great options. Or, if you want to go in the opposite direction, the Ripton Cut Off Jort is the stretch version of the old cut-offs many folks keep around for yard work. Thanks to the hipster movement, these ironic shorts have a lot of appeal.

mountain bike shorts - gravity riders are the most likely to concern themselves with the...
Gravity riders are the most likely to concern themselves with the coverage and protection a pair of shorts provides, as well as compatibility with knee pads.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Protection


Mountain bike shorts don't offer much protection to a wearer. Still, some offer more than others, particularly where abrasion is concerned. Accordingly, the protection category receives less weight. Unsurprisingly, the shorts that received higher durability scores also scored well in this assessment. Shorts like the Troy Lee Ruckus and Endura MT500 have longer inseams providing more leg coverage and typically mesh better with knee pads.


More than just having longer inseams (other shorts in the review have slightly longer), the Ruckus and MT500 are constructed with heavy-weight material making them more likely to withstand a crash, thus protecting the skin beneath the garment. After these two shorts rugged shorts, the protection scores are split between the middle and lightweight shorts. Shorts like the Troy Lee Skyline and Gorewear C5 offer relatively decent protection with materials that will hold up to bumps and scuffs. However, the lightest-weight models like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer and 7Mesh Slab Shorts are less liable to survive an encounter with a rock or sharp branch, exposing skin.

The Gorewear C5 offer a decent amount of coverage at the thigh and knee, even for taller riders.
Credit: Nick Miley

The Endura MT500 stands out for its protection from the elements. These shorts are constructed from heavy 4-way stretch nylon and a waterproof seat that protects the chamois from tire spray. They won't keep you dry in a downpour. Still, they will help to keep you comfortable if the weather turns or during cool temperatures with mixed weather conditions.

mountain bike shorts - there&#039;s a lot to consider when searching for mountain bike shorts...
There's a lot to consider when searching for mountain bike shorts. We hope this detailed comparative review helps you find your pair.
Credit: Nick Miley

Conclusion


Given the staggering number of mountain bike shorts on the market, finding the right pair for your body type and riding style can be daunting. Our testing structure and extensive time in the field allow us to quantify the objective characteristics of a good pair of shorts. We rode these shorts on every type of trail and in every condition, from sweltering heat to snow and sleet. Thus, this thorough comparative analysis will guide you to the right pair of shorts to fit your needs and budget. Hungry for more bike gear? We've got recommendations to complete your cycling setup, covering our favorite bike gear including the best mountain bike helmets and best bike shoes.

Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue, Nick Miley