When mountain biking first emerged, riders tended to carry over the apparel choices from road riding – tight-fitting spandex pants, lycra shorts that stick to you like glue, and highly aerodynamic clothing. As the sport evolved, riders started opting for more loose fitting options (sometimes called “baggies”) instead of the body-hugging lycra. Looking at some of the shorts on the market today, it’s hard at first glance to tell whether they’re bike shorts at all. Decades later, you have plenty of choices to select the best mountain biking shorts that cater to your personal preference and riding style.
Here at The Adventure Junkies, we strive to help you find the best gear for enjoying some quality time in the saddle. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best mountain bike shorts so you can hit the trail and enjoy some downhill bliss.
For more of our top mountain biking gear recommendations, check out the Best Mountain Bike Shorts for Women.
Quick Answer –The Best Mountain Bike Shorts
Troy Lee Designs SkylineView at AmazonFox Racing RangerView at AmazonPearl iZUMi Cargo LinerView at REIPatagonia Dirt RoamerView at BackcountryTroy Lee RuckusView at REIPOC Resistance EnduroView at BackcountryPEARL iZUMi JourneyView at BackcountryPatagonia Dirt CraftView at REILouis Garneau LeewayView at BackcountryPEARL iZUMi CanyonView at REI
Comparison Table– Best Mountain Bike Shorts
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Troy Lee Designs Skyline
Coolmax / Lycra / Polyester
Fox Racing Ranger
Polyamide Nylon / Polyester / Elastane
Pearl iZUMi Cargo Liner
Polyester / Elastane / Nylon
Patagonia Dirt Roamer
Recycled polyester / Spandex
OppoSet adjustable waist
Troy Lee Ruckus
Polyester / Spandex
Self-fabric waist adjusters
POC Resistance Enduro
Polyamide / Spandex
PEARL iZUMi Journey
Polyester (Liner: Polyester / Elastane)
Patagonia Dirt Craft
Nylon / Spandex (Liner: Polyester / Spandex)
Louis Garneau Leeway
PEARL iZUMi Canyon
Polyester / Elastane
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.
Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.
Snap closureBluesign certified approved fabricAvailable as a shell only or with the TLD AIR COMP liner w/ TMF 4 hour pad
BEST OVERALL SHORTS
If you’re in need of a quality pair of trail riding shorts that are functional and comfortable, consider the Skyline.
Troy Lee constructed the Skyline shorts with a slim, performance fit. The shorter than average inseam makes these especially pedal-compatible. There are plenty of zippered pockets, external waistband adjustments, reflective logos and DWR treatment to keep you dry in wet conditions.
What I like most about the Troy Lee Designs Skyline is the chamois — it’s very well built.
Durable Water Repellent finishRemovable liner with dual density chamois for improved saddle comfortSecured zip pocket
BEST BUDGET SHORTS
For under $75, these shorts pack quite the punch. They’re versatile, comfortable, and not lacking for features.
Fox redesigned the Racing Ranger shorts with a comfortable, slim fit and integrated chamois liner. The shorts are constructed from 2-way stretch ripstop nylon and an articulated waistband makes it comfortable to pedal in these while you’re seated.
What I like most about the Ranger is the super secure waist closure system.
Transfer Mesh body fabric provides breathability and comfortSmooth fabric across the front of legs slides easily under shell shortsELITE Escape 1:1® chamois
BEST PADDED LINER SHORTS
Whether you prefer layering under a baggier pair of mountain bike shorts or wearing a liner by itself, the Pearl iZUMi is comfortable and practical.
Pearl iZUMi designed this liner with a seamless chamois pad and a contoured elastic waistband that’s lower in the front and higher in the back to make for a comfortable pair of shorts meant to go the distance. Instead of silicone leg grippers, the wide part of the mesh is doubled over on the leg openings. The mesh body fabric provides for excellent breathability and a next to skin feel.
What I like most about the Pearl iZUMi cargo liner are the two thigh pockets included in the shorts for carrying small essentials.
Durable water repellent finishSmall, secure zippered pocketFair Trade Certified™ sewing
BEST ULTRALIGHT SHORTS
If you’re a minimalist in need of mountain bike shorts that you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing, consider the Dirt Roamers.
Patagonia designed the Dirt Roamer Shorts from recycled 4-way stretch fabric. Welded seams in all the right places are effective at preventing chafing. The intuitive waist system can be adjusted as needed and the contoured waistband is designed to remain comfortable while you’re in a seated pedaling position.
What I like most about these shorts is how quick they are to dry after getting wet.
Targeted perforated areas and mesh panels3 zippered pocketsTLD Air Mesh liner
BEST FOR GRAVITY RIDERS
For gravity riders looking for a quality pair of shorts that are knee pad compatible, look to the Ruckus.
The Ruckus shorts are robustly constructed to provide for a relaxed, baggy look. They’re one of the most durable mountain bike shorts on the market and although heavy duty, the fabric still feels soft against your skin. The waistband features wide external adjustments that allow you to dial in the perfect fit. Although they’re not designed as the most pedal-friendly shorts on the market, they perform decently as trail shorts in addition to gravity rides.
What I like most about the Troy Lee Ruckus is how stylish they are, making for a pair of shorts you can wear on the mountain as well as in and around town.
Side Zippered PocketsFully LinedAccommodates Knee Pads for Enduro Riding12-inch Inseam
BEST FOR: ENDURO (DOWNHILL) RIDING
Founded in 2005, POC Sports (or more commonly referred to as just POC) is a Swedish company that was founded to address and improve ski racing safety. This same technology was applied to other adventure sports which included mountain biking. The line now includes body armor, helmets, apparel, and eyewear.
These extremely durable and lightweight shorts are designed to protect the rider from the unforeseen dangers that await you around every turn. For enduro (downhill) riders or those seeking extra protection, the shorts are designed to accommodate knee pads under the shorts. Additional features include Velcro adjustments along the side to allow for a dialed-in fit and zippered side pockets to store all your essentials.
Two Open Hand Pockets And One Rear Pocket Removable Liner Shorts12-inch Inseam
BEST FOR: BUDGET CONSCIOUS MOUNTAIN BIKERS
For over fifty years, Pearl Izumi has been a staple in the cycling industry for both professional racers and weekend warriors desiring to wear performance apparel. Founded in Japan, Pearl Izumi makes apparel and cycling shoes.
Featuring a standard chamois liner short, the Journey has a board-short styling with drawstring closure. The liner shorts are removable so when the ride is over, you can shed the chamois and enjoy a burger and brews before heading home. The two-way stretch fabric of the outer short has a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment to aid in keeping you dry throughout your ride.
Two Drop-In Hand Pockets And One Thigh Zippered PocketLiner Shorts and Outer Shorts Snap Together11.5-inch Inseam
BEST FOR: LONG DAYS IN THE SADDLE
A highly recognized name in the outdoor industry, Patagonia is consistently pushing the envelope in sustainability and environmental advocacy. In recent years, Patagonia expanded its line and returned to producing mountain biking apparel. We couldn’t be more excited!
The Dirt Craft shorts feature a 3-layer mountain-bike-specific padded liner short with a durable water repellent (DWR) treated outer short. This combination ensures comfort and protection for whatever the trail throws your way. The removable liner short can be easily removed. The baggie outer shorts are also compatible with other padded mountain bike shorts in the Patagonia line, including the Endless Ride liner shorts and bibs.
View at REIView at Backcountry
Louis Garneau Leeway
Material: Polyester/SpandexLiner: N/APockets: 2Adjustment Mechanism: External VelcroOther: Padded Short Included
Two Front PocketsReflective Accents On The Back (to keep you visible on the trail)Outer Shorts Compatible With Other Garneau Inner Shorts And Bibs11.5-inch Inseam
BEST FOR: ALL-DAY COMFORT
Founded in 1983 by Canadian road racing and track cyclist, Louis Garneau began making his now renowned brand of apparel and gear in his father’s garage. The Garneau brand expanded rapidly and is now an industry leader.
The Leeway liner shorts can be worn in conjunction with the outer short or as a standalone padded short for road riding. The padded liner short features memory foam for a comfortable ride. The outer shorts are made of trail-ready, abrasion resistant fabric. Adjustable tabs on the side of the shorts feature dual Velcro strips for dialing in the fit. The snap loop fastening system makes them compatible with other Garneau inner shorts and bibs.
Two Hand Pockets, Zippered Rear Pocket And Side Cargo PocketsHigh-Rise Rear Waistband Keeps Shorts Secure Fit12-inch Inseam
BEST FOR: CASUAL TRAIL RIDING
Unlike the Pearl Izumi Journey Short, the Canyon is designed with a snap front closure and zip fly. The outer short is made of quick drying and moisture wicking fabric to keep you cool and dry on the trail. The casual styling makes it ideal for post ride activities as well. Dial in the fit with internal Velcro tabs. Detach the inner liner short for post ride activities.
View at REIView at Backcountry
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING MOUNTAIN BIKING SHORTS
Regardless of the activity, fit is paramount. No one wants to wear apparel that is too tight or too loose when engaging in performance activities like mountain biking, especially when you’re careening down steep hills and need all your focus to stay in control.
There are two options for saddling up for a day on the mountain. The first is compression fitting lycra-based products that have the chamois padding built into the shorts. While they are tighter fitting than the second option, they shouldn’t be so tight that they reduce circulation.
The second option is the looser fitting mountain biking shorts that are typically worn over a chamois inner short that will provide necessary padding for a day in the saddle. They provide more protection for your legs as they extend down further and are often made of abrasion resistant materials to shed off branches along the trail.
Lycra based riding shorts typically only cover your leg to about the mid thigh region. The looser fitting shorts on this list tend to have a longer inseam and often extend down to the knees with some extending long enough to cover and accommodate knee pads for downhill/enduro riding.
Most mountain biking shorts will come with waist adjustment options. Unlike your casual shorts, you’ll want to be able to customize the fit. Lycra bibs and shorts don’t have this option as they are already form fitting. Look for shorts that have either internal or external Velcro adjustments or hook and loop.
Pockets are essential as the Lycra options for traditional road cycling have very little options in this category. Pockets make it easy to store phones, keys, energy bars or gels that you need quick access to. If you’re wearing a hydration pack where you can store some of your essentials then you can get away without having pockets, but they’re super convenient for quick access. Look for pockets that have zippered access for those important items that you don’t want to lose on the trail like your phone and keys.
Some baggies will come with an integrated or detachable chamois (padded liner short). If the short doesn’t come with this option, it’s highly recommended that you purchase one separately as they can prevent discomfort and chafing that can come from a long day in the saddle.
As mentioned above, a chamois is a padded inner short. The padding can be made from a variety of materials including foam or gel. Most are designed to anatomically provide the best padding for the rider and helps to wick away moisture created from high exertion activities.
DWR, or Durable Water Treatment, is a coating or treatment applied to fabrics that makes them water resistant. This is ideal when the weather is apt to change unexpectedly or you encounter water elements on your ride and splashing occurs.
There are two options when looking for Lycra based biking shorts. The standard padded liner shorts fit around the waist. Bibs extend up further and have straps that loop up over the arms and rest on the shoulders, providing extended coverage up the lower back.
For more of our top mountain biking gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer’s guides: