Updated on January 21, 2022

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

  1. Troy Lee Designs Skyline
  2. Fox Racing Ranger
  3. Pearl iZUMi Cargo Liner
  4. Patagonia Dirt Roamer
  5. Troy Lee Ruckus
  6. POC Resistance Enduro
  7. PEARL iZUMi Journey
  8. Patagonia Dirt Craft
  9. Louis Garneau Leeway
  10. PEARL iZUMi Canyon

 

Comparison Table - Best Mountain Bike Shorts

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NameMaterialLinerAdjustment MechanismPocketsPriceRatingReview
Troy Lee Designs SkylineCoolmax / Lycra / PolyesterYesVelcro2$$$5.0Read Review
Fox Racing RangerPolyamide Nylon / Polyester / ElastaneYesStrap3$$4.9Read Review
Pearl iZUMi Cargo LinerPolyester / Elastane / NylonNoN/A2$4.7Read Review
Patagonia Dirt RoamerRecycled polyester / SpandexNoOppoSet adjustable waist1$$$4.7Read Review
Troy Lee RuckusPolyester / SpandexYesSelf-fabric waist adjusters3$$$4.4Read Review
POC Resistance EnduroPolyamide / SpandexNoExternal Velcro2$$$4.9Read Review
PEARL iZUMi JourneyPolyester (Liner: Polyester / Elastane)YesDrawstring Closure3$$4.6Read Review
Patagonia Dirt CraftNylon / Spandex (Liner: Polyester / Spandex)YesExternal Hook-And-Webbing3$$$4.9Read Review
Louis Garneau LeewayPolyester/SpandexN/AExternal Velcro2$$4.7Read Review
PEARL iZUMi CanyonPolyester / ElastaneYesInternal Velcro5$$4.5Read Review
NameMaterialLinerAdjustment MechanismPocketsPriceRatingReview
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.

Reviews - The Best Shorts for Mountain Biking

Troy Lee Designs Skyline

Specs
  • Material: Coolmax / Lycra / Polyester
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 2
  • Adjustment Mechanism: Velcro
Features
  • Snap closure
  • Bluesign certified approved fabric
  • Available as a shell only or with the TLD AIR COMP liner w/ TMF 4 hour pad
Troy Lee Designs Skyline

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.

Fox Racing Ranger

Specs
  • Material: Polyamide Nylon / Polyester / Elastane
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 3
  • Adjustment Mechanism: Strap
Features
  • Durable Water Repellent finish
  • Removable liner with dual density chamois for improved saddle comfort
  • Secured zip pocket
Fox Racing Ranger

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.

Pearl iZUMi Cargo Liner

Specs
  • Material: Polyester / Elastane / Nylon
  • Liner: No
  • Pockets: 2
  • Adjustment Mechanism: N/A
Features
  • Transfer Mesh body fabric provides breathability and comfort
  • Smooth fabric across the front of legs slides easily under shell shorts
  • ELITE Escape 1:1® chamois
Pearl iZUMi Cargo Liner

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.

Patagonia Dirt Roamer

Specs
  • Material: Recycled polyester / Spandex
  • Liner: No
  • Pockets: 1
  • Adjustment Mechanism: OppoSet adjustable waist
Features
  • Durable water repellent finish
  • Small, secure zippered pocket
  • Fair Trade Certified™ sewing
Patagonia Dirt Roamer

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.

Troy Lee Ruckus

Specs
  • Material: Polyester / Spandex
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 3
  • Adjustment Mechanism: Self-fabric waist adjusters
Features
  • Targeted perforated areas and mesh panels
  • 3 zippered pockets
  • TLD Air Mesh liner
Troy Lee Ruckus

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.

POC Resistance Enduro

Specs
  • Material: Polyamide / Spandex
  • Liner: No
  • Pockets: 2
  • Adjustment Mechanism: External Velcro
Features
  • Side Zippered Pockets
  • Fully Lined
  • Accommodates Knee Pads for Enduro Riding
  • 12-inch Inseam
POC Resistance Enduro

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.

PEARL iZUMi Journey

Specs
  • Material: Polyester (Liner: Polyester / Elastane)
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 3
  • Adjustment Mechanism: Drawstring Closure
Features
  • Two Open Hand Pockets And One Rear Pocket
  • Removable Liner Shorts
  • 12-inch Inseam
PEARL iZUMi Journey

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.

Patagonia Dirt Craft

Specs
  • Material: Nylon / Spandex (Liner: Polyester / Spandex)
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 3
  • Adjustment Mechanism: External Hook-And-Webbing
Features
  • Two Drop-In Hand Pockets And One Thigh Zippered Pocket
  • Liner Shorts and Outer Shorts Snap Together
  • 11.5-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.

Louis Garneau Leeway

Specs
  • Material: Polyester/Spandex
  • Liner: N/A
  • Pockets: 2
  • Adjustment Mechanism: External Velcro
  • Other: Padded Short Included
Features
  • Two Front Pockets
  • Reflective Accents On The Back (to keep you visible on the trail)
  • Outer Shorts Compatible With Other Garneau Inner Shorts And Bibs
  • 11.5-inch Inseam
Louis Garneau Leeway

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.

PEARL iZUMi Canyon

Specs
  • Material: Polyester / Elastane
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: 5
  • Adjustment Mechanism: Internal Velcro
Features
  • Two Hand Pockets, Zippered Rear Pocket And Side Cargo Pockets
  • High-Rise Rear Waistband Keeps Shorts Secure Fit
  • 12-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.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING MOUNTAIN BIKING SHORTS

FIT

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.

 

LENGTH

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.

 

WAIST ADJUSTMENT

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

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.

 

CHAMOIS

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.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

CHAMOIS

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

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.

BIBS

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.

 

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