Your Ultimate Guide to Mountain Bike Shorts

mountain bike shorts

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If you’re new to mountain bike clothing, it can be hard to know where to start – especially when it comes to mountain bike (mtb) shorts.

Do you need something form fitting? Are pockets important? What about padding?

Mountain biking shorts are an important investment for any serious rider, but you need to make sure you’re making the right decision.


Factors to consider before purchasing mountain bike shorts


Before even browsing shorts, think about your rides and what’s important to you. After you’ve figured that out, you can look for shorts that fit these needs.

  • Speed: How important are speed and aerodynamics? Will you be competing in marathons or races or are you just riding for enjoyment? Baggy shorts provide a more casual look but could slow down your speed a bit.
  • Terrain: Do you mostly ride on pavement or do you plan on traversing bumpy natural trails in the wilderness? If you’re answer is the latter, you’ll need something with extra padding.
  • Destinations: Will you stick to the trails or walk around town after a ride? Do you need mtb shorts that can double as casual wear? Not everyone feels comfortable walking into a restaurant or gas station with skin-tight lycra shorts.



Mountain bike shorts don’t fit like normal shorts. They should have extra room around the rear to compensate for your riding position. At the same time, they should fit as snug as possible without cutting off circulation.

Not all mountain biking shorts need to be skin tight – some look more like classic casual shorts. Take your needs into consideration and never buy mtb shorts without trying them on or at least reading online reviews.



If you’re a new rider, you’ll probably want some significant padding in the rear and crotch areas. Without padding, long rides (even on flat pavement) aren’t so forgiving.

Remember: you can always wear padded and fitted mtb shorts underneath baggier shorts if you still want a more casual look.



Liners and chamois keep you comfortable by avoiding chafing – they also double as a light padding. Baggier mountain biking shorts usually come with light padded liners inside.



As long as your skin isn’t touching the seat, go with whatever length makes you most comfortable. Your length could also depend on your riding needs: longer shorts offer more protection from the sun, wind, and debris.



For those who don’t already know, mountain bike shorts are designed to double as underwear. In fact, extra fabric between your body and the shorts reduces the fabric’s breathability.

Lycra and spandex shorts are best for comfort and breathability while baggier shorts offer thicker protection from the elements. Keep your needs in mind.



Remember that you’ll be in a riding position while wearing the mountain bike clothing. When it comes to shorts, you’ll want something with a thick waist band to avoid pinching your skin as you ride.

You can even avoid the waistband entirely by opting for bibs which have shoulder straps and a much higher waist.



Form-fitting shorts may offer a small pocket for a key and some cash but not much else in the way of storage. If you’re going for tight shorts, make sure you have a backpack or bag to carry the rest of your items.

If carrying a bag isn’t quite your style, look for mountain biking shorts with larger pockets. Remember, you can always wear cargo shorts over your form-fitting shorts.


Mountain biking shorts top picks


Now that you know what you want and need for your ride, where do you start your search?


Fox mtb shorts: Ranger

The Fox mtb shorts Ranger version offer durability with a casual look. A liner offers light padding and waist tabs provide adjustable sizing. These Fox mtb shorts are lightweight and work well for laidback rides.


Pearl Izumi Elevate

These mountain biking shorts offer a looser fit without too much excess fabric so they can double as casual attire. Zippered pockets offer protection for your belongings while waist tabs provide a unique fit for the rider. Unfortunately, these shorts don’t come with a liner.


Troy Lee Designs Skyline

These shorts offer a double hem so you can trim them down a bit if needed. Breathable spandex and waist tabs offer supreme comfort and movement. These shorts aren’t form fitted but they aren’t too baggy either.


Endura Humvee

Endura Humvee mountain bike shorts boast six pockets for maps, cell phones, and other cargo. The coated, water-resistant nylon is perfect for just about all weather conditions. These shorts also come with a built-in belt for perfect sizing and comfort.

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