When you’re out riding on your bike, you want to be comfortable. It’s bad enough that you have to endure the elements and tangle with the uneven ground beneath your tyres. But that doesn’t meant that you have to let your biking shorts dictate how comfortable your ride is.
You may have gotten the cushiest seat for your bike and picked out the perfect route for your next ride, but you won’t enjoy it as much if you don’t have a pair of the best mountain bike shorts on your side.
Many people think that it’s easy to go out and by any shorts that they find and think that they’ll be able to take care of the job.
However, there’s a lot more involved in the process, and more exercise should be taken to find a pair that not only fits, but has everything that you need and are looking for in a pair of shorts. So what should you start looking for?
Style of Riding
Keep in mind that mountain biking shorts aren’t the same as the road shorts that you’ve seen some bikers wear. They are more form fitting, while mountain biking shorts are baggier and provide more room for the legs.
Knowing that, the first key to finding the best MTB shorts is to consider your style of riding. Mountain biking is a broad term that covers everything from cross country racing to doing huge jumps and drops on dirt tracks. How do these determine the kind of shorts that you get?
- Cross Country: this is a sport that is done on smooth dirt trails, and involve a lot of peddling to get to where you’re going. Because weight is an issue to ensure that you’re not overexerting yourself on your ride, lighter shorts are the best option for you if you’re a cross country cyclist.
You’ll also want shorts that are less restrictive so that you can maximize on the efficiency of your peddling and provide sufficient ventilation to your legs.
- Enduro: this involves riding on technical terrain in order to really test your skills, and that can put your body at risk. Look for shorts that offer protection as well as enhancing your pedaling ability so that you stay safe throughout your ride.
- Downhill: this is the giving-in to gravity and going with the speed. That means that you want all the protection you can find, because if something goes wrong, you’re going to have a horrible spill.
Biking shorts should be long and the leg holes should be large enough to fit over the tops of your kneepads; anything smaller means that you’re risking injury.
As you can see, your style of mountain biking definitely makes a difference in the kind of shorts that you get.
If you’re interested in a combination of the above-mentioned activities, then you may have to invest in several different kinds in order to cover all of your bases.
Other Features to Consider
Other than riding style, there are other features of biking shorts that should be taken into account so that you can have everything you need at your disposal to ensure that you have a comfortable ride.
- Chamois: this is the part of the biking shorts that sits between the saddle and the rider. It’s padded in order to provide support to the pelvic bone and coccyx in order to minimize pain and allows you to ride for much longer.
Many bikers are used to wearing their own chamois under their biking shorts, but these have the tendency to slip, resulting in discomfort. That’s why it’s best to have one already included in your shorts so that you’ll never have to worry.
However, you won’t find these included in shorts that are designed for downhill mountain biking, as the riding style involves a lot of pedaling and being out of the saddle. Overlook, look for a chamois that has synthetic material to wick moisture away, and has a variety of thickness zones to provide padding to the areas that need it.
- Pockets: depending on your riding style, you might want to have pockets that make it easy for you to carry around a small hydration pack so that you can stay hydrated. If you are interested in pockets, look for ones that have zippered enclosures so that your items aren’t at risk of falling out and getting lost.
- Waist adjustment: riding your bike can burn a lot of calories, and it’s understandable that you may lose some inches off your waist after a few months of riding. It’s a good idea to look into shorts that have some kind of waist adjustment to ensure they they fit tightly and don’t fall off on your ride.
Struggling to keep them on will detract from your focus and make it more difficult to ride comfortably.
Many biking shorts have velcro tabs with elastic on the inside of the waist band so you can adjust them until your shorts are snug. They can be on the outside or inside of the shorts, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
If you have tabs on the outside, then they’re easier to get to, but run the risk of snagging on your jersey. If they’re on the inside, you have a more sleek look, but then can’t be adjusted without unbuttoning the shorts.
- Sizing: depending on whether you like more room or a more snug fit, you can choose your shorts based on the inseam size. Be aware that not all biking shorts from different manufacturers are going to fit exactly the same, even if they’re of the same size.
- Fly: look for press-stud fixings that are sturdy and will remain closed, even after a rigorous ride. Extra studs will ensure an even more reliable closing.
- Liners: if you’re interested in biking shorts that have liners, then you should be prepared to pay a little bit more. They’re designed to be lightweight and wick the moisture away from your body so that you remain cool.
It should be snug against the skin, so avoid shorts that have liners that sag and/or have no shape.
- DWR Coating: this is a special treatment for fabric that keeps out water. The water beads up and rolls off instead of soaking in, but over time, it has to be reapplied as it does wear away naturally.
- Ripstop Fabric: nylon is woven into the fabric of the shorts in order to prevent them from tearing. This ensures that your shorts will last much longer, regardless of how rough you ride.
Now that you’re aware of what you should be looking for, here are some of the top products in the market.
Top Products of 2017
Fox Racing Ranger Cargo Short
Cost: $62.22 – $79.95
Special Features: 100% polyester, Mid-weight 2-way stretch polyester shell, abrasion-resistant, durable, removable liner, Evo chamois, dual-density foam for added protection, available in five colors.
Description: Fox Racing is very well known for their line of mountain biking shorts, and this is no exception. The removal liner is perfect for those who want to be comfortable, or already have well-fitting liners of their own.
These Fox Racing Ranger Cargo Short are extremely comfortable, breathable and lightweight, and is made of two-way stretch material for maximum comfort. There are some downsides to this product, as it doesn’t feature zippered pockets, and the silicone leg grippers on the inside of the shorts have been called “uncomfortable.”
Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Shorts
Cost: $124.95 – $178.42
Special Features: 8% spandex, 92% polyester, removable liner, four pockets (1 zippered, 1 phone, 1 rear, 1 drop-in), available in five patterns.
Description: Troy Lee Designs Ruckus Shorts are a bit more fitting to the body, but are still comfortable enough to fit your items into the many pockets these shorts have. The variety of choice in fabrics makes these shorts very stylish while still keeping you comfortable.
The leg holes are large enough to fit over knee pads, making them ideal for downhill and off-trail cyclists. The Velcro waistband makes it easy for cyclists to adjust until they fit snugly and reduce the chances of their shorts falling off.
ZOIC Men’s Ether Cycling Shorts
Cost: $63.96 – $80.00
Special Features: 95% polyester, 5% spandex, padded liner with ZOIC comfort pad, 12-inch inseam, several sturdy pockets, elastic back waist, velcro side adjuster tabs, available in eight colors, removable liner.
Description: With a total of six pockets, you won’t have to worry about having enough space to carry all of your stuff with you as you ride.
These ZOIC Men’s Ether Cycling Shorts have plenty of features that definitely make the price tag worth it, and you won’t have a hard time finding these shorts as they’re available in cycling shops.
However, many have complained about the thin chamois it comes with, and the seams along it can be uncomfortable and chafe against the skin. The mesh that lines the pockets can be a bit flimsy and can be prone to breaking.
Endura Hummvee Short
Cost: $62.35 – $94.95
Special Features: available in four colors, nylon, durable water repellency, side-zipped ventilation, mesh Clickfast liner, two large rear-tabbed pockets, two front zipped pockets, cargo pocket, zipped mobile phone pocket, seamless inner leg panel, adjustable belt.
Description: If you’re looking for biking shorts that have all the features you could ever think of, then you’re looking in the right place. You’re definitely pay for value with this product, such as the many pockets it comes with, adjustable belt, and ventilation to keep you cool.
The durable material used in Endura Hummvee Short construction isn’t very stretchy, however, so they can be a bit restrictive while you’re pedaling. The leg holes do fit very well over knee pads, so you can feel fully protected.
It is made from ripstop nylon, and the seams are triple-stitched to ensure that they can withstand the elements and all the rough treatment you’ll put them through.
Pearl Izumi Men’s Canyon Shorts
Cost: $40.35 – $84.95
Special Features: 100% Polyester, performance engineered materials, maintains temperature, Velcro waist adjustment, extremely lightweight, one pocket.
Description: Considered to be an alternative for form-fitting lycra shorts, these biking Pearl Izumi Men’s Canyon Shorts are extremely comfortable, given their light weight. It has a liner short that’s constructed with mesh, and is perfect for those who are interested in getting into cross country biking.
However, the liner isn’t removable, so you’re stuck with them if you find them a bit uncomfortable. There is only the one pocket too, so you’ll have to travel light or invest in a backpack to carry with you. It does come with a chamois, but it is considered to be a bit on the thin side.
It’s one of the more practical pairs of shorts that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles that will break on your ride, so that gives you a lot less to worry about.
Zoic Junior Ether Bike Shorts
Cost: $49.00 – $50.00
Special Features: available in three colors, 95% polyester, 5% spandex, ventilating panels across the back and down the legs, snap and zip fly enclosure, Velcor adjuster tabs, two front hand pockets, two leg zip pockets, rear zip pocket, tech pocket for phone.
Description: For the younger rider in your family, these Zoic Junior Ether Bike Shorts are designed for juniors who are interested in taking up the mountain biking sport.
They come in three attractive colors with bright highlights along the pockets and waistbands that improve visibility.
They’re made from rugged material with a bit of stretch, and have a lot of pockets to store all of your smaller items while you bike. The leg holes are also large enough to fit over knee pads, for those young cyclists who are more interested in engaging those tougher trails.
Pearl iZUMi Men’s Elevate Shorts
Cost: $49.76 – $100.00
Special Features: DWR treatment, 4-way stretch rip-stop main body fabric, snap front closure with zip fly, available in three colors, two zippered hand pockets, one zippered security pocket on center back, snag-free internal waist adjustment.
Description: These Pearl iZUMi Men’s Elevate Shorts won’t restrict you in any way, giving you the freedom you need to ride as hard and fast as you want.
The leg openings are extremely wide to cover your knee pads, but close enough that they’re not going to get snagged on your surroundings.
These are a great alternative to lycra shorts, but not the best pair to wear if you do cross country biking. It does run a little bit bigger than other shorts, so you should exercise caution in the size that you get. Trying them on to see how they fit is the best way to figure out what you need.
Biking Shorts Tips
Lastly, there are a few things that need to be covered to ensure that you remain safe during your ride.
Here are just a few tips to keep in mind while shopping for your mountain biking shorts.
- Don’t wear underwear under your chamois. This will promote chafing and affect your pressure points which can lead to an uncomfortable ride. Instead, you should wear your chamois commando-style, as this is what they’re designed for. It may feel a bit strange to wear them this way, but you’ll definitely feel more thankful and comfortable after a long, hard ride.
- Don’t wear a helmet that isn’t meant for cycling. Bicycle helmets are designed to provide you with effective protection while you ride; anything else won’t protect you as well.
- Don’t wear a see-through chamois. The best way to test this is to do a squat in front of a mirror. If you can see butt cheeks and/or your crack, then everyone else will see it too while you ride. Pick a more opaque chamois or wear your biking shorts over them.
- Don’t wear cotton or down, as they soak up sweat like a sponge and will cause more chafing against the skin. They can be warm, but they become incredibly heavy when they’re wet, so they should be saved for chillier environments where you don’t plan on going for long rides. Go for synthetic or wool to stay cool.
- Don’t wear flip flops. You want to protect your feet while you pedal, or you could suffer from serious injury. Closed-toe shoes are a much better option, and provide you with a lot more traction. Laces should be tight and the ends should be tucked into the sides of your shoes so that they don’t get caught in your pedals or bike chains.
- If you must wear a backpack, make sure that it fits to your back properly. A backpack that sways will throw you off balance and make it more difficult to stay on your bike. Look for packs that have adjustable chest and waist straps to ensure that it stays in place.
Biking can be a thrill, but it’s important that you stay safe and comfortable so that you can get the most out of every experience.
Finding the right pair of biking shorts can help with those experiences, so it pays to invest some time and patience into finding the one that is right for you.
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