This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com and other Amazon websites.
Just as the categories of mountain bikes themselves have become increasingly ambiguous, the same could be said about some of the clothes we wear on the trail. Whether it’s casual-looking shorts with bike-oriented features, options that blend the longer cuts of DH shorts with lighter, more XC-oriented fabrics, or any of the new and unique features we’re seeing, there are a lot of different shorts out there and it’s tough to figure out exactly where each excels.
Meaning Of Mountain Biking Shorts?
This is a bit of an arbitrary distinction, but here’s the typical case: if it’s got a chamois, it’s a cycling short. Mountain bikers will typically use cycling shorts to wear over top of their mountain biking pants, while all-mountain, enduro, and downhillers will wear them under a pair of pants. There is some overlap, of course, but if you look at riders like Brandon Semenuk, Cam McCaul etc. you’ll notice they wear shorts similar to what everyday cyclists wear. Cyclists themselves are a fluid bunch and sometimes we’re split in camps between jerseys and short-shorts. So there’s definitely an overlap, but if you want to wear a true short-shorts on the trails, you want to be aware that this will make you less comfortable in the saddle so you might not want to wear them with a chamois pad.
Bike Shorts vs Mountain Bike Shorts
Now on to the debate that will bring out the strong opinions in many of you. I think this is a matter of preference but my personal preference is for mountain bike shorts. There are some great road cycling shorts available, but something about the rigidness of the fabric, the lower cut of the legs, and the tighter, Mountain bike shorts have a lot more freedom of mobility and I feel they’re more comfortable to stand around in. The extra length keeps your legs from chafing and less fabric in the top section keeps you cooler on hot days.
If you’re buying them for serious mountain biking, then I suggest you also look at the durability as well. Poorly made shorts will wear down quicker and also will be uncomfortable to wear if they tear or wear into your shorts in the wrong place.
Do You Really Need A Mountain Bike Shorts?
Mountain bike shorts are great if you’re carrying a backpack but otherwise are unnecessary. If you think you’re going to be doing a lot of trail riding with a backpack on, it’s definitely worth purchasing a pair of mountain bike shorts. That way you can keep your rear covered and limit the amount of chaffing and irritation that comes from an exposed saddle area.
The only real benefit is that they keep your rear covered and wick away moisture better. But if you’re in need of a good pair, here’s a quick look at what’s out there.
What are The Benefits of Mountain Biker Shorts?
Cycling shorts and mountain bike shorts in general may be a little different, but they’re not entirely dissimilar. They both feature chamois pads that contour to the sit bones and help provide comfort. They both have panels or seams that provide support to help the rider not give out on long rides.
Mountain Bike Shorts Vs Regular Shorts
Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about mountain bike shorts, let’s address the elephant in the room. Why not just wear a pair of regular shorts? A lot of people will say it gets too hot and because biking pants have Velcro panels to help access pockets and hidden pockets, if you’re wearing regular shorts over them it just feels wrong.
But like I mentioned earlier, cycling shorts are starting to look more like mountain bike shorts. The designs are changing to look like XC shorts but with padding and a lower cut. This gives you more mobility while still helping you stay comfortable.
Mountain Bike Shorts Vs Spandex Shorts
I’m not against the idea of spandex bike shorts, but I’ll try to argue that mountain bike shorts have some advantages over them. Spandex bike shorts are generally made for the track and are often more expensive due to the advanced fabrics. But as for riding over long distances, Spandex has a number of flaws. For instance, the nylon that is often the core component of spandex fabrics dries quickly, but chafes on days with high humidity. The fabric also isn’t as breathable in hot weather. Essentially you’re stuck with a sticky, sweaty body if it’s especially warm out.
Is There A Difference Between Men & Women Mountain Biking Shorts?
Another question I’ve seen online A LOT is whether shorts fit differently for men and women. The answer is that they’re designed to fit differently and the differences aren’t related to gender. Shorts for men typically have thicker waistbands for men who have a better core body strength and more well-developed abs. Women’s shorts will have shorter inseams to accommodate the shorter legs. Some companies even have women-specific shorts with lower-cut legs. It just comes down to what’s more comfortable.
Why People Love Mountain Biking Shorts
I’ve worn ski pants, cycling bibs, and mountain biking shorts. Each have their pros and cons but one thing is for sure: no one wants to be without a pair of shorts. Here are just a few benefits of wearing mountain bike shorts on the trail.
They Keep Your Butt And Legs Comfortable
If your shorts are so tight you can feel the support in your cheeks, then you’re probably going to have a bad time. There’s just too much fabric and they’ll feel like they’re cutting you open. Spandex material is a little better since it has a little bit of give, but if your shorts or pants are skin-tight they’re going to cause chaffing and you can end up very uncomfortable for long rides.
This product was recommended by Patricia J from Pedal Lovers
I love these shorts because they are padded with high stretchy UPF 50+ fabric that are extremely comfy and breathable, they keep me dry and cool especially in these hot summer days. I also love their clean and light cut as well as their low light visibility logos, this one has definitely set the bar high for other brands, i would recommend it for every cyclist.
This product was recommended by Aaron Simmons from Test Prep Genie
As a busy med student and blogger, I like to unwind and stay healthy by going outdoor cycling at least two times a week. The Fit Sensor 2 shorts are made of moisture-wicking material that helps your thermoregulation, a process that allows your body to maintain a safe internal temperature. So, it’s good for those chilly early morning rides. These shorts also have an antibacterial memory foam chamois, as well as powerband cuffs on the bottom, which keep them securely in place as you pedal. Night riders will appreciate the reflective accents in the design.
This product was recommended by Ali Rizvi from Dream Superhero
Perfect length. True to size. It would be 5 stars if the material was a little softer and more flexible
This product was recommended by Andrew Nelson from Pump Advisor
When you want to find a pair of shorts that does it all for a bargain price, then look no further than the ZOIC Ether pants. I really like these mountain bike shorts a lot. When I put these on I just want to ride hard! They come in several colors from Neon to a plain black, depending on the look you are wanting. Personally, I like lots of pockets so I have options and flexibility that I carry and where. This is one thing I like about Ether shorts.
This product was recommended by Osama Mushtaq from Outfitrs
These are pretty good cycling shorts. I purchased these with Sponeeds matching jersey. These shorts run just right under the belly button. If you have a belly, these shorts will roll or drift down to your pant line.