The best mountain bike shorts

The best baggies for ripping the trails

mountain bike shorts

by Adam Binnie |
Updated on

Having the best cycling shorts for your particular discipline goes beyond looking good on the bike; padding, protection and performance are also crucial considerations. Mountain bike shorts (or baggies) not only offer a styling difference from our lycra-loving roadie friends, but allow for a greater degree of movement on the trail thanks to a looser fit.

Techy stretch fabrics may have brought more of a fitted silhouette in recent years, but this tribal uniform remains strong, and skin-tight attire looks out of place at the bike park or trail. Ultimately you can wear what you like of course, but there are some key differences between the two sports (other than looks) that drives the specification of the kit.

Put simply, off-road riding tends to result in more frequent but less serious crashes (although that’s not always the case, as my right knee will attest) and therefore protection and coverage are more important than saving weight, the primary concern of the tarmac rider.

Those thicker, tougher fabrics are also stiffer than flexible Lycra road shorts, and that compounded with a need to move around on the bike more makes a looser fit necessary to accommodate. Pockets to store trail essentials in and a desire for a more relaxed look have all contributed to the shape of our shorts.

What are the best mountain bike shorts?

Well as we’re here to show you, let’s take a look at some of the best mountain bike shorts out there on the market right now.

Best all-round mountain bike shorts
Endura Hummvee II Baggy Shorts
Price: £35.99 (starting)

Covering all your cycling needs from the ground up, Endura has done it again and improved one of their greatest garments: the Hummvee Shorts. Whether it's tearing up trails or barrelling along your daily commuter route, the second generation Hummvee II Baggy Shorts are made from only the most durable fabrics for a long lifespan.

Thanks to Ripstop tech, nothing MTB trails can throw at you will stop you when you’re riding double black diamond DH or flowing singletrack in these tough shorts. On top of that, they feature an efficient DWR (Durable Water Resistant) finish to keep light rain and mud at bay too.

Inside the shorts, meanwhile, you’ll find a supportive detachable liner featuring a protective 200 Series pad and full Clickfast™ compatibility. If you choose to ride without it on less intense days, the panel in the outer shorts section is still entirely seamless so you don’t need to worry about chafing over longer distances. Finally, the rear elasticated waistband delivers heaps of versatility and freedom.

Best premium mountain bike shorts
Rapha Men's Trail Fast + Light Shorts
Price: £110.00

Tried and tested by Commercial Content Editor Adam Binnie: "I've got an old and much-loved pair of Rapha bib shorts and for a long time I wished the brand, more commonly associated with road cycling, would branch out into MTB.

"These shorts feature all the characteristics I appreciate in those bibs - they're lightweight, with a sporty cut and make you feel like a full-factory rider every time you pull them on. As you'd expect from that roster of talents they're not cheap, and paying three figures for shorts that are not waterproof or equipped with a padded liner might make you wince.

"But just like my bibs, after hour after hour of riding they still look and fit like they're brand new. Well, mostly, except for a small tear on the right leg after an unplanned dismount. Brilliantly though, these shorts come with a repair kit of colour-matched iron-on patches, so that problem was quickly solved. Rip them really badly and Rapha will replace them.

"The two pockets at the front are only big enough for something small and flat - folded up cash or maybe a compact multitool. The zip-up pockets on the side could fit a phone or keys, but given they sit on the bit of your leg you'll probably fall on if you crash, some discretion on what you store in them would be sensible.

"Good-looking, lightweight and comfy shorts - pricey, but they can be repaired or replaced if you tear them, which is better than throwing them away."

Best value for money mountain bike shorts

The Outland Shorts pack in a load of features without breaking the bank. Firstly, they're built tough - triple-stitched hems provide extra strength in areas prone to wear and tear, while high-quality YKK popper buttons and YKK zips offer a bombproof feel. Locking the shorts firmly in place you'll find easy-to-use inner waist adjuster tabs giving you the perfect fit at all times.

Around the waist, you'll also enjoy the comfort of a mesh lining which also helps wick away sweat from this key area. Two front pockets one with a lanyard D-loop for attaching keys too and a zipped side leg pocket is ideal for stashing your phone and valuables. Nukeproof branded trims complete this exceptional mountain bike short.

Best mountain bike bib liner shorts
Rapha Men’s Trail Cargo Bib Liner Shorts
Price: £100.00

If it’s added comfort you want under your shorts, Rapha also offers up these bib liner shorts – taking on 15 years of experience and innovation across their bib short range these lightweight bib shorts have influences from the road which will help you on the trails.

The mesh in the legs promotes airflow and provides optimised temperature regulation with two rear cargo pockets they offer additional storage for your essentials to keep your pockets free.

Made from recycled fabrics and with silicone leg grippers, combined with the breathable upper these could be the perfect liner shorts for all-day comfort in the saddle.

Tried and tested by Adam Binnie: "I've given these a more thorough run down in our Best Cycling Bib Shorts review, but in brief, they're a more rugged and better-ventilated version of the Rapha shorts I've mentioned before in this article. Bibs are brilliant at keeping the padding you need in the place you need it, and these are the best I've found for MTB."

Best budget mountain bike shorts

These MTB shorts are designed for riding in warm weather. Elasticated waistband and secure pocket. Ride through the undergrowth with no worries. These comfy shorts, with their built-in foam pad (designed for men), absorb vibrations and avoid rubbing and chafing.

These are ideal shorts for someone who is starting out in Mountain Biking as the chamois pad is good for protecting pressure points for up to two hours.

What to look for in mountain bike shorts?

The main thing that we want from any clothing we wear is comfort, so you need to sure that these are comfy on and off the bike. Mountain biking can have a greater swing of effort, from full gas to zero effort and back again in the space of a few turns, so you need a material that can deal with different temperatures and sweat levels.

There's also the need to push uphill or sit on a narrow seat in an uplift van, so you'll want shorts that allow you to walk and sit in a variety of positions, as well as ride in. Baggies help with this as they’re sometimes stretchy and more durable.

While we’re talking about durability, you want something which will last, certainly if you’re spending what you consider to be a lot of money on it.

Look for things you will use or find practical - a high waistband to protect your lower back from mud, waterproof panels for year-round riding, and a suitable leg length to avoid leaving a gap between your short bottoms and your kneepads.

How we tested these shorts

Adam Binnie and bike

I've been out in all weather testing this bike gear to get an idea of how it repels or retains water (whether it's sweat or rain) and whether the material used allows the right amount of ventilation and stretch.

My downhill racing career sadly never got off the ground, mostly because I spent a great deal of time crashing into it, but I've been riding since the days of elastomer suspension and three-by front mechs.

These days the majority of my riding takes place on singletrack trails in Wales or at half a dozen bike parks, particularly ones with uplift vans so I don't have to pedal - Flyup 417 in particular, but I equally love a hot and dusty day at Rogate, despite the need to push up to the top.

Adam Binnie is the Commercial Content Editor and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in bikes, fitness, cars, parenting and cooking.

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