Best mountain bike shorts: the best MTB shorts we've tested

Best mountain bike shorts
(Image credit: Nukeproof)

Mountain bike shorts or baggies came to be because mountain bikers didn't want to look like roadies. It started with downhillers and has since permeated through mountain biking all the way to cross-country riders, and even quite a few drop-bar gravel grinders, too. But there is more to it than just style; the best mountain bike shorts offer a bit more protection from the trail itself and grabby fauna because the materials are more robust than Lycra. Most also receive a DWR or durable water repellent treatment that will cause water to bead and run off, rather than soaking straight into the fabric.

The best mountain bike shorts come in all shapes and sizes, but more riders are slipping on a pair over the top of their bibs or short liners for the casual style, and some could almost double as everyday shorts. However, they maintain technical features like zippered pockets, vents and a reinforced crotch. Skip to our guide covering what you need to know when choosing the best mountain bike shorts.

Best overall

POC Resistance MTB shorts

(Image credit: POC)

POC Resistance

Lots of fit options for every riding style

Swedish outfit POC makes its Resistance shorts in three different cuts; XC, Enduro and DH (available in women's specific versions of each cut). From the former to the latter, the inseam gets longer and the fit baggier to accommodate the increasing levels of padding for each riding style. 

The shorts are all made from four-way stretch fabric, each is 'pre-shaped' with more material on the front of the knees and a taller back of the waist to offer a better fit in the riding position. What makes these shorts unique is the built-in Cordura and Vectran tear-resistant panels strategically placed to provide optimal protection in a crash. 

Most versatile

Fox Racing Ranger shorts

(Image credit: Fox Racing)

Fox Racing Ranger

A great do-it-all option from Fox Clothing

Made from medium-weight two-way stretch ripstop fabric with a Durable Water Repellent finish to ward of puddle splashes and dirt. The Fox Ranger has a middle-of-the-road fit, with room for knee pads, but the legs are still trim enough not to get in the way while you pedal. The crotch sits high, so it's not going to snag on your saddle and the combo of two hip pockets and a small zippered cargo pocket do well to keep their contents stable and out of the way.

The Ranger shorts don't feature velcro size adjusters or a built-in belt system, instead, using a goggle strap inspired system that offers plenty of adjustment, which most of all keeps your pants up. They do come with a detachable dual-density liner, which isn't terrible as far as included liners go, but we still prefer to use our own.

Most comfortable

Troy Lee Designs Flowline shorts

(Image credit: Troy Lee Designs)

Troy Lee Designs Flowline

Relaxed fit trail or enduro shorts with plenty space for pads

We are big fans of Troy Lee Design and have used the same pair of shorts for a number of years now and, despite the rough and tumbles of enduro racing and backcountry epics, they are holding up incredibly well.

The 2020 Flowline shorts strike a balance between pedaling efficiency and toughness so they are suited to nipping out for a casual trail ride as they are turning to something more gravity orientated. The legs are baggy enough to comfortably accommodate knee pads and waistband grippers help stop them from sliding down mid descent.

Best value

MTB shorts

(Image credit: Ally)

Ally Mountain Bike Shorts

Shorts and a liner for a very reasonable price

These budget-friendly mountain biking shorts from Ally are well made for the respectable price tag. They have a comfortable fit, and are easily adjustable thanks to the elasticated waistband and heavy duty velcro straps. There's room enough for knee pads, and lots of pockets with weatherproof zippers for secure storage. They are thin and lightweight, and dry quickly, making them an excellent option for bikepackers as well as trail riders. Plus, their minimal design will appeal to those who prefer not to be a walking billboard for logos.


MTB shorts

(Image credit: Hiauspor)

Hiauspor Men's Mountain Bike Shorts

Highly stretchy with storage space

These super-stretchy and comfortable shorts from Hiauspor are constructed with a 4-way stretch fabric that is water repellent, keeping you and your belongings dry on the trails. The reinforced crotch seam adds durability to an area that's vulnerable to wear and tear, though they don't come with any padding so it's down to you to get an extra padded liner if that's what you want.


MTB shorts

(Image credit: Urban Cycling Apparel)

Urban Cycling Apparel The Single Tracker

Lots of zippered pockets for secure storage

These great looking, fast-drying and moisture-wicking shorts from Urban Cycling Apparel feature lots of zippered pockets, helping you to securely secure your precious cargo, whether it's your phone, wallet and keys, or those all-important energy bars to help you crest the top of that climb. The relaxed and baggy fit is comfortable, and accommodates the padded undershorts that you can have included if you choose to.

Best mountain bike shorts: what you need to know

Inner vs outer

If you're looking to swap your lycra for baggy mountain bike shorts, you'll often see terms like inner shorts and outer shorts. It may seem nonsensical to wear two pairs of riding shorts, but it's not all that different from your undies and your regular pants. The inner short or liner will be tight-fitting, made from highly wicking breathable fabric and feature a chamois. They come in both shorts and bibs, and some have pockets on the braces similar to a road jersey.

Most outer shorts are BYO liner, and this is because everybody has their own personal preference—you can also wear road bibs or shorts here too, but they don't breathe quite as well. Some shorts do come with a short liner, we have found often included inner shorts will be of lesser quality, especially in the chamois and fit. 


Even if your shorts match your exact dimensions on the size chart, you're still going to want some adjustability in the waist which often comes in the form of Velcro pulls on the waistband. We prefer shorts with the adjustment on the outside because they are easier to access and won't irritate your skin or eat up inner shorts; the downside is that they can catch on things like the inside of your jersey. We are also seeing a lot of brands incorporate webbing and buckle-based adjustments, which work well, but can be damaged in a crash and leave you stuck with your pants down.

We also like shorts with belt loops, which in combination with elastic belts like those from Arcade keep your pants right where they should be and interface well with bum bags too. 


When you go for a mountain bike ride, you're going to have your phone, keys and maybe a bar or gel to take along, among other things. Cargo pockets can hold plenty of gear but are susceptible to swinging as you pedal and I've had more than a few gels pop inside pockets in a crash. Hip pockets tend to place gear on top of your thigh and are less susceptible to movement or crash damage - provided they are deep enough they shouldn't need a zipper.


Depending on the style of riding you're doing, you may be looking for a short that doesn't restrict pedaling motion or possibly something a bit burlier with room for knee pads, offering a bit of abrasion-resistance. Shorts targeted at XC riders will be more form-fitting, slightly shorter in length and made from lighter materials. Gravity oriented shorts will be made from heavier materials and will be longer and baggier for more coverage and to make room for armor. 


At the very least, the best mountain bike shorts should have a snap button closure or maybe even two. If the shorts you are looking at trade a zip fly for something else like Velcro, avoid like the plague. 


While we often focus solely on the technical aspects of gear, style is equally important. No matter how technically sound a product is, if it doesn't give you the room you need to maneuver while out on the trail, it's probably going to stay in your closet. 

Colin Levitch
Freelance writer

Born and bred in Colorado, and now based in Australia, Colin comes from a ski racing background and started riding as a way to stay fit through the summer months. His father, a former European pro, convinced him to join the Colorado State University collegiate cycling team, and he hasn't stopped since. It's not often he pins on a number nowadays, and you'll likely find him in search of flowy singletrack, gravel roads and hairpin corners. Colin has worked at Bikeradar and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

Rides: BMC Team Machine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9, Ibis Ripley