Wearing the right clothing will help you get the most out of your best mountain bike, and the best MTB shorts offer a bit more protection from grabby fauna and the trail itself because the materials are more robust than Lycra. Most also receive a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment that will cause water to bead and run off, rather than soaking straight into the fabric.
Mountain bike shorts come in all shapes and sizes, but riders generally slip on a pair over the top of their bibs or short liners and some could almost double as everyday shorts. Expect technical features like zippered pockets and a reinforced crotch area, while laser-cut vents (aka holes) are appearing on many new models designed for use in warmer weather.
To compile this list, our expert testers rounded up the best mountain bike shorts and put them through their paces in a range of riding conditions to see how they performed. We found the best overall was the 7Mesh Glidepath shorts with great fit, features, and detailing, while the best value-for-money options were the latest Endura Hummvees which are essentially bombproof and come at a great price with a decent liner included. If you're not sure what to look for when choosing the best MTB shorts, skip to the bottom of this article for our buying advice.
If you'd rather get a bit more coverage through the winter months, it's worth checking out our guide to the best MTB pants, We've also got a separate guide to the best women's mountain bike shorts with our top picks for female riders, and if you're after something to wear beneath your mountain bike shorts, have a look at our guide to the best MTB liners.
Best mountain bike shorts
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1. Best overall
7mesh's Glidepaths have ranked among the best mountain bike shorts you can buy for a while – if you can afford them. The latest versions feature significantly tweaked fit, fasteners, and pocket detailing, and remain an absolutely outstanding pair of pants.
More than just a pricier, more pocketed version of 7mesh’s Slab shorts – the Glidepaths feature mesh-backed hand pockets and big zippered 'phone' pockets on the back of each thigh – they're an awesome investment in lightweight high performance.
While the DWR fabric, obsessive level of detailing, and fancy panel shapes definitely contribute to the high cost of the shorts, we found they deliver dividends right from the start.
Leg length is generous so there’s no danger of a gap above your knee pads, and while the legs are tapered, we found that the ‘Relaxed fit’ was noticeably roomier than the ‘Trim fit’ of the Slab shorts. The way the 7mesh Glidepaths are cut, seam-sealed, and stitched also means the pockets sat really well when we were pedaling.
Our reviewer Guy Kesteven said: "The 7mesh Glidepaths' versatility, fit and comfort means I’ve been riding them in heavy rotation since they arrived. I’ve also wiped out a few times on some abrasive surfaces. You wouldn’t know from looking at the unscathed fabric, though, and while the DWR rinsed off a while ago they still clean up like new."
Should something go really wrong, then 7mesh offers discretionary free replacement for the first 30 days you have them and then cost-price repairs where possible for the rest of their natural lifetime.
Check out our full review of the 7mesh Glidepath shorts.
2. Best for value
If you could only own one pair of MTB shorts, Endura's hardwearing and versatile Hummvee would definitely be a serious contender. These classic baggies have been around for decades and with Endura sticking to the 'if it ain't broke...' mantra, they have changed little in that time.
2023 saw the Hummvee shorts getting only their second redesign in 20 years. The latest edition has been updated in terms of styling, colorways, and fit, but retains the same hardy nature as the original Hummvee and the Hummvee II that followed.
Cut to sit near the center of the kneecap (though the women's versions sit slightly higher), we found the new men's Hummvees play well with knee pads without flashing your thighs as you pedal. Given their heritage, it's no surprise the shorts are definitely still on the baggier side of the MTB spectrum.
Elasticated rear sections combined with a zip fly, stud fastener, and a belt which gave us a totally secure fit, while zipped mesh vents on each thigh allowed us to keep things cooler on warmer days. A reinforced section covers the seat area of the shorts which is more resistant to abrasion from muddy saddles.
There's plenty of storage with two zipped hand pockets, two Velcro-fastened cargo pockets at the bottom of each outer thigh, and two deep rear pockets that also have Velcro closure. Endura's Clickfast detachable liner is also part of the package and they come in male and female-specific versions too.
3. Best built-in liner
The Trail 3.0 V22 shorts are designed for faster/further riding and they’re among the best XC/trail shorts AND best baggy gravel shorts we've used.
The outer shorts use a slim-fitting, multi-panel cut that sits slightly higher on the leg than a full short so there's potential for some flesh flash above knee pads, though the fabric is very stretchy and soft-backed, avoiding the flimsy ‘running shorts’ flap of some lightweight baggies.
They come in a really wide range of sizes and even look good off the bike, where the hand pockets come in useful. You also get a thigh pocket.
The liner short uses a flat-locked, four-panel mesh construction that is shaped to keep your bits from bouncing around too much. There are long gripper sections to stop them riding up too. The real win is the dual-density pad from top road brand, Elastic Interface, which we found a very welcome surprise as Leatt massively undersells it as just an ‘Italian Sport Chamois’.
Our reviewer Guy Kesteven summed them up: "They’re totally unobtrusive physically and audibly, and they’re well vented right round. The fabric has a really nice natural feel while still giving all the filth shrugging, and fast drying benefits of a performance synthetic. Fit and stability are really good for high performance/high mileage riding too."
Want to know more? Read our in-depth Leatt MTB Trail 3.0 V22 shorts review.
4. Best hardwearing
Swedish outfit POC makes its Resistance shorts in three different cuts: XC, Enduro, and DH, and each is available in women-specific versions too. 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 are the built-in Vectran tear-resistant panels strategically placed on the hip, thigh, and knee areas to make the shorts more resistant to damage in a crash, or just from general trail abuse.
We found them surprisingly comfortable with a lightness that is often lacking in tougher shorts, making them suitable for long rides where pedaling comfort, heat, and moisture management are essential to ride happiness. The material was quick-drying from sweat and rain as well.
Our reviewer David Arthur summed up: "If you regularly push your limits on the bike, whether just riding in the local woods or lining up at a race on one of the best enduro mountain bikes, these POC Resistance Shorts will add a nice layer of protection and durability that lighter-weight shorts simply can’t match."
Get more of our thoughts in our in-depth review of the POC Resistance Enduro shorts.
5. Best for a slim fit
Patagonia is far from the first big outdoor brand to start making mountain bike gear, but we'd argue they've done it pretty well. The Dirt Roamer shorts are made from 86 percent recycled four-way stretch pedal-friendly polyester and see sonic-welded seams throughout the entire short.
There is no ventilation to speak of, but the fabric is so light you don't need it. We found it almost felt like we were wearing nothing at all.
The Dirt Roamers are slim-fitting, yet don't suffer from an overly XC fit like the brand's first mountain bike shorts, the Dirt Craft. The longer 12.5in inseam covers the tops of knees and low-profile knee pads for a more MTB-specific fit.
Instead of Velcro waist adjusters, the latest Dirt Roamers feature an updated two-sided, low-profile adjustable OppoSet waistband which we found gave a fine-tuned fit that held strong throughout the ride.
The shorts also have two secure, zippered envelope-style pockets on the outer thighs (as opposed to one on the original) to keep valuables close at hand, with new pass-through access that pairs with thigh pockets on the brand's Dirt Roamer Liner Shorts.
Our reviewer David Arthur said, "These are thoughtfully designed shorts that get the key details right and eschew the frills and loud designs of other shorts. The fit is good and the stretch of the fabric sees the shorts easily moving with you as you pedal and throw the bike around the trail."
Find out more in our Patagonia Dirt Roamer shorts review.
6. Best multi-purpose
Scott’s Gravel Tuned shorts are a sweetly versatile and innovatively detailed design with both wet and warm weather features. They work well for every aspect of gravel biking, from racing to wilderness adventures, as well as on MTBs. The short style won’t be to everyone’s tastes, however.
In use, we found the fabric is actually pretty stiff and noisy rather than light and floaty and it’s got a non-PFC DWR coating to shrug off showers and spray. That could potentially make them quite hot, but the perforations up the inner thigh provide a refreshing, cooling breeze. You can also open up the hand pockets and let the mesh inners act as exhaust vents for extra cooling flow.
Still, the length of the leg will be the deciding factor in whether you’ll get on with the Scott Gravel Tuned shorts or not. In testing, the hem just about skimmed the top of our knee when standing up, but when sat down/pedaling it’s a fair way up the thigh.
That's far enough up that undershorts (like Scott’s Gravel bib shorts ) will stick out from underneath and there’ll be an embarrassing amount of flesh between shorts and knee pads. That’ll make some folk recoil in horror and definitely puts dual-duty use for enduro out of the picture for anyone with more aesthetic sensibilities.
Our reviewer Guy Kesteven summed them up: "If you’re fine flashing thigh then these are tough, weather versatile, tailored-fit shorts with useful storage. Add the seamless crotch and they work really well for long-distance riding whatever your gender or your bar shape."
Read the full verdict in our Scott Gravel Tuned shorts review.
7. Best minimalist looks
If you're prepared to pay a lot for tough, light construction and a fantastic tailored fit – but don’t need as many pockets as you get on 7mesh’s Glidepath shorts – the Slabs could be the best mountain bike shorts for you.
They might look simple at first, but there’s some subtle leg tapering and diagonal darts over each buttock. With the exception of the double-stitched center seam, all the seams are ultrasonically welded with a really narrow strip, maximizing the breathability and slick aesthetics.
We found all these little tailoring touches combined with the easy stretch in the fabric, gave an awesome flap-free, but not weirdly tight, fit – they even passed the ‘smart casual’ benchmark for summer functions a couple of times.
More importantly, the firmer waistband meant they didn’t slip down or shuffle about when riding, so once they’re on, we forgot about them completely.
7mesh’s Slab shorts are very expensive for a minimalist single pocket design, but the no-quibble lifetime guarantee against defects (along with a crash replacement scheme) for the original version, make them much better value.
The latest version comes with an integrated ultra suede hook-and-ladder waist adjuster which is an improvement on the original.
Our reviewer Guy Kesteven was impressed with the Slab shorts, saying: "It’s the detailing you might never even spot that makes them such a brilliant fit. And despite being our go-to shorts everywhere from fancy, family BBQs to flat-out shred sessions this summer, they’re not suffering from any obvious signs of wear either."
Get the full lowdown in our 7mesh Slab shorts review.
8. Best XC baggies
The Gorewear Explore Shorts sit neatly between traditional baggies for rugged trail riding and full-on Lycra for cross country – they look casual but have a slim fit, weigh little, and leave nothing to flap about.
The legs are shorter than some (especially once you're on the bike) and you'll need your own liner, but for fast gravel and XC blasts they're up there with the best mountain bike shorts we've tried.
We found the legs sat clear above our knees when standing and pulled up a good hand-width further when pedaling. They'd probably leave a skin gap if you wanted to wear these with pads, but they're not really for that kind of riding.
On the rear you'll find a large water-resistant panel to help keep rear-wheel spray from soaking through; it won't stop it as it's not fully waterproof, but a full barrier would only make these shorts heavier and less breathable. We found them actually very lightweight and airy, so this makes perfect sense and the protection is welcome.
Our reviewer Guy Kesteven summed up: "They're stretchy, slim, and cool enough to never feel a hindrance, yet look casual and 'normal' enough you won't feel self-conscious on cafe stops."
Read what happened when we put the shorts through their paces in our full Gorewear Explore review.
9. Best for drier conditions
Madison's Flux shorts have been constantly evolving over the many years that they've been around. The super smooth, light-feeling material – along with laser-cut vents near the outer seam on each leg and just below the waistband to the rear – makes the latest incarnation a great choice for use in drier conditions.
The polyester fabric contains elastane to help give a really flexible stretch in all directions and we found this, combined with a slightly pre-bent shape at the knee, made the shorts feel really comfortable. An elasticated waistband with silicone grippers to the rear and a ratchet closure system helped keep the shorts firmly in place during all our test riding. There's a zipped pocket on each leg with plenty of room for cargo, while a side-zipped rear pocket just behind the right hip has been designed with phone stashing in mind.
We rode in these shorts on a series of warm, dry days and they were ideal for the conditions. Our only slight gripe is that when pedaling in the best knee pads for mountain biking, the Flux came up a little short and led to exposed thighs at the top of each pedal stroke – which may or may not be a concern for you. We haven't tested the shorts in the wet, but the Flux has a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating designed to help keep light rain and splashes at bay.
10. Best for knee pads
Endura's MT500 range of clothing is designed to be both functional and durable. While it's been around for a while, they've teamed up with enduro racers, such as the Athertons, to help develop the latest updates to the clothing line.
The MT500 Burner shorts are a great option for the majority of riding conditions. The four-way stretch nylon and elastane fabric has plenty of give and feels good against our skin. While we've yet to ride with them in the wet, the shorts have a non-toxic water-repellent finish and a reinforced rear panel to protect against wear and the elements.
The legs taper slightly inwards and are cut so the front panels are slightly longer and sit just over the knee – making them a great fit with knee pads. In testing, the shorts never snagged on our pads, and our thighs weren't exposed while pedaling.
A ratchet closure system on the waistband and Velcro pull-tabs to the sides means there's tons of adjustment available. Silicone grippers to the rear of the waistband help keep the shorts in place and there's also press-studs that allow you to attach them to compatible Endura bib shorts worn beneath for extra security.
There's a zipped side pocket on each leg deep enough for a phone, though there isn't a dedicated phone pocket as found on some rival models.
How to choose the best mountain bike shorts
Do I need an inner short as well as an outer?
If you're looking to swap your Lycra for baggy mountain bike shorts, you'll often see terms such as 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 shorts or liner will be tight-fitting, made from highly wicking breathable fabric, and feature a chamois pad to protect sensitive areas – however comfortable your best MTB saddle is, chances are you'll feel the benefit. Inners and liners come in both shorts and bibs, and some have pockets in strategic areas for extra gear stashing.
Most outer shorts are BYO liner and this is because – as with most questions of what to wear mountain biking – everybody has their personal preference.
You can also wear standard road shorts or gravel bike bib shorts here, too, but they don't breathe quite as well. Some shorts do come with a short liner, but we've often found that included inner shorts will be of lesser quality, especially in the chamois and fit.
Are MTB shorts adjustable?
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 it's easier to access and won't irritate your skin or eat up inner shorts; the downside is that the adjusters 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.
Are pockets a good idea?
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 we'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. Zips are useful too for keeping your pocket's contents safe from the elements.
What fit of MTB shorts is best?
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.
How we test the best mountain bike shorts
All the mountain bike shorts we've tested here have been put through a variety of conditions over several months of intense riding. We've assessed their fit, feel and comfort, the fastening setup and waist adjusters, as well as the weight, breathability, water-repellance and durability of the fabric. We've also considered leg length, knee pad gaps, storage pockets, and price.
Meet the testers
Rich has been riding mountain bikes since the early nineties and testing bikes and kit for over a decade. A very experienced trail rider, he knows what makes a great pair of baggy shorts and what doesn't.
Guy's been testing and writing about mountain bikes for over 30 years. In that time he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear.
David has been reporting and reviewing the latest bike tech for most of the biggest cycling publications for more than 15 years and tested a lot of shorts in process.
Steve is a highly experienced journalist and rider, based in South Wales, who's been involved with bikes of all kinds for more years than he would care to remember.