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Best MTB pants: Full coverage mountain bike trousers for warmth and protection

Best MTB pants
(Image credit: Endura )

The best MTB pants have gone from motocross-styled trousers reserved for downhill racers into something you might now reach for when heading out on a trail ride, thanks to advancements in fabric technology and tailoring.

Gone are the days of bulky and thick MTB pajama pants that didn't breathe, now the best MTB pants are made from the same materials as what you'd find on the best mountain bike shorts, with stretchy fabrics and smart tailoring that even feature vents. Brands have realized that a slimmer fit is less obtrusive, and can help to keep your knee pads in place, too.

Keep reading for Bike Perfect's pick of the best MTB pants or jump to the bottom to find out what to look for in the best MTB pants.

The best MTB pants (or trousers) you can buy today

Leatt MTB 4.0 Pant

(Image credit: Leatt)

Leatt MTB 4.0 Pant

The best pants for bulky pads

Pockets: 2 | Waist closure: Pop button | Vents: No | SRP: $130 / £120 / €130

Well fitted
Hard wearing stretchy material
Useful pockets
Ratchet closure more vulnerable to damage than simple poppers
Relatively warm

Leatt's background is in neck braces, so it comes as no surprise that its 4.0 pants have ample room for armor underneath. The fit is still tapered, the knees are pre-bent, and they have a mesh lining that helps to wick sweat off your skin. 

The seat is seamless, and the knees feature 500D fabric to stave off premature wear up the inner legs and seat panel and the seamless design is particularly welcome if you don’t wear padded shorts. Small laser perforations below it and on the inner thigh offer some ventilation but they’re still on the warm side for a race pant. That’s obviously not an issue in colder conditions though and they get strategic rubberized details and a DWR splash/shower proofing coating that shrugs off a fair amount of water. 

Find out more information in our Leatt MTB 4.0 pant review.

Troy Lee Designs Sprint

(Image credit: Troy Lee Designs)

Troy Lee Designs Sprint

Eco-friendly crash-proof pants

Pockets: 2 | Waist closure: Pop button | Vents: Calf | SRP: $120 / £125 / €150

Bluesign approved fabric 
Stretchy yet tough material
Single popper waist closure 
Short inseam

Made from a blend of Bluesign approved rough-and-tumble 600D polyester and spandex, the Troy Lee Designs Sprint trousers can survive an extended slide through the underbrush without pinching the back of your knee as you pedal. The knee and outside of the thigh are made of a tougher fabric still to stave off crash damage, and there is a mesh liner on the inside that creates a primitive slip layer and wicks sweat, too.

The calves feature a few mesh panels for airflow, and the inside of the right ankle is reinforced with a sonic welded patch to prevent wear from your drivetrain. The fit is tapered with hook and loop adjusters at the hip, and there are good-sized zippered pockets to carry your essentials.

Endura Burner II pant

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura MT500 Spray trousers

Bombproof pants designed by the Athertons

Pockets: 2 | Waist closure: Ratchet | Vents: Thigh and Knee | SRP: $180 / £115 / €130

Molded knee protection
Back of knee vents
Also available in a women's version
A bit big at the waist for marked size

Made from lightweight four-way stretch fabric, the Endura MT500 Spray pants were designed in collaboration with the Athertons, and feature heavy-duty panels on the bum, a popper fastener, velcro waist adjusters and zippered fly. 

While the MT500 Waterproofs are properly waterproofed for terrible conditions the MT500 Spray gets a DWR treatment to keep the odd shower and puddle splash from soaking through. To protect from tire spray, the rear panels are made from a waterproof material featuring three layer seam taping.

The knees have been designed to accommodate knee pads and there's also a couple of zippered pockets on the thighs, so you don't need to carry a pack or bum bag to tote your phone and keys. The thighs also have zipped vents on the thighs and zipped ankles for easier removal.

The pants come in Black or Moss, and Endura also does a women's version but that only comes in Black.

Fox Racing Women’s Defend Fire Pant

(Image credit: Fox Racing)

Fox Racing Women’s Defend Pyre Pant

Lightly insulated pants to keep you riding through blustery weather

Pockets: 1 | Waist closure: Ratchet | Vents: No | SRP: $200 / £155 / €165

Fleece insulation
Only one pocket

When the temperature drops or the weather leaves the trails a sloppy mess, a bit of extra protection is needed to keep you comfortable on your ride. The Women's Defend Pyre Pant is made from a water-resistant shell and also features a fleece lining to take the bite out of the cold. 

The seat and knees are made from Cordura, so they won't be shredded after your first tumble, while the softshell material has plenty of flex built in to move with you on the bike. At the bottom, an elastic cuff prevents the tapered leg from creeping up as you pedal while a ratchet buckle and zippered fly keeps them from falling down as you descend.

Fox FlexAir

(Image credit: Fox )

Fox Flexair

Featherweight breezy trousers

Pockets: 2 | Waist closure: Ratchet | Vents: Bum, Thigh, and Knee | SRP: $200 / £195 / €200

Super lightweight
Laser cut vents all over
Eco-friendly DWR treatment 
Not much crash protection
Fit isn't the most refined

Like Fox's other Flexair garments, the long pants are designed to be lightweight and well ventilated. Made from the same material as the Flexair shorts, they feature laser-cut perforations on the front of the thighs, bum and knee, and the pants are cut slim, but with ample room underneath for heavy-duty pads. 

Fox didn't add any extra abrasion-resistant material, or double reinforced panels on high-wear areas, however, the company did give the trousers a C6 eco-friendly DWR treatment to allow them to shrug off splashes and light rain. At the top, there is a ratchet-style closure that combines with a silicon band that runs the entire circumference of the waistband to keep your pants up — even when the pockets are loaded.

Poc Resistance Pro

(Image credit: Poc)

POC Resistance Pro

Well vented pants with plenty of storage

Pockets: 2 | Waist closure: Pop button | Vents: Yes | SRP: $175 / £175 / €200

DWR treatment 
Zipper at the bottom cuff
Short in the inseam

POC's Resistance Pro pants feature an articulated cut, designed not only for comfort in the riding position but also to provide the best possible protection while on the bike. They no longer feature the ceramic abrasion-resistant ‘super fabric,’ but the high-wear areas around the knees and seat are reinforced. 

The rear of the pants also features a high back and taped seams to prevent water from sneaking into where the sun doesn’t shine — the entire garment is treated with DWR. They also feature size adjustment at both the hip and the ankle, and there is a zip below the knee which can be used for ventilation or to help you slip them over your shoes. 

100% R-CORE-X DH

(Image credit: 100%)

100% R-CORE-X DH

Painted on race pyjamas

Pockets: 3 | Waist closure: Boa | Vents: Inseam and knee | SRP: $150 / £140 / €165

Well vented
Boa retention
Fit might be too tight for some

It wouldn’t be an MTB trouser roundup without a set of fully-fledged pajama pants, and the R-CORE-X DH Pants fit that bill. Like many of the other trousers here, they are made from a DWR-treated four-way stretch material, but what's really unique is the waist closure. Instead of a popper or ratchet system, the pants feature a Boa dial that literally allows you to reel in the waist.

100% has taken a laser to the inseam and behind the knees, cutting vents to prevent these areas from getting overly funky. There's a zippered hand pocket on either side and stabilized inner pocket to store your phone. Be warned, the R-CORE-X DH Pants are skinny and those who aren't about the painted-on look need not apply.  

Norrøna Women's fjørå Flex1 Pants

(Image credit: Norrøna )

Norrøna Women's fjørå Flex1 Pants

Versatile, heavy duty and well-vented pants for riding

Pockets: 3 | Waist closure: Pop button | Vents: Yes | SRP: $200 / £170 / €200

Quality finishing
Outer leg vents
Material is a bit scratchy

Designed specifically for women, Norrøna Women's fjørå Flex1 pants are made from recycled materials with the brand's Flex1 softshell material used in the knees and seat. At the top, velcro waist adjusters work in collaboration with a silicone gripper inside the waistband to keep them securely attached to your hips.

They also feature a thigh pocket and two zippered waist pockets and a zipper that runs 9/10 of the outside of the leg with a pull on either end so it can be utilized for ventilation or to pull them off without having to take your shoes off. They also have a choice of 10 colors which is a refreshing change to the usual single purple option that women's riding clothing comes in. 

What to look for in the best MTB pants

Wait, why would I wear long pants?

It only takes one or two rides in cold temperatures trying to ride with leg warmers under the best knee pads for mountain biking to realize it's far from the best solution. Not only do they provide a bit of extra warmth, but MTB trousers also serve as the first line of defense from the muddy projectiles being flung off your mountain bike wheels. When you arrive at the trailhead after a mucky ride, you can just peel off the muddy clothes rather than trying to scrub the lower portion of your legs before you get into the car. 

Trousers also offer a first line of defense from gravel rash, fern burn and your pedals when you slip one over a techy feature or in a g-out.

Waterproof or non-waterproof MTB pants?

Just like jackets, there are distinct differences between waterproof and non-waterproof garments. While truly waterproof fabrics will keep the wet weather on the outside, the moisture-proof membranes are at a disadvantage in terms of breathability, feel 'crunchy' and usually don't have much in-built stretch. 

If you live in a place where winter riding also requires a snorkel, the best waterproof MTB trousers will be your best choice. Otherwise, we'd recommend their softshell cousins — they are considerably more comfortable and often have a DWR treatment to help light rain and splashes roll off the fabric. 

How to pick the right fabric?

Yes we know we've just alluded to fabrics, but using the right textile in the right place can make or break a set of trousers. Look for lots of stretch fabric used throughout because if the materials aren't moving with you, they will bunch, bind, pinch and chafe. 

How to find the right fit?

While skinny jeans may not appeal to your fashion sense in the real world, you want riding trousers to be form-fitting as this will help keep your knee pads in place and prevent the trousers from flapping in the wind and catching on your saddle. We are not talking painted-on, but form-fitting. Also, look for articulated knees that will help the pants fit you better in the riding position. 

Everybody is built differently, so adjustability is key to a good fit. Look for hook and loop adjustment at the waist as well as Velcro, snaps or zips around the ankle to make sure the lower cuff is snug around your leg. 

What extras should you look for?

Some riding trousers feature extra padding or abrasion-resistant materials around the knees, hips and shins, while others have a mesh liner that runs part of the way down the leg to create a slip plane. We are big fans of additional features like these that create a point of difference, but make sure they don't come at the cost of fit or comfort. 

Colin Levitch

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 and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

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