Best MTB pants 2023 – full coverage mountain bike trousers for warmth and protection

Two riders descending a hill
(Image credit: Atherton Bikes)

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 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 tailored fits that even feature vents. Brands have realized that a slimmer fit is less obtrusive, and can help to keep the best knee pads in place, too.

Keep reading for our pick of the best MTB pants or jump to the bottom to find out what to look for when buying a pair. And if you're in the market for some riding trousers for the worst of the weather, you might be interested in our guide to the best waterproof MTB pants.

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

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Specialized Trail Pants being worn outside

(Image credit: Jim Bland)
The best all-round MTB pants

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Waist: Ratchet
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Supremely good fit
+
Secure and reliable waist closure
+
Decent pockets
+
Unobstructed knee pad compatibility
+
Durable

Reasons to avoid

-
No vents
-
Cut might be too tight for some tastes

Subtle to the eye, the Trail pants from the big red S strike a perfect balance of all-day usability, style, and protection. 

Constructed using Specialized’s in-house VaporRize fabric results in a featherweight feel and an ultra-breathable function on the trail. Adding to the Trail pant's breezy operating temperature is a series of well-position laser perforated vents. It does mean the Trail Pants aren’t the best option for the colder months, but their operation is noteworthy when things are mild. 

The shape of the pants themselves is more tapered than most which result in a racier fit than most, but elasticated ankle cuffs are in place to make sure they’re a cinch to get on and off and additional material around the knees means they’re knee pad ready. 

A buckle waist keeps them in place and secure, and the three zipped pockets ensure your ride essentials are stowed with confidence. They're offered in a gigantic size range and either Black or Charcoal colorways. 

For more info, read our full Specialized Trail Pant review.

7mesh Thunder Pants splattered with mud

The Thunder Pant is genuinely waterproof (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
The best waterproof and seriously tough pants

Specifications

Pockets: 1
Waist closure: Ratchet
Vents: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Genuinely waterproof 
+
Amazing fit
+
Properly tough 
+
Pull over shoe design

Reasons to avoid

-
Price, even if it is justifiable

Beyond the best mountain bike garment name ever lies the only waterproof riding pants we’ve ever tried that actually kept us properly dry, regardless of the conditions or ride duration. And the best part about 7Mesh’s Thunder Pant is it doesn’t even need to be horrendous weather to use them, thanks to their exceptional cut and incredible breathing properties. 

At first, the fit felt strange due to their peculiar fly-less arrangement and less-conventional front fastening, but it’s obvious that everything has been done with foul-weather protection being the first and foremost priority. 

The Thunder Pant doesn’t feel like old-school waterproof pants of the past either, as the state of the art Gore-Tex Pro 3L fabric is smooth and brilliantly tailored. Their lengthy Vision zips up each leg which allows you to slide them over shoes, kneepads, and even other pants, too. 7Mesh offers the Thunderpants in XS – XXL and there are even pre-marked cut guides on the neoprene cuffs so they can be cut to any rider's ideal length. Oh and there’s room for proper knee pads without a compromise in fit or comfort. 

Yes, the price tag is high enough to make your eyes water, but it’s one of the few products that over-delivers when it comes to fit, function, and elite performance. If you’re frequently riding in wet weather climates the 7Mesh Thunder Pant is a genuinely game-changing product.

Find out more in our full 7Mesh Thunder Pant review for full details on these weatherproof pants. 

iXS Trigger pants being worn outdoors

(Image credit: Paul Brett)
Excellent close fitting lightweight gravity pants

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Pop button
Vents: Back of knee

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent close pre-shaped fit
+
Plenty of space for pads
+
Large venting behind the knee
+
Lightweight material

Reasons to avoid

-
Seat of the pants has become a little faded
-
Pricier than other top pant options

iXS has designed their Trigger pants to be a close-fitting aerodynamic gravity race pants, but they are still comfortable enough to wear on an all-day trail ride. 

iXS has used their X-stretch fabric, made from recycled PET fiber, and given the Trigger's well-considered pre-shaped tailoring for a close, flap-free fit. There is extra space to accommodate knee pads and mesh panels on the back of the knee do a great job of stopping your pads from getting too hot. The closure is handled by a simple zipped fly and a combination of poppers and velcro. The waist has some adjustment as well, using internal velcro adjusters on the inside to fine-tune the size.

The great shape and lightweight material mean they are very comfortable to ride in and dry quickly if it rains. We have ridden in the Triggers a lot and other than a bit of fading on the seat, they have held up very well. The Triggers come in size color options including a Black-Graphite if the graphics are a bit loud/racey for your tastes. 

Check out our iXS Trigger pant review for more details.

Rapha Women's Trail Lightweight Pants

(Image credit: Jon Slade)
Best women's lightweight pants

Specifications

Pockets: 1
Waist: Pop button
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Knee pad compatible
+
Free repairs
+
Well placed phone pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
No vents 
-
Different leg length options would be great 

While Rapha may be better known for its high-end road attire, the brand's relatively fresh mountain bike range has included some impressive boutique-like items too, and the Women’s Lightweight Trail pant is one of them. 

Rapha’s Lightweight Trail pant is constructed from a Uber-lightweight, four-way stretching and abrasion-resistant material which is then sewn in a multi-panel formation to provide a slim, unrestrictive cut. The inner ankle gets reinforced where the cranks may rub, and the waistband is cut high at the rear to provide additional comfort and protection.

While the lightweight pant is designed for mild and mostly dry weather conditions, its DWR (Durable Water Replant) coating does an excellent job of shrugging off puddle splashes and random rain showers, all while drying notably quickly. 

Due to their killer fit, exceptional craftsmanship and great looks, Rapha's Lightweight Trail pant is a solid three-season investment. Another huge bonus is Rapha’s repair service, which will get you back up and running should you encounter a rip or stray stitching.  

Make sure to hit up our depth Rapha Women's Trail Lightweight pant review for more information. We have also reviewed the men's Rapha Trail Lightweight Pants which share the same versatile performance but are tailored for chaps.

100% Airmatic pants being worn on a moor

(Image credit: Andy Lloyd)
The best MTB trousers for all day riding

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Hook and eyelet
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Shaped cut
+
Wind resistant stretch fabric
+
Work well with most knee pads
+
Inner phone pocket

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited waistline adjustment

100%'s Airmatic Pants are a top option for keeping the worst of the dirt and the elements at bay. Even on long days in the saddle it's easy to forget you're in full length trousers as the lightweight, four-way stretch fabric is barely noticeable as you ride.

The shaped cut made with 18 fabric panels is excellent and allowed us to wear fairly bulky knee pads in testing without any noticeable pull while pedaling. A 'mountaineering inspired' wide metal hook and multiple eyelet closure system works well to secure the waist, while a textured silicone section inside the waistband helps prevent noticeable slippage, even when wet and coated with mud.

The nylon, spandex, polyester mixed fabric doesn't get too heavy when wet and dries quickly. It's treated with a DWR coating that shrugs off showers initially, but as usual, doesn't last more than a few machine washes. The fabric is definitely snag resistant and has come out on top despite catching on many hanging brambles at speed.

The Airmatic pants come in two funereal colors – black and charcoal, which is pretty sensible as they're designed to get hammered in winter. Sizing starts with a 28in waist and goes up to 38 at two inch intervals. Our 30in test sample seemed pretty bang on size-wise, but there's not a huge amount of waistline adjustment available from the closure system, so we'd advise double-checking the size chart before you buy. The pants are also available in a women-specific model.

For more, head over to our 100% Airmatic Pant review.

Leatt MTB 4.0 Pant

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
The best pants for bulky pads

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Pop button
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Well fitted
+
Hard wearing stretchy material
+
Weatherproof
+
Useful pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
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, 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.

O’Neal Trailfinder Stealth

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Great fitting, super-fast drying riding/racing pants with all the features you need at an excellent price

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Ratchet
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent price
+
Great stretch fit
+
Lightweight
+
Secure waist
+
Generous hand pockets

Reasons to avoid

-
No reinforced seat
-
No weatherproofing

O'Neal's Trailfinder Stealth pants are a lightweight race pant that was originally designed in collaboration with Greg Minaar. Despite having input from the greatest downhiller of all time, the Trailfinder Stealth pants are very affordable too.

O'Neal has used a stretch fit fabric with and added super-stretchy triangular ankle inserts to help give the pants a really close but not constricting fit. The stretch material means there is enough give in the material to fit over knee-pads and still comfortably pedal. While there is no weather protection, the material is lightweight and quick drying. Closure and waist adjustment is handled by a ratchet and zipped fly.

Check out our full review of the O’Neal Trailfinder Stealth.

Endura Burner II pant

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura MT500 Spray trousers

Bombproof pants designed by the Athertons

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Ratchet
Vents: Thigh and Knee

Reasons to buy

+
Molded knee protection
+
Back of knee vents
+
Also available in a women's version

Reasons to avoid

-
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 are 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

Specifications

Pockets: 1
Waist closure: Ratchet
Vents: No

Reasons to buy

+
Fleece insulation
+
DWR

Reasons to avoid

-
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 keep them from falling down as you descend.

Fox FlexAir

(Image credit: Fox )

Fox Flexair

Featherweight breezy trousers

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Ratchet
Vents: Bum, Thigh, and Knee

Reasons to buy

+
Super lightweight
+
Laser-cut vents all over
+
Eco-friendly DWR treatment 

Reasons to avoid

-
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 pants 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

Specifications

Pockets: 2
Waist closure: Pop button
Vents: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
DWR treatment 
+
Zipper at the bottom cuff

Reasons to avoid

-
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 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

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Waist closure: Boa
Vents: Inseam and knee

Reasons to buy

+
Well vented
+
Boa retention

Reasons to avoid

-
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

Specifications

Pockets: 3
Waist closure: Pop button
Vents: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Quality finishing
+
Outer leg vents

Reasons to avoid

-
Material is a bit scratchy

What to look for in the best MTB pants

Can you wear pants mountain biking?

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. 

Richard Owen
Editor, Bike Perfect

Richard has worked as print and internet journalist for 22 years. He's the editor of the Bikeperfect.com team, having previous been editor of What Mountain Bike magazine and written for Bikeradar.com, MBUK.com, Off-Road.cc, Mountain Biking UK, Cycling Plus, as well as many other magazines and websites. Rich has been riding mountain bikes for over 30 years and mostly likes hitting flowy yet technical trails that point downhill. A jack of many trades, Rich has competed in cross-country, enduro and long distance MTB races, not to mention also now adding gravel to his riding repertoire. A resident of North Devon, he can mostly be found pedaling furiously around his local trails, or slightly further afield in the Quantocks, the Mendips or Exmoor. 


Current rides: Canyon Spectral:ON, Jamis Faultline A1, Vitus Substance VR

Height: 176cm

Weight: 70kg

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