With advancements in fabric technology and tailoring, 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.
Gone are the days of bulky and thick pants that didn't breathe, now MTB pajama pants are made from the same materials as what you'd find on the best mountain bike shorts, with stretchy fabrics 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.
- Best knee pads for mountain biking: all of the best MTB knee pads reviewed
- Best waterproof MTB trousers: a roundup of the best waterproof mountain bike trousers currently available
- Best mountain bike jerseys: the top MTB jerseys we've reviewed
The best mountain bike pants (or trousers) you can buy today
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.
Leatt's background is in neck braces, so it comes as no surprise that its 4.0 pants have ample room for armour 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 warm 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.
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 Waterproof 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 trousers come in Black or Moss, Endura also do a women's version but that only comes in Black.
When the temperature drops and 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 Fire 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.
Like Fox's Flexair garments, the long pants are designed to be lightweight and well ventilated. Made from the same material as the Flexair shorts, the 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 slashes and light rain. At the top, there is a ratchet-style closure which 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'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.
It wouldn’t be a MTB trouser roundup without a set of fully-fledged pyjama 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.
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 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.
Wait, why would I wear long pants?
It only takes one or two rides in cold temperatures trying to ride with leg warmers under knee pads 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 defence from the muddy projectiles being flung off your mountain bike heels. 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 defence from gravel rash, fern burn and your pedals when you slip one over a techy feature or in a g-out.
What to look for?
1. Waterproof or non-waterproof
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, waterproof 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.
2. Fabric choice
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.
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 which 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.
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.