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The Gore 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 gravel shorts and best mountain bike shorts we've tried.
Design and Specifications
These are pretty casual shorts with a pleasing 'civilian' look – the front is a single panel, for instance, with a regular-looking zip fly and a single popper closure. There are two zipped pockets for security, but they're almost invisible; if it weren't for the pullers you'd just think they were seams. That just leaves the two regular-looking hand pockets on show. We're looking at the men's version here, but they also come in a women-specific model too.
The hand pockets are pleasingly big (plenty of room for a phone or, you know, a hand) and made from mesh to help cooling, while the one on the back is shallower but still useful. It's got a thick reflective stripe across the top too, for a little help with visibility on road sections.
The zipped thigh pocket will also easily take a phone, even if it's in a protective case. It's a bad place to put one though as it will flop about and drag on the light, stretchy fabric as you pedal.
The zipped pocket inside the righthand 'regular' pocket, meanwhile, is really only big enough for a credit card at the most. Ideally you'd be able to secure your phone on your hip and stash the lighter stuff on your legs, but really this is a niggle and might not bother pack-users anyway.
The legs themselves are on the shorter side, sitting clear above my knee when standing and pulling up a good hand-width further when pedalling. They'd probably leave a skin gap if you wanted to wear these with pads, but then again they're not really for that kind of riding. It certainly contributes to the light, cool overall feeling, and I found these ideal even on hard rides in 30°C+ temperatures.
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. As it is they're very lightweight and airy too, so it makes perfect sense and the protection is welcome.
The waistband is as neatly designed and made as the rest, and hides away the whole webbing belt bar the adjusters. They're easy to use, and the matt finish on the plastic buckles is a nice detail that fits well with the low-key look. Gore's size chart seems accurate, too – follow that and you'll get a nice, tailored fit.
Inside the rear of the waist is a panel of silicone dots for grip, but they're far from the stickiest things ever. They work perfectly well against skin when you're wearing short liners, but if you're wearing bibs it struggles to hold onto Lycra and these shorts can sag at times. The slim fit means they don't go far, and a tweak of the belt adjusters will help, but it could be better. The single popper and full-height zip work well, though.
On the subject of liners, you don't get one. That's a shame when rivals such as the Leatt MTB Trail 3.0 V22 shorts we tested recently not only include one – a very good one, in Leatt's case – and are cheaper too.
Despite a really neat, high quality and tough-feeling build, the Explore shorts have a light and very comfortable feel that's perfect for fast summer riding. 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.
While they do have niggles, they really are slight – particularly if you already have good liners – and though they're expensive they feel worth the money, and do exactly what they're designed to do very well, too.
Tech specs: Gore Explore Shorts
- Price: $130 / £119.99
- Weight: 202g
- Sizes: S to XXL