Just one look at the POC MTB Air Layer bib liners and you can see straight away that POC has designed its bib liner to be ultra-breathable. With almost all the shorts panels using a mesh material, POC says that the MTB Air Layer are the shorts for staying cool out on the trails. As the name suggests the MTB Air Layer bib liner is designed to offer superior ventilation but POC has also equipped the liners with cargo pockets as well.
These lightweight cargo carriers might excel in hot weather but the mesh design wasn’t our favorite when compared to the best MTB liner shorts, keep reading to find out why.
Design and specifications
There is no questioning that these liners are to be used under a pair of baggies. Other than the small front and rear sections of a modestly thicker material that the chamois is mounted on, the majority of the bibs are made up of a revealing mesh material that leaves little to the imagination. The thicker material isn’t particularly thick and even the elasticated leg hems are perforated in order to reduce any heat build-up. There is no fly or flap on the front however the bibs have a low cut at the front for easy nature breaks and a comfortable fit.
The legs are measured short in order to minimize foul play if you are wearing kneepads and there is a shallow pocket on each side. The hem features the only POC branding that's on the shorts and there is a silicon gripper pattern holding them in place.
At the rear, the pockets extend across the full width of the back and actually extend around the sides too which has allowed POC to fit in four pockets. The two middle pockets are larger while the side-mounted pockets are a little shallower.
POC has used its own VPDS Catalyst pad which has been designed in partnership with Elastic Interface. The chamois features VPDS silicone inserts which POC claims reduce vibration and offer anatomic support.
The high levels of mesh mean these are some of the coolest bib liners that I have used making them perfect for hot climates. The downside of the mesh is that although it's very stretchy, there isn’t much in the way of support. That means the pad, as well as other biological things, had the propensity to move around a bit while riding and require the occasional readjustments.
Some riders will like the thin minimal padding, but it left me wanting more. The pad has a similar shape to the pad used in the Nukeproof’s Blackline Storage bib liner but whether it's POC’s addition of the VPDS silicone insert or the positioning of the pad itself, I didn’t find it as comfortable. As a result, the MTB Air Layer bibs were not the liners that I would pick for even a medium-length trail ride, much preferring the Rapha Trail Cargo liners or Specialized Mountain Liner for rides that involved a lot of hours in the saddle.
I'm a big fan of having lots of pockets to stash items, however, they weren’t deep or supportive enough to securely hold all the items that I wanted, particularly phones or mini-pumps. That means unless you are happy strapping things to your bike, you will still need to carry at least a hip pack for a little extra storage. Having the additional pockets on the side makes sense though as they are easy to reach, although it was sometimes hard to distinguish which pocket I was actually trying to put something into. The leg pockets are so small that beyond a couple of gels or a small bar I'm not sure what you would actually store in there.
The POC MTB Air Layer bib liner is great for hot weather riding, although I found they fall short when compared to liners with deeper pockets and a thicker chamois.
The mesh material certainly does a good job of keeping you cool with the large back, outside leg, and even inside leg mesh sections maximizing the effect of any cooling breeze around you. The fit is decent as well, although the mesh doesn't offer as much compression or support as I would like. I didn't get along so well with the chamois either, finding that it offered me less comfort than other shorts I have used. Pad preferences are personal though so you might get along better than I did.
The pockets are fine for stashing items like snacks, gloves, and small tools but they aren’t a complete storage solution, requiring larger items to be stashed somewhere else or lashed to the frame.
POC’s premium pricing means that the MTB Air Layers are more expensive than other bib liners that offer better comfort and utility. That means unless you really need the coolest liner possible, there are better options.
Tech specs: POC Air Layer bib liner
- Price: $130 / £115
- Materials: Synthetic mesh, Lycra
- Colors: Black
- Size availability: XS-XXL