Before going out and buying a pair of MTB shorts you need to consider the style of biking you mostly do.
Once you have this down you are in a good position to choose the best MTB shorts to have you riding in comfort. There are a few different styles of mountain biking shorts and we are going to cover them here.
Quick Answer: The 3 Best MTB Shorts For 2018
First let’s take a look at the top rated MTB shorts, then we’ll talk about how to choose the best pair for you in our buying guide below.
Best Mountain Bike Shorts
MTB Shorts Reviews
When I put these on I just want to ride hard! They come in several colors from Neon to a plain black, depending on the look you are wanting.
Personally, I like lots of pockets so I have options and flexibility what I carry and where. This is one thing I like about the Ether shorts.
Lots of pockets.
There are 2 hand pockets and are not zippered or secured in any way which is fine. There are 2 zippered that completely seal, one on each side that are perfect for expensive items you want protected.
There is an “electronic” pocket with a headphone port and a cord guide with a secure zipper. And lastly is a rear zip pocket that works for credit cards or some cash.
Getting a good fit is quite easy with the Ether shorts. The elastic waist band keeps the shorts snug whether sitting and peddling or standing up.
The waist band also has Velcro adjustment tabs on both sides and a snap enclosure.
Where the shorts come up a bit “short” is in the Chamois, its fairly thin and not as well designed as the Fox Ranger.
I wasn’t crazy about the seams on either side of the Chamois. The leg openings are wide and it has a 12 inch inseam so that it just comes over your knees.
These shorts can be worn just as well with out the inner lining/Chamois so they offer a lot of flexibility.
I would consider upgrading the Chamois if you need a really good quality/thicker one for more protection.
The “Dura” flex fabric stretches enough to make riding comfortable but is not waterproof like the Elevate shorts. It is thick enough to provide protection for your legs while not too thick to be hot or uncomfortable.
With plenty of well placed pockets, tough and durable fabric I think the ZOIC Ether are the best mtb shorts with chamois.
Unlike the Fox Rangers shorts, no one is going to confuse the Izumi elevate shorts as anything other than MTB shorts. That of course is not a bad thing as long as they function as well as they look.
These are among the longest of shorts you can buy, so there will not be a gap between knee pads and the shorts. The material is tough and durable while being stretchy and flexible at the same time.
Not an easy thing to do! They are on the baggy side so they have plenty of room and are comfortable to wear for hours of intense riding.
The shorts are well constructed with a 4 way stretch rip stop fabric that has a DWR treatment for water resistance.
You can fine tune the fit with Velcro tabs that hidden underneath, which is a nice touch to keep from catching on your shirt. The front has a fold over flap that attached with 2 snaps that stay secure.
This video shows the “Summit” Shorts but are just about exactly the same as the “Elevate”.
The downside, if you look at this way is they do not come with an included liner/chamois so if you want the padding then you will need to purchase a chamois.
This is not necessarily a bad thing as the chamois that come with most shorts are not the best quality.
The Elevate’s come with 3 secure, zippered pockets. The 2 side pockets are by far the most useful for carrying your phone or a multi-tool.
There is a also a 3rd zippered pocket on the back just under the waist band. Not particularly useful but its there if you want it.
These are a seriously comfortable pair of shorts that provide a good measure of leg protection with their long inseam. The material is very tough and will withstand plenty of abuse. If you wear knee pads, then these are the best mountain bike shorts for you.
Fox is one of the best known brands in Mountain Biking and the Ranger’s are their best selling MTB shorts. At first glance you might mistake them for a pair of dress shorts. The side cargo pockets blend in and they are available in a variety of colors and styles.
I wish they had more zippered pockets. There is only one pocket on the side, so for that reason keep anything expensive in that pocket and use your hydration pack for any other important items you want to carry.
These are not exceptionally long shorts so they wont cover your knee pads and will probably just touch the top of them.
They are a comfortable, lightweight pair of shorts as I mentioned that look more something you would wear going out with friends than a pair of mountain bike shorts.
And if you don’t want to look like a hard core biker, then these are your shorts.
Being a basic and simple pair of shorts, there is not much to rip or break. The included liner with chamois is of good quality and provides some compression and keep the Chamois where its needs to be.
They are not particularly baggy for a pair of MTB shorts but since they are made of spandex that stretches in 2 directions and as such don’t restrict pedaling.
The shorts are adjustable with velcro tabs that you cannot see which is a nice touch as not only does it look nicer, the Velcro is not going attach it self to your shirt.
There are belt loops as well that seem unnecessary but since these are not your typical MTB shorts that should not be surprising.
I wish they had made all of the side pockets zippered but at least there is one that is secure. The Fox Ranger’s are one of the best padded mountain bike shorts!
How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Shorts
Types of Mountain Bike Riding
The first thing you need to take into consideration is the type/style of bike riding you primarily do.
Trail Riding/Cross Country Riding
The term “Mountain Biking” is a general catch all phrase for riding off road. Where I do a lot of riding in Florida, even though we call it mountain biking, clearly there are no mountains in FL. So Cross Country or Trail Riding is a better term.
Trail riding is more or less flatter, smoother riding where you are siting the your seat a majority of the time. For this type of riding, protection is not paramount. Here flexible, durable shorts is more important.
This style of riding is all about speed and with it protection. Since you will most likely be wearing full face helmet with goggles and knee/elbow pads your choice of shorts is more important.
Ideally these shorts will be longer coming down over your knee pads so as to provide better protection. You probably don’t need a liner or chamois here.
This term is used now to refer to as “mountain biking” meaning you are riding up and down hills/mountains and your choice of shorts is most important here.
You need a combination of protection BUT they they cant be too thick so as not allow maximum flexibility and allow you to peddle whether standing up or sitting while changing positions constantly.
Mountain bike shorts do not offer that many feature to consider, lets take a look at what is critical and whats not. In my opinion, simpler is better.
The less there is to break or rip the better. For the Trail/Enduro rider who usually rides with a hydration pack, then you may not care about pockets or lack of them.
Maybe you would prefer they not even have them because you can store all essentials in your pack. I would recommend at least on or two however since for a short ride you may not want to bother with the pack.
I only bring mine when I plan on riding for longer times or the weather is very warm. if downhill riding is more your style you probably are not using a pack and need a few zippered pocked for storage.
I cannot recommend ZIPPERED pockets enough, Velcro is just not gonna cut it. Do you really want to trust your expensive smart phone to a velcroed pocket?
Adjustments & Sizing
Since its pretty unlikely that the shorts you buy are going to fit perfect right out of the package, some adjustments are necessary.
I think the best shorts have a snap fastener with Velcro tabs that allow you to fine tune the fit to allow for maximum comfort. You don’t want your shorts falling down when you have to stand for peddling!
When I say Chamois I am referring to the padding in the biking shorts that is essentially what makes the bike shorts and not just shorts.
The Chamois provides your butt and other sensitive areas with some padding. They are all made from synthetic materials that can be washed.
Buying a pair of shorts with a Chamois is not a necessity since you can always buy a liner with a better quality Chamois later.
You just want to make sure they are removable and washable. Since the shorts will most likely well out last the chamois being able to remove it is important.
Chamois are typically made of a foam that form fits the shape of your body providing protection and anti chaffing properties. You can find more expensive ones using a silicone gel however.
What is important though is it is positioned correctly to do its job and it has wicking properties to allow moisture to evaporate and not get soaked.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best mountain bike shorts to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a pair of MTB shorts I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and enjoy the ride!