When it comes to shorts, the latest pocket configurations and technical gizmos count for nothing if they don’t fit you. Before you even take them off the hanger or press the ‘add to basket’ button, look at the cut of the waist. The back should be higher than the front to ensure your assets stay covered in the riding position.
Of course, it’s tough to make a pair of shorts that fits everyone, so most styles will have some form of waist adjustment. Those that pull from the back to the front will pull any excess fabric away from the snag zone. Adjusters that work from front to back can create snag, though there are exceptions.
Articulation – or how shorts move with you – is also important. Street-style shorts won’t be comfortable on a bike because they’re cut for standing or walking. We look for anything that’ll ease the pedal action – stretch sections through the front thigh, or shaped panels that stay at a slight angle, and a stretch back yoke that means the bottom part of the shorts can ease independently from the top when you move, making them more secure.
Fabric is a key consideration, often dictated by your riding style. If you’re a cross-country aficionado, a lightweight, slimmer cut will be your best bet. For downhill or the bike park you’ll be less bothered about weight and more concerned with protection. The growing number of enduro riders will need something in between, and our advice is to look for long vents that will help keep you cool without compromising protection.
Underpinning it all is the liner. Much improved in recent seasons, some are now as good as a decent road short. If serious distance is your aim, go for the best you can afford – buying separately if necessary.
The following shorts range from the ‘almost stand up on their own’ protective styles to lightweight go-faster models – and some in between. Read on to find out which will be best for you.
£69.99 / $100
These odour-resistant shorts are breathable, water-resistant and moisture wicking. The brushed S100 chamois is also usefully stretchy, while its ventilation channels are soft and comfy and the legs are thin and very breathable. A quality pair of riding shorts.
£110 / $120
We’d have said it would be hard to improve on the 2011 Mind baggies, but it appears Scott have gone and done just that. The shell is light and the panelled design articulates perfectly with your legs when you pedal, and the fit is the finest we’ve ever come across – there isn’t any excess in the rise, yet there’s also no sensation of restriction.
But it’s the waist adjustment that might be the last word in design refinement – it’s done with two discreet locking zips in the waistband at each side, so you can set and forget.
£119.99 / $149.95
There’s no question the Fusions represent rather a lot of anyone’s money, but from the moment you start to deconstruct them you realise where every penny goes.
The outer, with its mix of heavier stretch and lightweight, durable panels, is the best combination we’ve worn of a relaxed ‘freeride’ style and the lightweight rideability of an out-and-out XC short. Fit is superb.
£69.95 / $119.99
The tough polyester-mix fabric can take a beating, and the two zipped rearward-facing pockets will accommodate a wallet and phone easily, holding them in just the right place to stop them swinging around while you pedal.
The fit and feel is hard to beat and the price is good for what’s on offer.
Tenn Outdoors Breezer
£54.99 / $N/A
The Breezer shorts from Tenn Outdoors Look nearly identical to the Fox Demo shorts, and are made from the same perforated fabric, which is cool to ride in despite being quite thick.
The short is fully lined with a wicking mesh and is long in the leg- perfect for taller riders and those using pads. There is no liner included, but the Breezer shorts cost £20 less than the Fox option, and still have two zippered hand pockets, a zip fly and button fastening. The waist strap system is better than that on the Fox shorts too, with a wide strap, metal loop, and a hook and loop closure to the rear.
From: Tenn Outdoors
Pearl Izumi Launch Knicker
£89.99 / $142
The Launch is a ‘better on than off’ style, and achieves the tricky combo of being a pair of shorts you can wear casually, but also does the business when you hit the trails.
The chamois has enough plush for comfort and features flex channels that ensure it moulds to your shape. Grip-free hems are the icing on the cake for casual use.
£100 / $150
The Ultimatum is a heavier pair of shorts, warmer than some of the featherweight styles tested here, but they have a protective feel about them and generous mesh inserts stop you overheating.
The leg shape is good for tall riders – generous without referencing a galleon in full sail. And the shorts look as good off the bike as they do on.
Troy Lee Designs Ace
£84.99 / $130
Call your shorts Ace and they’d better live up to the name – but luckily these are great! Long leg vents, inner thigh ports and mesh-lined pockets all do a good job of creating cooling airflow too, and we like the fit around the hips and waist a lot.
They do catch easily on anything, though, so do them up when putting them in the wash with your best jerseys.
Mavic Red Rock
£79.99 / $109.99
The Red Rock comes from the same family as the award-winning Stratos shorts from Mavic, and it shows. The fabric is ultra-light but with a smooth, tight weave we’ve found durable.
With stretch for easy movement this is exactly what we look for in a 24-hour race style short.
£59.99 / $200
These are simple but effective. The tough Oxford Canvas main panels will stand up to a proper pasting while the ribbed stretch panels ensure a good fit. We really like the two zippered hip pockets, which aren’t too deep, so nothing swings around when you pedal. The double-popper closure is very secure and the two Velcro waist adjusters are discreet enough not to snag on jerseys, yet really let you get the fit right.
The price is good too. More colour options would be good and we weren’t the biggest fans of the huge logo.
Pearl Izumi Impact women's capri
£60 / $80
The Impact capris are made from a lightweight stretchy polyester that provides a floaty, drapey feel. That might not sound very ‘grrrr,’ but these baggies are supremely comfortable, plus they look the business with their subtle pattern on one leg to break up the flattering matt blackness.
The wide waistband and flat-fronted popper closure is comfortable against the belly when you’re hunched over, and doesn’t pinch when you have Lycra shorts on underneath. With the liners provided (which fit really well with an elite-level female-specific chamois), the material tends to flap unpleasantly against cold bare skin, but over three-quarter tights or long shorts, the capris hang well and slide perfectly when pedalling.
These are on the roomy side of baggy, so bear that in mind when sizing, but the articulated knees and slight tapering provide a suitably sporty silhouette and mean you aren’t fighting with excess material when you drop over the back of the saddle.
Given the light material, the sense of the rear pocket is questionable given that heavy items simply bob around, but at least it’s zipped and very deep – you can stash a note in there for the café stop, if nothing else.
These are a lovely pair of baggies for between-season riding. They don’t stave off serious cold and aren’t waterproof, but they keep out nippy breezes and keep you comfortable and cool, we reckon – in the ‘trendy and hip’ sense of the word, that is.