The key to the DirtBaggies' great performance is that they're a two-part system built around a dedicated bib-style liner (US$179.99). The shorts alone (US$69.99) wouldn't work at all otherwise. Using bibs offers the usual benefits over standard shorts, including a far more refined fit, less restriction around the mid-section and a lighter feel that's more conducive to long days in the saddle.
Yes, the DirtBaggies liner and short combo costs almost US$250. That might sound exorbitant for a pair of mountain bike baggies, but the cost actually makes sense when you break down the cost of premium bibs and liners purchased separately. Factor in the excellent fit and ultra-meshy construction, and all of a sudden you've got one of our favorite pairs of shorts for blazing hot days.
Two loops of nylon attach the shell to the liner – hardly a new concept, we know – but you have a choice of several attachment heights to tailor the fit. More importantly, the shell is built with no elastic in the waist. Essentially, the shell hangs off the liner, making the DirtBaggies the first pair of loose shorts we've tried that can truly match the comfort of our favorite road bibs.
When set just right, the crotch sits just right, so as to not catch on the saddle during technical maneuvers. The shell never droops over time, and doesn't rotate around your waist, either – something we can't say for bibs and shells that aren't connected.
The DirtBaggies have also proved to be exceptionally comfortable on scorching summer days, legitimately rivaling (or perhaps even improving on) the ventilation and breathability of some of our favorite Lycra options.
The liner's 'Weinergate' opening makes for easier nature breaks for men
The liner is cut with a short inseam, and aside from the front, back and crotch area, it's nearly all mesh. The same goes for the ultra-light, DWR-coated, 150g shell (that's 50g lighter than another cross-country favorite, the Mavic Stratos). Together, the combo is totally opaque, but all that mesh makes for a light, airy feel that's unmatched by other baggies we've used.
Tailoring is spot on throughout, too. The liner is especially good, with a perfectly snug fit throughout and no inappropriate bunching or restrictions. The fantastic Cytech chamois is well placed, and the shell is loose but form-fitting enough to never get in the way. The inseam on our test shells was 13.25in – just enough to barely cover the knees – and it varies with size.
Because DirtBaggies go without elastic or a belt, the shorts are sized in finer increments based on waist size – 30in, 32in, and so on, just as with pants. Current options run from 28in all the way up to 42.
This all being said, there's still some room for improvement. The liner includes pockets on the insides of the bib straps, the thinking being that they hold valuables closer and more securely to your body. However, nothing we put in there really felt right. The shell has a pair of side pockets that are quite deep, but the openings aren't secure, so we weren't entirely happy putting valuables in there, either – zippers, please.
Use the deep shell pockets with caution, as they don't zip up
There's also the question of durability. Regular machine washes over three months of frequent use have generated no appreciable wear, but the light and airy materials make us wonder how they'll hold up in a bad crash.
The fact that DirtBaggies recommend the liners be washed in an included mesh bag (standard practice for high-end bibs, in fairness) doesn't provide much confidence, either.
And, yes, there's still that issue of price. US$250 is a lot of dough for mountain bike shorts, but when you compare that with the cost of comparably high-end bibs and nicer shells, it's downright reasonable. They're also stitched in southern California, for those concerned with paying top dollar for something produced by cheap labor. DirtBaggies offer a 60-day guarantee.
Either way, we're hooked. The DirtBaggies have proved so comfortable that they're virtually all we've worn on trail rides since they showed up. All our previous favorite shorts feel cumbersome in comparison.
Riders in perpetually cooler climes won't be able to appreciate the breezy feel, but if scorching heat is your summer norm, these might be the best baggy option out there.