These are the best mountain bike shorts in 2023 for men, as ridden, reviewed and rated by our team of expert testers.
The following shorts range from the ‘almost stand up on their own’ protective styles for downhill riding to lightweight go-faster models for cross-country action – and some in between.
The list also covers a wide price range, with options available for those who are new to the sport and looking at what to wear for mountain biking to premium options for seasoned riders.
We also have a list of the best women’s mountain bike shorts.
Best mountain bike shorts in 2023, as rated by our expert reviewers
Endura Hummvee Shorts with Liner
- Sizes: XS-XXXXL
- Colours: Anthracite, Black, Black Camo, Blueberry, Grey, Mushroom, Tonal Olive
- Price: £70/$100/€75/AU$113 as tested
Endura’s Hummvee Shorts offer high levels of practicality, with the shorts featuring rugged fabrics that provide comfort while being strong enough to fend off scrapes and snags from branches.
Other well-considered features include zip pockets for carrying trail necessities, with the ‘webbed’ belt giving the shorts plenty of security when descending bumpy trails.
A competitive price and the inclusion of a padded liner makes for the perfect score.
Endura SingleTrack Short II
- Sizes: S-XL
- Colours: Black, ‘Forest Green’, ‘Mustard’
- Price: £65/$95/AU$130/€80 as tested
The SingleTrack II shorts have been part of Endura’s line-up for a number of years. The latest iteration comes with a host of top, well-considered features: good length, knee articulation for pads, waist adjusters and deep zipper pockets.
There is a handy zipped ventilation slot on each thigh and an extra zipper pocket for valuables.
The nylon fabric is soft to the touch and the cut is unrestrictive and comfortable, while a harder-wearing fabric used on the seat of the shorts improves durability. The seat pad is also a darker colour – a nice touch considering that saddles often leave marks.
Assos Trail Cargo Shorts and Bib Liner
- Sizes: XS-XL & TIR
- Colours: Black, grey
- Price: £235/$270/AU$482/€270 as tested
These Assos Trail Shorts come with a bib liner, and the shorts and the bibs have been designed to work together, but they can also be worn separately.
A more common sighting with the best bib shorts for road cycling, the bibs help these shorts achieve their amazing comfort and once you try them, it’s unlikely you’ll want to give them up.
The outer shorts have a minimal design that sits perfectly on the bike. There is gripper tape at the waist to hold the no-fly design in place against the liner beneath, and the reflective detailing on the back is a great touch.
These shorts are pricey, but if you put in a lot of miles they will quickly prove a wise investment. And if you prefer things baggy, they come in a wider leg size too.
Mission Workshop The Traverse Shorts
- Sizes: 28-38in
- Pockets: Side cargo pockets
- Colours: Black, charcoal, ‘Sutro Camo’
- Price: £140/$165/AU$185/€160 as tested
Mission Workshop’s The Traverse Shorts deliver a fantastic fit that has enough room to accommodate knee pads.
The shorts are made from a four-way stretch material that is said to be military-spec with a DWR treatment. When riding, this material feels robust but not stiff, and its lightweight feel means you don’t feel stuffy on hot days.
The workmanship behind these shorts is evident, with the adjustable waistband and double popper giving a secure fit and screaming quality.
The rear pocket is in a slightly odd place and it’s questionable whether it would hold large items well, but besides this, these shorts will have you riding in comfort for longer and more able to focus on the trail.
Rocday Roc Lite Shorts
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Pockets: Two hip pockets
- Colours: Black, brown, dark red, green
- Price: £80/€96 as tested
The Rocday Roc Lite Shorts are the ideal length and weight for a trail short, with a stretchy feel and a neat cut that comes in just above the knee.
The shorts have a great-quality feel and attention to detail. Mesh sewn into the knee helps the shorts slide across your knee pads and the two deep pockets have Lycra sides to stop your belongings from falling out.
Despite the material being weighty, the shorts are comfortable in the riding position, mainly thanks to the lumbar panel, which also provides good coverage on the lower back.
The close cut might not be suitable for everyone, but these shorts are so comfortable they can even double up as off-bike apparel.
Alpinestars Alps Escape Shorts
- Sizes: 28-40in
- Pockets: Zipped thigh pockets
- Colours: Black, Pewter Gray
- Price: £90/$115 as tested
The Alps Escape shorts offer a minimalist design with a good fit that provides excellent comfort on the bike.
Pocket placement is limiting, with the zipped pockets being too low down on the thigh and causing bulky items to bounce around.
A light and airy material is used, which features a waterproof coating. While the coating didn’t make a noticeable difference, the shorts were quick to dry out once wet.
Endura SingleTrack Lite Shorts
- Sizes: S-XL
- Pockets: Zipped hand pockets and rear security pocket
- Colours: Black, ‘Azure Blue’, ‘Forest Green’, ‘Tangerine’
- Price: £70/$100/AU$130/€80 as tested
Straight off the shelf, the SingleTrack Lites feel both light and durable, thanks to their lightweight, four-way stretch nylon fabric, which has a DWR finish.
Perforated sections run almost the length of the legs, on both sides, for maximum breathability.
Endura offers these shorts in both long and short leg options. We tested the long version and found that the length was good and the legs didn’t ride up.
Sizing is quite generous too, so if you fall between sizes we’d recommend going smaller – although we sized up and were able to adjust the waist enough using the Velcro tabs, which pull in from the small of the back.
The waistband is constructed sturdily, nice and high at the back, with an internal gripper print.
A handy detail that underlines Endura’s long experience in creating MTB kit is the extra-long zip pull on the single back pocket. The Singletrack Lites give you a lot for their reasonable price tag.
Fox Ranger Shorts
- Sizes: 28-40in
- Pockets: Zipped side pockets
- Colours: Black, Olive Green, Dirt Brown, Dark Indigo Blue, Mocha Brown
- Price: £80/$90/€80/AU$100 as tested
The Fox Ranger Shorts are suited to riders looking for lightweight shorts with little in the way of pedalling impediment.
The two zipped side pockets are large enough to stash a phone, but the shorts don’t offer high levels of cargo-carrying ability and we also found the mesh lining of the pockets to cause trouble when carrying pointier objects.
We liked the webbing and buckle closure on the waist, because some Velcro designs have a habit for grabbing other pieces of your clothes.
Gore C5 Shorts
- Sizes: S-XXXL
- Pockets: Two zipped hip pockets
- Colours: Black, ‘Nordic Blue’, ‘Orbit Blue’
- Price: £90 as tested
The C5 Shorts are made from a light, stretch fabric and are aimed more at the cross-country market than heavy trail riding, but they fulfil this role with the class you can expect from Gore.
Velcro adjusters at the waist and elastic on the waistband create a secure fit, and a double popper and fly provide the closure.
They have a few good, but fairly shallow, zipped pockets on the hip and one pocket on the right leg.
The cut doesn’t provide quite enough room for knee pads, but the close fit, paired with the lightweight fabric, is perfect for long days in the saddle and clocking up the miles.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Shorts
- Sizes: 28-40in
- Pockets: Small, hidden, secure zip pocket
- Colours: Black, ‘Forge Grey’, ‘Superior Blue’
- Price: £90/$99/€100 as tested
With their minimal style, these super-lightweight shorts are designed for warm-weather rides.
Thanks to a combination of shaping through the body and a high degree of stretch in the DWR-coated fabric, they don’t feel in the slightest bit restrictive – the material moves with you.
An adjustable waist and sonic-welded seams add to this feeling of freedom, as well as the sleek appearance. The waist curves high at the back and the fit can be refined using the tiny micro-adjusters at the side, although the cut is so slim it seems unlikely you’d need them. A rarity these days, the zip fly fastens with a good old-fashioned button.
The legs are on the shorter side, so if you prefer more coverage this may not be the style for you, but the Dirt Roamers are so cool and comfortable for hard summer riding that we’d urge you to consider making an exception and get your knees out.
Patagonia also makes a women’s version, the Patagonia Women’s Dirt Roamer Shorts.
Race Face Indy Shorts
- Sizes: S-XXL
- Pockets: Zippered front thigh
- Colours: Black, ‘Concrete’, ‘Dijon’, navy, dark red, grey, ‘Scorch’
- Price: £80/$110/€107/AU$160 as tested
The Race Face Indys are constructed from a heavyweight fabric that feels built to suck up a lot of punishment. They’re also touted as enduro mountain bike shorts, and live up to this claim.
The double perforation lines up the inner and back thighs to help regulate temperature, and the fit is very good with an extra-high panel at the back (which includes a small zipped pocket) and gripper print inside the waist, to ensure your skin stays covered.
Dropped over the knee, the long legs will suit riders who prefer more coverage, and they stay in place when pedalling with no tendency to creep up – the inner-leg ‘slip panel’ feature really works. The front pockets are sized generously.
Unusually, the zip fly is left exposed except for the wrap-over tab at the top.
The Indys are a versatile pair of shorts that deliver excellent comfort and performance across a range of conditions.
Scott Trail Tuned Shorts
- Sizes: S-XXL
- Pockets: Two zipped side
- Colours: ‘Atlantic Blue’
- Price: £140/€150 as tested
The Scott Trail Tuned Shorts come with a removable liner and have a high price as a result. This liner is exceptionally comfy with a great-quality pad.
The outer shorts are equally good. Made from hardwearing, yet lightweight Cordura with a PFC-free DWR finish to repel water and dirt, the fabric rides very light and has a lot of stretch to complement the fairly close cut.
Leg length is generous, and perforations down the inner thigh aid cooling. The absence of Velcro is refreshing. Instead, the waistband is elasticated and has a clever fold-over fly with a single hook fastening that slots into any one of five loops, making for a variable and extremely comfortable fit.
Add two zipped front pockets with usefully long zip pulls and the close attention to functional detail, as well as a great fit, make the Scott shorts stand out.
Sweet Protection Hunter Slashed Shorts
- Sizes: S-XL
- Pockets: Two side, one thigh
- Colours: Black, ‘Forest Green’
- Price: £70/$80/€80 as tested
Pared-back styling combines with a tightly woven, durable-feeling fabric on these well-fitting shorts from Sweet Protection.
The soft material is rugged but not heavy, with just enough stretch to aid movement where you need it, making them very comfortable to ride in.
If you prefer a longer leg length, go for Sweet Protection’s original Hunter shorts, but because the legs don’t ride up, they actually seem longer than the measurements suggest.
An adjustable elastic belt runs inside the waistband to dial in the fit, and because it’s elastic, it doesn’t dig in when tightened.
The back waist sits good and high, remaining firmly in place when riding, and you have two handwarmer pockets, plus one zipped thigh pocket.
These shorts feel more expensive than their price tag and they’ll become a go-to in the summer and cooler months.
Troy Lee Designs Flowline shorts (with liner)
- Sizes: 28-40in
- Pockets: Zipped
- Colours: Black, Charcoal, Slate Blue
- Price: £100/$100/€120 as tested
Troy Lee Designs’ Flowline shorts offer a lightweight and fuss-free design for long days in the saddle.
The two zipped pockets are large enough to swallow a standard-sized phone, though we found the mesh lining to snag on keys and other sharp items.
While the Velcro waist adjustment works well, we found the hooks lost purchase over the course of testing the shorts.
The fit is well-considered, proving comfortable in combination with knee pads, while the liner remained comfy through multiple wash cycles.
Buyer’s guide to mountain bike shorts
The best mountain bike shorts are designed specifically to meet the demands of riding off-road. However, mountain biking is a broad category, bringing together a wide variety of types and styles of riding and, as a result, there are a wide variety of shorts available too.
Mountain bike shorts vary from protective garments that come well over the knee to lightweight shorts that have a relatively short inseam. Some have liners with pads, while others are just shells.
Many mountain bike shorts are styled baggy, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t technical items, and will often still help shed rain and wick away sweat.
This guide will take you through the key things to keep in mind when looking for a pair of shorts and many of their features. We have put together a glossary too, explaining some of the more technical terms you might come across.
Fit and fabric
When it comes to mountain bike shorts, fit and fabric are the two guiding principles that will help you find a set of shorts suited to you and your needs.
Regardless of how many features your shorts have, if they don’t fit correctly they’ll never be worth the outlay. This is why we recommend always trying shorts on.
The waistband is the foundation of any mountain bike shorts’ construction because unlike the best cycling shorts for road bikes, mountain bike shorts don’t tend to rely on bib straps to hold the shorts up.
The best examples often look very low on the front when laid flat. This is because they are designed not to cut into your waist when you’re on the bike, but are high enough at the back not to fall down when you’re riding.
Velcro adjustment tabs on the waist are a common way to tune the fit. Look for elasticated versions of these tabs because they will help the shorts move with you and keep you comfortable as a result.
Some shorts now have elasticated ‘grown-on’ waists, which work just as well as traditional fly and popper closure designs.
More traditional and less obviously cycling-specific short designs often have belt loops too.
Are you an enduro racer or do you ride a cross-country bike? Do you like to ride fast and clock up the miles or is downhill more your thing?
Fabric will often determine what type of riding a pair of shorts is most suitable for because it provides protection and comfort.
If you’re into gravity riding, look for shorts with more heavy-duty fabrics and abrasion-resistant materials that will cope with spills.
If cross-country is more your thing – or you’re just less likely to be heading downhill at warp speeds – then lightweight and stretchy fabrics are advisable because they’ll help the shorts move with you and not be cumbersome to pedal in.
Enduro riders will need something in between, and it’s good to look for robust fabrics that have ventilation to balance protection on descents without overheating on uphill sections.
Details to look for in mountain bike shorts
When a pair of shorts is laid flat, the rear of the waist should be clearly visible above the front to ensure it’ll sit high enough to keep your backside covered while you’re riding.
Placed strategically through the shorts, these little holes in the material aid airflow and are especially useful in the summer, when you want to maintain coverage but not overheat.
Shorts that have stretchy fabric incorporated into the waist adjustment enable you to get a good balance between comfort and fit that isn’t restrictive across the stomach.
Long zip pulls
Often overlooked, but essential if you always ride with full-finger mountain bike gloves or for days when the chill has reached your fingers.
Shorts come with all types and sizes of pocket, or none, so decide what you need. Do you use a hydration pack with storage, or are you reliant on your shorts to carry what you need? Do you like to keep your smartphone close to hand, or do you just need a small zipped pocket for a key and card?
Some mountain bike shorts are just the exterior shell, and others come with liners that improve comfort. If serious distance is your aim, go for the best you can afford – buying separately if necessary. It’s essential that a liner sits snugly against your body to avoid chaffing.
DWR (durable water repellency) coatings on fabrics will help you stay drier for longer, and it’s a good shout to look out for shorts with this feature if you’re riding anywhere wet or muddy. Over time, the DWR coating may need renewing because the effectiveness may decrease over time due to use and going through the washing machine.
Mountain bike shorts glossary
Also known as welded seams, this process fuses seams together rather than stitching them. It reduces weight and bulk, helps maintain stretch from one panel to another and removes the potential of chafing from stitched seams.
The length from the front of the waist to the crotch seam. Too high a rise and there’ll be excess fabric at the front of the shorts, which will potentially catch on the nose of your saddle.
Rather than a separate waistband, a grown-on waist has no band. Instead, the fabric is cut and shaped to the body of the shorts. This removes bulk and increases comfort because there’s no band to dig into your stomach.
A construction method with the leg cut higher behind the knee and dropping down lower at the front. This maintains protection over the knee while reducing bulk behind it for better pedalling comfort. It also prevents a gap if you’re wearing knee pads.
A raised silicone or sticky print, usually applied to the rear of the waist to prevent baggy shorts slipping down over the smooth surface of a liner short. This means you don’t need a liner with dedicated fastenings for a particular pair of shorts.