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5 pairs of waterproof MTB shorts tested | How to choose the best winter shorts

For winter and wet-weather riding, a pair of waterproof mountain bike shorts will make things altogether more comfortable

Best waterproof MTB shorts

Waterproof mountain bike shorts will help keep you protected from foul weather when you’re out riding.

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Although the best mountain bike shorts often include some protection from damp conditions, such as a DWR coating, sometimes you need a full-on pair of properly waterproof shorts.

They’ll make things a lot more comfortable than riding on a wet, dirty seat pad and you’re much more likely to want to stay the course rather than bailing and heading home for a warm shower.

We’ve also tested the best waterproof MTB trousers for riders who prefer full-leg coverage, but shorts remain a good option for many riders through winter – and through the rest of the year – particularly if you wear knee pads.

Here’s our pick of the best waterproof mountain bike shorts, based on a five-way test, that we’ve put through their paces in the worst weather we could find.

Further into the article, we’ve got a buyer’s guide explaining what to look for in the best waterproof mountain bike shorts, to help you choose the best option for your riding.

The best waterproof mountain bike shorts, as rated by our expert testers

Troy Lee Designs Resist shorts

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Troy Lee Designs Resist waterproof mountain bike shorts have loads of features for wet-weather riding.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Sizes: 30, 32, 34, 36, 38
  • Colours: Black
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Price: £130 as tested

Being based in California, wet-weather shorts might not appear to be a priority for Troy Lee Designs, but the Resist shorts, based on its popular Moto shorts, work well to fend off foul weather.

They have high waterproofing and breathability ratings with internally taped seams and a reinforced seat, while the stretchy fabric is comfortable when pedalling.

Other features include a waterproof fly and three waterproof zipped pockets in addition to another three open pockets and zipped mesh thigh vents. Although they’re not long, the legs stretch to the tops of knee pads. The Resist shorts are Bluesign-approved too.

Endura Hummvee Waterproof shorts

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Endura’s Hummvee Waterproof shorts are well priced, but you’ll need to wear them with a liner short.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Colours: Black
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Price: £70

The Hummvee’s waterproof fabric is quite thin and non-stretch, although there are panels of thicker, stretchier fabric used for the seat panel and rear yoke. The seams are fully sealed and there’s no fly, but there are two pockets with waterproof zips.

The cut is quite baggy, although we didn’t have a problem with snagging on the saddle or knee pads. The knees are cut differentially, so their tops are covered.  The thin fabric does mean you’ll need a liner short though.

Gore C5 Gore-Tex Paclite Trail Shorts

3.5 out of 5 star rating
The Gore C5 Gore-Tex Paclite Trail shorts are very light but still weather resistant.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Colours: Black
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Price: £150 as tested

Gore’s Paclite shorts are lightweight, windproof and waterproof, plus they’re seam-sealed. The shorts don’t stretch, though they’re cut large, so they don’t impede movement. However, the fabric does rustle when pedalling. They’re long enough to cover knee pads.

The very thin fabric, although it feels durable and kept us dry, seems more like an overshort, and you’ll probably want something underneath to keep you warm enough on cooler days out.

There’s only one pocket too, which is sited on the thigh, where it feels as if it would be vulnerable in a crash.

Giro Havoc H2O shorts

3.0 out of 5 star rating
Giro’s Havoc H2O waterproof mountain bike shorts will suit gravel riders too.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Sizes: 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38, 40
  • Colours: Black / Midnight Blue
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Price: £130 as tested

Made from a stretch three-layer laminate and with seam sealing, the Giro Havoc H2O shorts include a Cordura ripstop panel at the seat for added durability. The fly zip isn’t waterproof, although it’s covered by a storm flap. There are two zipped pockets and zipped thigh vents, and you can adjust the fit around the legs with Velcro tabs.

The Giro Havoc shorts are quite close-fitted and would work for gravel riding. There’s enough length to cover knee pads, with the shorts resting just above the knee.

We found these shorts tended to slip down – silicone grippers, which would remedy this, are absent.

Pearl Izumi Summit WxB Shell shorts

3.0 out of 5 star rating
The Pearl Izumi Summit WXB Shell mountain bike shorts have good length, but we found water ingress through the zip.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • Sizes: 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38
  • Colours: Black
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Price: £130 as tested

The Summit waterproof shorts use a lighter-weight, higher-breathability fabric for the front and a heavier fabric at the rear. The seams are sealed and the hems bonded rather than sewn, but there’s no additional patch in the seat and the fabric doesn’t stretch.

We found the fit a little tight, although the legs are long and they’re comfortable to pedal in.

There are two waterproof zipped hand pockets on the sides of the legs, where we felt their contents could be vulnerable in a crash. The fly isn’t waterproof and we found our crotch ended up damp.

Buyer’s guide to what to look for in waterproof mountain bike shorts

Here’s a rundown of the key features to look for when buying waterproof mountain bike shorts.

Waterproofing

Waterproofness is rated in millimetres of water head. Look out for shorts made of fabric with at least 10,000mm head, more if possible.

There’s no point in having a waterproof fabric if rain and mud can find their way in through the seams, so look for internal seam sealing to help keep the weather out.

Breathability

Along with waterproofing, you also want enough breathability to stop sweat from wetting you from the inside.

Again, there’s an objective measurement of this, grams of water vapour transmitted per metre squared per 24 hours. A good level is 10,000g/m²/24h, but the best breathable waterproof fabrics can improve significantly on this.

It’s also worth looking for zipped vents in the thighs that can be opened up in warmer conditions to up the airflow.

Fabric thickness

A thinner fabric is likely to be more breathable than a thicker waterproof one.

On the other hand, too thin and it may not be so durable or as comfortable to ride in. So there’s a compromise here.

Many of the best waterproof shorts we’ve tested are most comfortable worn with a quality liner short.

Stretch

A good fit will be augmented by enough stretch to accommodate pedalling movements.

A fabric with a little stretch from elastane content will be more comfortable on your bottom half than a hardshell fabric.

Pockets

If you want to carry gear in your shorts, a range of pockets is essential.

Often, waterproof mountain biking shorts are designed more as overshorts though, so you may find they’re a bit lacking. We found in testing that many waterproof shorts had pockets on the outside of the edge.

That’s potentially risky because any contents could be damaged (or damage you) in an off.

Waterproof zips

Look out for waterproof zips too, which will up protection for anything you do carry in your pockets. A waterproof fly (or no fly at all) will ensure water doesn’t find its way in during a deluge.

Leg length

You want enough leg length to reach your knee pads and ideally cover them, without interfering with them. There’s no point in wearing waterproof shorts if rain and surface water just runs up your legs.

Adjustability

You need enough adjustability for a comfortable fit.

Many brands make their waterproof mountain bike shorts in a good range of sizes, so assuming you’ve got your sizing right to start with, this may not be too much of an issue, but it’s good to be able to fine-tune the fit.

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Also look out for silicone grippers in the waistband, which will help keep wet shorts from slipping down as you ride.