When you’re mountain biking in winter, it’s essential to stay warm and dry, keeping rain and spray off your thighs. For all-day epic rides, waterproof trousers will usually be justified. But if you’re going for a short but serious session, or commuting to work, then weather-resistant shorts can fit the bill.
Here, we test six of the best waterproof baggies on the market. Stick a pair of liners, padded leggings or knee warmers on underneath and you’ll be good to go.
With only the seat and back of the legs constructed of a taped waterproof fabric, the rest is left to ventilate, breathe and stretch as you ride. This makes for the most comfortable pair of protective shorts we’ve worn.
An elasticated waist combines with a belt to ensure easy fit, while zipped ventilators, leg adjusters and roomy hip pockets complete the package. We did have them out in heavy rain where the front half of the shorts got soaked pretty quickly and clung to our legs, but if you want full waterproofs then Endura produce them too.
Our only non-waterproof entry, we still rate the Ambush for its great fit, heavyweight fabric and DWR water-resistant finish. The fabric feels like it should be too heavy for cross-country riding, but once on the bike the fit and cut works a treat; in fact, the quiet material feels luxurious.
The pockets are ideally placed and zip vents allow just enough airflow to keep the dampness down without chilling too much. The waist adjusters are inside the band, which keeps the outside looking tidy, but isn’t quite as effective for cinching up.
With their heavier duty fabric and waterproof, zipped hip pockets, the Attacks stand up well to the rigours of more regular use. We like the stretch panels and substantial waist adjusters which help with fit and make them shorts you can wear comfortably more often.
Our only reservation is the lack of hem adjusters – the generous cut around the legs could do with some drawing in, and can be slightly irritating as it flaps around. The extra space also lets freezing front wheel splashes further up the leg, but on the upside it does help with ventilation.
IXS nepean pro waterproof shortsAndrew McCandlish/Future Publishing
These simple shorts were easily the most packable on test, with a lightweight fabric and sleek finish that has few features to bulk them up. They easily pack into their handy stuff bag and fit into a hydration pack, so they’re great as emergency spares.
Despite that simplicity they’ve got the basics covered – adjustable leg hems for spray protection/ventilation, and a gripper panel across the back of the elasticated waist to help keep them up. They’re a little too flimsy for everyday use, but great for occasional weatherproofing.
Gore bike wear alp-x gt waterproof shortsAndrew McCandlish/Future Publishing
The dearest here, Gore dumps frivolous details for low weight and bulk, but still manages to cover the essentials. We like the pull-cord leg adjusters which allow you to snug them up, keeping the worst of the spray from firing up your legs, and they are easy to release for extra ventilation.
The waist is elasticated with a backup drawcord, which again is simple and works. Best of all they’re made from Gore’s new Active fabric which, thanks to its breathability, means they can be a close fit without causing problems with condensation.
Madison tempest waterproof shortsAndrew McCandlish/Future Publishing
The cheapest on test, the Madisons still do the business. The details belie the price, such as waterproof zipped pockets, elasticated waist adjusters and heavier fabric around the seat (the rest is made of a lighter fabric that helps reduce overall bulk).
The double poppers on the waist make sure the whole lot won’t go south, helped by a silicone gripper band on the back. We’d like hem adjusters to take in the slack around the legs, preventing water coming back up to soak up your shorts. It would help reduce the noisy swish of spare fabric too.