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The best mountain bike shorts of 2020

Joseph Delves
9 Jan 2020

A breakdown of the best mountain bike shorts of 2020 along with what to look for before you buy

For riding off-road, commuting or just when you want to sit in a cafe without being ridiculed for wearing lycra, mountain bike shorts can be a stylish and versatile choice. Spanning everything from baggy options for gnarly dudes and dudettes to tailored models stylish enough for posing in the city, they’ve multiple benefits over wearing something from the high street.

For a start, most will be made of tough fabrics, which won’t wear out like cotton. They’ll also be less clammy and faster to dry. Designed to gel with your saddle, they should also be constructed to avoid seams rubbing where no seams should rub.

Suited to being worn with your regular underwear or thrown over your bib shorts, some will also come with a padded liner to provide some of the comfort associated with a traditional chamois pad. Here are eight of our favourites.

The best mountain bike shorts

Gore C3 Trail Shorts

These relaxed-fitting shorts have good technical features, yet don’t look excessively like cycling gear. With two conventional front pockets, their matching side pockets come with a secure zippered top. Easily big enough to stash an inner tube in, they’ll also stop keys or a mobile bouncing out.

Light feeling and with an ergonomic cut that sits flat when pressed against the saddle, they’re also very breathable. Despite low-key looks, a few reflective details add some visibility, while conventional loops at the top mean you can combine them with a belt for security. Worn off the bike, they’re also a good option for hiking.

Buy now from Sportshoes for £56

Troy Lee Skyline Shorts

Troy Lee makes a lot of gnarly gravity-focused gear. However, these Skyline shorts provide an option for people happier riding their bikes around the trails, as opposed to hucking them off cliffs. A simple cut, regular feeling waistband, and light, stretchy fabric keeps them feeling unobtrusive and they provide excellent freedom of movement. Minimalist to look at, silicone grippers on the waist and subtle reflective detailing are useful additions.

Fairly tight once pulled on, you won’t find tons of room for fitting kneepads. Available by themselves, there’s also an excellent clip-in liner available for an extra £40

Buy now from Tredz for £65

Endura Hummvee II

Available in everything from green camouflage to plain black, Endura’s Humvee II shorts are surprisingly technical. With an articulated cut that sits well when on the bike, there’s room to sneak pads under their cuffs too.

Blessed with an abundance of pockets, there are also zipped vents to help keep you cool when needed. Supplied with a belt, a series of poppers hidden on the inside of the waistband can be used to attach any of Endura’s various Clickfast liners which cost from £24.99.

Buy now from Endura for £60

Nukeproof Blackline Waterproof Short

Waterproof shorts might seem an odd concept, but while they’ll do nothing to keep your shins dry, they will stop your back wheel giving you a soggy bottom. Given the ability of padded shorts to soak up water like a sponge, this is a very useful feature indeed. On the flip-side, they’ll obviously be a bit sweatier than regular models. However, these shorts from Nukeproof also do a good job of remaining breezy, with a claimed waterproof rating of 10,000mm2 paired with a breathability rating of 10,000gsm.

Made for repeated use in grim conditions, triple stitching, waterproof zips and gaiter-style closure keep the elements out. Relatively baggy, you’ll be able to squeeze low-profile pads under their extended legs.

Buy now from Wiggle for £100

Madison DTE Softshell Shorts, £74.99

These unusually stylish cold-weather shorts feature a three-layer breathable fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish slapped on the outside. Not quite as watertight as a hardshell option, they’re much more breathable, a facet heightened by the mesh-lined front pockets which can be left open to allow warm air out.

Designed for rugged riding in poor conditions, they feature added material at the knee. Likely to withstand repeated crashes and happy to fit over kneepads, they’re a good option for UK riders.

Buy now from Tredz for £60

Swrve Lightweight WWR Shorts

I’ve had a pair of these that have racked up thousands of miles over a whole decade. Despite being indestructible, they’re easily mistaken for a regular pair of shorts and are great around town, when touring or as a low-key option for mountain biking.

Made of lightweight water and wind-resistant material, this can withstand brief showers and dries out quickly. Not totally waterproof, it remains less sweaty than more impermeable fabrics, meaning it’s still a good middle-ground choice.

Buy now from Swrve for £65

Fox Racing Flexair Lite Shorts

These shorts from Fox are ultra-minimalist in both styling and feel. Very light and stretchy, small laser cut vents in strategic areas provide additional breathability. With a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating they’ll shrug off light showers, and won’t feel too heavy when the sun’s out.

Available separately is Fox’s excellent padded insert, which uses an Elastic Interface chamois to provide all-day riding comfort. Not laden down with extras like some technical shorts, two zipped side pockets and a simple buckle and tightening strap on the front is all you’ll get, and likey all you’ll need.

Buy now from Tredz from £60

Morvelo Selector Overland Shorts

At 10 paces you could easily mistake these for a pair of regular shorts. However, once pulled on these light and stretchy shorts provide a far comfier and harder wearing alternative to a pair of chinos.

Made of breathable synthetic fabric, they’re cut to sit well on the saddle. With a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating, rain won’t soak through them too quickly, and once it does you’ll find the fabric itself fast to dry.

With a regular button-up fly, they benefit from zippers on all three pockets, including one that sits in the small of your back to hold keys or other items you don’t want jangling.

Buy now from Chainreaction for £56

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