woman riding bike while testing mountain bike shorts
(Photo/Eric Phillips)

The Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts of 2022

Hit the trails with the best women’s mountain bike shorts. From ultra-comfy chamois to ride-ready bike shorts, these picks will get you ready to ride.

There’s nothing more annoying than a pair of ill-fitting bike shorts. You want to be able to focus on the ride, not fight with your shorts. Lady shredders used to have to make do with a pair of shrunken men’s shorts, but those days are long gone.

We’re happy to report that there is now a wide variety of cycling shorts made specifically for women. We’ve been riding trails across the U.S., including lots of miles in Oregon and Colorado with test notes from skilled riders, newbies, and professional mountain bikers.

And while there isn’t a single pair of shorts that works for every body and riding style, we’ve included a variety of options. Below, you’ll find the best shorts and chamois that will make hitting the trails that much more fun. Get ready to suit up and ride out.

For more information about women’s mountain bike shorts and the various design features to consider, check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ. Also, have a look at our comparison chart to steer your decision-making.

Otherwise, we divided this list into useful categories so you can easily find the best women’s mountain bike shorts for your needs:

The Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts of 2022

Best Overall Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts: Shredly MTB Short

shredly mtb short

The overhauled MTB Short ($105) from Shredly, a pioneer of women’s mountain bike shorts, features an innovative broad waistband — similar to a yoga pant — and the fit is more streamlined by removing front leg seams and vents.

We loved pulling on this pair of ride shorts to start, and they keep on delivering. The design excels in all conditions, on short and long alpine rides alike. What stuck out most is how soft, malleable, and lightweight they feel — how can durable mountain bike shorts actually be this smooth?

Secondly, the fabric is extremely tenacious. On a recent super steep, rocky, rowdy descent, our foot popped off the pedal when we bottomed out. While riding out the technical landing, our backside skid over the back tire — but the fabric held — no holes — and there’s zero signs of the friction. What?!

The shorts are also updated with a zippered pocket, based on rider request. The pocket is smartly placed higher on the thigh to help remove the shake-and-shimmy of a heavy phone while you pedal, which we found works well and is comfortable.

Whether we were crawling up a steep ascent or rocketing down berms, there were no noticeable seam snags, rub points, or tight areas in the shorts or gusset. It was like we weren’t wearing shorts at all.

If you’re looking for a pair with a longer inseam, Shredly has you covered there too: The MTB Long ($110) has the same incredible features as the MTB Short, which we found through test runs, but an extra 3 inches of inseam per size to eliminate the gap when you pull on knee pads. Plus the cost is only a hair more.

Specs:
  • Inseam: Varies by size, falls above knee (size 4 is 10.5″, for example. Read our full review for the complete list of inseam lengths)
  • Pockets: 2 front pockets, 1 zippered pocket, 1 snap-closure pocket
  • Liner: Not included
  • Material: Recycled polyester-spandex blend
  • Waistband: Elasticized with mid-rise zipper and double-snap closure
  • Size range: XS-3XL (00-24)
Pros:
  • Unique, eye-catching patterns
  • Waistband moves with you and doesn’t bunch or open on-the-go
  • Large size range with tailored inseam lengths
Cons:
  • Not the warmest or longest short if you need more protection from cold weather, the elements, or brush

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at evo

Runner-Up Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts: Wild Rye Freel Shorts

wild rye freel short

These shorts are some of our favorites because of their awesome style combined with comfort and functionality. Every single time we’ve worn these shorts — provided there are other people on the trails — we’ve gotten compliments on the look, pattern, and style. The Wild Rye Freel Shorts ($119) are similar to the Wild Rye Kaweah but differ in one way — fabric (and thus price).

The Freel is made with a slightly more durable, four-way stretch DWR water-resistant nylon, as opposed to the Kaweah’s polyester fabric. Both are comfortable. And if you don’t mind dropping a few extra bucks, the durability and feel of the Freel are even better.

The fabric is comfortable and strong, the shorts come in lots of sizes, the fit is complimentary in the saddle, and we love the longer 12-inch inseam on this style. Patterns include terracotta potted plants, porcupines, roadrunners and cacti, tropical montserras, and more.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Pockets: 3
  • Liner: No
  • Material: 4-way stretch nylon (88% nylon, 12% spandex)
  • Waistband: Not adjustable
  • Size range: 0-18
Pros:
  • Comfort and style
  • Great pocket placement
  • Durable
Cons:
  • Not adjustable at the waist

Check Price at evoCheck Price at Backcountry

Best Budget Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts: Patagonia Endless Ride Liner & Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts

Patagonia Endless Ride Liner & Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts

The Patagonia Endless Ride Liner ($79) is a great pair of MTB-specific undershorts that will last a long time. While the chamois does take a few rides to break in, they will likely become your favorite performance liner for your average 20- to 50-mile trail rides.

The legs have outer mesh panels. The soft silicone leg grips keep the chamois in place, and they fit seamlessly below a short like the Dirt Roamer.

Built for flowy singletrack and lift-serviced trails, the Dirt Roamer ($129) has snaps to integrate seamlessly with the Endless Ride Liner. The fabric is a 90-denier recycled polyester and spandex blend with enough stretch for pedal-friendly mobility and is plenty breathable on hot days. They tend to run a bit small, so consider sizing up for comfort with the liner.

Specs (Dirt Roamer):
  • Inseam: 12.5″
  • Pockets: 1 zippered pocket
  • Liner: Not included
  • Material: 90-denier recycled polyester and spandex with DWR finish
  • Waistband: Button with adjustable elastic closure for customized tension
  • Size range: 0-18
Pros:
  • Seamless, streamlined design
  • Stretchy, comfortable fabric
  • Shorts and chamois are designed for compatibility
Cons:
  • Not many pockets

Check Endless Ride Price at PatagoniaCheck Dirt Roamer Price at Patagonia

Best Extra-Long Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts: Norrøna Fjora Flex1 Short

Norrøna Fjora Flex Short

The Norrøna Fjora Flex1 ($139) is among the most durable and protective pairs out there. The fabric is long with articulation and reinforcement atop the knees, which are covered when we’re in the saddle.

While that construction might be a bit overbuilt for some everyday rides, it’s our go-to for long hours in the saddle in variable conditions — like our self-supported 142-mile Kokopelli Trail ride under brutal sun and dashes of rain.

The waistband reaches higher than our other shorts, which also adds lower back protection and comfort, especially if we’re wearing a loaded backpack for a long journey.

Two front-facing zippers on the legs allow air ventilation on the ride. And the integrated Velcro belt is substantial, wide, and definitely helps tighten up the shorts, especially on back-to-back days.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 15″
  • Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, a spacious thigh pocket with an interior tiny mesh pocket
  • Liner: Not included
  • Material: Synthetic blend with wind and water resistance plus 50% recycled fibers
  • Waistband: Higher-reach to cover up backside, double snap and zip closure plus an integrated wide Velcro belt
  • Size range: XS-XL
Pros:
  • Premium coverage for top protection against the elements
  • Great choice for long rides or bikepacking
Cons:
  • Some riders might find the length too much

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Norrøna

Best Minimalist Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts: Pearl Izumi Prospect 2/1 Short With Liner

Pearl Izumi Prospect 21 Short with Liner

If you’re looking for a basic, streamlined, comfortable pair of riding shorts sans tons of pockets or frivolous fabric, the Prospect ($75) is here. A wide elastic waistband provides a smooth, slide-on fit and nixes the potential for snaps or buttons to push into the lower belly. (For some riders, an elastic waist might replace built-in customization that’s offered by, say, a Velcro belt.)

The interior lightly padded chamois pad and compression liner are removable, so there’s no need to pack two apparel pieces for travel if you’re riding to the gym or a café to hang out — you can simply remove the liner once you arrive. Bonus: The liner doesn’t feel like a diaper.

Pearl Izumi’s Prospect shorts are comfortable from the trail to post-ride pizza to unpacking the rig — you even forget you’re wearing them. The exterior inseam might be on the shorter side at 6 inches for some but was five-star in our test run.

Regardless, the internal shorts — a recycled polyester, elastane, and polyester blend — are comfortable, and the exterior fabric repels water.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 6″
  • Pockets: Drop-in pockets in liner
  • Liner: Yes, removable
  • Material: Recycled polyester and spandex shell; recycled polyester, elastane, and polyester liner
  • Waistband: Wide, elastic
  • Size range: XS-XXL
Pros:
  • Simple
  • Great price
  • Multi-use design for using at the gym, park, or around town
Cons:
  • Not the best coverage for rugged rides
  • No exterior pockets is a downside for certain riders

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best Chamois for Women: Shredly YOGACHAM

Shredly YOGACHAM

When it comes to women’s-specific mountain bike shorts, Shredly has put in the time and research on what women want and what fits us best.  From tall to petite, curvy to thin, the brand has something for everyone. Its well-known and beloved YOGACHAM ($78) is the best chamois for women of all riding and body types. We have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love and rave about them.

The chamois is highly breathable, conforms to your body almost immediately, and doesn’t have any extra bulk. The pad is designed with four specific zones of thickness (2 mm to 14 mm) and density for targeted protection along the entire saddle.

The wide waistband and body of the short were inspired by yoga shorts. And they feel nearly as comfortable as our favorite yoga garb. These pair great with any of the amazing Shredly outer shell shorts; just pick your favorite pattern and go hit the trails.

Specs:
  • Inseam: Unavailable
  • Pockets: N/A
  • Liner: N/A
  • Material: Pad (polyamide and elastane)
  • Waistband: Wide
  • Size range: 00-24
Pros:
  • Wide waistband rests comfortably on hips
  • Anti-microbial pad
Cons:
  • Riders that don’t prefer a compression fit, size up
  • Pricier than budget options

Check Price at evoCheck Price at Backcountry

Best of the Rest

Kitsbow Madrone Custom Shorts

fabric and pocket detail on the Kitsbow Madrone Short
Detail on the Kitsbow Madrone Short; (photo/Eric Phillips)

These shorts aren’t the cheapest, but they are insanely durable and have a lot to offer in terms of features. The custom component is the sizing — Kitsbow factors in waist, hips, and inseam to figure out the best fit.

On our first day of testing, the Madrone Short ($169) was comfortable in the saddle, right off the bat. The shorts fall comfortably just above the hips. The inseam measures 7 inches on the short we tested, but there’s also a longer 11-inch option.

There was enough stretch, but they also stayed in place. And the unique length and size of the side pockets worked well for smaller, flatter items (mini sunscreen, keys, cards, snack bar).

If you have a bit extra in the budget and want a short that will ensure a great fit, the Kitsbow Madrone Shorts are worth purchasing. Read our full review.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 7″ or 11″
  • Pockets: Two zippered pockets with zipper pulls
  • Liner: No
  • Material: Schoeller-shape 93% nylon and 7% elastane fabric
  • Waistband: Standard width with belt loops
  • Size range: 26″-36″waist (roughly XS-XL)
Pros:
  • Fit is awesome, and we love that it comes in two inseam lengths
  • Super stretchy
  • Durable fabric
Cons:
  • Pricier than budget options

Check Price at Kitsbow

Wild Rye Kaweah

Wild Rye Kaweah

The Kaweah is a fresh take on the Wild Rye Freel short. The general fit is slimmer and offers less stretch compared to the premium-made Freel, and the Kaweah is a polyester-elastane blend at a more economical price point ($99).

There’s a long, wide zippered pocket that’s well-positioned on the lower hamstring — a phone or wallet goes unfelt and unnoticed. The fabric is DWR-treated (and UPF 50), so puddle or downpour droplets roll right off.

Wild Rye is also well-known for unique, fun, eye-catching prints, and these shorts are no exception. We’re especially fond of the Thistle print, a one-of-a-kind, hand-drawn floral illustration created by artist Emberly Modine.

Plus, the shorts have casual touches — like non-zipper front pockets and wide belt loops — so they work well for casual, around-town outings post-ride.

Some of our testers have been riding with these shorts for several seasons, and the fabric is only now starting to show wear with some discoloration. But otherwise, there are no loose seams or tears. Despite being the lower tier built from the brand, the durability of these shorts is still super sound.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Pockets: 2 hand pockets and 1 low-down zippered pocket
  • Liner: None
  • Material: Stretch polyester and spandex
  • Waistband: Zipper and two snaps, wide
  • Size range: 0-18
Pros:
  • Lower price yet still durable
  • Comfortable, thick fabric
Cons:
  • Phone pocket is down lower on the leg, and heavy items tend to swing around

Check Price at REICheck Price at evo

Club Ride Eden Shorts

Author Mary Murphy wearing the Club Ride Eden Shorts while gravel biking
(Photo/Katie Botwin)

These mountain bike shorts made it on our list after a couple of years of testing because of their light weight and simplicity. Comfortable, breathable, and light (you’ll want a liner), the Club Ride Eden Shorts ($100) offer a lot of features in a simple way.

The fabric is super-lightweight and stretchy. The short does have a water-resistant finish too. If packability is the name of the game or the weather is super hot, these shorts are one of our first choices.

These shorts have an included removable chamois insert with a comfortable waistband as well as a gusseted crotch.

Pro tip: If you’re curvier and debating on size, size up — the waist is adjustable.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 7″
  • Pockets: 5
  • Liner: Yes, chamois included
  • Material: 89% polyester, 11% spandex
  • Waistband: Adjustable
  • Size range: XS-XL
Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Reflective touches
  • Chamois is removable
Cons:
  • Not the most durable
  • Fit too small/short for some

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at ClubRide Apparel

Norrøna Fjora Heavy Duty MTB Shorts

the women's norrona heavy duty MTB short with double front pockets in two colors

The Norrøna Fjora Heavy Duty MTB Shorts ($179) are exactly as described — heavy-duty and durable. As soon as we put them on, we could tell they would do the job — provide coverage and protection and last for years. If you’re riding in colder weather, the thicker fabric is nice (but wouldn’t be our first choice for a summer ride unless we wanted that protection).

It’s a similar short to the women’s Norrøna Fjora Flex1 Long Shorts but not as long at only 12 inches (versus 15 inches). The fabric is a slightly heavier, denser style that’s 160-denier and 420 grams (compared to a 90- and 150-denier weave and 254-gram short). The pockets and zipper vents have a different placement, and the zipper vents are longer, but the adjustable waist is the same.

They also have a gusseted crotch, double top-stitched and offset seams for extra longevity, and a UPF 50+ rating (the Flex1 don’t have that UV protection). But the extra features, sun protection, and durability will run you another 40 bucks.

Given the fabric’s weight, we were wary at first — but these shorts are also really breathable. And these shorts are also compatible with knee pads! If you’re riding through a lot of brush, bushwacking, hike-a-biking, or riding dusty or sandy singletrack, these shorts should be on your list to try.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Pockets: 3
  • Liner: Not included
  • Material: 91% recycled nylon, 9% elastane UPF 50+ fabric
  • Waistband: Wider, high-waisted fit with double snap closure, also adjustable
  • Size range: XS-XL
Pros:
  • Ultra-durable
  • UPF 50+ and PFC-free DWR treatments
  • Side zipper for venting is awesome
Cons:
  • Not as much stretch as other shorts
  • Pricey

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Norrøna

Velocio Trail Short (with Trail Mesh Bib Liner)

Velocio Trail Short (with Trail Mesh Bib Liner)

This is the first-ever MTB bib liner ($139) designed for women. The suspender system replaces a waistband, which makes them comfortable, sturdy, and slip-free and removes any opportunity for gut or bladder pressure that can be created by a double waistband. To relieve yourself, you simply drop your bike shorts (leave your top on), and the bib’s stretch allows them to be pulled down, too.

Pair these with the slim-fitting and ultra-lightweight Trail Short ($169) for happy days on the trail. The slide-snap closure on the Trail Short also reduces the amount of pressure at the midline.

Plus, the short repels water (thank you, DWR finish) and features a low-profile, adjustable waistband to tighten up without the bulk of a belt. Despite being super sleek, the high-woven fabric is robust.

Specs (Trail Short):
  • Inseam: 11″
  • Pockets: 2 zippered pockets
  • Liner: Not included
  • Material: Polyamide and elastane
  • Waistband: Zipper and button closure plus integrated, streamlined belt to snug up fit
  • Size range: XXS-XXXL
Pros:
  • Broad size range
  • Super lightweight
Cons:
  • Pricier choice

Check Trail Short Price at Velocio Check Trail Mesh Bib Liner Price at Velocio

Liv Passo Baggy Shorts

Liv Passo Baggy Shorts

Be it sunshine or tall grass on the singletrack, the Passo ($100) shields your thighs while also providing plenty of pocket options for trail time or while hanging out with friends in town after the ride. There are two back pockets, two side pockets, and an additional pocket with a zip closure.

With a 12-inch inseam, these long, durable shorts cover nearly the entire upper leg, even when you’re clipped into your pedals. (Both Wild Rye pairs we’ve selected have a 12-inch inseam, too.)

The material wicks moisture, dries quickly, and allows great breathability. Plus, the fabric is stretchy.

Also, these shorts don’t fall off — there’s a double-snap and zipper front closure plus an adjustable Velcro belt.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Pockets: 5 pockets
  • Liner: Removable chamois liner included
  • Material: TransTextura 4-way stretch
  • Waistband: Moderate width, double-snap closure, and zipper plus Velcro strap adjustment and belt loops
  • Size range: XS-XL
Pros:
  • Ample pocket options
  • Built-out waistband with options for a Velcro adjustment or belt loops
Cons:
  • Not streamlined enough for some riders

Check Price at Liv

Women’s Bike Shorts Comparison Chart

Bike Shorts Price Inseam Pockets Liner Material
Shredly MTB Short $105 Varies by size, falls above the knee 2 front, 1 zippered, 1 snap No Recycled polyester-spandex blend
Wild Rye Freel Shorts $124 12″ 3 No Four-way stretch nylon
Patagonia Endless Ride Liner & Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts $79-129 12.5″ (Dirt Roamer) 1 zippered No 90-denier recycled polyester and spande
Norrøna Fjora Flex1 Short $139 15″ 2 zippered, 1 thigh pocket with interior mesh pocket No Synthetic blend with wind and water resistance
Pearl Izumi Prospect 2/1 Short With Liner $75 6″ Drop-in pockets in liner Yes, removable Recycled polyester and spandex shell
Shredly YOGACHAM $78 N/A N/A N/A Pad (polyamide and elastane)
Kitsbow Madrone Custom Shorts $169 7″ or 11″ 2 zippered No Schoeller-shape 93% nylon and 7% elastane
Wild Rye Kaweah $99 12″ 2 front, 1 low down zippered No Stretch polyester and spandex
Club Ride Eden Shorts $100 7″ 5 Yes 89% polyester, 11% spandex
Norrøna Fjora Heavy Duty MTB Shorts $179 12″ 3 No 91% recycled nylon, 9% elastane
Velocio Trail Short (with Trail Mesh Bib Liner) $169 11″ 2 zippered No Polyamide and elastane
Liv Passo Baggy Shorts $100 12″ 5 Yes, removable TransTextura 4-way stretch

Why You Should Trust Us

_DSC2764
Contributor Morgan Tilton testing the Shredly MTB Short in the Southwest; (photo/Eric Phillips)

The GearJunkie testing team is made up of amateur to expert road cyclists, bikepackers, mountain bikers, and racers. We’ve ridden cross-country and steep alpine trails all over the West, including in competitions, while bikepacking across the Rockies and on self-supported trips like the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail.

Women’s mountain bike shorts are essential for staying comfortable while in motion and loading the bikes, hanging out with friends, or setting up camp after covering miles. Over the years, we’ve tested many different mountain bike shorts, and this list comprises the best of the best.

While testing women’s mountain bike shorts in the field, we assessed durability, overall fit, ease of movement, protection, fabric feel, breathability, and functionality. We’ve tested shorts while pedaling in blustery wind, intense sun, rain, and hail storms from close-to-town singletrack to distant backcountry tundra.

Beyond our team’s experience, we also considered the most popular, highly rated, acclaimed, and bestselling shorts on the market as well as a broad range of price points, features, and styles to meet the needs of various types of bikers.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts

Durable-surfaces-15
Contributor Morgan Tilton testing mountain bike shorts on a ride in Colorado; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Chamois

One of the first pieces of advice we give first-time riders is to go out and purchase a pair of shorts with a good chamois. It’s the single most important (and often overlooked) piece of gear that will make or break your ride.

After all, we are talking about your butt here! If you’ve ever experienced a saddle sore, you know what we’re talking about. And if you haven’t, let’s try to keep it that way with some of our favorite shorts.

Pronounced SHAM-mee, the chamois is the pad that is sewn into a cycling short to protect the groin area against the saddle. The chamois is constructed with a pad that has cushioned foam with a range of densities — some designs offer more cushion than others. Typically, the materials also wick moisture and are soft.

In mountain bike shorts, the chamois can be integrated into the short, but often the chamois is integrated into a short, tight-fitting liner worn beneath the exterior bike shorts. Even if a short doesn’t have a chamois, it most likely is gusseted at the crotch to allow for comfort and stretch in the saddle.

Wearing a chamois instead of regular underwear also eliminates seams, which can rub and cause chafing.

Material

As the price goes up on mountain bike shorts, part of that tag is covering the upgrade of more premium materials.

To point, the Norrøna Fjora Flex and Norrøna Fjora Heavy Duty have a tough, stretchy fabric made from a synthetic blend that offers wind and water resistance, plus it features 50% recycled fibers and a PFC-free DWR. The Shredly MTB Short feels softer and lighter — it’s made with a recycled polyester-spandex blend and costs less.

The Wild Rye Freel is constructed with a WR Duraflex Nylon (88% nylon, 12% spandex), which is tough against reachy trailside branches. Comparatively, the Wild Rye Kaweah is made with the WR Bomber Stretch Poly (90% polyester, 10% spandex), a blend that is still durable but not as tough and at a lower price point ($99 versus $124).

a close up view of the Norrona heavy-duty MTB shorts with a logo and long side zipper
Fabric detail and side zipper view on the Norrona Heavy Duty MTB short; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Waistband

A range of waistband designs exist, and they are unique for each short. What’s most important is that the waistband doesn’t fold over or pop open or pinch your lower stomach while you lean forward on your bike.

It’s also nice to have a waistband with adjustability so you can forgo a belt but tighten your shorts up as needed, especially if the ride is particularly long, sweat-ridden, or rainy.

Among the most minimalist waistband design is the Pearl Izumi Prospect 2/1 Short, which has a wide, stretchy elastic band that slides easily up and down — no fuss at all. The Velocio Trail Short also has a narrower waistband that’s sleek, but with a zipper and slide-in button plus an integrated slender belt to help tighten up the waist.

With a moderate waistband, the Wild Rye shorts have a double-snap, zip closure, and wide width that’s stretchy plus belt loops if you decide to go that route.

For the most adjustability, you can reach for the Norrøna Fjora Flex or Liv Passo Baggy Shorts, both of which have double-snap closures with a zipper. The Passo features belt loops plus an integrated Velcro belt, so you can switch it up.

The Fjora does not have belt loops, but the integrated Velcro belt is wide compared to the other designs we’ve selected, and the backside of the band is higher-waisted. Consider reaching for a higher or wide waistband if you wear a hip pack or backpack while on a ride, too.

the author Mary Murphy wearing a green and black kit with the Kitsbow Madrone shorts biking in Southwestern Colorado
Editor Mary Murphy testing the Kitsbow Madrone shorts; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Pockets

Pockets can be helpful for a spot to quickly stuff your ride gloves on a snack break or to warm up your hands while tailgating. Other pockets secured with a zipper can be a good spot to hold a phone or credit card, while pockets with a snap closure can be a nice place for a snack bar.

Some mountain bike short designs come with minimal pockets like the Pearl Izumi Prospect 2/1 Short, which doesn’t have a pocket in the exterior shell (there’s only a slide-in pocket with no zipper in the removable interior liner). Other shorts offer tons of pocket options like the Liv Passo Baggy Shorts, which have two back pockets, two side pockets, and an additional pocket with a zip closure.

Most shorts offer something in-between with an average of three pockets like the Wild Rye Kaweah, which has two hand pockets and one low-down zippered pocket.

In a well-constructed upgrade, the Shredly MTB Short now features a zippered pocket and the placement is higher on the thigh to help remove the jostle of a phone while you pedal. In contrast, many zippered pockets on other shorts are down lower on the leg and inevitably swing around while you ride.

Inseam Length 

The best inseam length comes down to personal preference, the type of ride you want to do, and the elements you’ll be in. If you’re going on a long ride in sunny, exposed (as in, no tree coverage or shade) terrain, consider wearing longer shorts to protect the tops of your legs from getting sunburned.

Longer shorts can also protect the side of the legs from thick brush or tree branches or insects if you’re riding in a buggy area or on a wild, unkempt trail.

If you’re bikepacking or alpine riding on steep slopes and getting on and off your bike, the longer fabric can also help protect your legs from getting scraped up.

The inseam lengths of the women’s mountain bike shorts in our guide range from 6 inches to 15 inches with 9 to 12 inches being the sweet spot for most trail rides.

Then, with finely tailored inseams to various female body shapes, Shredly offers an adjusted inseam length for each design and each size within that design. For instance, the Curvy 7-inch short has a 7-inch inseam across all sizes, whereas the MTB Short, featured among our top picks, has a different inseam length across the sizes:

  • XS (00): 9.75″
  • XS (0): 10″
  • S (2): 10.25″
  • S (4): 10.5″
  • M (6): 10.75″
  • M (8): 11″
  • L (10): 11.25″
  • XL-3XL (12-24): 11.5″

Fit & Size Range

Most brands offer a size run from at least size 0 to size 18.

Velocio offers an even broader size range (XXS-3XL). More specifically, the Velocio XXS fits a 22- to 24-inch waist and 31.5- to 33.5-inch hip size. In contrast, Wild Rye, for instance, starts at a size 0, which fits a 25.5-inch waist and 36.5-inch hip.

Shredly also offers a greater variety of sizes with a 00 to 24 size run (XS-3XL), which starts at a 24-inch waist and 33-inch hips and goes up to a 43-inch waist and 52-inch hips. Kitsbow’s shorts also offer a much broader size range with waist sizes from 26-37 inches. 

Be sure to double-check the size chart for each pair of shorts you consider buying, and to measure yourself before making an order or stop by a retailer to try on a pair first. Mountain bike short sizes and the precise measurements for each size are not universal and differ across brands.

Price

Most women’s mountain bike shorts hover around $100. That includes Kaweah ($99), Passo ($100), Club Ride Eden Shorts ($100), and Shredly MTB Short ($105) in our guide.

Mountain bike shorts with a more premium construction that’s even tougher against the elements and a beatdown include the Wild Rye Freel Shorts ($124), Norrøna Fjora Flex ($139), Velocio Trail Short ($169), and Kitsbow Madrone Short ($169).

It can be challenging to find great-fitting, well-made mountain bike shorts below $100, but a couple of our top choices include the Prospect ($75) and Dirt Roamer ($59-99).

riding mountain bikes
Contributor Morgan Tilton wearing Wild Rye shorts on a bikepacking trip; (photo/Eric Phillips)

FAQ

Why Are Women's Mountain Bike Shorts So Long?

The easy answer is coverage. When you’re riding a bike, no matter the bike or your riding level, the last thing you want is fabric that rides up, rides down, or doesn’t provide enough coverage or protection.

When you bike in the mountains, desert, or other environments, you’ll want skin coverage and protection against the elements, including sunshine (even your legs can get burned!), wind, rain, or hail. The further you venture out from a trailhead and the higher in elevation you go, the more likely you are to get stuck in a variety of conditions (with no quick bailouts), and the exposure becomes stronger such as being closer to the sun. You’ll also want skin protection against abrasive vegetation on the side of the trail. Whether you’re blazing narrow singletrack that is surrounded by lush wildflower fields or scratchy bushes, you’ll be glad when your epidermis is not exposed.

Factor in that you may want a nice supportive or padded liner underneath, and longer shorts are the way to go. We’ve tested a slew of shorts that range in length from 6 to 15 inches on the inseam.

What Are the Best Padded MTB Shorts?

Some of our favorite mountain bike shorts on this list that come with a chamois (a padded liner to protect the groin area when riding) are the Patagonia Dirt Roamer with Endless Ride liner and the Live Baggy Shorts.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for even more support, consider buying whatever shorts suit you best and adding your own chamois. (Many shorts here that have liners are removable for this purpose and for washing.)

If you’re looking for a short that has a thicker, supportive fabric, check out the Wild Rye Freel or Kitsbow Madrone on this list above.

What Should I Look For in Mountain Bike Shorts?

The best mountain bike shorts, our testers found, were the ones that offered a comfortable and supportive fit, work with a liner or no liner, and are durable, breathable, and can hold up to weather like water and wind.

When it comes to the features of mountain bike shorts, like inseam length or number of pockets, this is personal preference but is also influenced by the conditions you’ll be riding in, the surrounding conditions and environment, and the duration of the majority of your rides.

Our testers preferred having at least one pocket with a secure closure, and either adjustability or an elastic stretch component in the waist. They also generally prefer shorts that fall just above the knee but for certain objectives, the ultra-long lengths are better — like longer bikepacking trips in harsh sunlight.

Why Do Mountain Bikers Wear Baggy Shorts?

The fit of mountain bike shorts overall is generally baggier than you are probably used to. Similar to running shorts, the reasoning for this is range of motion. You don’t want to feel too constricted while you are pedaling and moving around on your bike.

Mountain bike shorts are also typically thicker fabric for durability, and a looser fit means more comfort as well. Especially since many riders choose to wear a liner, or chamois, underneath their shorts. Outside of bagginess, shorts come in a variety of fits and lengths — some of our favorites with a more relaxed fit include the Liv Passo Baggy Shorts or Norrøna Fjora Shorts

There are some reasons for choosing more athletic or fitting shorts for mountain biking though: one is preference, one is sizing (for example, if your hips are much wider than your thighs or vice versa), and one is environment. Where you are riding plays a role.

If the majority of the time you mountain bike in sandy and dusty desert environments, you may prefer to go with a slimmer short — or a longer short like the Dirt Roamer — over a chamois.


Looking for more great bike gear? Check this out:

2019 Canyon Strive
The Canyon Strive Gives Riders 2 Bikes in 1
Flip a switch on the 2019 Canyon Strive to go from cross-country to downhill. Shapeshifter technology makes the Strive a true quiver killer. Read more…