Many mountain bikers prefer to wear baggy shorts on the trail instead of tight spandex, and today there are more baggy choices than ever. I live in Georgia where summers range somewhere between tropical and sauna, so I went looking for the best lightweight mountain bike shorts that still offer good protection and a bit of carrying capacity. Here’s what I found after trying seven different pairs of lightweight, baggy MTB shorts.
Aussie Grit is a new brand out of — you guessed it — Australia, whose slogan is “no stone unturned.” The company was started by nine-time Formula One Grand Prix winner Mark Webber with the goal of creating functional, high-quality gear for both cycling and trail running. The Aussie Grit origin story is pretty interesting, and goes like this:
Chasing his Formula One dream across the globe, Mark’s determination to keep mentally and physically fit saw him shunning the hotel gym for running and cycling in the great outdoors.
Training in nature in all kinds of weather, Mark found he was spending too much time focusing on what he was wearing. Small imperfections were getting in the way.
Through motor racing, Mark learned tight margins can be the difference between success and failure. You have to trust every aspect of your gear, to give you the headspace to perform at your best and enjoy the moment.
The Flint shorts I tested are notable for being the only ones here that include a sewn-in chamois liner. Aussie Grit says the chamois is Italian-made, and it’s clearly a very high quality chamois that’s not overly bulky, yet offers plenty of padding and support. The chamois cover is nice and soft with flat, unobtrusive stitching.
Starting at the waist band, the Aussie Grit Flint shorts utilize a stretchy shock cord with a locking mechanism to cinch them in place. There’s even a tiny pocket to hide the excess cord, which just shows the attention to detail that goes into the Flint shorts. Aside from that, there isn’t any type of closure — just a continuous waist band for simplicity and maximum comfort.
Moving down, the Flint shorts feature laser-cut venting and a single, right-side zippered pocket. The pocket is placed far to the side, almost toward the back of the shorts, to avoid interfering with pedalling. Aussie Grit calls the pocket phone-sized, but my iPhone Plus isn’t even close to fitting inside it. Instead, I would describe the pocket as credit card sized. This isn’t a ding on the Flint shorts by any means; these shorts are designed to get out of the way of the ride, and to do that, the rider is clearly encouraged to leave pretty much everything behind.
Laser-cut ventilation continues down the inseam, while reflective stripes and an Aussie Grit logo round out the front. The rear is void of any pockets or extra material which allows the shorts to work well in the saddle.
These are the shortest shorts in the test, offering the rider an excellent range of motion. The short length also makes the Flint shorts a good choice for hot rides. It’s difficult to say whether these are among the lightest shorts in this test because they include a sewn-in liner. If we were to add the weight of a liner to the other shorts in this test for an apples-to-apples comparison, the Flint shorts would be among the lightest. Because these shorts do include a high-quality chamois, they are more expensive than the others in this test at $240.91 AUD ($180.49 USD).
MSRP: $180.49 USD (based on current exchange rates)
The Dainese HG Shorts 1 are among the most durable and aggressive shorts in this lightweight mountain bike shorts throwdown. These are essentially downhill mountain bike shorts, with ripstop fabric designed to resist abrasion. Not only that, the bottom hem is shaped to provide good coverage when paired with a set of knee pads.
Dainese uses a single snap enclosure and no zipper, instead bridging the fly with a piece of stretchy fabric. The waist features two pieces of elastic that can be stretched and secured with velcro to provide a tight fit. I found the size medium shorts to run a little big for my waist; a slightly longer velcro strip would have allowed me to get the fit just right.
Like the Aussie Grit Flint shorts, Dainese includes just a single, credit card sized, zippered pocket, this time on the left side front, just below the waist. The shorts are among the longest in my test, which makes sense because they are designed to be worn with pads, and in situations where riders desire added protection. Despite the length and enhanced durability, these are not quite the heaviest shorts in the test, weighing 268g in size medium.
Dainese calls the fabric used in the HG Shorts 1 “SuperFabric,” which has a nice stretchy feel to it. SuperFabric is said to resist snags, though the downside is these shorts don’t breathe nearly as well as some of the others in the test. Again, this is par for the course when it comes to gravity-oriented shorts, though it is surprising Dainese doesn’t include any discernible venting.
The reflective white logos on the legs really pop against the black shorts, both day and night. With tapered, fitted legs, the Dainese HG Shorts 1 look particularly long and skinny. In fact, they are among the longest in the throwdown.
A couple years ago Singletracks readers picked the Endura Humvee shorts as their third favorite mountain bike short overall, and the Humvee Lite II is a lightweight version of this popular short. Endura says the Humvee was actually developed after working with London bike couriers who wanted a pair of durable urban cycling shorts. These are easily the most fully-featured shorts in this throwdown, and appear to offer the best overall value.
The Humvee Lite Short II includes a chamois liner that’s held in place with a simple snap system. The liner is lightweight (118g, size medium) and is fully vented so there’s no getting away with wearing the liner on its own. The chamois is pretty basic and comfortable.
The Humvee Lite Short II features a tall elastic waistband with extended belt loops. Endura throws in a nylon belt, which I plan to use with all the other bike shorts I own since none of them came with a belt. The closure uses a single button and zipper.
With a total of four pockets, the Humvee Lite shorts have storage for days. Two standard hand pockets flank the left and right sides, and while these aren’t super functional on the bike, they are great for warming hands, or stashing phones and keys before and after the ride. There is a more secure zippered pocket on the left leg about halfway down, and another zippered pocket in the right rear. Endura isn’t the only company to include rear pockets on bike shorts, but I personally find these a little odd and not so useful. Like the hand pockets, perhaps a rear pocket is best for stashing a wallet on the drive to the trail or on the way to the bar.
The lightweight, ripstop material is slightly stretchy and is DWR-coated so water droplets roll right off. A reflective logo is placed just above the shaped bottom hem. Surprisingly, the Humvee Lite shorts are the longest in the throwdown (as measured from the top of the waist band to the hem at the front). Partly as a result, they are the heaviest without a liner, though the included belt also adds to the weight.
The new C5 Trail Light shorts are hands down the lightest in this test, weighing just 147g, nearly 50g lighter than the second lightest shorts. These are also the most vented shorts in the test, promising excellent ventilation and breathability all summer long.
Gore pairs a simple drawstring waist cincher with a tall waist band. The inside of the waist band features a silicon gripper pattern to help keep the shorts in place. There’s no zipper or button closure, which helps keep the weight low and comfort high.
A single zippered pocket on the right leg is large enough to fit my iPhone Plus — diagonally. Large vents arc down the front of the shorts, nearly top to bottom, and it’s important to note they are pretty much see-through, so pair these with a liner. (Gore’s Trail Liner Bib short, $89.99, is a good choice.)
The C5 Trail Light shorts combine several different materials to make this “XC-inspired” short work. A soft, stretchy fabric covers most of the front and sides, while part of the back and inside legs feature a more stiff, ripstop material to resist wear and tear. There are also mesh panels in both the front and back to promote air flow.
Despite the XC inspiration and the wispy light weight, the C5 Trail Light shorts actually run pretty long, measuring 22 inches from the top of the waist to the bottom hem. Reflective Gore logos are printed along the bottom of the left leg and on the butt.
Of all the shorts in this throwdown, the Pearl Izumi Boardwalk shorts look the most like “normal” shorts. They even function the most like normal shorts, eschewing bike-specific features like fancy waist cinchers and pedal-optimized pocket placement. The interesting thing is, I received more compliments on the Boardwalk shorts than any of the others I tested, so clearly Pearl Izumi is onto something with the look they call “Colorado Casual.”
A flat, non-elastic waistband features belt loops so riders can add their own cincher in the form of a belt. For my first couple of test rides I just used the leather belt I wear with jeans, and it worked great. The closure has a zipper and a large, plastic button to secure the fly.
The Boardwalk shorts have two medium-depth hand pockets on the left and right and two — count ’em, two — rear pockets. The pocket on the right has a velcro closure, while the one on the left is wide open. Again, I don’t consider rear pockets to be super functional on the bike, but they do come in handy before and after the ride.
The lightweight polyester fabric looks great on and off the bike, and I really like the small, embroidered logo patch on the left leg and the subtle reflective striping printed on the rear. Despite the “casual” look, the Boardwalk shorts are cut to move easily on the bike, and I experienced zero seat snags during my tests.
Weighing a hair under 200g, these are the second-lightest shorts in the throwdown. The overall length is 22 inches, which is middle-of-the-road for the shorts I tested.
POC is well-known for high-quality hard goods like helmets and pads, and the company has recently added soft goods to the mix. The Essential XC shorts are the most affordable in this test, retailing for just $80 and currently on sale through POC’s website for just $64.
The Essential XC shorts are designed to be lightweight while also offering good durability and protection. They’re even designed to be water repellant.
The waist band features elastic, velcro cinchers and a two-snap, zippered fly. Like the Dainese shorts that use a similar waist cinching system, I would like to see a larger velcro runway for increased adjustability. I was between sizes on these shorts and opted for size large, which ended up being a little too big, even with the cinchers at max extension.
POC includes two medium-sized, angled, zippered pockets along the front of the shorts. The stretchy material is on the stiffer and thicker end of the spectrum for this throwdown, and as a result, overall weight of 269g (size large) is toward the high end as well.
From a distance, the POC Essential XC shorts look longish, especially for an XC short, but the tape measure confirms they are 21.5-inches, slightly below the average length tested.
POC recommends pairing with the Essential XC Air VPD bib shorts, which I tested as well. The bibs include a couple of rear pockets for extra storage and a thick chamois. The shoulder straps and sides are vented with a fine mesh to keep riders cool. Unfortunately the size large bib shorts fit a little tight, and the suspender straps are a touch too short for my 6’3″ height, so these may not be a good fit for tall riders.
The new OPR shorts from Stio are designed to have a clean, tapered look while offering performance-oriented features like ventilation, comfort, and storage. The slightly-stretchy waist band has oversized belt loops and a unique twist-lock and zipper fly closure. Standard left and right, mesh-lined hand pockets double as venting. Stio also includes right rear and left front zippered pockets.
Lightweight, stretchy material makes for a light overall weight: 253g for the size 33 shorts I tested. This is even more impressive given that the OPR shorts are nearly the longest shorts tested. Stio offers pretty standard US sizing based on waist size in inches, which should make finding the right size a cinch.
Many of the panels on the OPR shorts feature precision-cut holes for ventiliation. On the bottom inside of the legs, there are flaps for even more stealthy air flow. While the shorts appear to be durable and fairly thick, they are among the most comfortable and the coolest in this test.
Priced at $129 USD without a liner, these are the second most expensive shorts, and they are among my favorites in terms of styling. Stio says their logo is a pinecone, but I like to think it’s a hop flower.