Peak summertime heat is here. The trails are getting dusty, the woods are a bit less lush, and hydration is monumental. Aside from staying inside which no one wants to do, it’s getting tougher to stay cool. Fortunately a good pair of riding shorts is one of the best bets to stay as comfortable as possible.
Quality materials and the right fit make a huge difference in comfort, especially in the heat, as does proper vent placement. We took a look at four pairs of shorts that vary in style, fit, material, and color. There should be something for everyone here.
Velocio TRAIL Short
- Slim-fitting trail shorts
- DWR water-shedding finish
- 4-way stretch fabric
- MSRP: $160 (available from Velocio)
Velocio is based in the New England area and the materials are sourced and made in Italy. We looked at their first set of TRAIL shorts late last year, and Velocio gave the shorts a few fine updates.
For the second take on the TRAIL shorts, they grew a bit in length, but kept their slim and tailored feel. I have found that I enjoy the first version’s shorter length just as much as I enjoy the new version’s longer length, but the new TRAIL shorts do make it easier to pull off a pair of slim knee pads underneath.
The fabric on the Velocio TRAIL shorts is still one of my favorite materials. It is thin, lightweight, stretchy, and very comfortable to move around in. Quite a few people have complimented the coral red color as well.
My only minor complaint about the shorts is the fit buckle. The first version had two cinch buckles for fit, one on either side of your hips. The new version have moved to a simpler single-sided buckle. The buckle seems to loosen somewhat often, especially while wearing a fanny pack, which requires more frequent tightening. It’s far from a deal breaker, but I do wish they stayed more snug. Overall, they are a great pair of shorts for most all rides, but I would don something thicker for shuttle rides or bike park laps.
Zoic Ether Shorts
- Loose-fitting, trail shorts
- DuraFlex stretch fabric
- Six pockets
- $65 (compare prices and styles)
Zoic takes an affordable yet stylish stance on mountain bike clothing that wants to be accessible for everyone. Based out of southern California, Zoic takes credit for developing the first dedicated pair of mountain bike shorts more than 25 years ago.
The Ether shorts are made for the average and everyday rider who wants a decent pair of shorts without paying an arm and a leg. Because what good is mountain bike apparel if you have to trade your limbs in to wear it?
Priced at $65, the Ether shorts check all the boxes for a modern short. They are baggy, but not too baggy. The material is thin and breathable, and the length is spot on, breaking right at the knee.
There are adjustable velcro tabs on both hips for a secure fit. As these shorts are on the more affordable side, the material and fit aren’t quite on par with the other shorts featured in this review, but that begs the question, “what do you really need, and what don’t you?” For a quality pair of shorts, the Zoic Ethers are all you need and a great value.
Showers Pass IMBA Shorts
- Loose-fitting, trail shorts
- Four-way stretch fabric
- Zippered ventilation on sides
- MSRP: $98 (available from Showers Pass or compare prices)
Showers Pass is based in Portland, Oregon and started in 1997, developing outdoor gear for people all over, but especially in the Pacific Northwest where it is mandatory to play in the rain. The company has built a reputation on making high-quality, weather-resistant gear and the IMBA shorts fall right in line. On the shorts and the Showers Pass IMBA jacket, 5% of the sales go toward IMBA.
The shorts feature a four-way stretch for easy mobility. It’s also easy to stay nice and cool in them with great venting. On both sides, there is a zippered vent, although one doubles as a pocket you can use to stuff a set of keys.
The shorts also feature velcro cinch buckles on both hips, which stick to keep the shorts in the right place. The only bummer I’ve had with these shorts is that one of the button snaps broke, although there is one more button and a clasp to keep them secure.
The IMBA shorts feel suitable and have enough coverage to fill a variety of riding from trail to enduro. With the 12-inch inseam, it is easy to rock a set of knee pads underneath them.
Endura MT500 Spray Baggy Short II
- 4-way stretch with DWR finish
- Waterproof, three-layer seam-taped rear panel
- Zippered thigh vents
- MSRP: $130 (compare prices and styles)
Like Showers Pass, Scottish brand Endura also knows the importance of weather-resistant materials. The MT500 Sprays are a baggy short that err on the side of protection from all elements.
The MT500s were a bit roomier and heavier than the rest of the bunch. Endura describes them as a “mutant offspring of a waterproof and standard baggy short.” Although they are a little baggier and thicker feeling than the other shorts featured, they don’t trap heat and they do just fine on pedally rides. They’re certainly not as light or comfortable as say, the Velocio TRAIL shorts, but for a pair that offers as much protection as the MT500s, it’s nice to know that they won’t feel like a sauna on a sweaty, mid-summer ride.
Part of this is due to the large, zippered vents along the thighs that let in air. One quick zip and it’s easy to feel the difference. The MT500s work well for everyday trail rides, but I like them for heavier-duty riding, like the bike park or descent-minded rides.
Check out our mountain bike shorts buyers guide and our picks for the best mountain bike shorts.
One more marketing scheme trying to create a specific attire where none is needed.
I’ve worn the same thing while riding a bike since i was four ,( 73 now) cut off shorts , Converse All Stars and a T shirt.
This kind of s#$t is laughable.????
Theoretically, humans can also survive on a diet of macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, although it wouldn’t be recommended. Sure, Converse and jorts will do the trick, but a good pair of shorts (and shoes) will feel much better.
Have to agree to an extend you can do it in slippers and jogging shorts its just not the best gear to be riding with thats why local thrift stores are great on anything outdoor apparrel its just about searching that or amazon have great similiar items for way less, $50 is the sweet spot of what i consider affordable quality for shorts youll end up abusing and it better come with liner.
I get that we have an expensive sport, but $160 for shorts?
Honestly whatever is on clearance in the climbing section at REI is what I buy. Super durable, super stretchy and usually under $30 a pair. I bought two pairs of the same Royal shorts last spring and they still look brand new after commuting every day to work and mountain biking on the weekends.
You don’t need to spend big money to have big fun.
$160 for a pair of shorts, man? Come on. That’s just ridiculous. Mountain biking never will become a sport “for the people, all people” if the industry and MTB media continue to lust over and pimp the most expensive gear. How about every once in a while reviewing bikes and gear that “the rest of us” can afford? Not everyone can — or wants to — drop $5,000 on bikes and $100-plus for shorts.
Valid point, Kellycny. Can’t argue with that. But that is only one pair of shorts included, while two other are under $100 with the most affordable priced at $65 from Zoic. My goal was to provide a few shorts that ranged in price and in style. The Velocio shorts aren’t going to be for everyone, and they know this. As noted in the Zoic review, they offer a lot good value for $65 and will likely last many years.
Fair enough. There is a $65 pair of Zoic shorts that follow the $160 shorts mentioned, but understandably even that is out of reach or impractical for many riders.
Singletracks works to review a good mix of bikes at many different price points, like the $999 Raleigh Tokul we reviewed this spring and (coming soon) the Jamis Portal, a FS bike under $3K. Understandably even those bikes are still out of reach for many folks.