While the warm season is a ways off for many of us living in Earth’s northern half, finding solid riding gear is an ongoing affair. There are loads of robustly-built shorts out there for shoulder season shreds and outings where pants are not quite the right answer. Who wants to let the weather tell them when they can show a stripe of calf skin anyway?
I have ridden in three notably thick and tough pairs of shorts this autumn and early winter to find out how they feel in the colder months. The details below are organized from the lightest to the heaviest offering. You may note that this is not the least expensive set of half-pants we have reviewed, and that’s thanks to the materials and methods used to create them and their higher level of protection and durability with respect to many wallet-friendlier options.
Kitsbow Origin Shorts
I remember a dirt-curious roadie friend asking me once “is there a Rapha of mountain biking? Like, a brand that makes really classy looking gear that you could wear to a cyclist’s wedding?” To which I replied, “why there is, in fact, and it’s a US based brand called Kitsbow.” According to a news release on BicycleRetailer.com, Kitsbow recently moved its US factory to North Carolina, where it will double its US production, with “plans to get 95% of its revenue from products made in the U.S. by 2021.” If the environmental regulations and fair labor practices that often accompany a “Made in USA” label are important purchasing factors for you, check out the goods on Kitsbow.com.
While they are the lightest weight pair in this sturdy roundup, the Origin Shorts are by no means a featherweight summer selection. Their heavy woven nylon fabric is double stitched along the inner and outer seams, and the spots that typically wear through are still looking great after a few months of riding and washing.
The four zippered pockets employ solid YKK zippers with bright blue nylon tethers to make them easier to pull with gloved hands, and the pocket liners are all perforated for ventilation as the days grow warmer. The two front hip pockets are roughly the size of a large-glove-wearing hand, while the side hip stuffers have space for a smaller cell phone or snack on either flank.
- MSRP: $155
- Colors: grey only
- 4-way stretch woven nylon
I rode in the Kitsbow Origin shorts through the fall and early winter, up until it was cool enough for full-length trousers, and I can highly recommend their build quality and superb fit. I have a 30″ waist, and the size small fit as advertised. The Origin shorts don’t overlay my kneepads quite as much as I would like, though they do work with pads.
Evoc Bike Shorts
Moving one step up the rugged shorts ladder, the Bike Shorts from Evoc Sports are like wearing a hip pack on your legs. With two backside velcro pockets, one zippered hip pocket and a second open option, and a large velcro thigh pouch, you can definitely pack enough weight in these shorts to yank them off when you hit a hard landing. Fortunately, the fly is fully velcro sealed, with a rubberized shoestring to dial in the tautness similar to good ol’ board shorts. There are even belt loops in case you feel the need to really lock them down.
The Evoc shorts are a touch less stretchy than the Kitsbow above, but they feel elastic-y enough to stretch rather than ripping when you hit the dirt. The fabric is also a touch lighter than the Origin shorts, and the weight of the Evoc pair comes from their varying layers of fabric around the pockets. Every last seam is double stitched, and these shorts are clearly built to sustain some long seasons in the saddle.
- MSRP: €133.28
- Colors: black, loam
- 96% Nylon 6.6 Cordura, 4% Spandex, DWR coating
I wore the Evoc shorts through the same fall/winter period, and they too are looking as good as new. With somewhat lighter material and a mesh patch of fabric at the lumbar, they breathe better than expected for a durability-focused piece of gear. The legs on these shorts are quite long and will cover almost any kneepads — regardless of a rider’s femur length. One added benefit of the jet black shorts is that they don’t show any sweat streaks that might develop throughout the day. As the only bike shorts Evoc offers, I’d say they did a great job with these.
Dirtlej Trailscout Waterproof
Now, on to the tank shorts. The heaviest pair of shorts I tested this season were the Trailscout Waterproof, by Dirtlej. You may recall our review of the Dirtlej Dirtsuit Pro. These shorts are the lower portion of that all-encompassing armor. The Trailscout shorts have two waterproof hip pockets to keep your essentials tidy, and a second set at the back for collecting a forest bouquet or taking some dirt home with you. The slightly stretchy double-stitched material is bolstered at the crotch and inseam with a thicker fabric swatch, similar to that found on motocross pants. There may be a more robust MTB short out there, but I certainly haven’t seen it.
The Trailscouts close up with two snaps and a zipper, while also offering loops for a belt if you so desire. The waist can be adjusted by the usual velcro cinch straps, and their overall fit is spot on as advertised. The inseam is almost identical to that of the Evoc shorts, and with wide openings at the base, these shorts also play well with kneepads.
- MSRP: €129
- Color: blue/black only
- 92% polyester, 6% spandex
- 20,000mm water column
Shorts are supposed to be cooler than pants, and compared to waterproof MTB pants these certainly offer more ventilation. However, they are not designed for warm riding. The Trailscout Waterproof shorts are for folks who ride in foul weather while their friends sit on the couch daydreaming and watching mountain bike videos. On any day warmer than 15° C (60° F) The Trailscout Waterproof shorts were too hot and sweaty. Fortunately, Dirtlej has two lighter weight pairs of shorts for days when your fair-weather friends are willing to come out and play. If you like to get loose all year, give the Dirtlej Trailscout Waterproof shorts a look.
Check out our mountain bike shorts buyers guide and our picks for the best mountain bike shorts.