Enduro. It’s a BIG thing now. Racers typically pedal between 20-36 miles and race 4-6 timed downhill stages, so they need shorts that are comfortable for riding a long distance, long enough to cover all the protective padding, and can withstand hitting a few shrubs and rocks or possibly taking a crash. The five shorts we’ve tested here are all classified as “enduro” shorts, constructed with lightweight, breathable, and durable fabric; crafted with a longer inseam; and include features that are advantageous to keeping the rider comfortable in the saddle for 3-4 hours.
About the tester
Chris Schieffer stands 5’5” and weighs 114lbs with a 30 inch inseam, 27 inch waist, and 35 inch hips. She typically falls between a size x-small and small depending on the brand. All products were selected using each brand’s size chart measurements.
7Mesh Glidepath Short
- Inseam 12”
- Soma 2-Way Stretch Woven Fabric
- Two hand pockets
- Reflective details
- Low profile locking waist adjustment
- Zippered fly with snap closure
- Integrated belt loops
- Two zippered side pockets with phone sleeves
- Sizes: XS–XL (tested x-small)
- Colors: Black, Arctic Blue
The 7Mesh Glidepath short fit, dare I say, “perfect” on my waist and hips (I’m not very curvy). I received an XS, and they fit true to size. The short is relaxed, yet articulated, constructed from a lightweight ripstop fabric with just enough stretch to make pedaling comfortable when the sweat starts rolling. The brand style is clean and simple, with no large branding, and a subdued appearance.
The Glidepath are a tad on the shorter side, measuring a 12” inseam, hitting just above the knee when seated. This does allow you to wear knee pads without an extreme gap, but if you have long legs, you may find that they don’t quite do the trick. The gusset has a unique fit, and to be honest, something is a bit off. It feels like there’s a little too much material that, even with a relaxed style, provided an unflattering look in certain standing positions. To caveat this point, I do not have an extremely round figure, or large hips, so it’s very possible that this would correct itself with the ideal booty shape.
The waist adjustment tab, made from sturdy lightweight webbing and a simple clasp, works well to cinch the waist comfortably without creating extra bunching, which can be annoying when you have a fanny pack on. Truth be told, however, I did not need to cinch these, because as previously mentioned – they fit absolutely perfect on my waist. The inside of the waistband is also lined with a soft micro-fleece that absorbs moisture and enhances comfort, with integrated belt loops if you find the adjustment tabs insufficient. The Fabric is coated with DWR, making them water-resistant and quick-drying, but also creating a faint and slightly annoying “swishing” sound while pedaling for longer periods of time.
The pockets, and their placement, are outstanding. They have two forward-facing, unsecured hand pockets that are off-seam and lay completely flat. The Glidepath shorts also have two large, deep, diagonal side hip cargo pockets. They seemed odd at first, but once I placed a few items in there, notably my large phone, I found that the diagonal pockets were extremely well placed and allowed my phone to stay in a position that kept it from thumping against my thigh while pedaling. However, while fully loading pockets is an easy feat in these shorts, it can make your rearview look a little larger and unsightly.
The 7Mesh Glidepath shorts are constructed with a lightweight, durable fabric, have well-thought-out pockets, and easy-to-use waist adjusters, but miss the mark in the gusset department. The fit may be flattering for some, but at a cost of $140, it’s best to try them on first.
DHaRCO Gravity Short
- 13” inseam
- Adjustable waist tabs
- Women’s-specific fit
- 4-way quick drying breathable stretch fabric (95% nylon 5% spandex)
- Water-resistant finish
- No snag gusset
- Two pockets for essentials
- Sizes: XS–XL (tested XS)
- Colors: Black, Camo (Olive Green), Clay
DHaRCO’s Gravity shorts are designed for women who like to ride, period. Yes, the name suggests downhill, but these shorts really will do it all. They’re constructed with a slightly thicker material than some of the other options on this list. If you live in a really moist, muggy environment, you may find these to be a touch hot and sticky on your rides. However, in my dry, arid climate, I didn’t find these shorts to be too thick. I could still pedal comfortably without being completely saturated in sweat.
Crafted from nylon and spandex using environmentally-friendly materials, the Gravity shorts offer a perfect blend of stretch and durability, not to mention the look is clean and sharp. I found the 13” inseam length works for all riding styles, providing protection and accommodating knee pads, sans gap, just fine.
The Gravity shorts fit nicely on my non-curvy bottom half. They have a lower rise and fit snugly on my hips, butt, and thighs without a chamois. If you plan on wearing a chamois and pedaling, then you may want to size up to accommodate for the extra bulk underneath. Additionally, if you like a baggier short, or are a curvier woman I’d recommend sizing up, as these may feel a bit restrictive in the waist/hips. Personally, I’m not one to select snug, body-hugging shorts but these fit so well that I really enjoyed wearing them on trail rides and they transition to a casual post-ride pub crawl with the greatest of ease.
The overall design and construction are simply top-notch. The Velcro adjusters, zippers, and material feel as though they are indestructible and honestly, they might be. The little touches, like the slight party vibe I got from the inside of the waistband, the waist button design, and DHaRCO’s fun patterns and styling, are what really make these shorts standout.
Unfortunately, the Gravity shorts only offer one front zip hand pocket and one small back zip pocket. The front zip pocket is a tad on the smaller side, so don’t expect to carry your phone without a bit of discomfort on your thigh. If you’re only riding downhill this may not be an issue, but we all know enduros require quite a bit of pedaling. The back waist zipper pocket seems well… non-usable. Maybe you can put your ID and a chapstick in there? If you plan on wearing a hip pack, it will be uncomfortable with anything in the back pocket. Many downhill and enduro riders opt not to carry a pack and just pocket the essentials; credit card, ID, and a key. However, most people have a phone with them as well, which makes a larger front pocket all the more necessary.
Aside from the tricky pocket situation and thicker material these shorts are everything I’d want. Even though I received the black pair for testing, they are by far the best looking, best fitting, most well-constructed shorts of the bunch. Priced at ~$100 USD, these are also the cheapest shorts of the bunch. So if you’re looking for “bargain” shorts with all the technical features, a snug fit, and fun details, that work well for enduro, downhill, and trail, these are the shorts for you.
Fox Defend Short
- 14.5” inseam
- Ratchet closure
- Secure zip hand pockets
- TruMotion® all-way stretch fabric (94% polyester, 6% elastane)
- Body-mapping laser perforated areas on front and back
- DWR finish
- Sizes: S-XL (tested small)
- Colors: Black, Teal
The Fox Defend short is a fairly simple design. There’s nothing flashy about these shorts, aside from the very large Fox logos on both thighs. I received a small because Fox doesn’t actually make an XS in these shorts, which is a bummer. Unfortunately, my test pair was a bit large for me, even fully cinched. They could still be pulled off my hips with a slight tug. If Fox were to make an XS, I’d probably like these shorts a lot more.
Aside from being ill fitting for my waist, the design and leg/booty fit, as previously noted, is pretty simple. No extra seams or complicated gussets, which I like. The fabric is lightweight and breathable even on a hot day and the perforated inner thigh vents function nicely, providing venting right where pads are the hottest.
The length of these shorts is a touch longer than I’d prefer. With an inseam length of 14.5”, these hit my 5’5” frame just below the knees. Much like the Noronna Fjora Flex1 short, I found these get caught on my shock when going from standing to seated in a hurry. The Defend shorts are definitely made for downhill and enduro riding. The thigh openings accommodate bulky pads with ease and they are comfortable while pedaling.
The shorts have two large zipper pockets that are big enough to fit even the most monstrous of phones and I didn’t find my iPhone 12 to be hitting my crotch or thigh crease while pedaling, definitely a plus when riding enduro.
There are no side waist adjusters, which is nice if you plan on wearing a hip pack because there’s not extra fabric to cause bunching and potentially uncomfortable creasing on the hips. The Defend shorts have a low rise, which, if the sizing were correct for me, is definitely my preference. The ratchet fastener was actually my favorite of all the shorts, simple and easy to use. If you are within the size range for these shorts, you will find that even when pedaling, the fastener will not hit you in the stomach or create any uncomfortable pressure in the mid-section.
Overall, the Defend short can do it all, provided they are the correct fit for your body. The lightweight fabric and simple cut, accompanied by the low-rise waist and front ratchet waist adjuster will make for a comfortable ride, even on the longest days in the saddle.
- Price: $130 USD, offered in women’s, men’s, and youth ($79.95 USD) styles
- Available at Fox Racing and other retailers
ION Traze Vent Short
- 12” inseam
- Air-Flow technology venting
- External velcro waist adjusters
- 4-way stretch fabric
- Two integrated zipper pockets
- Elastic waist with hook and loop adjustments
- Sizes: 34/XS–42/XL (tested x-small)
- Colors: Thunder Grey, Indigo Dawn
The ION Traze Vent shorts are amazing. I had the pleasure of actually racing enduro in these shorts along with the matching Scrub AMP Mesh_ine jersey. The number of compliments I received on the overall aesthetic of this kit was astounding. I tested the Traze Vent short in dry Colorado, as well is humid Arkansas and these shorts worked nicely in both climates because of the dri-release, moisture-wicking, fast-drying fabric and superior air-flow venting throughout.
The ION Traze Vent shorts have a looser fit, somewhere between the DHaRCO gravity short and Norrøna Fjørå Flex1 short, yet still hold their shape and fit even when soggy from sweat. I received an XS in these shorts and they were a little big. I did need to cinch the two external velcro waist adjusters, yet I didn’t find the cinch to create large uncomfortable bunching because the waist, and Velcro, are so soft and stretchy. The only drawback to the external adjusters is that the tabs themselves stick out a bit making me look a little more “hippy” with a jersey over the top. However, when wearing a hip pack, this point resolved itself. The front of the waist also fastens with a unique button and soft Velcro. I honestly don’t know how the Velcro on these shorts is so soft yet functional. It’s a lovely mystery.
The lightweight, 4-way stretch fabric, accompanied by the mesh venting on the outside of the thighs, butt, and the entirety of the gusset, makes for a comfortable ride, especially in hot, humid Arkansas. I was on my bike for a total of 4 hours, so I was certainly sweaty, but these shorts wicked moisture consistently and I didn’t feel like I had to wring them out afterward like other shorts with thicker fabric.
The Traze Vent short has a 12” inseam, covering pads without leaving the dreaded gap. The thigh openings are larger and more stretchy than some of the other shorts, which I found to be extremely comfortable for pedaling. The Traze Vent short also has two large front zipper pockets that are perfect for phones and small things.
Overall, the simple, ultra-soft lightweight material, coupled with superior venting and a nice aesthetic make these shorts my top pick for Enduro. I only have good things to say.
Norrøna Fjørå Flex1 Short
- Inseam 15.5”
- Custom-fit waist system™
- High waistband in the back
- Silicon grip in waist
- Articulated knee construction
- Reinforced knees
- Reinforced seat
- Two hand pockets
- Cargo pocket
- Zipper ventilation with mesh
- Full stretch
- Sizes: XS–L (size small tested)
- Colors: Campanula/indigo night, indigo night/violet tulle, indigo night/arcadia, violet tulle/indigo night
The Norrøna Fjørå Flex1 short fits a little big to size. I ordered a small based on the size chart and I had to cinch down the waist adjusters to accommodate my particular measurements. Luckily, the design includes a high-waisted back and silicone grip on the inside, so the slightly larger size didn’t preclude me from a comfortable ride. Aside from being a bit baggy due to my poor sizing choice, I absolutely loved these shorts. The Norrøna Fjørå Flex1 shorts, coupled with the Fjørå Wool T- shirt are a match made in colorful, technical kit heaven.
I’m a fan of colors and *small amounts* of flair; the Fjørå Flex1 shorts have both. They come in a variety of color schemes, none of which are black and all of which make me feel beautiful in my mountain bike gear. You know what they say, when you look good, you feel good and when you feel good you ride faster – “them’s facts.” Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, these shorts are made from recycled fabric and are light enough to ride in the summer months, yet durable enough to withstand weather and protect your skin from potential crashes at the bike park. I found them to be extremely breathable, even through the wind/water resistant quad and booty fabric. They also come equipped with a large cargo pocket, which allowed me to store a very large phone without having to bring a fanny pack.
The Fjørå Flex1 short is definitely longer than your average enduro short. The inseam is approximately 15.5” inches, which is great for covering up any knee pad gaps, and the articulated knee construction will accommodate the bulkiest of pads. One drawback to the length, however. If you are short, or have shorter legs, these might end up looking more like capri pants than shorts. They were on the verge of looking that way on me and I am 5’5” with a 30” inseam. Due to their length, I found that they sometimes got caught on my shock when going from a standing to a seated position, or from standing on the pedals to standing on the ground. It’s a very weird problem indeed. This doesn’t seem to pose a problem when pedaling or standing. It only happens sometimes during the transitions from one to the other.
The Flex short has a comparable price to many women’s bike shorts, at $139, worth the cost if you need a “do-all” short. Overall, had I requested a size XS, these are the perfect short for pedaling, enduro, and downhill. Light, durable and stylish, there’s nothing more this woman would ask for.
Check out our mountain bike shorts buyers guide and our picks for the best mountain bike shorts.
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