Summer is right around the corner and that means it’s time to hit the trail and enjoy the warmer weather. Technical apparel can be expensive, but a decent pair of mountain bike shorts doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these nine women’s options for under $100, and stay tuned for a men’s shorts round up later this week.
Tester’s measurements: At 5’6 and 155 lbs, my measurements are 36” chest, 33” waist, and 36” hips. I always strive to find mountain bike apparel with a comfortable and relaxed fit that can roll with the punches. I live in the southeastern United States and my favorite types of trails are chunky and steep, hidden deep in the mountains.
Club Ride Savvy Shorts
Club Ride has long been known for their casual yet functional mountain bike apparel, and the Savvy Shorts do a great job of fitting the mold. The material is lightweight and tough, and it almost looks like it’s ribbed for extra durability. Without much hardware to weigh them down, it almost feels like you’re wearing nothing at all! The Savvy shorts are a comfortable and simple pair of shorts, perfect for spring and summer weather.
On the front you’ll find a gusseted snap fly front, which appears to be there more for aesthetics and offers little in the way of keeping the shorts in place. Hidden inside the waist line is an elastic drawcord you can tighten down to size. I’ve had a hard time fitting Club Ride apparel in the past, always landing squarely between sizes, so it was a pleasant surprise when I tried on these medium shorts and found that they fit just right.
The shape of the hem is a nice touch, setting them apart from other shorts on the market. It’s a subtle detail that I think gives them a more relaxed vibe than just your standard straight edge pant leg. With an 11” inseam, these shorts land right above the knee cap and have plenty of room to fit knee pads.
The zippered side pocket is perfect for a phone or a paper map (remember those?), and it’s positioned so your cargo hangs below the zipper when you’re sitting or pedaling. Your hands will find themselves at home in two regular pockets on either side. There’s a very stealthy back pocket that I almost didn’t notice despite wearing these shorts numerous times during testing.
Despite the comfortable fit in the dressing room, I found that the shorts sagged a bit too much and kept getting caught on my saddle. The solution for that issue was to hike them up a bit and cinch down the elastic drawcord to keep them riding a bit higher. Unfortunately this caused the excess material on the front to bunch up and create an awkward bulge at the fly, which is rather unflattering. The other side effect is that the pant legs ride up every time I bend my waist. Instead of looking like an 11” inseam, it ends up looking like a 7” inseam, regularly exposing the dreaded knee pad and chamois gap.
If you’re after an ultralight, minimalist pair of shorts, the Savvy is a good bet. Definitely spend some time in the dressing room making sure they sit where you want them to, otherwise you could find yourself getting tangled with your saddle during your ride.
The Club Ride Savvy Shorts come in a variety of fun colors and patterns to coordinate your look (tested Rose Link print), ranging in sizes from XS to XL, and retail for $69.95. I tested a size medium, and it felt too big, but size small feels too small.
Endura Singletrack Lite Short
The Endura Singletrack Lite Shorts are feature rich and blurs the line between riding disciplines. Made from a lightweight and stretchy nylon fabric that’s ready for action, the construction of these shorts is solid, inspiring confidence through high quality materials and well thought out features. The style and design of these shorts could comfortably carry you from a zippy cross-country trail all the way to a gnarly downhill run at your local bike park and you would never feel out of place.
A considerable amount of thought has been put into battling the elements with these shorts, including a dry-wicking waist band, a water-repellent finish, and laser-cut vents for better airflow. A two button closure above a zipper on the front is paired with two elastic waist adjustment tabs on the back. Two zippered hand pockets rest right on top of your thighs, accompanied by a phone-sized pocket on the rear right side. The hem falls just below the kneecap while standing, but slides up just right to let your knees move freely when you’re pedaling.
The nylon fabric has a bit more texture to it compared to the silky smooth polyester offerings on this list, but that’s part of what makes the Endura Singletrack Lite short feel so burly and durable. The actual feel of the fabric didn’t bother me since I was wearing a chamois underneath, but for those riders who have moved away from chamois life, it may be worth trying them on and really moving around in them first. One thing I did note was that these shorts offered a bit more of a “swishy” sound when walking around due to the texture of the fabric, but that tends to be the case with any nylon-based garments.
I tested the Endura Singletrack Lite Shorts in a size medium and at first the fit seemed a bit tight, so I was worried that I was going to have to size up to be more comfortable. After wearing them for a bit, the fabric gave a little and got more comfortable as the shorts stretched out. I would describe the fit as a “tight yet relaxed” fit – not so baggy that you have to worry about getting caught on your saddle, and not so tight that you feel like you can’t move around on the bike.
The brightly colored Singletrack Print Tee nicely complements the black shorts providing a lightweight, fast-drying, eco-friendly jersey (made from 95% recycled polyester). The fit of the size large was perfect for me, living up to Endura’s description of being a “slim, not baggy, flap free feminine fit.” There was excellent coverage on the lower back and plenty of freedom of movement while riding.
The Endura Singletrack Lite shorts are available in Black (tested), Kingfisher, and Coral colors, in sizes ranging from XS to XL. The Singletrack Print “Limited Edition” Tee comes in Spruce Green (tested) and Saffron Yellow, sizes range from XS to XXL. You can find this eco-friendly technical tee at Jenson USA and other online retailers for $49.99.
evo Bike Shorts
As a company, evo is best known as an online retailer specializing in outdoor gear and clothing. With a wide selection of high-end brands and top quality products, it’s almost like they took the best features of every piece of mountain bike apparel they carry and combined them into the bombproof evo Bike Shorts.
Made from 90% nylon and coated with ecorepel® BIO DWR Finish, the fabric feels incredibly tough and durable. A zippered fly with a two button closure helps secure the shorts, complemented by two elastic velcro tabs on each side for fit adjustments on the fly. Belt loops wrap around the extra thick waist band, giving riders plenty of options for adjusting the fit and comfort of the shorts. The waist sits pretty high around my belly button which I had mixed feelings about. The hem falls right at the top of my knee caps, and there is plenty of room for knee pads.
There are three pockets: two generously deep side pockets on your hips and one zippered side pocket on the right leg. I ended up opening the zippered pocket to help with ventilation when it started getting too hot and found myself wishing there was another pocket on the left leg to do the same.
The sizing felt like it was right on the edge. When I originally tried on the size large, the waist band felt tight around my stomach at first. Admittedly I had just eaten a decent sized breakfast, so I could definitely feel how that was impacting my first impressions of these shorts. My second ride proved to be much more comfortable, and I really appreciated how the evo Bike Shorts stayed exactly where I wanted them. The fit was relaxed enough to let me move around on the bike, but with enough space to not feel restricted by the super tough nylon fabric.
evo has designated these shorts as “mountain, urban/commuter” apparel. I can appreciate how utilitarian they are, with so many wonderful features packed into the garment. Unfortunately, despite checking so many boxes for what I want out of a pair of mountain bike shorts, I felt that they didn’t quite live up to the promise. As I mentioned above, the nylon fabric is pretty thick so there isn’t much breathability in the fabric. There isn’t any additional ventilation or air flow built into these shorts, making them better suited for a cooler climate than what can be found around the southeast in the spring and summer months.
The evo Bike Shorts are only available in black and sizes range from XS to XL. I tested a size large which worked out just fine.
- Price: $99.95
- Available at evo
Five Ten Brave Shorts
The Five Ten Brave shorts are a brand new eco-friendly offering from Adidas and Five Ten. These trail-inspired shorts are made from 90% recycled polyester fabric (Adidas’ own Primegreen blend made from recycled materials) and 10% elastane dobby, giving them a stretchy feel with plenty of shape to be stylish and functional.
The material is lightweight, flowy, and breathable. I was concerned about the durability at first, but after an unintentional encounter with the backside of a berm, the shorts were virtually unscathed despite getting dragged through the dirt during a rough landing. The metal zippered side pocket took the brunt of the impact and came out looking just fine, if not a little more colorful due to the caked-in dirt from my crash.
There is a zipped fly with a button and a drawcord adjustment for the waist, complemented by some belt loops if you’re looking for a bit more security in the fit. With two fairly deep hand pockets on the hips and one zipped side pocket on the left leg, there’s plenty of room to carry a phone and maybe a snack, though I wouldn’t rely on leaving anything of value in the hand pockets since they are not secured in any way. The hem lands right above the knee cap and fits in just right with trail style knee pads.
The Brave shorts are a more relaxed cut, not too clingy and not too tight. I tested a US size medium, and everything felt just right for me, although some other folks might find either the quads or the waist a touch too big. I usually encounter the opposite problem where one is perfect and the other is not, so I end up sizing up a lot. There wasn’t any compromise between the tightness of the quads or excess looseness in the waist, sending these shorts to the top of my clean laundry pile week after week.
Given the simple, clean aesthetic with neat and tidy stitching, the Brave shorts are meant to get you out on the trail and ride. I tested the black version, so logos weren’t overwhelming or obvious, and I found myself going out of my way to tell people about these awesome new Five Ten shorts I was trying out. With no extra bells and whistles, this is just straightforward technical garment with a comfortable fit ready to get things rolling.
I also tested the Five Ten TrailX Tee, size medium in Halo Blue. This dry wicking jersey is made from Primeblue, a high performance polyester blend made with recycled Parley ocean plastic. The fabric was light, soft, and did a great job of helping me stay cool while out in the hot sun. The fit is loose and relaxed and complements the fit of the shorts quite well.
The Five Ten Brave shorts retail for $70 and come in Black or Hazy Emerald. Sizes run from S-XL. I tested a size medium, which felt just right. The Five Ten TrailX Tee is available for $40 in Halo Blue (tested in a size medium) and comes in sizes XS-XL.
Handup A.T. Shorts
Handup made their debut in the mountain bike industry with a series of brilliantly colored gloves with hidden messages on the palm, and it didn’t take long for them to expand their operations into different types of riding apparel. With the Handup All Time Shorts (aka A.T. Shorts), this Chattanooga-based company offers a comfortable pair of shorts that are described as being ready to rip singletrack from the office all the way to the bar. That is, assuming your job has a very relaxed dress code like mine does.
The A.T. short is made from a 50% cotton, 47% polyester, and 3% Spandex blend, giving it a very soft and smooth texture with a little bit of stretch. On the front, you’ll find a metal zipper with a button and a drawstring hidden inside the waist for adjustments. Outside, you’ll find some belt loops, a hem that falls about an inch above the knee cap, and minimalist logos for a casual yet functional look that’s ready to fit in anywhere.
With a total of four pockets, there’s plenty of space to stash the essentials as you wrap up your work day and get ready to head into the woods. The two side pockets are zipped, making them ideal candidates for keys and snacks, while the rear pockets feel deep enough to safely host a phone and wallet even while pedaling.
Despite the high comfort factor of the A.T. Shorts, I did encounter some issues when riding. The fabric is not exactly breathable and didn’t feel stretchy enough when moving around on the bike. I wore them to commute to work (chamois-free) and felt they were comfortable enough to wear all day, but once I donned the chamois to go ride some singletrack, there was a noticeable lack of breathability and freedom of movement.
The overall fit of the shorts is comfortable and relaxed with a bit of a boxier cut. Handup lists the A.T. Short with unisex sizing, but it’s worth noting that the shape of the shorts is more in line with a men’s cut rather than women’s, so keep that in mind when trying them on. Despite the hangups with the fabric, I still find myself reaching for these shorts when I want a casual yet comfortable pair of shorts to wear either on the trail or on set. These shorts have become my go-to for casual, chamois-free rides, at least for the summer.
The Handup Gloves A.T. Shorts retail for $42 and are available in Black, Navy, Olive, Tan, and Grey. Sizes range from XS to XXL. I tested a size medium, which felt just right.
- Price: $42
- Available at Handup
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts
Patagonia is no stranger to high performance apparel, and their legacy of excellence in technical garment design know-how shines through with the Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts. These backcountry oriented shorts are made from a recycled polyester blend, designed to be lightweight, stretchy, and durable enough for all your two-wheeled adventuring needs.
As a company, Patagonia has been ahead of the game as far as eco-friendly business practices go, with recycled polyester fibers being present in their products since 1993. The Dirt Roamer Biker Shorts are made with 87% recycled fibers and 13% spandex. The material is soft, moisture-wicking, and breathable, leaving me with the impression that comfort, as well as utility, was high on the list of features packed into these minimalist shorts. There is a durable water-repellent finish on the fabric, giving it an extra smooth feel and sense of cleanliness. Seriously, I couldn’t get any dirt or mud to stick to them.
These super lightweight shorts have a very casual and relaxed aesthetic with clean lines and a seamless looking construction. The fly features a metal YKK zipper and a single plastic button. There are no belt loops or velcro straps to be found anywhere. Instead you have one pull tab hidden on the waistband, which is part of Patagonia’s “Opposet Waist Adjustment System.” With one zipped pocket, there’s not a whole lot of cargo space in these shorts, but it’s just enough to carry your phone or a light snack. The inseam measures 11 ¾”, landing the contoured hem just above my knee cap.
With the fabric being so thin, the shorts do have a tendency to feel a bit clingy, especially when in contact with other synthetic fabrics. I tested the Patagonia Endless Ride Liner (7 ¾” inseam) underneath the Dirt Roamers, and while I enjoyed the almost weightless feel of the shorts, I wasn’t such a fan of how much they cling to the contours of my chamois and knee pads. In terms of fit, the size 10 I tested was just right for me, but due to the clinginess of the fabric I considered sizing up to see if that might help smooth out the lines. Another thing to note is that I found myself sliding around a bit when seated, likely due in part to the DWR coating being so effective at repelling dirt, moisture, and apparently saddles.
The Patagonia Dirt Roamer Biker Shorts retail for $99 and are available in Forge Grey, Camp Green, and Smokey Violet. Sizes range from 0 to 18. I tested a size 10 and found the fit to be just right, although the clingy fabric made me consider sizing up for a more flattering fit. The Patagonia Endless Ride Liner retails for $79 and is available in XS-XL. I tested a size medium and found them to be comfortable enough for all day wear.
Specialized Women’s Trail Shorts
The Specialized Women’s Trail Short is a sleek new offering from the Specialized line of women’s mountain bike apparel. Made from VaporRize™ polyester, these shorts offer a durable, stretchy, and lightweight fabric ready to take on the trail.
On the front of the shorts you’ll find a button closure and a gusseted fly. This is coupled with two very stealthy waist adjustment tabs integrated on the outside, positioned right at your hip bones. I really like how easy it is to make tweaks to the fit as the day goes on – no fussy velcro to fight with! There’s also some UV protection built into the fabric, offering users up to UV 50+ protection.
The Trail shorts feature two pockets on either hip, one of them with a zipper, the other without. Branding is subtle, and the style itself comes across as a technical piece of apparel without any excessive embellishments. The hem falls right on the kneecap and the waist of the shorts sits above my hips, providing ample coverage of the legs and lower back when in a riding position.
Specialized’s VaporRize fabric is described as being stretchy and lightweight, but I actually found it to be rather tight and restricting. Despite having a decent depth to them, I didn’t use the pockets very often due to the tight fit of the shorts and lack of give in the material. Even though the size chart puts me squarely into a large, there were situations when I could feel the shorts uncomfortably tugging as I tried to move around on my bike, hindering optimal body positioning.
The cut is described as a more relaxed fit that allows for plenty of room for knee pads, but I felt like the Trail Shorts were right on the edge of being too tight to be comfortable or flattering. If you tend to have larger quads with an average waist size, I would recommend sizing up for a more comfortable fit.
I also tested their Trail Air Short Sleeve Jersey in a size large, which proved to be very lightweight, breathable, and spacious. I really enjoyed the extra airflow and added UV protection from the VaporRize fabric. Specialized describes the fit of the jersey as “generous and comfortable,” which makes me think I might prefer a medium for a slightly tighter fit.
The Specialized Trail Shorts come in three colors, including Black, Cast Battleship, and Cast Umber and retail for $75. Sizes range from XS to XXL. I tested a size large and found myself wishing I had sized up for a less restrictive fit. The Specialized Trail Air Short Sleeve Jersey retails for $70 (available at Specialized and other online retailers) and is available in Black, Sky Blue, and Spruce. Sizes range from XS-XXL. I tested a large jersey and would like to try a size medium.
Sweet Protection Hunter Slashed Shorts
The Hunter Slashed Shorts are a minimalist pair of mountain bike shorts that are ready for action. What they lack in distinctive style and shape, they make up for in technical features that make these shorts a great option for less than optimal riding conditions.
The Hunter Slashed Shorts are made from corn-based Dupont™ Sorona® fabric, an eco-friendly spandex alternative that gives them that lightweight feel and subtle stretch. Finished with an eco-conscious DWR coating, the material is ready to repel dirt and moisture as you rip your way down the trail. While riding in soggy conditions, I definitely appreciated the water repellent coating, and felt that the breathability and ventilation was adequate.
On the waist you’ll find a sewn-in belt with a plastic buckle to adjust the fit. The two pockets on either hip offer some decent depth, but the smooth finish of the fabric makes it easy for things to slip out. The lone zippered side pocket is just the right size to house your phone or other small objects while you pedal around.
The size large I tested felt a little more on the loose side of things, allowing for a more relaxed look. I did find the style to be a bit boxier than the Hunter Light, their more contoured, lighter-weight counterpart. The integrated belt feels like a bit of an afterthought in terms of sizing adjustment, and the zipped fly is topped with a very minimalist square of velcro to keep the shorts secure.
The Sweet Protection Hunter Slashed shorts are available in Stone Gray (tested), in sizes S-L. They retail for $79.95. I tested a size large and the fit felt OK, the style is just a bit more relaxed and loose fitting.
Sweet Protection Hunter Light Shorts
Sweet Protection is no stranger to making technical apparel and their Hunter Light short strikes a great balance between technical and comfortable. These shorts are made from the same corn-based Dupont™ Sorona® fabric as the Hunter Slashed shorts, but designed with a bit more form and function in mind.
On the waist you’ll find two generously-sized velcro tabs ready to snug up the fit. The hem tapers in just a bit, giving the shorts a more shape compared to the Hunter Slashed shorts. Falling right above the knee, there is plenty of room for knee pads in these well thought out shorts.
There is a zipped pocket halfway down each pant leg, giving riders plenty of secure storage for a phone or an assortment of snacks. With a mesh pocket lining, the pockets could also double as a gateway for ventilation, complimenting the laser-cut holes on the inner thigh quite well. With a DWR coating, the fabric is designed to shed dirt and moisture. I won’t go so far as to claim that these shorts are self-cleaning, but they sure took a lot of effort to get dirty when riding in sloppy conditions.
The fit of the Hunter Light shorts is more form fitting than the Hunter Slashed, and I found this to be more comfortable for riding. These shorts do a great job of moving with me as I charge through technical terrain, and never once did I feel like I was being restricted by the fabric or risking getting snagged on my saddle. I did have a close encounter with my rear tire on a mis-timed dismount which immediately wore a small hole in the fabric, so the durability of the fabric is a bit disappointing.
I tested a size large in Stone Grey. I was able to comfortably cinch down the waist without feeling like there was an excessive amount of material left over, resulting in a comfortable and more flattering fit. Paired with their super comfortable Hunter Merino SS Jersey in Rosewood (available at Sweet Protection and Backcountry), I feel like I am ready to ride in all weather conditions.
The Sweet Protection Hunter Light shorts retail for $99.95. They are available in Hydro, Stone Grey (tested), and Rosewood. Sizes range from XS-L. I tested a size large and the fit was great.
- Price: $99.95
- Available at Sweet Protection and other online retailers