Mountain bike shorts are designed for different styles of riding and with the choices now available to women it may feel a little overwhelming
It’s great to see the range and quality of mountain bike shorts that are being made specifically for female cyclists, with thoughtful attention to detail and fit that can make your ride that much more comfortable and fun. And whilst we love having so much to choose from, we also get that it can be overwhelming if you are new to mountain biking or just don’t know where to start.
Mountain bike shorts are designed to be a loose fitting outer short that are usually worn over a chamois and are typically made from some combination of polyester, nylon, and spandex with the goal of protecting your skin against vegetation , abrasions and crashes. They vary in detail, such as the number of pockets for storage, inseam length, fabric weight, stretch, and overall fit. With so many options, you’ll want to determine the right combination of features to suit your riding style and just as trails range from green to black, from bridleways to steep technical descents, mountain bike shorts are designed for different styles of riding.
Typically, the terrain is fast and rolling, and the distances covered are greater. As a rider, you’re working hard in the saddle, and not too worried about technical terrain in front of you. Cross country mountain bikers want shorts made of lightweight, breathable fabric that has stretch to maximize mobility while pedaling in and out of the seat.
Look for lightweight quick-drying material to help you out on long, warm days on the bike.
Most of the time we’re all riding trails. However, you might consider yourself a “trail” rider if you ride the same trails as a cross country rider but have a little more suspension on your bike. You might take the alternate route and hit some small jumps along the way, stop and session a tricky technical section… you love riding, but with the emphasize on fun over speed and hard work.
You really love the descent but have a great appreciation of the effort it takes to reach the top, and can’t get enough of the views along the way. If you love long days in the saddle and are prepared to climb and descend multiple times in a ride, then you might consider yourself an all mountain or enduro rider. You’re going to need shorts that can do both: lightweight, breathable, and stretchy for the uphills, but protective and durable for the downhill.
These shorts tend to have a longer inseam to work well with pads, lightweight fabric for ventilation and wind resistance, zippered vents, and zippered pockets to keep your personal items.
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If you’re riding downhill trails, you’re most likely moving at high speeds through rocks, roots and technical features. Whether it’s lift-access bike park or laps at your favorite downhill trail, you’re not doing much uphill pedaling. Downhill riders are not usually as concerned with how lightweight or breathable the shorts are, as they need to be tough, first and foremost, with a longer inseam. Downhill mountain bike shorts should be all about protecting the rider. The fabric should feel substantial and have rip stop construction. You’re already wearing as much protective gear as necessary, a full face helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads, so don’t go lightweight on the shorts .
Inseam is also an important consideration for downhill riding. Longer is better. The leg opening should be wide enough to slip over knee pads without a gap or bunching at the knee. You’re looking for optimal protection.
Other features to consider
Pockets or no pockets? Since mountain bikers almost always have a hydration pack with them, some people think pockets on shorts are redundant. Other riders prefer to have a minimal pack (or no pack) and pop trail necessities (snacks!) into available pockets. Look for shorts with at least one zippered pocket, big enough to hold what you need to carry.
Waist adjusters. Women come in all shapes and sizes so it’s not always easy to find the perfect fit on the first try especially with the inconsistency between brands. If they’re too snug in the hips, they might be too big in the waist. Fortunately all shorts offer some way to customize the waistline to best fit different body types. Velcro, button tabs, and toggles are just some of the types of adjusters.
Stretch: It is rare to find mountain bike shorts that don’t stretch and all, and some have four-way stretch which provides a comfortable, all around relaxed fit.
Weather: Fortunately, fabric technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with significant advancements both in the effectiveness of waterproof kit and its breath-ability. A good pair of waterproof shorts is an essential investment for UK riding!
View our full range of women’s mountain bike shorts