Choosing Mountain Bike Shorts to Optimize Riding Comfort

Mountain bike shorts... Do you really need them? If you are beginning mountain biking, that may be a question you are asking. When I was a beginner, I decided to try riding in regular cargo shorts. It didn't take me long to realize why biking shorts were invented. They make a world of difference in ride comfort!

The first mountain bike shorts were made of wool and had a chamois leather insert in the crotch area for protection. Today, this insert is still called a chamois, but it is made of more comfortable synthetic material that is designed to wick moisture, breathe, minimize chafing, and prevent bacteria growth. The shorts themselves are usually made of lycra, which is a type of spandex.

Today's mountain biking shorts come in a variety of styles, colors, and options. It can be intimidating and confusing to try to figure out how much money to spend, which options will really provide more comfort, and what style to choose.

This site will provide you with:

  • information on different types of cycling shorts
  • tips on what to look for when choosing mountain bike shorts

Interested in purchasing mountain bike shorts? I recommend the following links to reputable companies that have great deals on bike shorts right now:

Over 50% off many selections of men's cycling shorts - Brands include Mavic, Race Face, Fox, Bellwether, and more.

Over 50% off many women's cycling shorts - Brands include Fox, Pearl Izumi, Mavic, Borah, and more.


Lycra Bike Shorts

Lycra shorts are the black skin-tight shorts that come to mind when we think of cycing shorts. Although they are usually black, there are now more color options available. Black has its advantages though because they don't look as dirty.

Lycra mountain bike shorts are designed with a multipanel construction, which means there are several fabric panels stitched together. The more panels, the more the shorts are curved to fit your body when you are in the riding position, which means more comfort.

Lycra bike shorts usually have 4, 6, or 8, or more panels. Avoid shorts with 4 panels because they are not very comfortable when you are in the riding position since they don't have much flexibility. Look for 6 or 8 more panels. Usually 6 panels provide fairly good comfort. 8 panels are the most comfortable because they have the most contour, but they are more expensive.

Look for mountain bike shorts that are sewn together with flat seam stitching because this type of stitching is less abrasive. If the chamois has stitching, make sure it also has flat seam stitching.

The bottoms of the legs should have elastic bands that hold the legs in place and prevent them from bunching up and moving around.

The chamois should be breathable and comfortable. A thicker chamois does not mean it will be more comfortable because if it is too thick it will feel like a diaper and may not stay in place. Generally a medium thickness is good.

Here are some great lycra cycling shorts that are marked down in price right now...

Men's Bellwether Aerios Elite Shorts - awesome shorts that are over 50% off

Women's Mavic Ventoux Shorts - awesome shorts that are over 50% off

Bibbed Bike Shorts

Many mountain bikers prefer bibbed mountain bike shorts, which have straps that go over the shoulders. Because the straps hold everything in place, there is not a need for elastic around the waist, which many riders say is much more comfortable. Depending upon the material of the top part of the bibbed shorts, they can provide more warmth or they can help you stay cool. If you want to stay cool, choose bibbed shorts in which the top part is made of a lightweight wicking material. Often this material is mesh. Bibs can be somewhat inconvenient if you have to make a pit stop, more so for women.

Bibbed bike shorts are more expensive than regular lycra shorts. They are often $100 and up, but this merchant has several that are under $100 with one as low as $45...

Great deals on bibbed bike shorts

Baggy Bike Shorts

If you don't like the spandex look, baggy bike shorts or "baggies" may be a good option. These shorts have a durable outer shell with a padded liner inside. The advantage of these mountain bike shorts is that they look like street shorts and are stylish, but still have the padded protection of mountain bike shorts.

When choosing baggy bike shorts, make sure that the liner is comfortable, snug, and well-ventilated. the liner is often made of mesh or a moisture wicking material. The outer shell should be durable, but loose fitting so it is not constricting when riding. Often, the outer shell is made of a tough nylon or polyester blend.

Some options to look for when choosing baggy bike shorts are pockets, vents, and an adjustable waistband. Pockets are great for carrying small items like money, a multitool, and other necessities. Vents are important for ventilation and breathability. Usually the waistband has an adjustable drawstring for optimal fit and so that your waist doesn't feel constricted while riding.

Some baggy bike shorts also have adjustable legs so they don't get caught on things. If you want this option, make sure they have stretch panels so movement isn't restricted.

Below are some good deals on baggy bike shorts...

50% off several Men's Baggy Bike Shorts

Up to 70% off Women's Baggy Bike Shorts

General Tips

  • There are differences between men's and women's cycling shorts. The chamois in women's shorts has a different shape that is designed to fit the difference in anatomy. Also, women's shorts have smaller waistbands, are more tapered from hip to waist, and often have shorter leg lengths.

  • Do not wear underwear with biking shorts. The chamois is designed to optimize comfort, wick moisture, breathe and and prevent chafing. Wearing underwear under your bike shorts prevents moisture wicking and causes chafing.

  • Overall, biking shorts should feel snug, but comfortable. They should feel like a second skin, but not so tight that they feel like they are cutting off your circulation. They should not bunch up anywhere.

  • When considering purchasing cycling shorts, make sure they are easy to wash and don't require special care instructions that will be inconvenient. Most mountain bike shorts can be washed in the washing machine and air dried.

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