Gaping waistbands, stifling fabric, seams that hinder athletic butts and thighs—if you’re a female mountain biker who has shopped for a pair of overshorts, you’re likely familiar with these problems. Riders need breathable yet protective bottoms that can fend off abrasive rocks and snaggy branches. Plus, baggies blend in better during après. But, like many women’s bottoms, they don’t always fit as well as we’d like.
So I recruited six women to put the current crop of overshorts through the wringer. Our testers ranged from straight hipped to pear shaped, four foot eleven to five foot five, and sizes 4 to 16. They tested shorts on loamy paths near Mount Hood, sandstone ledges around Moab, Utah, and rooty trails in Colorado; on shuttle-assisted rides, rock-hammering downhills, and 4,000-foot climbs; and in conditions ranging from spring sleet to late-summer scorchers. These are the overshorts that delighted us all with their fit, comfort, and performance.
Best Hot-Weather Shorts
Patagonia Women’s Tyrolean Bike Shorts ($79)
Size range: 0 to 18
Ultralight fabric made these shorts feel tolerable on a 98-degree ride near Moab. The recycled, stretch-woven polyester-spandex material is exceptionally thin, yet its 75-denier fibers are tough enough to handle an occasional skirmish with sandstone or scrub oak. We love the nearly seamless waistband, which is made primarily of silky elastic that mops sweat and prevents gaps at the lower back yet never pinched. Two zippered thigh pockets store a phone and a pack of sport chews. Size 6 and 16 testers alike agreed: the fit is slimming and comfy.
Best Versatile Shorts
Mons Royale Virage Shorts ($140)
Size range: XS to XL
We love these lightweight shorts not just for mountain biking, but also hiking, backpacking, camping, and road-tripping. The casual cut looks great with cotton hoodies, and the stretchy fabric—a blend of merino, elastane, and recycled polyester—feels comfy and breathable, as opposed to plasticky like some all-synthetic materials. We happily wear these long after we’ve yanked off the chamois. A smartphone rides along the outside of the thigh, in the single zippered pocket made with welded seams that eliminate any potential for chafing on the saddle. Rather than relying on elastic to accommodate curvy hips, designers used sophisticated tailoring. Five seams shape the fabric from waist to hips, for a look that’s form-fitting but sharper than yoga pants.
Best Enduro Shorts
POC Essential MTB Women’s Shorts ($100)
Size range: XS to XL
Testers across the size range raved about the fit of these shorts, which deliver a brilliantly comfortable and flattering fit for broad hips and muscular thighs. Credit the multiple curved seams across the hips and thighs (instead of the one or two straight seams used on simpler bottoms) that adapt to a women’s shape, and an adjustable, microfleece-lined waistband that’s cut higher in the back for full-booty coverage while cycling. The longer version boasts a 14-inch inseam that protects against whip-like branches and unplanned dismounts, with leg openings that slide easily over pads without excess bagginess. Two zippered hip pockets hold a phone or keys. The stretch-woven nylon is light enough for tough, technical climbs, but also rugged enough to survive a slide out, which earned them top honors for rugged trails and rowdy riding.
Best Short Shorts
Ripton & Co. V4 Jorts ($79)
Size range: 24 to 31
The Daisy Dukes of mountain biking, these stretch-denim cutoffs have a 4.75-inch inseam that shows a lot of leg, so they’re perhaps better-suited for the pump track than for overgrown singletrack. That said, our tester found them surprisingly comfortable while riding. The highly elastic fabric accommodated a chamois and let her move freely on the bike while navigating technical features. (That elasticity also accommodates curvy hips). The two front pockets are made of stretchy mesh that helps lend an airy feel in warm weather. They do ride up, but they look killer for aprés beers on the deck.
Best Plus-Size Shorts
Shredly MTB Curvy Long ($110)
Size range: 00 to 24
These shorts cater to a broader range of body types than any other model we found. They’re particularly great for women whose waist is small relative to their hips. A broad band of elastic hugs the belly, like yoga pants, while curved hip seams and recycled, four-way stretch polyester adapts to big butts. One thigh pocket holds a phone, two mesh hip pockets sit low enough that snacks stored there don’t dig in while riding, and two mesh-backed zippered leg vents welcome cooling breezes. These shorts scored high for comfort and performance, but less so for style (the wide elastic waistband reminded some testers of maternity pants).
Most Compliment-Grabbing Shorts
Maloja RoschiaM ($119)
Size range: XS to XL
This lesser-known German brand solicits an all-female team to design its women’s cycling apparel. Not surprisingly, RoschiaM are textbook bike shorts, with tough, lightweight fabric and just enough features to achieve great fit and function without fuss. Testers fielded a slew of compliments and questions. Adjustment tabs on the waist are comfy and unobtrusive. Three pockets marry casual, blue jeans-styling with practicality (the zippered thigh pocket prevents a phone from bouncing out while riding). Curved seams across the hips and back of the thighs make for a fit that’s roomy but not boxy. The hem is bonded instead of stitched, which means the leg openings slide smoothly over skin or knee guards. And the spandex-infused polyester is stretchy enough to adapt to every pedal-stroke and bunny-hop.
Best Shorts for Off-Bike Wear
FlyLow Tia Short ($100)
Size range: XS to XL
With a not-too-baggy cut and jeans-style hand pockets, the Tia looks as good at the farmer’s market as it does on the trails, so our tester wore them while gardening, camping, and even washing the car (the polyester-Spandex fabric dries fast). These aren’t as stretchy as some shorts, but the modest elastane content also ups breathability and thus facilitates all-day comfort sans clamminess. The partially-elasticized waistband delivers the ideal compromise: it hugs the belly without sacrificing hip pockets, which are made with airy mesh. One sleek, zippered side pocket holds a lip balm and smartphone.
Best Body-Hugging Shorts
Velocio Women’s Trail Short ($159)
Size range: XS to XXL
Don’t care for baggies? Try these close-fitting overshorts, which are light enough for hot, muggy weather and fit an impressive range of sizes (our XL, size 16 tester loved it). Unusually sleek yet effective, a single strap of cinchable webbing on the side eliminates gaps around the waist. Meanwhile, double-woven Italian polyester-blend with four-way stretch (and a whopping 21 percent elastane) makes these shorts feel wonderfully unrestrictive, despite the tight cut. No excess fabric means there’s nothing to get hung up on the saddle as you move around on the bike. Though small, the two zippered thigh pockets store a smartphone and a gel behind the legs, where they don’t feel cumbersome while pedaling.