This past April we published Part 1 of our Women’s Mountain Bike Short Roundup and we’re back for part 2. There are a lot of great options on the market today, and one specific trend we’ve noticed is that there are now more companies offering shorter-length options. This has one reviewer, Sascha Anastas, particularly excited but we also discovered that shorter bike shorts aren’t just for the shorter-legged riders. And of course, there are still plenty of more standard-length options out there, too.
Fabric: 92% nylon / 8% SPANDEX (4 WAY STRETCH)
Inseam Length: 7 in / 18 cm (size M)
Size Tested: M
Size Range: XS-XL
Reviewer’s waist size: 27in / 68.6cm
Reviewer’s hip size: 38.5in / 97.8cm
Abby Stanislaw (5’4”, 140lbs / 162.5 cm, 63.5kg): I have always had a difficult time finding mountain bike shorts that fit both my waist and my hips. I have a smaller waist and larger hips which definitely give me a “curvy” body type. This means that in a typical Small short, the legs are too tight to move but the waist fits perfectly; in a Medium, the legs are snug and waist is about 1” too big. This can usually be fixed with built-in side sinches or I can perform some home modifications to help them fit. Larges typically fit me well around the thighs, but are too long in the leg, and are 2-3” too large in the waist.
The Dakine Syncline short comes in XS-XL sizes. They have a slim fit with a very stretchy waistband, wide hips, and narrow tapered thighs. The elastic stretch band around the waist is comfortable and form fitting. The waistband on the size Medium I tested felt snug and never slid down while riding, even as I lost water weight over the course of a longer ride. As an added benefit the waistband didn’t have the annoyance of plastic or metal pieces to fasten it tight. The waistband is 2 inches wide, making it very comfortable and unnoticeable under a fanny pack. Due to my thigh width, there wasn’t much room around the lower cuff of the short. This became annoying during climbs where the shorts would ride up, feeling mildly reminiscent of a blood-flow-restriction training session.
The tightness of the cuff reduces when standing up for downhills as the shorts easily slide back down. These shorts are a bit too short and tight for me to wear with knee pads as a knee pad gap is very apparent during uphill pedaling and power moves while pedaling over features on the descents.
The Syncline short’s fabric is 92% nylon and 8% elastane and I found it to offer a good combination of moisture wicking capability, durability, and stretch. The inner material has a diamond weave pattern which hasn’t irritated my skin at all while riding. They also feature a DWR coating for your wetter rides, or just to brush off dewy trail-side vegegation. I’d call the fabric thickness fairly “moderate,” making them appropriate for anything from XC to Enduro rides in warmer temperatures. They have not shown any signs of wear and tear during the rides I have taken them on this summer, which is a plus.
One downside is that the light blue color fabric does start to attract dirt, which can leave unsightly dirt / sweat lines under a fanny pack and above the chamois pad, but a black version is also available. These shorts come with two open hand pockets and one zippered pocket on top of the right hand pocket. Unfortunately, the angle at which the main hand pockets are situated leads them to flare open, causing a look of very wide hips tapering down to snug legs. The angle of the pockets also feels as if it would make the opening point down while pedaling uphill, increasing the risk of losing my precious snacks / keys / etc. while climbing. The zippered pocket is slightly too small for a cell phone but it is large enough for a small set of car keys. The angle of the zippered pocket is just distal to the joint crease of the hip, causing it to be mildly irritating to the anterior thigh while riding with keys in this pocket.
Overall, I think the Dakine Syncline 7” short works very well for a wide variety of mountain bike rides, and it can also function as a hiking or casual mid-length short. In terms of fit, I’d recommend them to people with average thigh dimensions so the cuff doesn’t ride up during the ride. The Syncline is worth a look if you want a bike short that can be worn for a variety of activities and that features moderate stretch, a lower price point, good durability, and a moisture-wicking material.
Fabric: 89% Polyester / 11% Spandex
Measured Inseam Length: 7 in / 18 cm
Size Tested: Medium
Size Range: XS-XL
Reviewer’s Waist Size: 31 in / 79 cm
Reviewer’s Hip Size: 38 in / 97 cm
Kara Williard (5’9”, 153 lbs / 175 cm, 69.4 kg): After some debate, I decided to try the Club Ride Eden Bike short. With its stated 7” inseam, I was a little nervous since I rarely consider shorter shorts for biking (mostly for fit reasons), much less anything else I am doing. But I finally decided to go for it, and I am glad I did. The Eden Bike Short fits me really well, is quite comfortable, and allows me the chance to finally work on a tan line above the knee. While the Eden is slightly less stretchy and has a slimmer, snugger fit than the Club Ride Savvy Short I previously reviewed in Part 1, the size Medium still fits me comfortably.
The only caveat to my overall comfort and experience in the Eden is that, while it comes with the Club Ride Drift “2-Hour” chamois, I was additionally sent their June “1-hour” chamois, and the June pairs much better with the Eden short (at least for me). The June chamois is a shorter inseam, which results in less bunching around my legs when riding relative to the longer Drift chamois included with the short. This may be an issue specific to the way the Eden short fits me, since it’s pretty loose and comfortable around the waist, and a little more snug around my thighs. I was able to use the waist velcro adjustment to snug up the fit on the waist, which prevented any gapping when bending over. The waistband is also wide and stretchy, which makes for an ideal fit while in the saddle.
The feeling of a short that’s loose in the waist and tight in the thighs is typical for me in shorter shorts. When it comes to the Eden, I found it to ride up a bit when paired with the longer chamois. As a result, the Eden short has become a favorite for quicker, hot rides when I am trying to get out in the heat of the day, and most of this is because of which chamois works best for me in this short. The Eden features an overall more snug fit on me than most other shorts I have tested, which I don’t find as optimal for long or technical rides, since it also leaves me wanting a bit more room and coverage.
The Eden’s material is smooth, soft, and stretchy, which is a common theme in most of the Club Ride gear I have tested. All the features are very thoughtful and detailed, including reflective accents and a zippered side pocket, in addition to four other pockets that are nice for small-item storage (snack, lip balm, key, etc). The Eden short has also proven to be a great short for other summer activities, especially hiking or casual wear, and I now find myself spending a lot of time in the short on and off the bike.
Kara: The Farside is the first piece I’ve tried from 7mesh, and given the great experiences some of our other reviewers have had with their gear, I was excited to give it a go. So far, I have about 15 rides in this short and I have been really impressed by its comfort, fit, and durability. The fabric feels slippery in a good way, which is great for long rides. It also feels durable, protective, and has proved to be really quick drying after spending some rainy rides in them.
After spending some time on the 7mesh website, I decided to go with a Large and found myself relieved that I did. They are just the right fit around my hips and butt, albeit a little roomy around the hips and a bit tighter around the thigh. I went for the Large because of my thigh measurement, which sits right at 24 inches. On really long rides, the Farside would slightly bunch up over the course of several miles, but in almost all instances, I experienced a very comfortable fit in this short. The waist features locking waist adjusters to cinch up and achieve just the right fit at the waist, which was helpful because the waist was the roomiest part in regard to the fit of this short (a common theme in most shorts I’ve tried).
The Farside has been one of my favorites for longer and challenging rides, since it can stand up the elements and dry quickly, is comfortable during long days on the bike, and feels both durable and protective. It is both lightweight and substantial, which is the combo I want when I know I will be on my bike most of the day.
The Farside shorts offer a small zippered side pocket that’s ideal for a lip balm, in addition to two open hand pockets. These days, a small zippered pocket is about all I look for in my bike shorts since I pretty much never ride with anything large in my pockets. Overall, I have continuously chosen the 7mesh Farside short when I want to be comfortable during long days on the bike, and I’m also just generally psyched about the fit and overall style of this short, too.
Fabric: 100% polyester w/ 4-way mechanical stretch
Measured Inseam Length: 5.5 in / 14 cm
Size Tested: 26
Size Range: 24-38
Reviewer’s Waist Size: 26 in / 66 cm
Reviewer’s Hip Size: 31.5 in / 80 cm
Kristin Sinnott (5’8”, 125lbs / 172 cm, 56.7kg): While the outdoor industry is working towards being more size-inclusive (listen to Episode 86 of Off the Couch to learn more), as a whole, there’s still a long way to go. Machines For Freedom was created precisely to address this issue and since 2014, that’s what they’ve been doing. Their line of bike shorts have numerical sizes from 24-38 and while this sizing structure might be a bit unfamiliar to many of us, their website includes a fit calculator that will help you find the correct size. My measurements put me in between sizes and I opted to go with the larger size 26. It was a good decision, especially since I planned to wear chamois underneath at least some of the time.
With a 5.5-inch inseam, the Key Shorts are the shortest mountain bike shorts I’ve ever worn (if you don’t count my first season of riding when I rode in short-short spandex). I tend to prefer casual shorts that are this length or shorter, and while I know Sascha is enjoying the influx of short bike shorts, I wasn’t sure if they’d be a good fit for me since my legs are on the longer side of the spectrum. Turns out, I really like wearing the Key Shorts because they don’t look like typical mountain bike shorts. Between the shorter inseam and the somewhat snug fit, these shorts look more like casual shorts than technical ones.
With the shorter inseam, I find myself wearing them casually as much, if not more than I wear them on my bike, and when I wear them around town I don’t look like I just finished a ride. (Unless I rode through mud puddles in the citronelle-colored shorts, that is.) The one problem I have had with them, and it’s not a big problem, is that chamois shorts don’t fit underneath them — or at least you can’t hide standard-length chamois shorts underneath them. I don’t mind when my chamois pop out from under them on a ride, but I have started looking for shorter chamois shorts. Given that, I tend to prefer the Key Shorts for shorter rides where chamois aren’t always needed.
The Key shorts have a button and locking snap system to secure the waist, with that closure keeping the overlapping fabric even and providing a slightly more polished look. The pockets are more similar to casual shorts, with shorter pockets that fit very small items or your hands when walking around. There is a hidden, zippered back pocket designed for a cell phone or other items you don’t want to lose, but my larger cell phone (iPhone 7S) does not fit in the pocket, and the snug fit didn’t allow me to stretch the pocket enough (despite the 4-way stretch fabric) to accommodate larger items. Personally, I didn’t use the pockets when I was biking but I used them when I was off the bike.
In general, these shorts are versatile and great for shorter distance rides when you don’t need a chamois, particularly if you often find yourself struggling to find sizes that work for you from brands with more limited size ranges.
Fabric: Nylon (88%), Spandex (12%)
Measured Inseam Length: 7 in / 18 cm
Size Tested: 0
Size Range: 0-14
Reviewer’s Waist Size: 25 in / 64 cm
Reviewer’s Hip Size: 33.5 in / 85 cm
Sascha Anastas (5’1”, 100 Ibs / 155 cm, 45.35 kg): As a fairly short / petite rider, I often find longer baggy bike shorts to feel cumbersome and excessively big. Consequently, I have been eagerly waiting for mountain biking short trends to return to a shorter length for quite some time and could not have been happier to see some companies like Wild Rye and Dakine embrace a shorter bike short inseam this year. The Wild Rye Frida 7” short, while not the shortest short, felt freeing and offered so much more maneuverability than the standard longer-legged baggy bike short.
The material of this short consists of a fairly thick, abrasion-resistant, UPF 50 nylon / spandex blend material that feels somewhat rough to the touch but does not feel any bit stiff or uncomfortable while on or when moving around on the bike. Overall, the shorts feel very well made and durable. There are two front stitch-rounded pockets and a third straight zipper pocket that runs diagonally on the side of the right leg, which perfectly fits a phone. Notably, the two front stitch pockets are also deep enough to fit a phone, but I found riding with my phone in this pocket to be somewhat awkward from a mobility standpoint. There are also two snaps to keep the shorts secured on the waist. I can attest to the abrasion-resistance of the material since I was wearing these shorts when I had one of my largest crashes on a mountain bike to date, resulting in a broken and dislocated left elbow. Just about the only thing unscathed by the crash were these shorts.
In my experience, the Frida shorts fit true to size and the overall fit felt very similar to how my Shredly shorts fit, especially in the hips/waist. The Frida’s 7-inch seam falls just slightly lower than my mid-thigh, which is likely lower than it would fit on some of our taller reviewers. There is a flattering V-shaped notch at the junction of the leg hemline and side seams to make the short leg slightly wider and aid with overall maneuverability. The Frida short currently only comes in one print but I found the dotted print to be very fun and had no qualms about wearing this short for many other activities other than riding my bike (I would often pair these shorts with a black tank top for a casual everyday outfit). Overall, I would say the Frida shorts and the Dakine 7” Syncline shorts were my top picks for this season’s bike shorts, and both are worth a good look if you’re a smaller rider like me.
94.5% Nylon/ 5.5% Spandex
Intuitive™ IQ MTB fabric
Stated Inseam Length: 12.5”
Size Tested: XS
Size Range: XS – XL
Reviewer’s Waist Size: 25 in / 64 cm
Reviewer’s Hip Size: 33.5 in / 85 cm
MSRP: $100 (currently on sale for $50)
Sascha: The Flylow Tia short was my go-to short this summer when I wanted a longer baggy short for full leg coverage, especially on downhill rides when I wanted to wear knee pads. While I was a big fan of the shorter-short trend this summer, the more standard-length Tia short still proved plenty breathable and its lightweight nylon / spandex fabric made it really easy to move around.
The Tia short features two deep hand pockets and a third hidden zippered pocket integrated into the right leg seam. I actually didn’t find this pocket until the second or third time wearing the shorts. One of my favorite features of the short is the waistband. I am not usually a fan of elastic waistbands, but I found that the elastic bands on the side of the Tia’s waist helped secure the short at the waist without adding bulk. I also found that the Intuitive IQ MTB fabric was quick to dry and very breathable on hotter days.
I did find that the Tia’s waist fits slightly wider than most XS shorts I’ve worn. Fortunately, the Tia features four belt loops and I was able to resolve this by throwing on my beloved Arcade belt that I wear with my Flylow Sphinx Snow Bibs. And waist aside, I’d say the rest of the Tia’s fit feels pretty true to size. The shorts fall just slightly above my knee and the leg width was plenty wide to wear knee pads, while not feeling overly baggy or too wide. Overall, I found these shorts to be very comfortable, breathable, and sleek enough to hang out in after riding.