Women’s Mountain Bike Short Roundup — 2021

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kristin Sinnott in the Wild Rye Kaweah Short, Crested Butte, Colorado. (photo by Patrick Sinnott)

Intro

For female mountain bikers, bike shorts with a good fit and a flattering look used to be hard to find. Thankfully in the last 5+ years, more and more bike apparel companies have started popping up — many of which are either women-specific companies or are at least designing women-specific gear.

On top of that, chamois-less short options are not only readily available, they are seemingly the norm. No longer do you have to pick between a poor-fitting chamois or a poor-fitting outer short. All of the shorts reviewed here are purchased as is — no chamois are included. If you’re also in the market for a chamois to pair with some outer shorts, check out our Chamois Roundup.

Here, we chose to focus on general “Trail” shorts. These shorts are all designed to handle a long day in the saddle and all pair well with the chamois shorts of your choice — or no chamois if that’s your preference. Many of the shorts on our list work well for the occasional gravity-fueled day and most double as casual shorts.

If you’re new to mountain biking or simply like to keep your closest to the bare minimum, know that you do not have to wear mountain-bike-specific shorts to ride. Most athletic shorts will do the trick as long as they aren’t too baggy or so wide-legged that they will catch on the saddle or conversely restrict your mobility as you pedal.

With all that in mind, let’s get into some of the shorts we’ve been riding:

Flylow Eleanor Short

Fabric: 

  • Intuitive™ IQ MTB fabric 
  • 100% polyester

Measured Inseam Length: 12.5 in / 31.75 cm

Size Tested: Small

Size Range: XS-XL

Weight: 199 g

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 26 in / 66 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 31.5 in / 80 cm

MSRP: $90

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Flylow Eleanor Short

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 2020 version of the Eleanor short. For 2021, Flylow added a DWR treatment, a second zipped thigh pocket, and lined the knees with taffeta to help the shorts slide easily over knee pads.]

Kristin Sinnott (5’8”, 125lbs / 172 cm, 56.7kg): The Eleanor shorts stand out in this roundup due to their lack of elastic in their fabric. The 100% polyester Intuitive IQ MTB fabric has a burlier and less stretchy feel than most of the other options here, making it slightly more reminiscent of a downhill-oriented short. And while they would work well in that capacity, the Eleanor Shorts are still lightweight (second lightest on this list) and perform well for longer, hotter rides. Despite the lack of spandex, there is still some stretch to the fabric and the shorts aren’t’ restrictive at all. But the fabric and design means I never worry about these shorts tearing when I ride by vegetation encroaching on the trail.

The Eleanor Shorts have a more traditional XS-XL sizing but the internal velcro straps allow the fit to be customized to a degree. I’d say the size Small had a fairly average fit — not too small or too large and the velcro tabs are connected with elastic to give them more range for adjustments. The velcro tabs are large (2 in / 5 cm wide) and cinch the rear of the pants to make the fit more snug. This results in some fabric bunching around the lower back when they’re tightened, but it doesn’t affect my comfort while pedaling or the way a pack sits — it’s just not quite as flattering as other shorts on this list. Due to the width and placement of the velcro tabs, I found that when wearing the shorts without a chamois, I could feel the velcro against my hips. I never noticed it on rides or if I had a shirt tucked in, but the design kept me from frequently wearing the shorts off the bike.

The Eleanor Shorts also have 3 in / 7.6 cm wide belt loops that also help to dial in the fit. And the double-snap, velcro, and zipper-fly combo is like throwing a deadbolt or two on your front door — these shorts aren’t going to pop open until you want them to.

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kristin Sinnott in the Flylow Eleanor Short. (photo by Patrick Sinnott)

The Eleanor Shorts have three pockets: two zippered pockets on the upper legs and a velcro pocket on the lower right leg. The upper pockets are large enough to accommodate a cell phone but its placement is such that it extends to the rear so the pocket doesn’t sit on top of your quad. When riding I did notice the phone in this location as that area tends to be tighter against the skin. Personally, I prefer the lower-leg cell pocket design of the Wild Rye Kaweah and Mons Royale Virage shorts better as they are in an area that has a looser fit, and therefore a large object like a cell phone is less noticeable. The Eleanor’s upper pockets are built out from the shorts and are essentially a double layer of fabric in the outer leg area. The extra layer of fabric is one of the reasons I find the shorts to be more durable.

The velcro pocket on the lower right leg of the Eleanor has a mesh backing and could fit smaller cell phones or other small objects. The pocket sits more on the back of the leg and is pretty well hidden. Both pockets are tucked away and Flylow did a nice job of keeping the front of the shorts symmetrical, which makes them look great. The velcro closure on the small pocket keeps all but the smallest items safe as you ride. And by small objects, I mean jelly beans, as I recently went downhill biking with my son and this pocket was an ideal place to stash some Brach’s jelly beans for extra trail motivation (it was a good day — I only needed 3).

I found the Eleanor Shorts to be more bike-specific than other shorts I tested in part due to the burlier fabric and the large velcro waist tabs. But if you’re looking for a bike short that will last for years and work well for downhill or mellow trail rides, the Eleanor is a great option.

Mons Royale Virage Shorts

Fabric: 

  • 136 gsm
  • 79% Nylon / 13% Merino Wool / 8% Spandex

Measured Inseam Length: 13 in / 33 cm

Size Tested: Small

Size Range: XS-L

Weight: 139 g

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 26 in / 66 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 31.5 in / 80 cm

MSRP: $139.95 

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Mons Royale Virage Short

Kristin Sinnott (5’8”, 125lbs / 172 cm, 56.7kg): I’ve been wearing the Virage Shorts for the past year, and every time I wear them I like them more and more. Between the contrasting-color belt (included with shorts) to the bit of wool in the fabric, the Virage shorts stand out nicely among other mountain bike shorts. Other bike shorts I tested consist of some combination of polyester, spandex, and / or nylon. While only 13% of the Virage’s fabric is merino wool, it does give the shorts a different and lighter feel. Different in that the fabric isn’t quite as soft and smooth — it has more texture. On top of the feel, the added natural fibers seem to help to wick away sweat and keep my legs dry, even on hot and humid rides.

The Virage Shorts are the lightest shorts we tested and they are also the easiest to roll up and throw in a bag — once the belt is removed, that is. But the lightweight fabric still provides plenty of abrasion resistance, a moderate level of stretch, and some wind resistance. While not my first choice on a cold day, these shorts are great for warm-weather adventures.

The Virage’s fit is best described as athletic, which for me means they are loose enough to allow complete mobility but not very baggy. The Virage Shorts are more fitted / slim than the Wild Rye Kaweah and Flylow Eleanor Shorts, mostly because the Virage’s legs are slightly tapered with a 9 in / 22.9 cm wide cuff (measured flat). The cuff width is the same as the Stio OPR Shorts but narrower than the other shorts I tested. If you tend to wear knee pads, these shorts (and the OPR) might not be your best option, but since I tend to go without, I never had an issue with the shorts restricting my mobility. The Virage shorts lack a velcro waist adjustment but the size Small was a perfect fit for me. There are belt loops ( 2 in / 5 cm wide) so if you tend to find yourself between sizes, you can still fine-tune the fit a little. And the double-snap and zipper fly have kept the shorts from popping open.

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kristin Sinnott in the Mons Royale Virage Short. (photo by Patrick Sinnott)

The Virage Shorts only have one pocket — a zippered one on the lower right leg. The pocket fits my fairly large cell (iPhone 7S) and is as good if not slightly better than the pocket on the Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts, thanks mostly to the slightly wider design. The Kaweah pocket has a drop-in design and the zipper is angled but the bottom of the pocket is flat across. This results in me relying on the stretchy fabric to push the corner of my phone down to get it zipped. The zipper on the Virage runs down the length of the shorts and it’s easier to slide the phone in — no finagling needed.

If you are looking for a lightweight pair of bike shorts that are ideal for hot to cool weather, the Virage is a great option. The Virage Shorts are so lightweight and packable that there’s never a reason for me to leave them at home if I have even the slightest plan of riding that day.

Wild Rye The Kaweah Women’s Bike Short

Fabric: 

  • 220 gsm
  • 90% Nylon / 10% Spandex

Measured Inseam Length: 12 in / 30.5 cm

Size Tested: 6

Size Range: 0-18

Weight: 236 g

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 26 in / 66 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 31.5 in / 80 cm

MSRP: $95

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Wild Rye Kaweah Short

Kristin Sinnott (5’8”, 125lbs / 172 cm, 56.7kg): One thing I love about Wild Rye is that they offer numerical sizes instead of the more standard Small, Medium, Large, etc. And with sizes ranging from 0 to 18, there’s a good chance there’s a size that’s right for you. Jonathan Ellsworth and I had a chance to talk to Wild Rye founder, Cassie Abel on Blister’s Bikes and Big Ideas Podcast and if you haven’t given it a listen, I highly recommend it. She talks about her interest in expanding the sizing offering as the company grows and she has a number of big ideas that could help change the outdoor industry.

I tested their Kaweah Short in a size 6 and found them to be a great fit, regardless of whether or not I was wearing a chamois underneath. I love that there’s no need for velcro waist adjustments because the range between sizes is much smaller and you’re not forced to fit into just a handful of sizes.

On top of the many sizes, the Kaweah’s fabric also has some stretch to it. Not as stretchy as Wild Rye’s Freel Shorts, but stretchy enough to make them comfortable for riding or other activities. We reviewed both of Wild Rye’s bike shorts in this roundup and came away impressed. The Kaweah is slightly less expensive, less breathable, less stretchy, and more geared towards mild to cool days than the Freel. The exterior of the Kaweah is smooth, has a DWR finish, and comes in some great prints, while the interior has a softer handfeel and a finely woven texture. I’ve also had fewer issues with static on the Kaweah Shorts than I have with the OPR or Virage.

The Kaweah has two hand pockets and a zippered lower-leg pocket. The lower-leg pocket fits my large cell phone; it’s not as easy to get my phone in and out as the slightly larger pocket offered in the Mons Royale Virage Shorts, but it still works fine. I love that the angled zipper provides easy access to my phone but its location, tucked out of the way on the side / back of my hamstring, makes it unnoticeable when riding or hiking. Any time I plan on snapping photos (which is most days on my bike or around my son) I tend to gravitate toward shorts with pockets that fit my phone. Of the bike shorts I tested, the Flylow Eleanor, Mons Royale Virage, and the Kaweah all have pockets that fit my phone.

The other thing I love about Wild Rye is their selection of prints. Unique but not outlandish, subtle but playful. I tend to wear these on and off a bike and I’ve received compliments on them no matter the setting. The rear is nice and somewhat fitted which results in a flattering look. In general, shorts that don’t have velcro waist adjustments tend to be more flattering for me, due to the lack of bunched-up fabric. The Kaweah’s legs have a slim / athletic fit, allowing me to move freely on a bike without looking baggy. If you’re looking for a comfortable and flattering pair of bike (or everyday) shorts, the Kaweah is a great option, especially for more middle-of-the-range temperatures, or if you’ve often felt limited by other brands’ more minimal size ranges.

Stio Women’s OPR Shorts

Fabric: 

  • Velos™, 4 Way Stretch Woven Twill
  • 83% Polyester / 17% Spandex
  • 212 g/m2, DWR Finish

Measured Inseam Length: 11.5 in / 29 cm

Size Tested: 6

Size Range: 2-12

Weight: 208 g

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 26 in / 66 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 31.5 in / 80 cm

MSRP: $139 

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Stio OPR Short

Kristin Sinnott (5’8”, 125lbs / 172 cm, 56.7kg): Similar to Wild Rye’s Kaweah shorts, the OPR Shorts come in numerical sizes (2-12), which means you’re less likely to need velcro waist adjustments to dial in the fit (the OPR does not feature them). The OPR’s legs are a little more tapered and slim fitting (9 in / 22.9 cm) than the other shorts on this list but they still fit comfortably over a chamois and never impede my mobility on or off a bike. My quads, or legs in general, are not overly large, but if your legs tend towards the strong side or you like to wear knee pads, you might want to consider one of the other options.

The OPR’s 4-way stretch fabric makes the shorts comfortable on rides and for pre- and post-ride activities. There are four pockets: two hand pockets, one rear flap pocket with a snap, and new for 2021, a pocket on the lower left leg. All the pockets are mesh-lined and the back pocket (and presumably the lower leg pocket, based on stock photos) is large enough to fit my cell. The rear pocket is not an ideal location for a phone, especially when riding, as it sits tight on my rear when hunched over on my bike. The shorts do not have built-in belt loops but the unique locking snap and zipper-fly waist closure kept everything locked in while riding.

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kristin Sinnott in the Stio OPR Short. (photo by Patrick Sinnott)

The OPR Shorts were designed with biking in mind but the tapered leg cut and hand pockets give the shorts a more refined, sleek look. I found myself wearing these shorts as often for casual wear as I did for riding bikes. With the mesh-lined pockets, perforated side and lower back panels, and lightweight fabric, the shorts are best for warm to mild days. If I could only take one pair of shorts with me to ride, hike, golf, and wander through towns, the classic look of the OPR Shorts makes them one of my top picks.

Club Ride Savvy Short

Fabric: 96% Polyester and 4% Spandex 

Measured Inseam Length: 11 in / 27.5 cm

Size Tested: Medium 

Size Range: XS-XL

Weight: 174 g

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 29 in / 73.7 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 34 in / 86.4 cm

MSRP: $69.95 

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Club Ride Savvy Short

Kara Williard (5’9”, 153 lbs / 175 cm, 69.4 kg): The Club Ride Savvy short is a stretchy, comfortable, and versatile option for mountain biking and beyond. The shorts feature a highly stretchy and flexible material, but after lots of use, they have not become over-stretched which is great. I’ve also found the fabric to be durable and resistant to snags, despite how stretchy it is.

The Savvy is a more fitted short with a shorter inseam (11”) than most of the shorts I typically ride in, by about two inches. I don’t mind this, even though I’m on the taller side, because they also look stylish for lounging, hiking, climbing, guiding, etc. They have a comfortable two-snap closure at the waist, as well as an elastic drawcord to further snug them up. The Savvy offers two front pockets, without closure which are good for small items, but not big enough for a phone. Another small zippered side pocket is great for important items such as keys.

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kara Williard in the Club Ride Savvy Short.

I was pleased that the size Medium Savvy had a contoured fit without being too tight or uncomfortable, but this is not the short for someone who prefers a looser or baggier style of mountain bike short. I found the Savvy short to work great for summer conditions and long rides as they move well and don’t ride up while pedaling. The fabric is thin and very breathable, making it one of my go-to shorts for hot days in the desert — much more than some of the other heavier shorts I tested.

Of the ones I tested, the Savvy is the short I would most prefer to wear off the bike, while also being my favorite short for summer rides as it is really breathable, minimal, and lightweight. The Dakine Cadence short and Shredly Mtb Long short are both longer, more protective, and robust, which makes them better choices for gravity days, but can be a disadvantage when you are just trying to go out for a quick spin on a hot day.

Shredly MTB Long Short

Fabric: 90% Polyester and 10% Spandex

Measured Inseam Length: 15.3”/ 39cm

Size Tested: 8

Size Range: 00-14

Weight: 281 g 

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 29 in / 73.7 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 34 in / 86.4 cm

MSRP: $105 (select patterns on sale for $84)

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Shredly MTB Long Short

Kara Williard (5’9”, 153 lbs / 175 cm, 69.4 kg): Shredly has developed a strong reputation as a fashionable women-specific bike brand, and like Wild Rye, they offer size options for a wide range of body types.

This was my first time trying a Shredly short, and I was unsure which of their several short styles would be best suited for me. After choosing the “MTB Long” style I was happy with the relaxed, but still somewhat contoured fit. The MTB Long is one of the longer shorts I have (about 15” inseam), close to covering the knee, whereas the standard Shredly MTB Short is 3” shorter than the Long. The size 8 was perfect and comfortable across my waist, with a flattering fit at the hips. It has a velcro-adjustable waistband to snug it up, which I use slightly just to eliminate some of the gap at the back while leaning over the bars.

This is a heavier short, with a denser and protective material that still feels almost silky to the touch. It is the only short I ride in that can easily hold my phone in the side cargo pocket with a snap closure. The MTB Long also features diagonal zippered vent pockets along each thigh, which help make up for the slightly heavier material by letting some air in. As a result, I was happy to wear these on warm summer rides, but will also pick them for rides later in the season with cooler temperatures.

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kara Williard in the Shredly MTB Long Short.
Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Kara Williard in the Shredly MTB Long Short.

I think the Shredly MTB Long short is one of the cutest and raddest mountain bike shorts I have ever owned, thanks to the amazing and unique patterns they offer across their line and variety of styles for each fit preference. For someone looking for a little shorter and lighter short, I would recommend the Club Ride Savvy short, but I would also be curious to see how the Savvy compares with the shorter style from Shredly, since it’s a bit more minimal than the Long version.

[Editor’s Note: We tested the 2020 version of the Shredly MTB Long Short and there are still plenty of styles and sizes available, and more for the short version of this model. When we reached out to Shredly, they provided the following information about the status of the Long short for 2021:

“Due to raw materials shortages and our production capacity being halved because of circumstances surrounding COVID, we had to make some tough decisions and eliminated the MTB LONG from production this year… the MTB LONG is unchanged as we have not produced any new inventory since last year and you will not find our 2021 prints/colors in this style.”]

Wild Rye Freel Short

Fabric: Stretch nylon w/ DWR finish

Measured Inseam Length: 12 in / 30.5 cm

Size Tested: 8

Size Range: 0-18

Reviewer’s Waist Size: 29 in / 73.7 cm

Reviewer’s Hip Size: 34 in / 86.4 cm

MSRP: $119

[Check out Kara’s full review of the Wild Rye’s Freel Shorts, Marion Chamois, and Sandia Shirt for more]

Blister's 2021 Women's Mountain Bike Short Roundup
Wild Rye Freel Short

Kara Williard (5’9”, 153 lbs / 175 cm, 69.4 kg): After two seasons with the Freel Short, it continues to be one of my favorite bike shorts, and I find myself choosing it anytime I am looking for comfort and style. With a 12” inseam, it hits just above my knee, with a snugness that is flattering and sleek but not uncomfortably tight. The Freel Short is made of water-resistant stretch nylon that’s not only flexible, but also pretty sturdy. These shorts feel great on skin and smooth during lots of pedaling, never bunching up along any particular area on my body. It has also proven to be a burly short after two full seasons of riding.

I have the Freel Short in the “Cactus” pattern, which is a bright orange. But even after riding through lots of mud, the stains have always come out and the short basically looks new. I have worn other bike shorts with cute colored patterns from other brands and have sometimes been disappointed to see mud stains stick around, even after several washes. Not so with the Freel Short.

Kara Williard reviews the Wild Rye Freel Short, Marion Chammy, and Sandia Shirt for BLISTER
Kara Williard in the Wild Rye Freel Short, Marion Chammy, and Sandia Shirt.

The Freel Short has, in my mind, a pretty ideal combination when it comes to pockets — two drop-in front pockets that can hold my gigantic cell phone (without ever having it fall out) and a small zippered pocket on the side that’s a great spot for some lip balm or a key.

Like Kristin, I am a huge fan of Wild Rye and their unique and fashionable offerings for women-specific mountain bike gear that is both functional and stylish. And I’m also really happy to see their wide range of sizes so that more women can find high-quality apparel that actually fits. I cannot wait to invest in several more pairs of the Freel Short in all the amazing patterns that they are producing!

[Editor’s Note: Check out Kara’s full review of the Wild Rye’s Freel Shorts, Marion Chamois, and Sandia Shirt for more info on those pieces. The Freel shorts we tested were a previous version, but the only change that has been made since then is that the waistband has a little bit more taper to better fit curves.]

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