Mountain bikers who remember the 1980s remember that mountain bike shorts came in one color (black) and for one gender (men). Mountain Bike Shorts for Women and different colors weren’t on anyone’s design board. Thankfully that has changed.
When we set out looking for Mountain Bike Shorts for Women to test and compare, we wanted examples of innovation and evolution. Modernization and representation of mountain bike shorts have accommodated the growing women’s mountain biking market. Along with that came colors that popped (but not overdoing it) like the 7Mesh Glidepath and the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. We also looked to the tried-and-true designs of Pearl Izumi who created the Launch. We also found emerging styles such as the Craft Ride and Showers Pass Gravel Short.
After testing a pile of mountain bike shorts for women, the coveted Best in Class award went to the 7Mesh Glidepath which hit the sweet spot for comfort, durability, protection and fit for aggressive trail riding.
The 7Mesh Glidepath shorts have a relaxed and articulated fit. They are made with a light-weight ripstop fabric that has just enough stretch to ensure a comfortable ride and the large rear pockets are the most functional of all the shorts in the test. However expect to pay a premium to ride in a pair.
The Pearl Izumi Women's Launch Short have a relaxed and articulated fit. They are made with a medium-weight ripstop fabric that offer outstanding protection and the leg openings that easily accommodate knee pads. However the weightier fabric makes them best suited for all-mountain riding where the cyclist is not continuously pedaling.
The Patagonia Dirt Roamer shorts have a streamlined slim fit. They are made with a lightweight fabric that is Bluesign approved and breathes well on warm days. However, they run small and the tapered legs have limited kneepad compatibility.
The Maloja RoschiaM shorts are the most comfortable, most breathable and best-ventilated shorts in the test. They offer an articulated fit that is semi-fitted across the hips but flared in the lower legs to accommodate kneepads. However their lightweight stretchy fabric don’t inspire confidence in durability in the event of a crash.
The Craft Ride Shorts W have a very relaxed fit through the hips and legs and easily accommodate kneepads. They are made with a medium-weight fabric that offers good protection and ventilation. However the very relaxed fit means excessive bunching and bagginess for smaller cyclists.
The Showers Pass Women's Gravel Shorts are rich with features for warm climates, wet conditions and rides after dark. They are made with a medium-weight stretchy fabric that offers great durability and comfort. However, cyclists who ride aggressive, technical singletrack at higher speeds will encounter more exposed leg skin in crashes due to the shorter inseam.
Indeed, mountain bike shorts have evolved since their humble single-gender and single-color days. Now for Mountain Bike Shorts for Women it’s all about the stretchy fabrics that make a short snug enough to not get caught on the seat post, yet unrestrictive while pedaling or moving around on the bike. Thicker, stretchy fabric goes a long way in protecting skin in a crash too, absorbing some of the force skin would normally take. And savvy styles include kneepad compatibility. Most companies have clued in to the hip pocket designed to secure a smartphone while not affecting movement and they have certainly clued in to a growing women’s market that demands high-performance, protection and comfort.
In Mountain Bike Shorts for Women, the big differences were in how the shorts fit around the hips and in accommodating kneepads. The shorts with the most impressive knee-pad compatibility were the 7Mesh Glidepath and the Pearl Izumi Launch. But what made the 7Mesh Glidepath stand out over the Pearl Izumi Launch was a slightly tapered leg that still worked great with a kneepad and a longer inseam that provided outstanding leg coverage.
The Pearl Izumi Women’s Launch Short came with a chamois liner included, which certainly affects their value. The shorts in the test that did not come with a chamois liner worked well with any liners that our testers had in their chamois wardrobe.
Fans of Pearl Izumi may be disappointed to see the 7Mesh Glidepath emerge the Best in Class, but they had tough competition this year. Simply put, the 7Mesh Glidepath are incredible products with some real innovations in the storage, comfort and protection department.
While all the shorts in the test accommodated any chamois, knickers or bibs, it was the Maloja RoschiaM, with its 11-inch inseam and fitted style through the hips and legs that still easily accommodated kneepads, was the winner in this category. What impressed our testing team the most was how they were relaxed just enough in the hips and legs but maintained a sleek, streamlined silhouette. Sharing second place are the 7Mesh Glidepath and the Pearl Izumi Launch. The 7Mesh Glidepath felt slightly more relaxed in the hips and seat. The waist adjustment tab is an added bonus for riders with smaller waists. It is made of sturdy lightweight webbing and cinches the waist comfortably for a nice, pucker-free look. The Pearl Izumi Launch’s semi-relaxed fit and articulated cut offset the heavier weight of its fabric.
Sharing third place are the Showers Pass Gravel short and the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. In this duo, for each odd anomaly, each short delivered an outstanding counter-feature to offset the anomaly. For example, the Patagonia Dirt Roamers had the most streamlined fit of all the shorts in the test. One could even argue that the sizing runs on the smaller side and if a rider wants a more relaxed fit she should get the next size up. Yet our testing team actually found that the streamlined fit, ultra-tapered legs and longer inseam also made them ideal for urban riding. The Showers Pass Gravel short provided a fit that is semi-relaxed and articulated, which offset the heavier weight of their fabric. The Craft Ride’s very relaxed fit felt incredibly comfortable despite the bagginess in the hips and seat and the bunching in the waist when fully adjusted.
The high score in this category is shared by the Pearl Izumi Launch and the Showers Pass Gravel shorts. Both are made with beefy medium-weight four-way stretch fabric and are stitched together with heavy thread that has been known to hold up well during crashes and skids. Next are the 7Mesh Glidepath and the Maloja RoschiaM. Although they are made with lighter-weight two-way stretch fabric, their tight and straight stitching with heavy thread and general construction is meticulous. Maloja even takes it up a notch with triple stitching and a bonded hem. In third is the Craft Ride shorts. Like the Pearl Izumi Launch and the Showers Pass gravel shorts, they’re constructed with a durable medium-weight stretch fabric; however the stitching could be straighter and done with heavier thread. The Patagonia Dirt Roamers are made with lightweight stretch ripstop fabric. Although they’re likely not as abrasion-resistant as the other shorts in the test, they do have sonic-welded seams that are very tight and straight.
The Pearl Izumi Launch and the 7Mesh Glidepath shared the high score in this category with definite competing virtues. Which offers better protection in a crash? A longer inseam of 12 inches that more than adequately covers any exposed leg skin and whose cut easily accommodates kneepads (7Mesh) or a heavier fabric whose cut accommodates kneepads but with a shorter inseam of 11.5 inches that leaves a tiny bit of skin exposed (Pearl Izumi)? As no crashes took place our testing team agreed that if they had to crash in a pair of shorts, it would be a toss-up between 7Mesh and Pearl Izumi.
The Craft Ride’s medium-weight fabric and 11-inch inseam that easily accommodated knee pads took second place. Our testing team found that when wearing knee pads, very minimal leg skin was exposed. The Maloja RoschiaM and their lighter-weight fabric and 11-inch inseam (that easily accommodated kneepads) claimed third place. As with the Craft Ride, our testing team found that when wearing kneepads, very minimal leg skin was exposed. In fourth place are the Patagonia Dirt Roamers. Although they have an impressive 11.5-inch inseam the tapered legs mean the hem will need be under the top of the kneepads. Rounding out this category are the Showers Pass Gravel shorts with their nine-inch inseam. Although they easily accommodate kneepads, the shorter inseams leaves considerable leg skin exposed.
The most comfortable short award goes to the Maloja RoschiA. The RoshciaM combined all the elements that makes a mountain bike short comfortable: Ergonomic cut, fast-drying four-way stretch fabric and outstanding ventilation features. The 7Mesh Glidepath’s comfort came from their relaxed fit through the rear and hips, low-rise in front, wide waistband and the amazing breathability of the light-weight Soma two-way stretch ripstop fabric. Sharing third place are the Patagonia Dirt Roamer and Pearl Izumi Launch. The key to the Pearl Izumi Launch’s comfort is from the relaxed fit through the rear and hips, low-rise in front and the wide waistband—although it came up slightly short in the breathability department due to its heavier, more durable fabric. The Patagonia Dirt Roamers’ turned out to be more comfortable than out testing team expected due to its low-rise waistband that proved comfortable in aggressive riding positions and the breathability of the fabric in humid conditions.
Sharing the lowest score of the test for comfort are the Craft Ride and the Showers Pass Gravel shorts. Comfort was fair in the Gravel shorts by their relaxed fit through the rear and hips, low rise in the front, zippered thigh vents and the Lycra stretch panel that runs across the upper back and at the top of the hip bones to allow for good stretch, breathability and range of motion. The Craft Ride were also OK in hot and humid conditions due to their ultra-relaxed cut and wide waistband.
In this category our testing team looks for add-on’s like pockets—number of and level of functionality—and features like water-resistant fabric, ventilation, reflective elements and the ability to accommodate knee pads. The high scorer in this category was the 7Mesh Glidepath. They have two jeans-style unsecured hand pockets that are off-seam and lay completely flat. One tester found that the forward-facing angle of the pockets made it easier to access. But our tester team was most impressed with the two large deep diagonal side hip cargo pockets that are well-placed and secured with a glove-friendly zipper. Easily holding items like a cell phone, multi-tool and trail map, and with an inner stretch pocket that secures a phone to keep it from shifting, they were the most functional of all the shorts in the test. With a score of eight, the Showers Pass Gravel shorts offer two moderately-deep hand pockets that are secured with Velcro and handy lightweight webbing loops for easy access. There is also a zippered pocket on the rear that can hold items that need to be secured, such as a key. Its zippered thigh vents were found to work very well in hot and humid riding conditions. Additional features include a Lycra stretch panel to promote stretch and breathability as well as reflective elements.
Sharing second place are the Maloja RoschiaM and Pearl Izumi Launch. Both shorts have their share of zippered security pockets either as cargo pockets on the thigh or on the back. In addition, the Pearl Izumi Launch offers zippers on both hand pockets. For comfort, the Pearl Izumi Launch has a panel of soft foam added to the waistband for structure and support and includes four short strips of silicone grippers that prevent it from sliding down. Additionally, a Lycra stretch panel through the crotch and leg openings enhance mobility and stretch. In promoting ventilation, the Maloja RoschiaM added a patch of laser-cut ventilation holes in the crotch area and along the upper back. Rounding out the features are the removable 3D Tour Chamois of the Pearl Izumi Launch and an MP3 player pocket with cord port on the Maloja RoschiaM.
In the middle of the pack, the Craft Ride has two unsecured hand pockets in the front and a security pocket on the rear that is secured with a water-resistant zipper. Pocket depth is nice and deep. For comfort, the Craft Ride has a panel of soft foam added to the waistband for structure and support. For rides after dark, cyclists will appreciate the reflective elements on the legs. Rounding out the pack in simplicity is the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. While not rich in features (only one secured zippered pocket on the thigh) they are Bluesign-approved and made from a blend of recycled Polyester and Spandex which means they meet the most stringent of sustainability standards of all the shorts in the test. They also have a coating of DWR for water-resistance and a removable “Endless Ride” liner short.
Our testing team tested the shorts in and around Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota; Sedona and Tucson, Arizona and Moab, Utah over a period of two months on asphalt, gravel, singletrack in temperatures ranging from the low 40’s to the mid-90’s and on distances that ranged from six miles to 56. Our testing team did not intentionally set out to test the durability of each pair of shorts in a crash. Instead, to judge the shorts’ ability to withstand impact, they scrutinized their construction materials, the weight of the fabric and the stitching. Though, there may have been some crashes anyway.