How to Choose Cycling Pants and Shorts

Lycra cycling shorts are not popular with all cyclists and many prefer the looser fitting cycling shorts and pants. But there are a few points to take into account to ensure you choose the best model for your needs.

Image by Endura Limited

The Lycra short is the most important cycling garment and probably the first item of clothing purchased by beginners, but in certain situations, this close-fitting garment is not always the most suitable:

  • Sports wear is not always the most preferable option for urban cycling
  • The looser fitting shorts are more versatile for bikepacking and touring
  • Lycra shorts are unsuitable for high risk MTB disciplines, such as Trail, Enduro and downhill
  • Lycra shorts are unsuitable in adverse weather conditions
  • Some cyclists simply dislike the design of lycra shorts and tights and prefer the looser style.

Different cyclists have different requirements and we will look at these in detail to help you make the right choice.

The main features to look for in pants and shorts for MTB and cycle touring are:

  • Freedom of movement, achieved with loose-fitting or, highly elastic garments and with pre-formed designs that adapt to your posture and movement.
  • Protection against bad weather and body temperature regulation: ventilation and breathability to cool you down and thermal insulation for the cold, wind and rain, especially on descents.
  • Protection in case of a fall
  • Durability of the fabric
  • Lightweight and comfortable

You need to find a balance depending on your intended use . An extremely light and comfortable short is excellent for urban cycling or light MTB, but it is not the most suitable for Enduro, where there is a high risk of falling on rough terrain. And a pair of downhill trousers is not the most suitable garment for long-distance cycling.

Fortunately, manufacturers have developed a huge variety of high quality pants and shorts, for men and women, with a wide price range, designed for every situation. The following tips will help you make the right choice.

The Chamois

Unless you use a bike sporadically or for urban riding, a chamois is highly recommended. Unlike Lycra shorts, the chamois is not usually integrated into loose fitting pants and shorts, and in these cases specific underwear that includes a chamois is required. Before choosing, bear in mind the following:

  • Check if the brand offers a specific system for integrating a liner, such as the Endura Clickfast(TM)system, which allows you to add and remove the chamois, or the Alpinestar liner.

  • Check if the chamois is included with the liner or if it has to be purchased separately, to avoid disppointment and going over your budget.

  • If the shorts do not have specific system for integrating a liner, check if your lycra shorts are able to fit comfortably and safely underneath.

  • Endura SingleTrack Liner
  • Alpinestars Pro V2

Having clarified the suitability of the chamois pad, we will move on to the other features.

Urban Cycling

For intense urban cycling, it is advisable to use specific garments to enhance comfort and safety. Many of the light MTB shorts and trousers are perfect for urban or casual cycling, some have a style that is more sporty and others are more casual, but all are designed for cycling and have specific features for comfort of use:

  • Stretch fabric with a water-repellent finish
  • Pre-shaped knees
  • Reinforcements in areas in contact with the saddle
  • Security pockets
  • Reflective elements
  • Endura SingleTrack Liner
  • Alpinestars Pro V2
  • Alpinestars Pro V2

MTB and Cycle Touring

For mountain biking and cycle touring, loose cycling shorts, also known as baggies, are are the most popular. Long pants are used for cold weather or for downhill, where higher protection is required. Shorts are more popular than long pants for several reasons; they offer greater freedom of movement, especially when wearing protection, they are better in high temperatures and they combine well with leg warmers or long cycling tights in cold weather. They are highly versatile for all types of use, both in terms of functionality and appearance.

In both cases, elasticity is very important and the higher quality models use 4-way stretch fabrics, especially for long pants. Always check the stretch capacity if you are looking for a high performance garment.

If you plan to do MTB touring or trail rides, you can opt for shorts made of lightweight fabrics with good ventilation that do not cover the knee, to facilitate pedalling. Top sellers include the Endura Hummvee II and Fox Ranger shorts, both with much lighter Lite versions, for summer or for routes with more pedalling and less technical difficulty.

  • Endura Hummvee Lite
  • Fox Head Ranger Lite

More aggressive disciplines like Trail and Gravity, require a fabric that is highly resistant to tear and abrasion, to make the garment longer-lasting and to protect the cyclist. For this reason these fabrics have a greater density and usually feature specific anti-tear fabrics such as Ripstop and Kevlar in the most exposed areas. However, these fabrics are not as lightweight, ventilated or breathable, although several top brands have adopted solutions to improve these features, such as laser perforations, mesh inserts or zips in strategic areas. In this range, it is worth mentioning the Endura MT500 and Fox Defend series, for example, and specific winter models such as the Scott Trail Storm, which has Polartec® DRYOsphere technology and waterproof fabric on the back, for better insulation.

  • Fox Defend
  • Scott Trail Storm Alpha

If you opt for long trousers for Enduro and downhill, it is even more important than with shorts that it features 4-way, high stretch fabric, to guarantee freedom of movement and to fit over your protection. And, like shorts, it should feature highly resistant fabric in the critical areas. The best quality pants, such as the Alpinestars Techstar, offer highly advanced technical solutions for rider protection, such as thermoplastic elastomer inserts (TPR) or PU printed areas to avoid abrasion on the thighs and hips in the event of a fall. Quality, as always, is a good investment.

  • Alpinestars Techstar
  • Fox Head Defend Fire Pant

Final Advice

We end with two important tips to help you choose the most suitable cycling shorts:

  • To choose the right size, don't rely on the same sizes used for lycra cycling shorts or similar garments. For the looser fitting cycling shorts, some brands use the more universal letter sizing, but others use numeric, and these are not always comparable to the sizing on lycra shorts. Brands usually have size charts and comparison charts, but if possible, get advice from a professional, such as those at our stores.

  • Think about the protection, if you plan to use it. Make sure the trousers and, in general, all the equipment is compatible and fits comfortably, while maintaining freedom of movement and comfort. This may also condition the size of the pant you choose.

  • And, before we finish, remember that all the trousers mentioned and many more by top brands can be found at our Mammoth stores and our online

    Our brands: Endura, Fox Head, Alpinestars, Assos, Specialized, Scott, Castelli, Gore, Basil, Mondraker, Ale, Giro, 100%, Spiuk, Montura, Sportful, Ion, Jeanstrack, and Club Ride.

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