Best Overall Mountain Bike Shorts
Pearl Izumi Elevate
The Editors' Choice Award goes to the Pearl Izumi Elevate
, which scored high in every test. This short quickly became our favorite with its cool looks, long protective inseam length, leg openings that accommodate knee pads, and well-fitting 4-way stretch fabric. The Elevate does not include a liner short, which is its biggest downside. However, this is okay with us since included liners are often not of the highest quality. We would rather buy a quality liner and have a comfortable outer short with plenty of zippered pockets, like the Elevate. This product is well suited for nearly the full range of mountain biking, from mellow all-mountain to downhill riding, but it would be most at home on an enduro bike. At $100, it falls near the middle of the price range for baggy mountain bike shorts, and we think it's worth the price.
Best Bang for the Buck
Our Best Buy Award goes to the Zoic Ether
which retails for $80 and is packed with usable features. The Ether is $100 cheaper than the most expensive short we tested, while only retailing for $20 more than the least expensive. It has six pockets, an external velcro adjustable waistband, and comes in a variety of solid colors that look attractive on or off the bike. The Ether is also available in four plaid prints for $10 more. The RPL Essential Liner, which is included with the Ether, is fully removable and is middle of the trail in terms of quality and comfort. For the price, you can't get a better baggy mountain bike short, especially with an included liner.
Top Pick for Pedaling
The Dakine Boundary
earns our Top Pick Award for being the most pedal-friendly short in our test. The recently updated Boundary is made from a very lightweight 4-way stretch material which allows for full range of motion with no restriction whether you are pedaling in or out of the saddle. This short has a sleek design and can easily double as a high-end board short or hiking short. Two components of the sleek look are the welded seams and the hook and loop waistband adjustment which is covertly hidden inside the waistband. The Boundary has what we consider the perfect ergonomic cut that combines a short rise with a long inseam along with plenty of room in the seat. A rear stretch panel is not needed in the seat area to provide extra room because the entire short is made from such a stretchy material. This material is also the fastest drying material we've found in a baggy mountain bike short, which is great should your all-day bike adventure include a dip in the lake to cool off. The Boundary's only pocket is a hidden zippered pocket on the right thigh, which does not work well for heavier items like a bike tool or cell phone.