Mountain Bike Shorts Vs. Road Bike Shorts (Lycra)

With so many different biking styles, whether mountain, racing, road, cruising, or commuting, how do you choose a pair of bike shorts to wear?

Well, when it comes down to mountain biking specifically, you get the choice of mountain bike shorts specifically, or road bike shorts since mountain bikers typically prefer either. 

Before you take your pick between the two, you might want to compare mountain bike shorts vs. Lycra to discern their differences and decide which is best. 

What are Mountain Bike Shorts – Baggies


When you’re shredding down a rocky hillside or riding fast and loose, you need a fit that can keep up and complement your moves. Mountain bike shorts, like Baggies, are open and spacious. They don’t constrict your legs but rather let air flow freely through while you ride. 

What are Road Bike Shorts – Lycra

Lycra Shorts

Think of road bike shorts as the complete opposite of Baggies. They’re made from elastic fabric that fits your body type snuggly. 

Typically, road bikers will wear these shorts because they help speed and provide a more aerodynamic function to riders than a standard pair of shorts.

What to Look for When Purchasing Mountain Bike Shorts

Before discerning which bike shorts to go with, you should consider what you need the shorts for, how you want them to fit, and how you ride.


Mountain biking is by no means a simple skill but rather an intense lifestyle. When you’re shredding loose and fast over rigorous terrain, you don’t want to worry about an uncomfortable outfit taking away from your experience or speed. Instead, look for a pair of shorts that suits your style and comfort needs. 

If you plan to hit significant jumps or tackle challenging terrain, you might want to consider a pair of shorts that offers a certain level of flexibility so that you can move freely with the bike around berms. Being uncomfortable can hinder your performance and your experience. 


Want to take your phone or keys with you when you hit the trail? You won’t have any place to put your belongings if you don’t have adequate storage space in your shorts. However, regular pockets won’t do either when it comes to mountain biking. Instead, it would help if you had secure pockets with zippers, velcro, or that fit securely within the compressed fabric. 

Shorts with secure pockets can keep your belongings safe from drops while you ride, so you don’t have to worry about them while they sit in your car. 

Plus, having pockets means you can keep your phone with you if you have an emergency and need to call for help. If you don’t have secure pockets, you can kiss that phone goodbye. 


Do you mountain bike if you haven’t bailed once or twice? Whether you do it intentionally to protect yourself or unintentionally during a ride, you’re bound to bail at some point when you bike. Now, can you imagine bailing and having your shorts completely ripped in the aftermath? 

That’s why bike shorts material is crucial to choosing the best pair of shorts. You want shorts with durable material that can withstand tears and rips. While not all materials are impervious to damage, some can surely take tons of damage before completely giving out. 

Benefits of Baggies

Baggies might look like a casual pair of shorts, but they offer many benefits to mountain bikers, such as breathability, durability, and flexibility.


Because Baggies offer ample space for your legs, you can count on them for ventilation while you ride. In addition, unlike other shorts with adequate ventilation, Baggies keeps the air flowing to prevent you from overheating. 


Baggy mountain bike shorts provide an extra layer of protection to your legs that other shorts like Lycra can’t offer. This extra layer will keep your legs from getting cut up if you bail on a ride. Not to mention, these shorts can keep you from getting chilly if you ride during the colder months. 

Check out our winter MTB guide for more.

Plus, these shorts are often weather-resistant, meaning you can ride through a rainstorm and count on them to keep you dry and your belongings protected. Weather resistance and protection also mean that these shorts will withstand the test of time. 


Whether you’re roosting corners or hitting whips on jumps, you need a pair of shorts that can move with you while you ride. Baggies–because of the legroom they provide–offer ample flexibility to keep up with every which way you move while you ride. 

Benefits of Lycra

While Lycra road bike shorts are not designed specifically for mountain bikers, many cyclists prefer them for their compression support, material, and speed. 


Road bike shorts aren’t just tight for the sake of being right, no. Instead, the compression design is intentional because it compresses your muscles to reduce soreness and fatigue during and after a ride. This design allows cyclists to ride for longer than they might be able to without. 


When wearing other shorts during a hot day or a workout, you might notice how they absorb sweat. Alongside their tight design, Lycra shorts’ material wicks away sweat to keep you cool during a ride and prevent chafing. 

Typically, these shorts are made from spandex, nylon, or other moisture-wicking fabrics that comfortably conform to your body and last longer than cheaper materials.


Since Lycra shorts compress your muscles, conform to your body, and wick away moisture, cyclists who wear them can ride faster. 

The design was created as an aerodynamic additive to help riders cut through the wind without slowing down. However, if your shorts consist of heavy, baggy materials, they’ll slow you down, which isn’t ideal for longer rides. 

Are Baggies Better for Mountain Biking than Lycra?

When it comes down to which pair of biking shorts can keep up with the rugged lifestyle that is mountain biking, you can’t argue with the benefits of Baggies mountain bike shorts. They not only offer the flexibility and comfort that Lycra shorts do but provide protection and breathability.