It might seem weird to call mountain bike shorts, well, shorts because of their length. Why not call them mountain bike capris or pants if they sometimes go beyond the knee?
The long and short of it (no pun intended) is that mountain bike shorts (or MTB shorts) are long for safety. Most mountain bikers wear protective gear because they bike fast over rough terrain. They can take more severe hits, so, to fully protect themselves, they need to wear clothing that covers the skin and is durable.
We have already covered why mountain bike shorts are worth wearing, but why are mountain bike shorts so long? Let us find out below.
Why are MTB Shorts So Long?
MTB shorts should still be long enough to cover your thigh and maybe a little of your knees. That way, you can wear them over your knee pads without having that dreaded beginner’s gap between them.
Such a length also keeps the shorts from riding up your legs while you ride. If they were too short or too tight, they would eventually ride up your thighs, and you would need to adjust them more often.
They must also be in such a position that they will not chafe against your knee pads and cause discomfort. If the shorts only go halfway over your knees, they might press awkwardly against your knees as you bend them while riding. In some cases, you might find mountain biking shorts that go just past your knee pads, giving the shorts little to no chance of running up.
MTB shorts protect you from stray branches, gravel, water, dust, and other things. They come from material that you may likely find on regular biking shorts, but they are usually long enough to cover your entire thighs for extra measure.
Ultimately long bike shorts are there for protection. The more skin that you cover the fewer scrapes you will get in a crash. Particularly the thighs and knees can take a hammering in a crash. Proper MTB shorts and knee pads will help you laugh about that crash rather than be nursing your scrapes home.
Also short shorts tend to get caught on the saddle and it can be very dangerous as it prevents you from being able to move freely on the bike. It usually results in a nea miss or a crash which is never fun.
No one has time or energy to keep readjusting MTB shorts on a biking adventure, so comfort and function are key to great MTB shorts.
How Long Should Mountain Bike Shorts Be?
The length of mountain bike shorts will change depending on whether you are standing off the bike or on your bike in the riding position. When you’re standing off the bike MTB shorts should come to around the middle of your knee caps.
Therefore, when you get on your bike in a riding position the shorts will sit just above your knee caps. This is particularly important if you ride with knee pads as it will mean your shorts will sit nicely over the knee pads and won’t bunch up or leave a dreaded beginner’s gap.
What to Wear While Mountain Biking
When mountain biking, safety gear is essential, considering your speed and terrain. You cannot bike on rougher trails and at greater speeds and expect not to have a few scrapes now and then. Thus, you should wear the basics like a helmet.
However, it is a good idea to carry a few extra items. Gloves, especially ones with extra padding on top of the grips, can protect your hands if you take a hard fall on the trail. Good biking shoes can increase your pedaling efficiency.
All those things are essential, but mountain bike shorts can make a difference in your mountain biking adventure, mainly because of padding and general protection. They can also compress your muscles to help reduce fatigue and soreness, among other benefits.
You switch between standing and sitting when mountain biking, so the shorts need to move comfortably with your body. As such, you will need support for your feet, knees, and legs to stay safe on the trail.
Check out our in-depth guide on what to wear out on the trails.
How to Choose Mountain Bike Shorts
We already know that mountain bike shorts are long enough to cover the knee. That said, there are other factors for choosing your ideal mountain bike shorts.
Believe it or not, there are different types of padding you can select for mountain bike shorts. The material is called chamois and comes in either floating liners or already sewn into the shorts themselves.
Floating liners tend to chafe more because they shift around more. Although, you can replace these with bib shorts if you prefer, which fit tighter to your crotch area.
With any piece of biking gear, the chamois quality increases with price. The most expensive mountain bike shorts will typically have in-sewn liners, which help eliminate chafing and multi-density fabric to decrease bulk and weight on your legs.
Bear in mind that when you wear biking shorts, it is not a good idea to wear non-biking underwear underneath, as this may cause chafing. Instead, you can wear separate padded liners underneath to increase comfort and safety.
Which fit you choose depends on what trails you will ride and your general skills as a biker. Do you fall and crash a lot? Will you ride on trails with lots of vegetation?
For almost all non-professional mountain bike riders you will want to wear baggy mountain bike shorts. They offer better protection in a crash and allow a greater degree of freedom when riding.
You will feel much safer with long baggy bike shorts than something similar to lycra.
Baggies, or mountain bike shorts that fit looser to your body, tend to have pockets for important items. Although, depending on how much cargo you have, you might want to pick a tighter fit to keep everything closer to your body.
It may seem strange to call mountain bike shorts “shorts” if they go past your knee, but they are that length for a reason. You can choose whether you add padding or other features to your shorts, but they should be able to protect your legs from any accidents (or just stray branches) on your biking adventures.