Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts Review Roundup

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Virginia and Emily decided to get a few of the more popular women’s mountain bike shorts on the market and put them to the test this summer. Find their reviews of each, specs and details, and their favorite picks from the group here…

By Emily Heron and Virginia Krabill

Bicycling is at its pinnacle of popularity. Thankfully, some brands have caught onto this growth and have been slowly making more intentional efforts to provide women’s-specific apparel. Where once there were only basic black baggy shorts, we now have options in any variety of colors and patterns. There are also shorts that fit women of all sizes and shapes, versus the one-style-fits-all approach of years past. Though a disparity between the range of offerings for women vs men still remains, we hope that brands continue to recognize the importance of providing a variety of options that embrace the diversity within the cycling community.

Following our men’s shorts roundup from last summer, Virginia and Emily did some research and identified a handful of the more popular women’s mountain bike shorts on the market, then put them to the test this summer. This list includes offerings from both small and large companies, many of which are owned and/or operated by women. Each of these shorts have received positive reviews from the general public, and there is not a pair in the group that we would not recommend. Our biggest challenge is that we found so many great options that it was a little overwhelming choosing our favorites. Our hope is that this review helps our readers find their own perfect fit. Read each review below, then find our wrap up with some notes on our favorites.

Wild Rye Freel Shorts

$119 / Made in China (“ethically made”)

By Virginia Krabill

Wild Rye is a women-owned company that makes “mountain” gear specifically for women. The company supports grassroots organizations working to get more women outdoors, and they are 1% for the Planet members. Additionally, they offer carbon-neutral shipping and ship their wares in 100% recycled and recyclable paper mailers. They have three styles/models of bike shorts: the Freel, Kaweah, and Freda. The first thing you might notice when checking out the Wild Rye website is that none of their shorts come in a “basic black.” On the contrary, Wild Rye’s fabrics come in a myriad of bright colors and playful patterns.

Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review

The Freel are Wild Rye’s flagship/original shorts. They have a 12” inseam and are constructed from a super-stretchy nylon and spandex blend. The fabric is a heavier weight (220 gsm) than some of the contenders, and, as such, has a really durable feel and holds up well to minor abrasions. The heavy fabric means these shorts are definitely not the coolest of the shorts we tested, but despite their durable water repellent (DWR) finish, they breathe well enough that overheating isn’t a major issue. The Freel have three pockets, two hand pockets and one zippered thigh pocket that’s large enough to keep valuables secure while not interfering with a rider’s dynamic positioning. The fit of the shorts is comfortable. They are the stretchiest of the shorts we tested, so one can bend, squat, or hinge to their heart’s content, without any pinching or pressure. The tulip hem and slight flare of the leg opening also allows for larger or more muscular thighs to move without being squeezed.

  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review

While the flex of the fabric is great for unencumbered movement, it does have its drawbacks. When I first tried on these shorts, I was impressed with how well they fit, especially considering I’d opted for the smaller of the two sizes I typically wear. Unfortunately, after half an hour on the saddle, the shorts had stretched to the point (3”) that I worried the crotch would catch on the saddle. There is no built-in waist adjustment, but there are belt loops. And, while I’d prefer not to wear one, the Freel are otherwise great shorts, so I’m willing to add a belt for trail rides. I would just advise folks to size down on their orders, and wear their new shorts around the house a bit to make sure they fit before hitting the trails.

  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Wild Rye Freel Shorts Review
  • Color/Pattern: Breezy Rye (blue)
  • Also available in: Wild West (coral/orange), Mustard Poppy (yellow), Wild Thing (black)
  • Tested: Size 6, available in sizes 0-18
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Material: 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex
  • Weight: 238 grams (8.4 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: China (“ethically made”)
  • Price: $119
  • Manufacturer’s Details: wild-rye.com

Machines For Freedom Key Shorts (11″)

$108 / Made in China

By Virginia Krabill

Machines for Freedom is a female-founded and women-run company that has been a leader in the cycling industry in terms of representing and celebrating diversity through their choice of models and their paid ambassadorships. They’re best known for making cycling clothing that is inclusively sized, with kits available in sizes XS to XXXL.

Machines for Freedom started off as a road cycling brand in 2014. In April of this year, they launched their Off-Road Collection. The Key Short is the cornerstone of that collection. With this short, the Lycra-spandex look may be out, but the baggies most associated with mountain bike riding have not taken their place. Instead, the Key Short is a high-waisted, tailored short that I’d actually say looks classy. I opted for the 11” versus the 5.5” and they really have a classic Bermuda short vibe. Throw on a button-down top, and take these shorts from the trail to a night on the town.

Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review

The Key Short doesn’t only look nice, it’s well constructed with attention to detail. Those finer details include a sliding lock-snap closure and button waist closure and MFF’s signature rear waistband zippered phone pocket. There are also two front scooped pockets and two zippered back pockets. The 100-percent polyester fabric is a relatively heavy fabric, one thing that adds to its classic styling, but also adds to its durability. In general, the fabric stretches really well. At the waist and bottom hem, there seems to be slightly less stretch, which is understandable, due to seam construction. The high waist is a new thing for me, and I’m a bit surprised by how much I like them. There’s zero risk of exposing yourself, even in the most aggressive positions, and they provide a nice feeling of core/trunk support in general.

  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review
  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review
  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review
  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review
  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review

While the high waist does offer great benefits, it may pose a problem for some riders. The waist seems to run a bit large in comparison to how the hips and legs fit. In a crouched or aggressive stance, that extra circumference allows for movement without feeling at all pinched, but, off the bike, the larger waist forms a gap at the stomach. This gap does not create an issue of slippage, because the hips are more form-fitting. Rather, it just creates the appearance of a ponch where there may not be one. The Key Shorts, like the Freel, don’t have a built-in waist adjustment. Instead, they have belt loops. Again, I’m not a fan of wearing a belt while riding, and the slightly loose waist fit doesn’t pose a hazard, so I’ll likely opt to just wear them as is. Another thing to note about the cut of these shorts is that the leg openings are more tapered than the straight cut we find in baggy shorts. While this adds to the tailored look, folks with more athletic or larger legs may feel a bit pinched, especially when they’re in more aggressive riding stances.

  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review
  • Machines For Freedom Key Shorts Review

The overall high quality of these shorts and their versatility make them a great option. The Key Short performs well on rides, and its clean lines make me feel like less of a slouch off the bike.

  • Color/Pattern: Black
  • Also available in: Citronelle and Utility Green
  • Tested: US 27, available in US sizes 24-38
  • Inseam: 11” inseam, also available in 5.5” inseam
  • Material: 100% polyester, PF 50+ (by construction)
  • Weight: 244 grams (8.6 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: China
  • Price: $108
  • Manufacturer’s Details: machinesforfreedom.com

Patagonia Women’s Dirt Craft Bike Shorts

$159/$199CAD / Made in Vietnam, Fair Trade Certified sewn

By Virginia Krabill

Patagonia is a big brand, and they’ve used that success to do some pretty good things. They were pioneers in the corporate social responsibility movement and continue to be leaders within it. They make ethically produced, high-quality products, and they stand by them with generous return policies and free repairs. Patagonia has been in the business of making active outdoor gear for a long time, but they’re not a bike-specific brand. As such, we were curious to see how their shorts would stand up to the competition.

Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review

Patagonia has three models of overshorts in their women’s MTB collection: the Dirt Roamer, Tyrolean, and Dirt Craft, all of which are 100-percent fair trade sewn. We tested the Dirt Craft. It’s the longest of the women’s options, with a 12” inseam, and it comes with a removable padded liner/chamois. These shorts don’t have the tailored look that some of the competition offer, though they’re available in several colors and a few unique patterns. Instead, they are casual, straightforward, old-school baggies that are supremely comfortable to wear. The super lightweight 95% nylon (65% recycled), 5% elastane/Spandex fabric has a DWR finish that sheds water while retaining excellent breathability. This fabric provides plenty of stretch, albeit less than that of some of the other manufacturers’ shorts. Honestly, that’s not all bad. Where some of the others feel like they’ve grown a size or two over the course of a ride, there’s little worry of drooping drawers with the Dirt Crafts. When the shorts do require some minor adjustments, a simple external hook and looped webbing are built into the waist. The long inseam, straight cut legs, and curved waistband also provide ample coverage without impeding a full range of motion. The liner that comes with these shorts is also really comfortable. The body is constructed from a mesh fabric that keeps things cool, and the low-profile chamois requires little to no break-in time. Two scooped front pockets and a zippered left thigh pocket provide plenty of room to stash essentials on the ride.

  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review
  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review

While we found the Dirt Craft to be among the most comfortable of the shorts we tested, they do have a couple of downsides. The Patagonia sizing chart seems to be a bit off, so we recommend sizing down and/or trying on these shorts before purchasing a pair. That said, the hook and loop adjustment provides a good bit of flexibility when it comes to sizing. Also, while we loved the weight of these shorts, the fabric does seem less abrasion-resistant than the thicker fabrics used in some of the other shorts. So, if rock scrambling or cactus dodging are a regular part of your rides, you may want to opt for one of the burlier options. Lastly, while we think the liner is one of the most comfortable we’ve ever worn, the legs tend to work their way up the thighs a bit. This isn’t a deal-breaker, as they never ride up too far, but for folks who want to secure knee warmers in place, this shimmy could be a drawback.

  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review
  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review
  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review
  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review
  • Patagonia Dirt Craft Bike Shorts Review

All-in-all, the Dirt Craft are great shorts. They’re lightweight, move well, and they’re responsibly made. Compared to the other shorts in the review, they’re a bit pricey, but they’re also the only shorts that come with a liner. We hope that future iterations of the Dirt Craft offer the chamois as an option, so folks who prefer to ride chamois-less aren’t paying for something they don’t need.

  • Color/Pattern: Solid Black
  • Also available in: Leeleekoi (plume grey), Retro Layers (camp green), and Clover (kelp forest)
  • Tested: 8, sizes 0-18 available
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Material: Outer: 95% Nylon (65% recycled), 5% Elastane/spandex, DWR finish; Liner: 72% Polyester/ 28% Spandex
  • Weight: 182 grams (6.42 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: Vietnam, Fair Trade Certified™ sewn
  • Price: 159/ $199CAD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Patagonia.com

Shredly MTB Shorts

$105 / Made in the USA

By Virginia Krabill

Ashley Rankin, Shredly’s founder and lead designer, started the company in 2012 when there were few options for women-specific bike apparel. Since then, the industry has expanded, but Shredly has managed to provide something that none of the others do: women’s mountain bike and multi-sport clothing that’s actually made in the USA. What’s more, the company sources a majority of its raw materials from North America, and a large percentage of its products are made from recycled content. The company’s manufacturing processes aren’t the only thing that’s unique about them. The clothing itself stands out with unusual, often beautiful patterns, as well as their inclusive sizing.

Shredly MTB Shorts Review

Shredly’s shorts come in four styles: the Littles (youth), multi-sport, MTB, and MTB Curvy. The Curvy is available in both short and long lengths. It has a yoga waistband and is available in sizes 2-24. Because of its flexible waistband, we’ve heard that the MTB Curvy also works well for pregnant riders. The MTB is available in sizes 00-18, with various inseams measuring. For the purposes of this review, we tested the MTB in noir.

  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review
  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review
  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review
  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review
  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review

The MTB’s 91% recycled PET and spandex fabric has a solid feel and great four-way stretch. It’s not at all heavy, but the weave seems durable enough to withstand a brushy hike-a-bike or two. The fit is relaxed without being at all frumpy. It basically falls somewhere in between the Key short and the Dirt Craft in terms of styling. Legs are just minimally tapered, so there’s no compression, even in the most aggressive postures. The waistband is contoured to provide solid lower back coverage. A button and elastic band create an internal waist adjustment for fine-tuning the size. There are two good-sized rounded front pockets and one snapped thigh pocket. On the front side of each leg/thigh, there are zippered vents to provide added ventilation on hot days. Overall, we found the shorts to be quite comfortable. They offer great coverage and flexibility, yet don’t sag at the end of a ride, and they breathe really well.

  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review
  • Shredly MTB Shorts Review

While these shorts are pretty awesome, there are a couple of details that could use a little work. When unzipped, the mesh that backs the thigh vents billows out of the opening, creating an awkward, poofy bulge in the legs. This isn’t a big deal, as we found the vents were rarely needed. What’s more, we actually liked the subtle detailing offered by the closed zipper. We just feel that the mesh backing could be cut a little smaller. We’d also prefer a zippered thigh pocket in terms of security, although the snap does look pretty sharp. Our only other problem with the MTB is in terms of its sizing. As is the case with many of the shorts we’ve tested, the fit chart provided on Shredly’s website doesn’t seem accurate, and the shorts run large. The adjustable elastic works well for fine-tuning the waist, but when it’s fully tightened, the waistband develops pleats that take away from the clean contours. That said, if in doubt regarding fit, one could order two sizes and return what doesn’t work. For a pair of high-quality, comfortable shorts that are responsibly made in the USA, an extra trip to the post office seems like a pretty good deal.

  • Color/Pattern: Noir
  • Also available in: Multiple color/pattern options
  • Tested: Size 6, available sizes 00-18
  • Inseam:
  • Material: 91% Recycled PET/ 9% Spandex, Pockets 100% Polyester
  • Weight: 267 grams (9.42 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: USA
  • Price: $105
  • Manufacturer’s Details: shredly.com

7mesh Farside Shorts

$120 / Made in China (“ethically made”)

By Emily Heron

Based out of Squamish, British Columbia, 7mesh is a performance-minded cycling apparel brand that specializes in “alpine-grade bike gear for road and trail riding in all conditions.” They launched their first collection in 2015, and have quickly gained popularity amongst cyclists of all disciplines. A quick glance at their website will show you that they respect and acknowledge the lands they work and play on, which includes the unceded traditional territory of the Squamish Nation Indigenous people. The name “7mesh” was chosen in celebration of their town’s indigenous name, Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh. They put their money where their mouth is and have donated to several important non-profits including the Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program and Reconciliation Canada.

7mesh farside shorts women

Introduced back in 2019, the women’s Farside Shorts are the shortest and slimmest option in their lineup. Unlike their Slab, Glidepath, and Revo shorts, which are all primarily designed for mountain biking, the Farside Shorts are built for “bikepacking, gravel, and all-road adventures.” They are constructed from a four-way stretch nylon fabric with a zippered fly and snap closure. While I wouldn’t describe the fabric as extremely stretchy, they are lightweight, quick to dry, and quite comfortable next to the skin. For such a lightweight short, the fabric feels reasonably durable and provides a second-skin quality that doesn’t limit mobility while riding.

  • 7mesh farside shorts women
  • 7mesh farside shorts women
  • 7mesh farside shorts women
  • 7mesh farside shorts women
  • 7mesh farside shorts women

They have two hand pockets and one zippered side pocket, belt loops, and locking waist adjusters. The hems are laminated which helps the fabric glide as you pedal, and the fit is specifically tailored for being on the bike. Their 9.5″ inseam sits mid-thigh and the low-profile waist is comfortable while riding, but definitely took some getting used to. One issue I had was with the waist adjusters, as the webbing straps have no elasticity and made the waist feel restrictive compared to the rest of the shorts. Typically I wear a size small, and at first I felt as if I could have easily sized to up to a medium. A few other female riders have expressed similar experiences with the Farside Shorts, so make sure to consult their size guide and size up if you’re planning to wear a chamois or other thick layer underneath.

  • 7mesh Farside Shorts
  • 7mesh farside shorts
  • Color/Pattern: Black
  • Also available in: Eclipse (grey), Jaded (teal)
  • Tested: Size Small, available in sizes extra-small to extra-large
  • Inseam: 9.5″
  • Material: 85% Nylon, 15% Elastane
  • Weight: 131 grams (4.6 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: China (“ethically made”)
  • Price: $120 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: 7mesh.com

Chrome Seneca Shorts

$100 / Made in China

By Emily Heron

Over two decades ago, Chrome made their first seatbelt buckle-equipped messenger back and since then have continued to create useful durable gear for on and off the bike. Today, Chrome’s lineup consists of footwear, apparel, a massive assortment of bags, and accessories. They currently offer two different shorts for women, the Anza and Seneca. The Seneca is the shorter of the two, with a 5″ inseam and standard, mid-rise fit. They are made from a cotton/nylon/spandex blend with a DWR treatment that helps them resist wind and water. The overall design is kept pretty minimal with two hand pockets, two back pockets, and a secure zip pocket for small valuables. The contoured waist paired with a standard zippered/button front is meant to be comfortable, and can still accept a belt for those who need it.

Chrome Seneca Shorts
  • Chrome Seneca Shorts
  • Chrome Seneca Shorts

I’ve been wearing the Seneca shorts for almost two years now. They were actually the first “real” bike short I used and have become my go-to for casual rides and bikepacking. The cotton blend construction is soft and extremely comfortable, but definitely the least technical of the bunch and not particularly quick to dry out. They fit just below my belly button and have enough room to be comfortable both on and off the bike. As someone who loves short-shorts, I like the 5″ inseam on hot days but feel exposed on more technical, risky rides. I wore them during our scouting mission of the Powell River Sampler route last spring, which involved some accidental bushwhacking, and was nearly covered in scratches that could have been avoided with a longer inseam. I guess that’s the price you pay for fashion.

  • Chrome Seneca Shorts
  • Chrome Seneca Shorts
  • Chrome Seneca Shorts

I’ve logged a lot of riding time in the Seneca shorts and while they are showing some signs of fading, they are still one of my favourites on this list. Compared to the others, the fabric is thicker and feels durable to the touch, which is perfect for when I’m not too sure where my ride will take me. It’s nice to see Chrome offering their shorts in a decent size range, paired with a slightly roomier fit, which should work for a variety of body types.

  • chrome Seneca shorts
  • chrome Seneca shorts
  • chrome Seneca shorts
  • Color/Pattern: Black
  • Also available in: Stove Grey
  • Tested: Size 4, available in sizes 0-14
  • Inseam: 5″
  • Material: 47% cotton, 42% nylon, 11% spandex
  • Weight: 235 grams (8.3 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: China
  • Price: $100 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: ChromeIndustries.com

Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts

$99 / Made in China (“ethically made”)

By Emily Heron

Wild Rye’s business ethics, as outlined by Virginia above, set them apart from the other manufactures in this list. When I was looking for a slightly baggier short to wear with knee pads, they were immediately at the top of my list. At $99, the Kaweah Shorts are also the most affordable option in Wild Rye’s lineup. They are made from a stretchy polyester/spandex blend that breathes well and has a soft brushed feeling against your legs. There have two hand pockets, a deep zippered thigh pocket, and oversized belt loops.

Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts
  • Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts
  • Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts

I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to purchase shorts with a 12″ inseam, as I usually prefer them to end well above my knee. However, the extra coverage of a longer short has helped boost my confidence on new or technical terrain, work much better with knee pads, and their UPF-50 rating goes a long way in protecting my skin from harmful UV rays. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the pattern and colour options are unique and fun. In terms of fit, they hug the hips and waist without feeling constrictive, leaving enough room in the legs to move freely and layer a chamois. Like the Freel Shorts Virginia tested, the tulip hem and flared leg both make for a more versatile fit.

  • Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts
  • Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts
  • Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts
  • Color/Pattern: Wild Thing (discontinued)
  • Also available in: Ranunculus, Geometry Class, Thistle, Constellation, Poppy, Ranunculus
  • Tested: Size 4, available in sizes 0-18
  • Inseam: 12″
  • Material: 90% polyester, 10% spandex
  • Weight: 231 grams (8.1 ounces)
  • Place of manufacture: China (“ethically made”)
  • Price: $99 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Wild-Rye.com

Emily’s Final Thoughts:

Getting into a new sport can be expensive, and after getting myself a used bike, a new helmet, and shoes, shorts were my last priority. Up until recently, I rode in either tights or gym shorts without many complaints, other than my short shorts getting snagged on my seat. In my opinion, any shorts you already own, love, and ride in are likely the best bike shorts for you. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the three shorts I’ve been testing out. The Chrome Seneca Shorts are a great option for casual trail or urban rides and make me feel more like I’m wearing an everyday short than being in a full bike kit. I can easily and comfortably transition from a ride to a restaurant. The 7mesh Farside Short has been my summer to-go on hot, sweaty rides, and since they dry out quickly they are a perfect choice for warmer-weather bike trips. I found myself turning to these more regularly than the Seneca shorts as they are softer and more breathable, without compromising fit and overall feel. Perhaps the most surprising was how much I have enjoyed the Wild Rye Kaweah Shorts. I’ve been adamant that I didn’t want a longer inseam short. As comedian and mountain biker Katie Burrell says, “You can’t look cute in 11-inch inseam shorts.” But, dare I say, these are pretty darn cute. They were not nearly as restrictive as I imagined longer shorts being, and having an extra layer of fabric to protect against scrapes and scratches makes me feel more confident on trails. I’ll be turning more to the Kaweah shorts as the cooler weather arrives in BC and I have to reluctantly pack away my shorter shorts.

All this being said, I don’t necessarily have a favourite as each short serves a different purpose for me. I wore the Chrome shorts for a whole summer for every ride, and now typically gravitate to them when I’m doing a chill ride. The 7mesh shorts have slowly started replacing the Chrome shorts as a summer riding option due to their breathability and comfort, whereas the Wild Rye shorts I typically only wear when I’ll be wearing knee pads (no thigh gap here). There’s a short for every occasion!

Virginia’s Final Thoughts:

All of the shorts we’ve included in this review are well-made, and each of them provides good coverage and plenty of stretch. The main differences among them are their overall aesthetics or lines and the weight of the fabrics used in their construction. For me, it’s a toss-up in terms of which pair I’ll likely turn to most often. The lightweight and short drying time afforded by the Dirt Craft are certainly appealing, especially when international bikepacking or extended touring are on the agenda. However, the Shredly fit the bill for everyday rides. The fabric is lightweight yet durable feeling, and the fit is near-perfect. They’re comfortable without being slouchy, and they flex without sagging. Fortunately, with so many great choices, there’s a pair of shorts that will likely be a great fit for any and every body.

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