Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.
A good pair of cycling shorts is essential for getting the most out of your rides. Features to consider when selecting shorts include fit, storage, durability, and whether or not they have a liner.
Mountain bike shorts fall into two broad categories: baggies and Lycra. Baggy, or loose-fitting, is what most people think of when referring to mountain bike shorts. Lycra shorts are the same stretchy, form-fitting shorts you would wear on a road bike.
Why choose one over the other? Lycra shorts are lighter, more breathable, and completely non-restrictive. Baggies are more durable, offer more protection, provide the option of storage, and have a more casual style. If you go the Lycra route, we recommend buying bib shorts. They are much more comfortable than shorts and stay in place better. In fact, many riders wear Lycra bibs under their baggies.
While all baggies fit looser than Lycra shorts, there are still fit differences between baggies. Some are designed to be as snug as possible without being completely form-fitting. Others have lots of room. Check out this video to learn more.
Many baggy shorts include an inner liner with a chamois pad in addition to the outer shell. Liners that are not sewn into the shell generally work better, as the liner doesn’t shift when the shell moves, keeping the chamois in place. These floating liners can also be removed and replaced with a pair of Lycra shorts or bibs you already own. The purpose of form-fitting liners in MTB shorts is simply to hold the chamois in place. So if you are in between sizes, we recommend sizing down for a closer fit.
Chamois quality is a big deal in any cycling short, and the more expensive shorts usually come with a higher quality chamois. The best chamois are one-piece to eliminate seam chafe, multi-thickness to cut down on bulk, and multi-density for lower weight and high comfort.