Usually when riders wear shorts they are short. But mountain bikers shorts are long. Do they think longer shorts are cooler looking, or are they just afraid of showing their legs. I looked into this.
Why are mountain bike shorts so long? Mountain biking shorts are long so they cover your knees and knee pads. They prevent shorts from bunching up above the pads. Long shorts protect the crotch area, stop chafing, prevent shorts from getting caught on the saddle, and increase protection during a crash.
There are many benefits to wearing longer shorts, but what happens if you don’t want to wear them. Can you ride without them.
Risks of Not Wearing Long Shorts or Shorts That Are Not Long Enough
- Mountain bikers which wear shorts that are above the knees will experience a pulling and rubbing feeling. This happens as the rider is pedaling. Each time the knees bend during pedaling the hem of the shorts pulls on the knee and or rubs against the skin.
- This problem becomes worse when riders wear knee pads for two reasons. One is you can see the knee pads as you are pedaling which rider do not like. Second the bottom of the shorts can get ruffled up at the top of the knee pad. This is irritating and a distraction when pedaling.
- If trail riders ever wear short shorts there will not be enough support for the crotch area and soft tissue. The crotch area is very sensitive if it were to get damaged. Trail riding can be quite rough so proper support and protection is needed.
- Plus short shorts increase the likelihood of exposure. If you wear spandex such as Lycra this helps but is not sufficient. Also the riders inner thighs will have a great tendency to rub against the saddle when pedaling. This chafing will reduce pedaling efficiency and cadence.
- Mountain biking requires that the rider be able to move around quickly and easily on the saddle. Short which are not long enough run the risk of getting caught on the saddle. This can lead to an accident because the rider will not be in the proper position to ride a corner or drop off.
- Especially on technical trails and singletrack, performance will be greatly reduced if the rider keeps getting stuck on the seat. This type of riding requires the attack position. The rider must shift forward and backward, left and right. This must be done at a moments notice or faster.
- After some time aggressive riding does lead to a crash. Long mountain bike shorts offer protection to the thighs and knees. Crashing on a rock garden, roots, or hard-packed dirt can tear up the skin. Longer shorts offer an extra layer of protection. Lycra is not as effective.
- The last risk is not a physical one but mental. Riders that wear short shorts or Lycra are seen as a bit girly. Mountain biking is tough and rough and longer shorts are part of your armor. Other riders may not take you as seriously if you are not wearing longer shorts. It is part of the culture.
How Long Should Mountain Bike Shorts Be
The main factor to think of when determining length of shorts is the knees. How much protection do you want to give your knees if you fall. If you get on your hands and knees and want full protection in that position then standing your shorts should go to your upper shins.
Then will allow your entire knee to be covered when it is in a bend position when you are on your knees on the trail. So no matter how you fall your shorts will give your knees a layer of covering. If you want your knee pads fully covered then shorts with an upper shin length will do the job.
When Should You Wear Long Shorts
Ideally, you should be able to wear long shorts all year long. If it is hot outside wear lighter shorts. If it is really hot and you still want to mountain bike then for that day you may want to wear Lycra. Or just bike for a shorter period of time on very hot day.
You can wear these shorts during winter. People may think you can’t wear shorts in winter, but for mountain bikers this is essential. If you wear pants they could get caught in the chain or rub against the bottom bracket. For winter just wear more clothing and put your shorts on over them.
How Should Long Shorts Fit
- Around the waist your shorts should be slightly loose. This is good for mountain bikers because their riding position will change frequently as opposed to road bikers. Trail riders will sit in an upright position and then change to an attack position.
- They will need to move their torso from upright to bending over frequently. If the waist is too tight this will put pressure on the waist and stomach. Make sure you choose a comfortable waist adjuster such as Velcro, belt loop, or an elastic band.
- The crotch area should be a little tighter fitting. If it is loose then you may get caught on the saddle when you move around. Some shorts have a vent in that area in order to keep it cooler. Keep this in mind when making your selection.
- The thighs of the shorts should be baggy. This will give you full range of motion and give you maximum pedaling efficiency. Any tightness will restrict your movement and slow you down. You also need to move your legs around beyond the pedaling position for balance.
- The openings at the bottom of your shorts should be large enough to accommodate your thighs, knees and especially knee pads if you wear them. A full range of motion is required for maximum riding performance.
Other Factors Lengthy Mountain Bike Shorts Should Have
If you are going to be riding for a long time it is good to have some pockets. But just carry simple things that are not breakable. You can carry a mobile phone, cash, keys, and credit cards. Make sure the pockets are tight and not too baggy. You don’t want things jumping around.
Get shorts which breath well and keep you dry. As you sweat you want the fabric to wick away the moisture away from your skin and keep you cool and dry. This also prevents any build up of bacteria which will later cause a bad odor.
Along with pockets, make sure the zippers are waterproof. This is a fantastic feature which will keep cash dry and stop your phone from possibly malfunctioning. This is essential if you are riding in the rain or snow.
If you feel sore or pain while on your saddle then you may want padded shorts. This padding is called chamois and is made of leather and synthetic materials. It will help to give you a more comfortable ride without any chafing or pain.
How To Clean Your Long Shorts
- The first thing you want to do is is turn your shorts inside out, even the pockets. Then you want to make sure that you wash them in cold water. Heat will ruin the fabric. You can machine wash them just set the cycle to gentle. If you are more careful, then hand wash them.
- Don’t use a fabric softener. Fabric softeners cover clothes in a stain blocking film. This film will stop your shorts from wicking and breathing easily. If this happens your shorts will feel uncomfortable and hot.
- Use a gentle detergent such as Tide Free and Gentle. It is hypoallergenic and has no dyes or perfumes. You can also use Ivory Snow and Woolite. For stains hand wash the shorts and apply a liquid detergent directly on the stain and scrub out the stain.
- Use a low heated setting for the dryer. If you are afraid of damage then hang up the shorts to dry. Don;t let them dry on a flat surface. Keep them away from direct sun heat, or a heater, it could damage the fabric and ruin its elasticity.