What to wear mountain biking

Please forgive this extreme newbie question. I am about as roadie as roadies get, but I just got a new mountain bike (I know I got lucky with my LBS’s inventory). I have all the gear that I need to get out there, but I have no idea what to wear as far as shorts. I really have no idea. I realize that I can wear my road kits and I will be fine, but I’d like to try something a little more… casual? My Strava friends have knee length shorts… do those have a chamois? Do I wear something underneath that? For now, I will be doing some shortish, <2hr, rides, and may enter a race or two down the road. Thanks in advance.


95% of the time I just wear bibs. Most baggies will have a removable liner with a chamois (of varying quality). I usually remove the liner and chamois and wear bibs with the baggies over the top- even on lift service DH days. I’ve found Royal Racing to hit the sweet spot of price/durability/fit.


There are some really, really nice baggies that are quite stretchy and sit well. I still wear bike shorts under for protection from the saddle.

I have some Fox Ranger shorts which are comfortable and hard wearing but I’d suggest there are plenty of great options and go try some on if you can (mine are shorter than I’d prefer).

Wear your bibs (or comfy bike shorts) as opposed to the supplied MTB liner if you are spending decent saddle time as the MTB liners aren’t the same quality of Chamois by any stretch of the imagination


I have a pair of specialized shorts that I really like. They came with a liner w/ chamois that was super thin and light with integrated pockets on the back that are great but the chamois is in the wrong spot with a seam that is right where you don’t want it (low and right down the middle).

the shorts are pretty durable with some good stretch and they have some extra stretchy fabric in the back just below the waist band so they don’t pull while you’re bent over.

I also have a pair of Pactimo’s that aren’t my favorite, they kinda feel like stretchy swim trunks and don’t have the same stretch panel in the back so they tent to ride down a bit. But the liner is much better than the Spec’s but the pockets aren’t as good.

I will also wear my road bibs but I do like to have the rear pockets on the liners since 95% of the time if I’m wearing baggy shorts then I’m not also wearing a road jersey.

1 Like

I love these


I like wearing the same bibs I wear on the road. Much more comfortable. I do have a couple of pair of Zoic MTB shorts with removable liner. They are comfortable to wear and the pockets are nice but I find on long rides they tend to ride down some or occasionally catch on the saddle.


I like wearing my tights on the trail, it always confuses the guys in full DH gear, and it’s super comfy


I agree with the others that your bibs are going to be the most comfortable thing. Having said that, wearing a shell over bibs tends to move around, slip down, and snag the nose of the saddle. MTB shorts with a liner usually have little connectors on the sides to keep the two attached. Many are also elastic or have a belt. You spend a LOT more time out of the saddle on an MTB ride. For two hours or less, you can get away with the inferior mtb chamois if you want to test a cheap integrated combo (like ZOIC).

Another option is the Rapha shorts with pockets on the legs to get the best of both worlds.

I tend to wear all 3 of these options depending on the day. They all work.

At least where I live, if you make MTB friends, they will definitely give you a ribbing if you don’t wear a shell you fru-fru Roadie! The solution is to drop them on the climbs and flats! :smiley:


I used to be a baggy shorts guy before I started riding road because it seemed like the mtb culture. But just bibs is WAY more comfortable.


Whatever comes out of the trouser drawer first!

Usually I’ll just wear road bibs, sometimes if the weather’s bad then it’s 3/4 length waterproof baggies* over bibs, sometimes I’ll go commando :flushed: Nipping down to the shops I’ll just put some baggies on over my normal underpants.

  • Whoever named them “baggies” needs suing under the trade descriptions act! :grinning:

I may be in the minority, but I wear the same thing for road/gravel/CX/MTB. I don’t have time to select my wardrobe based on the width of my tires.


Now, I do typically wear black on the trail and not my most colorful bibs because the mud stains are hard to get out sometimes.

Most times I won’t select my clothing based on the width of my tires but rather on my attitude for the ride. Aggressive road or XC ride then I’ll wear roadie bibs and jersey. Casual recovery ride on road or gravel I’ll wear bibs with a t-shirt or cut off. Casual group MTB ride where we’ll stop to session jumps and what not then I’ll wear baggies.


Wear what you are comfortable in.

I wear roadie gear when I am on my XC bike. I wear some baggies with a chamois and a tshirt when I ride my long travel bike. The baggies are a little “cooler” looking, but more importantly won’t shred when I wreck. THe shirt is comfortable and I also don’t have to worry about ruining it.


I wear mtb shorts with no liner. Just normal underwear unless I’m doing a really long ride with tons of saddle time. Then I wear a liner chamois underneath. But that would be very rare for me. I like Fox gear, both shirts and shorts.

1 Like

This is a really good point. Choose clothing you are willing to ruin. Light socks and jerseys will eventually get stains that don’t come out. I learned that the hard way with my expensive gilet.

I wear road shorts under normal baggy-ish shorts. I’m not doing anything extreme and usually not spending a lot of time on the trail, so YMMV. Works for me, though.

I’m a fan of Zoic on the MTB. I wear their baggie shorts or knickers depending on temp with a chamois of some sort under. Their upper level stuff is decent for MTB since I’m out of the saddle a lot. I prefer a better bib for gravel sometimes with the Zoic shorts over if I plan on being in public and not be the old man in bike shorts.

Same as many others here, same bibs as on the road, but with baggies over the top. I’ve had baggies with a built in liner and always cut it out after one ride, as they’ve always been terrible.

Wearing baggies is part fitting in with everyone else I’m riding with, but also it only took one very minor off while on my cross bike to rip a hole in a very expensive set of bibs since it’s pretty rocky where I ride, and ever since I run baggies on any off road ride just for a little extra protection.

On top it’s always a normal jersey, the pockets in the back are too useful to wear just a t-shirt like a lot of people do mountain biking.

1 Like

A couple of decades wearing road shorts or bibs, but changing fashion finally got me in the last few years and now I throw a pair of baggies over them.