Wearing padded liner shorts under your baggies helps you ride longer and further in total comfort, and with storage bib shorts you even have room for a few more snacks! Stay comfortable in the saddle

The best MTB liner shorts can bring an extra layer of comfort to your mountain bike ride without feeling bulky or cramping your style on the bike.

Choose from minimal boxer-brief style padded liner shorts for cycling, or more traditional bib shorts with the added bonus of internal storage for tools, tubes and snacks to help you ride without the burden of a backpack. Whichever you prefer, the best padded liner shorts will help keep saddle sores at bay and let you ride longer and further in comfort.

Best MTB liner shorts for men

7Mesh Foundation brief padded short liner

7Mesh Foundation brief padded short liner

7Mesh Foundation Brief

Premium padded liner

Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XXL | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Light, minimal, not restrictive at all

Cons: Pad feels a bit weird at first if you’re used to a traditional full-length chamois

7Mesh’s Foundation undies come with a minimal foam pad that differs from most on the market by only covering bum cheeks, rather than also wrapping up the front, and also has perforations in the groin area for extra ventilation and heat escape.

The body-hugging stretchy fit stays put while pulling shapes and the thin fabric resists wetting out, unlike cotton boxers or briefs that can turn into a sweaty mess on hotter days. The key to its success, I think, is how the thinner pad doesn’t bunch up or wriggle, and also doesn’t need a ‘perfect’ position on the ischium (bum bones) like a road chamois. Combine this with the stretchy material breathing really well around thigh and glute creases and cracks, and the whole set-up keeps you fresh and reduces any chafing.

Read our full review of the 7Mesh Foundation Brief

Scott Trail Underwear Pro +++ short

Scott Trail Underwear Pro +++ short

Scott Trail Underwear Pro +++ Men’s Shorts

Light, airy and comfortable

Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: N/A

Pros: Minimal bulk, breathable, comfortable

Cons: Expensive when bought separately

Scott has done a fantastic job with its Trail Underwear Pro. The 3+ rated chamois pad is 3D formed, so matches your body superbly, while its just the right size and thickness to provide additional comfort without feeling like a nappy off the bike. Four-way stretch perforated fabric gives unrestricted movement, good wicking properties and dries quickly. It’s expensive on its own, but you basically get the same liner free with Scott’s Trail Vertic and Trail Tuned shorts, which is the smart way to buy them.

Bontrager Troslo Inform

Bontrager Troslo Inform

Best way to stuff your stuff

Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Excellent breathability, fit and comfort. Leg grippers are effective.

Cons: Leg pockets aren’t secure.

The Bontrager Troslo inForm short comes in the most sizes and is excellent quality. It’s Lycra down the centre but you get mesh panels either side and in the bib area. Breathability is very good and it feels snug without being restrictive. Bontrager’s BioDynamic chamois is not overly thick but it still has good support and never felt clammy. The wide compression leg grippers are some of the best – they’re just as secure as silicone but they don’t rub or pull on leg hair.

There’s a ton of storage at the back with three large elasticated pockets and yes, either of them can take a standard water bottle. Lower down there are two knee pockets but they’re too bit short and they don’t feature any elastic, so anything thing we put in them usually fell out. Comfortable, great and available in the most sizes, what stops it getting a prefect score is the saggy side pockets.

Read our full review of the Bontrager Troslo Inform liner

Specialized Mountain Bib Liner

Specialized Mountain Bib Liner

Original and still amongst the best

Colours: Black | Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 9/10

Pros: The original storage liner short. Excellent design throughout.

Cons: Premium price

Specialized made the first storage shorts as part of its SWAT (Storage Water Air Tools) range. It was originally included with a baggy short but the Mountain Liner is now available separately. Specialized has made a couple of changes since the last time we tested it. There are still three lumbar pockets but these are almost a third deeper. The centre pocket has looser opening, so is designed to take a water bottle, but you actually can fit a bottle in either side pocket.

There are additional pouches on each thigh and on the old short these were split into two. They’re now single pockets that are also deeper and we found we could get a bottle in either of them too. The body of the short is a lightweight breathable mesh with elasticated band rather than silicone gripper on the legs. The short features a shaped Body Geometry Mountain chamois, with tons of padding over the sit bones. Loads of storage, super stable and great value.

Read our full review of the Specialized Mountain Bib Liner

Madison Flux Capacity

Madison Flux Capacity

Not just a brilliant name

Sizes: S – XXL | Rating: 8/10

Pros: Good fit. Decent price.

Cons: Leg grippers could be better. Pockets are sewn down, so can get in the way and tricky to access on the move.

Like most storage shorts, the Flux Capacity features an integrated bib to stop it hanging low when fully loaded but it does means you will need to shed upper layers if you want to squat down for, you know, a few minutes. If you only need to stop briefly there is a fly opening at the front, handy since the front of this short sits quite high on the chest. Niggles? The chamois pad is on the bulky side, the pockets are a bit fiddly to access and the silicone leg grippers are rather basic.

Read our full review of the Madison Flux Capacity liner

Best MTB liner shorts for women

Rapha women's trail liner shorts

Rapha Women’s Trail Liner

Premium shorts with excellent comfort and fit

Colours: High quality, great fit, comfortable chamois, breathable | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Simple but super comfortable fit and design, breathable mesh side panels

Cons: Premium price tag, limited size range for larger riders

Rapha might be well known for its road cycling kit, but when it decided to develop trail kit, it didn’t do it by half. In fact, pretty much all of the Rapha kit we’ve reviewed has scored top marks, like its kneepads and trail pants.

These shorts continue in this theme. The lycra is exceptional quality, offering comfortable support and firmness yet feeling soft on the body. These shorts sit in place and stay there, no matter how much you’re throwing yourself around the trail.

We liked the flat front panel over the stomach, which meant no harsh seams or bands. We also loved the mesh side panels which add breathability and temperature regulation when riding in warm weather. There are even storage pockets on each side constructed from that mesh, and they’re deep enough to pop in a phone should you want to.

The chamois is medium thickness; thicker than the Specialized Women’s Mountain Bib Liners, and comfortable for long and short rides.

They are on the pricey side, which isn’t unexpected what with this being a Rapha product. That said, the quality of the fabric and design shines through, so if you have the money to invest, then you won’t be disappointed.

Specialized Women's Trail Liner with SWAT

Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner Bib Shorts with SWAT

Brilliant all-round bib shorts for comfort and storage

Colours: Black | Sizes: XS – XL | Rating: 9/10

Pros: Very comfortable, plenty of on-board storage pockets, great fit, drop tail for comfort breaks

Cons: Strap set up a bit confusing, limited size range for larger riders

Not a fan of carrying a bag? There’s storage aplenty in these women’s specific bib liner shorts from Specialized. SWAT – which stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools – is Specialized’s name for its various on-board storage systems for bikes and clothing.

There are 4 pockets on the back of Women’s Mountain Liner shorts, one of which is a secure zipped pocket, plus a pocket on each thigh that’s perfect for stowing your mid-ride snacks. The back pockets sit on a kind of separate flap, which is good in that it means the contents are pulled into your back, but it does mean if you put anything bulky in there, it’ll bulge out the back of your jersey. On the upside it sat securely and didn’t move about when riding.

The chamois is fairly thin, and has great coverage. We found it super comfortable for long rides. We also loved the mesh fabric the shorts were cut from; super soft, and stretchy yet firm, plus nice and cool and breathable for hot-weather riding. Other features include little poppers so you can attach them to your baggy shorts, and a drop tail design which means all you need to do is pull the back down for toilet stops.

And as a side note, we’d generally recommend being cautious about putting anything too hard or spiky in any of these pockets, especially anything close to the spine, as they might cause injury in the event of a crash.

Velocio Women's Trail Mesh Bib Liner short

Velocio Women’s Trail Mesh Bib Liner

Best for inclusive sizing and hot-weather riding

Colours: Black | Sizes: XXS – XXXL | Rating: 8/10

Pros: Inclusive range of sizing, lightweight breathable mesh is great for hot days, wide comfortable straps

Cons: Mesh feels rough when stretched tight, narrow chamois

There’s lots we loved about these fully mesh trail liners from Velocio. Firstly, the mesh itself is stretchy, relatively soft and a definite godsend in hot weather.

The bib straps are nice and wide with lazer cut edges, so there’s nothing to chafe or pull. They have an additional strap across the upper back which means no more yanking up the shoulders when then start to slide down. This design also means it’s possible to just pull the back of the shorts down for toilet stops – Velocio call this its ‘Fly Free’ design.

Generally speaking, the Cytech chamois, which is on the thicker end of the spectrum, is very comfortable. There’s also a small mesh pocket on each thigh which is handy for the storage of riding essentials. Or snacks. Mostly snacks, if we’re honest.

One point in the negative column; on longer rides, we experienced chafing at the inside top of each leg where the chamois stops. This seemed to be in part due to the narrowness of the chamois, and the fact that the mesh fabric can feel a little rough when stretched or bunched. On shorter rides, there was no issue, but after about 4 hours it was uncomfortable.

We were particularly impressed to see the wide range of sizes these shorts are available in. It’s a much more inclusive sizing range than pretty much any other brand out there, going from XXS to XXXL, so smaller and larger riders are well catered too. Velocio also have an online sizing guide that takes weight as well as height into account, to help you find the best fit.

How we tested

All of the shorts above have been thoroughly tested by our team of expert reviewers. Each pair of shorts above have been ridden on a number of mountain bike rides in a range of conditions, and judged for value, comfort, fit and features. By testing and judging the shorts head-to-head, we know that the shorts included in this guide are the highest scoring and best performing ones we’ve tested.

What to look for in the best padded short liners for mountain biking

1. Chamois or pad

This is the pad that sits between your nether regions and the saddle, and it’s usually made of foam, gel, or a combination of both. It’s designed to sit next to the skin (so no knickers, boxers or pants underneath!). Chamois pads come in different thicknesses and sometimes also width fittings, and it’s very much a question of personal preference on what you go for.

2. Lycra or mesh fabric

The shorts themselves will be constructed from a stretchy Lycra material. You can also get more lightweight shorts, ideal for summer or hot-weather riding, that are either completely constructed from mesh, or have mesh panels.

3. Pockets

Lots of liner shorts now come with pockets, usually located on the thigh or at the small of the back, and made of the same lycra or mesh as the shorts themselves. These pockets are handy for carrying snacks or change if you’re looking to ride light, or if you need more storage on longer rides.

4. Waist shorts or bib shorts

There are two types of liner shorts; waist shorts which are a bit like tight boxers, and bib shorts which have shoulder straps. There are pros and cons to each of them, and again it’s a matter of personal preference which you go for.

5. Fit

To work effectively, the liner shorts should sit next to the skin like leggings or tights. This is to prevent the pad moving around or bunching up, which would be uncomfortable, and to prevent chaffing, because no-one wants that going on in this region of the body.

What are padded liner shorts?

Padded liner shorts for cycling and mountain biking are lightweight lycra shorts that have a cushioned pad – called a chamois – that’s positioned to sit between the genitals and bum to provided cushioning, support and comfort while riding. They are made of a lightweight material and are designed to be worn against the skin; they are essentially cycling underwear, so you don’t wear underwear underneath them. Many mountain bikers wear them underneath their baggy shorts.

Are padded liner shorts worth it?

Many riders swear by padded liner shorts, especially for longer rides, but other riders prefer to just ride in their normal underwear under their baggy shorts, and that’s totally cool too.

Obviously we can’t dictate what you want to wear while riding, and a lot comes down to how comfortable you feel wearing un-padded underwear.

But we would suggest that there are some pretty strong reasons for wearing a specific padded liner short – namely performance fabrics will help wick sweat away from the body and dry much quicker than pure cotton, the pad/chamois itself will help support and isolate your soft tissue area during long periods in the saddle, it’s unlikely there will be any annoying seams that can cause chafing, and some models give you storage options, which can help spread the load and allow you to ditch your pack for shorter rides.

Do I wear underwear under padded liner shorts?

That’s a big no! If you do opt for padded liners, then think of them as cycling underwear. They’re designed to be worn next to the skin, as that’s when you’ll get the greatest benefit from the features that have been designed in.

They don’t look glam, but they can help keep your nether regions comfortable

Should I go for a boxer-style padded liner or a bib-short liner?

Once again this is very much down to personal preference, but each type does have it’s specific advantages and disadvantages.

Boxer-brief style padded liners are lightweight and minimal so you can wear them as normal underwear and not feel constrained or self conscious. They also make it easy to take a comfort break on a ride.

Bib shorts, on the other hand, can require a fairly extensive level of undress or some creative techniques when you need to go to the outdoor bathroom, unless they have built-in features to make this easier – most women’s bib shorts are designed to be able to easily pull down the back for toilet stops. They’re also more restrictive when you’re not actually riding, such as hanging out after a ride or driving to and from the trailhead. But the bib loops keep the short from slipping down and help prevent bunching up, so they can be more comfortable on longer rides.

That extra support from the shoulder straps also lets brands incorporate pockets and storage, for holding water bottles, tools, pumps, inner tubes and snacks. This can be a real bonus if you want to ditch your pack but still carry all the essentials. However, we would urge caution here, as carrying objects on your person can potentially cause injuries were you to crash and land on one of them.

Do I have to buy a padded short liner separately?

No, absolutely not. Many – but not all – baggy shorts come with padded liners included, and many of them are very good and save a load of money compared to buying the outer short and the liner short separately.

Is there a difference between padded cycling shorts for men and women?

Yes. Since the chamois pad on the shorts is designed to sit directly on the skin, and given that there are certain anatomical differences between male and female genitalia, it’s no surprise that there are usually different designs of shorts to suit men and women.

The shape and structure of the pad will be slightly different, the cut of the shorts themselves will be different, and women’s bib shorts in particular usually have features that make comfort breaks in the wild a bit easier – for example, the rear of the short will detach or pull down, so you don’t have to take your top off to relieve yourself.

But again it’s down to personal preference – if you feel comfortable wearing the shorts, just do it!