Cheap Mountain Bike Shorts Check: Two Pairs Under $35, Trail Tested

The Wrangler Performance Comfort Flex Cargo shorts can be used as cheap mountain bike shorts

We recently put together a list of the best mountain bike shorts Singletracks has tested, and looking at the selections I was pretty surprised-slash-disappointed that none of our recommended shorts cost less than $70. Seventy bucks is a lot of money to pay for a pair of shorts, and while I’ve ridden in plenty that cost less than that, to be honest none of them have been great. All the cheap mountain bike shorts I’ve tested either lack important features like zippered pockets and an adjustable waist, aren’t very breathable, or just don’t feel comfortable on the bike. To be clear, I have no problem riding in shorts that aren’t designed specifically for mountain biking, it’s just that there’s a big difference between those that are, and those that aren’t.

All of that is to say, I decided to see if I could find a good pair of cheap shorts for mountain biking. This summer I chose to try two pairs — Hiauspor MTB shorts from Amazon, and Wrangler Performance Comfort Flex Cargo shorts — and while neither will replace the $70+ MTB shorts I’m used to wearing, neither is a bad choice for riders on a tight budget.

Hiauspor MTB shorts

Cheap mountain bike shorts from Hiauspor
Photo: Leah Barber

Searching Amazon for “MTB shorts,” I came across the Hiauspor shorts, priced at $34.99. Initially I figured I would find something decent online for closer to $20, but then again in my mind a Coke should only cost $0.50 at the gas station. At half the cost of the Five Ten Brand of the Brave shorts that I really like, 35 bucks seems like a good price.

Hiauspor has shorts in more than a dozen different color combinations, and in six sizes from small to triple extra large. They don’t seem to offer women’s styles or sizes for this particular model, though they do have cheap women’s hiking shorts and convertible pants that look interesting. While the shorts I tested are primarily marketed toward mountain bikers, the title also suggests they work for “Goft Fishing Tactical Outdoor Casual” as well. (I Googled ‘goft’ just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and at the top of the results in the image section there are photos of golf, which was my best guess.)

What I like about these cheap mountain bike shorts

The Hiauspor MTB shorts are surprisingly lightweight, stretchy, and comfortable. They feature four zippered pockets which is even more than most premium shorts include since, as we found out in our interview with Ryan from Pactimo, adding things like zippers and pockets to a garment significantly increases its price. Two hand pockets bring the total to six pockets, all located on the front and sides of the short. Sorry guys, no back pocket for your wallet.

There’s a zippered fly with a button closure. Curiously the button is surrounded by a patch of velcro, I guess just in case the button eventually breaks or pulls out of the fabric. Over the years I’ve had fly buttons pull out of more than one pair of premium MTB shorts, so having a backup closure actually isn’t a bad idea. External velcro waist adjusters work to dial in the fit, and there are belt loops along the outside of the stretchy waistband as well.

The black band of fabric just below the waist is stretchier and lighter weight than the main fabric.

The shorts are fairly well ventilated with thinner, stretchier fabric panels inside the legs and just below the waist. Reflective graphics wrap around the bottom of both legs for visibility at night. I’m tall and for me, the length on these is good. Some may find them a bit on the longish side… that is unless you’re looking for longer shorts to overlap your knee pads a bit.

On the bike the shorts don’t snag on the saddle and feel soft and comfortable.

Where they come up short

It’s clear the buttons and rivets on the Hiauspor shorts are pretty basic and of low quality. All four pocket zippers have long, annoying zipper pulls, though fortunately those are easy to remove if you don’t want them.

Decorative pocket flaps and dangling zipper pulls.

Next up for removal: the arguably non-functional cargo flaps covering the zippered pockets. As far as I can tell these exist purely for style, so if you’re not into the cargo look, they’re completely worthless aside from maybe protecting the zippers from dirt. The flaps tend to, well, flap around when you’re pedaling and coasting down the trail which is annoying. I’ll probably end up cutting these off, hopefully without ripping the shorts.

While the fabric is soft and comfy, it’s also a bit much and tends to billow in the breeze. I’ve found riders have different preferences when it comes to how baggy they like their shorts, and I tend to like closer-fitting shorts. But I can see how others might appreciate the extra room these afford.

The lightweight panels are a nice touch but I found the fabric doesn’t breathe all that well. The material reminds me of a yoga pant, whereas I think a more mesh-like fabric would provide better ventilation. Overall these run a bit hot and they don’t seem to offer a ton of durability in terms of crash protection.

Overall

I think most riders will be happy with these shorts, though I also believe they’d be even happier with a pair from our best shorts list. Still, if you’re short on cash, these really aren’t a bad choice.

Wrangler Performance Comfort Flex Cargo shorts

In January we tried the $27 Wrangler ATG Synthetic pants for mountain biking after hearing good things about them from friends. I made a mental note to check out the Wrangler shorts at some point as well, though my friend Chase told me they were just okay. After wearing the shorts a couple times this summer, okay pretty much sums them up for me as well.

I paid $27.71 for my pair, which I should point out is the same price as the pants. The shorts are offered in a bunch of colors with waist sizes ranging from 30 up to 48.

What I like about these cheap mountain bike shorts

The Wrangler shorts are made from 96% nylon and 4% spandex, which is a pretty standard blend you’ll find even on much more expensive MTB shorts. The material feels durable and comfortably stretchy for easy movement on the bike. The cut is saddle-friendly and I like the above-the-knee length.

Like the Hiauspor shorts, the Wranglers have six pockets: two front hand pockets, two open rear pockets, and two zippered leg pockets. Minus the rear pockets, I’ve found this configuration tends to work really well for mountain biking. Having a combo of pockets to use for hand warming and also carrying small items is super convenient.

Belt loops and a zippered fly with button closure round out the feature list. I like the simple, classic look of these shorts.

Where they come up short

For starters, I really miss having built-in waist adjusters. Even if you happen to get the right size on your first try (my advice: order down a size since they run large), mountain biking is an active sport and a secure waist is very important. After all, you don’t want your shorts riding down and getting snagged. It’s easy enough to add a belt to the Wranglers, though that’s one more item I’d rather not have to think about when getting ready for a ride. I’m not too surprised the Wranglers don’t have waist adjusters since they aren’t marketed as MTB-specific shorts.

MTB short or not, the quality of the construction leaves a bit to be desired. After just a couple of wash and wear cycles some of the stitching is already ripped, the fabric is pilled, and there are hanging threads seemingly everywhere. Unfortunately that doesn’t bode well for long-term use.

Ventilation doesn’t appear to be a priority either, and the thick material makes this a shoulder season short for me. Somehow the synthetic material feels like cotton, and soaks up sweat like it too. There are no reflective bits for riding at night.

Overall

It’s obvious these Wrangler shorts weren’t designed for mountain biking, and it’s pretty disappointing to spend the $27 on shorts that look worn and tattered after just a handful of rides. While the Wrangler Performance Comfort Flex Cargo shorts aren’t MTB-specific, they are stretchy and comfortable enough for general outdoor use. Unless you’re a diehard Wrangler fan I’d suggest spending an extra $8 to get the Hiauspor shorts instead.

The quest continues…

I’m still on the lookout for cheap mountain bike shorts so if you know of any that work really well on the trail, I’d love to get your recommendations over on Discord or in the comments below.