By Nathan Ward – www.NathanWard.com
Everyone wants to find the best gear possible, so I Googled “best mountain bike short” and DirtBaggies came up number one on the list. DirtBaggies are made by Tim Lane in Southern California, a combination of lightweight outer short and inner-bib short that he believes is “the world’s most comfortable MTB shorts”. It’s a big claim, so I decided to put them to the test.
The ideas for DirtBaggies came about after Tim noticed that many riders wouldn’t wear typical baggy mountain bike shorts where an inner-short is attached to the heavy outer short at the waist. The shorts always slipped down and the cargo pockets just got filled up with stuff. He also thought that road bike companies were making the best shorts, so fashion conscious mountain bikers were buying road bibs and wearing their baggy style mtb shorts over the bibs, an inelegant solution.
His design for DirtBaggies combines the comfort of a bib short, with a super light outer shell. I tested them on 15 mountain bike rides, nothing super long, but each ride was at least 1 ½ hours on Colorado singletrack. Here are my thoughts.
My first impression, and one that lasted through all the rides, is that the shorts are very comfortable and feel light as a feather. The outer short weighs in at just 160 grams, 5.5 ounces or just 1/3 of a pound – whatever your measurement, they’re light. When riding, I can honestly say that I never even felt the shorts. They slid across the inner-bib without any friction, didn’t bind at all and felt svelte compared to the heavy duty Endura shorts I normally wear.
The outer short hooks to the bib with a type of tether system near the top of your hips. You can hook them at different heights depending on what look you want – baggy ass or more fitted. At first I hooked them on the lowest setting and kept catching them on my seat, so I moved them up a couple of notches and they fit much better.
The shorts are made of ripstop nylon and mesh, both stretch four ways. The swooping mesh sections give the shorts a distinct look, quite different than other baggy mtb shorts. Some people liked it and some people didn’t, but the important thing to me is that the mesh allowed a lot of air through the shorts to keep me cooler.
The shorts are light and I asked Tim how they fare in crashes. The light material seems like it would shred. But he promised me they held up well when coming in contact with the ground, the stretchy material also stretched on impact, rather than ripping. Thankfully I didn’t test that.
The fit in the waist is generous, and there aren’t any belt loops on the shorts, so you can’t use their light shorts over any other bibs or regular bike shorts. The reason behind this is that part of the magic of bib shorts is that there is no seam around your waist so it doesn’t dig into your stomach. The outer shorts fit loosely so they don’t negate the benefit of the bibs.
My pant size is a 33 waist, so I originally ordered a 34 in the DirtBaggies. They were huge, so I returned them for a 32 and those fit fine. So, if in doubt, the manufacturer recommends you order a size down ON THE BAGGY SHORT, and if your tall order ONE SIZE UP ON THE BIB.
The inner bib short consists primarily of stretchy mesh with the only solid material being the parts that come in contact with the saddle. It has a super nice chamois that is padded where it needs to be and thin where it doesn’t, which keeps more blood flowing to your junk, which is always good. Inside the shoulder straps there are a couple of internal pockets where you can stash stuff. The legs feature a shorter inseam and a wide elastane cuff at the bottom which is more comfortable than the normal thin elastic band that most shorts use. Best of all, the bibs have a horizontal flap right above the crotch so it’s easy to take a pee while wearing them, if you’re a man and not a woman, that is.
There are a couple of negatives. First of all, I’d like to see a metal snap on the front of the outer short rather than a button. Also, the shorts come in two color options, a light color and black. Some people didn’t like the unusual look of the lighter-colored short where the mesh swoops down the front of the legs. But, those people can simply buy the black ones.
The bigger question for most people is whether they like to wear bib shorts, whether they are made of very breathable mesh or not. I definitely noticed that the bibs are warmer than just shorts, because I always had an extra layer on my back and abdomen. This wouldn’t matter in fall and winter, but when it gets warm, it’s noticeable.
Overall though, DirtBaggies are a big winner. They breathe really well, feel super light and for the most part, you won’t even notice that you’re wearing them. The price for the combo comes in at a steep $250, the same as high end road gear, but they’re made in Southern California, not China, so that adds a little more value for those who care.
All images by Ruaridh Stewart-ZUMA.