I've never had clothing that was specialized for cycling, so I'm kinda n00b in that area.

I am confused about the use of spandex.

It's very common among roadies, for obvious reasons. It's more comfortable, has less friction on the seat, and is more aerodynamic.

Why doesn't it make sense for mountain bikers? You do see plenty of XC riders with spandex, but not in "120-160mm travel" areas like trail/enduro. Those guys seem to use basic shorts of one type or another, that catch air and might catch on branches.

Why isn't spandex just as common in the mtb circles? Is it a cultural thing?

  • 1
    Lower speed so aerodymicas as not much a factor, like the pockets, the don't rip as easily in a fall, and they don't want to look like road bikers,
    – paparazzo
    May 19, 2015 at 23:38
  • 4
    Historically, road biking has been poncy, unlike mountain biking.
    – Batman
    May 20, 2015 at 0:53
  • 1
    There is room to wear protectors under more baggy clothes.
    – linac
    May 20, 2015 at 5:57
  • 2
    Where I live they wear spandex as much as roadies... Most cycling that is regarded sport not commuting is done with uniform. And those maillots are expensive!
    – gaurwraith
    May 20, 2015 at 9:41
  • 2
    @Batman - I think mountain bikers are just as "poncy", only in a different way. May 20, 2015 at 11:50

3 Answers 3


As already said, aerodynamics are less important to MTB's, but otherwise its largely convention and fashion that dictate what people wear.

A vast majority of MTB'r are not wearing basic shorts - they are usually wearing shorts made for riding, including padding just like Lycra road shorts, flat seams and materials designed to withstand the rigour of riding. Many MTB shorts consist of removable lycra under shorts with the baggy outer designed for cycling.

For me personally, I wear baggies MTBing because we often spend time "in public" - around cafes or pubs after the ride, socialising and I feel like a fashion mistake (and I am not fashion concious) walking into a cafe in lycra. I will wear lycra if doing long distances, or I know I won't be more than 10 feet from the bike for the whole time I am out, but feel more comfortable wearing shorts.

  • 4
    I'm never more than 10 feet from my bike when I'm out.
    – andy256
    May 20, 2015 at 4:07

Those guys seem to use basic shorts of one type or another

Most (at least those who pedal more than 5 miles per ride and have been riding for more than 1 year) use some form of spandex with padding below the shorts.

that catch air

Doesn't matter.

and might catch on branches.

Doesn't happen. The hands and elbows in modern MTBs are very very wide compared to the shorts and at the same level/height with the shorts. If something is to catch, it's the hands/handlebars/elbows/shoulders first. Never the shorts.

Is it a cultural thing?

Wearing spandex only, yes, it's a cultural thing.


I like to have shorts that cover my knees when mountain biking but I still wear spandex sometimes. Some of those shorts have cushion built in too and since we aren't generally trying to go 100+ miles, there is not a huge need for aerodynamics.

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