Shorts are just shorts, right? Wrong.
MTB Shorts are one of the more hotly contested MTB attires with different styles, fabrics and uses that I feel you would find across the entire MTB apparel range.
Having ridden countless brands of baggies, I have always struggled to go past my old trusted, 10 year vintage, NZ-O dobies. Durable, strong and sort of stylish, these shorts could never be beat.
Like all fashion items, they are often out done by the preceding model relatively quickly and normally this would be true with a brand like 100%. I've noticed on the 2020 variant, not a whole lot has changed though so I was interested to see the difference. My 2018 set of airmatics have happily accompanied my rear end over 2000km's of single track and various different continents and have been my go to attire regardless of the weather.
My trusted dobies had been pushed from the top and now occupied a space deep in my "sports" draw along with other various *bargain* shirts, shorts and jerseys I had bought at one of those annoying AF email sale spam things. Had I retired these due to being sub par? Nope, not at all.... Bar the fact they didn't accommodate knee pads well, my biggest draw back was they didn't have the ability to house my iPhone in the pocket without it falling out. And well, ummmm, not because I want quick access to social media, I genuinely rarely ride without a backpack so my primary means of safety needs to be kept safe.
Any-who, back to my story at hand, having such a good run with my 2018 variant and only upgrading due to needing an extra set, the only real issue I had with the 18 variant was the annoying external velcro tighteners, they had this awful ability that if you fell between sizes (34/36), the little buckle loops tend to twist lengthways and you loose the ability to hold your pants tight....
That aside the '18 airmatic shorts are comfy, well constructed, have plenty of space to stash phones, wallets, keys, some food and they fit over knee pads easily. The 2020 variant also has these great features and even feel lighter then the previous model yet a considerably stronger feel.
100% have addressed the annoying external velcro tightener with a new nifty little hook and loop buckle with the hook being metal. Again though, if you fall between sizes you'll find the adjustment just isn't quite enough if you're at the lower end of that scale but I found a simple workaround with some good ole fashioned needle and thread by shortening the loop which holds the hook. The little fancy loops are in-fact rather useless and if you're wearing gloves, you'll probably get all fidgety like me and want to rip it right off. Due to the fact the waste band has minimal elasticity in it, the hook and loop does nothing to really tighten the waistband and what I term as nifty, isn't really so.
The construction of these shorts are well made and like the earlier variant, the panel covering your back end has a line of stitching that is in an obvious contact patch to your saddle. An obvious point of potential failure or wear that most other shorts tend to steer clear of. Given I never had an issue with the previous here for wear, I was confident that it wouldn't end up an issue.
For fitment, they are a non liner style of short which accommodate knee pads well and are a light, free feel and very non restrictive. I never felt once that while in and out of the saddle I had a restriction of movement. The fabric is such that it slips and slides over leg hair, knee pads and chamois yet doesn't feel like those awful silk boxer shorts most teenagers think are cool but actually feel horrible.
Long term Review
Well as you can see by these photos the shorts have been in use for just over 6 months of regular riding (2-3 times a week), plenty of mud, dust, KM's and adrenalin filled decent.
The fact can't be avoided though, these shorts have worn through on the edges of the saddle line in a time I don't find acceptable for a $120 pair of shorts.... You might argue and say it's my saddle, but it's the same saddle I've had for over 10 years now and none of my other shorts have ever done this.
So what's our vote?
For a MTB short aimed at a lightweight, breathable style, the airmatic's should see most riders enjoy these shorts. Bang for buck they are ok, priced in comparison to other brands sneaking in under $90 ($150 NZD) but I must note, the wear life from a polyester short seems to trump most others in the same category. The waist fastening system leaves a little to be improved but I wouldn't be lying if I said I hadn't had similar issues with other shorts in that ever quest to finding the silver bullet. Perhaps these shorts would benefit from traditional belt loops and pair them with our all time favorite ABL belt?
If you're a park rat and often hitting the down more than the up, these may not be the best short but if you're a trail oriented rider who likes to get out for much longer, rowdy stints and need to carry some gear, these are where you should be looking. This is all provided your waist fits the middle of each sizing category and you're happy throwing them away in 6 months...