About a year ago, I was reading through a Facebook thread on a women's mountain biking group that was discussing riding apparel for larger riders. The women were discussing which brands fit, which don't, and in general, how there is a lack of good options available. After scanning the internet for reviews and coming up short, we decided to dig a little deeper to coordinate a review on riding apparel for plus size riders.
For the purposes of this article, we looked at clothing of a size larger than those found in standard ranges. Not everyone fits into the apparel in the images you see plastered across social media channels and print magazines. Per the CDC, the average waist circumference for women in the US is 38.7 in (98 cm) and men is 40.3 in (102 cm). As a comparison in Canada, the most recent data I could find states that the average waist size for women is 34 in (87.3 cm), and 37 in (95.1cm) for men. A 38 inch waist is typically a size 16-18 for women and depending on the brand, about an XXL. For men, a waist size of 40" would also typically be an XXL in most brands.
Many brands don't offer riding apparel for women above a size 12-14, so our focus in this piece is on two riders who fit into those XL sizes. While men tend to have more options in the XL range, what is rarely taken into consideration for either gender is body shape (curves, hips, butt, shoulders and quads). For this review, I reached out to four different testers - two men and two women - all considered plus size per the bike industry standards, but with significantly different builds. Each rider tested several different kits for fit (length, waist, hip/butt), material, and style. The men's version of the article can be found here
The important takeaway is that plus size riders do have a good number of options. A lot of clothing manufacturers do have your back and hopefully one of the reviews will guide you towards a riding kit that's not only stylish, but fits just right no matter what size you wear.
The Test Riders
Below you will find testimony and feedback on nine brands that offer riding apparel sized to fit our two female testers, Heather and Erin. At the bottom of the reviews you will also find a list of brands that offer women specific cycling apparel for larger riders, including those in the US 16 - 18+ range. While these brands were not included in the testing, they did come highly recommended from multiple women who I reached out to while researching this piece.
Tester: Heather VanValkenberg
Height: 5'11" / 180 cm
Weight: 180 lbs / 81 kg
Measurements: Waist 33 in/84 cm; Hips 41 in/104 cm; Chest 39 in/99 cm
Notes: School teacher, adventurer, avid mountain bike explorer
Tester: Erin Chinburg
Height: 5'2" / 158 cm
Weight: 178 lb / 80.7 kg
Measurements: Waist 32.5 in/82.5 cm; Hips 41 in/104 cm; Bust 38.5 in/98 cm
Notes: Twin Mom, massage therapist, avid traveler
Pearl Izumi WOMEN'S ELEVATE SHORT • MSRP: $175.00 USD
• Sizes: US 2 - 14 (tested 12 & 14)
• Colors: Fog, Phantom
Both Erin and Heather really liked these shorts. They appeared to be true to size and offered all the functional features that work well in a riding short. The main concern they both had with these was the price point. At $175, while the shorts do come with a liner, it is still a fairly high price for any riding short. In particular, plus size riders tend to be in-store shoppers (or they use companies with an easy mail return policy) because it's hard to find the right size and fit. Justifying this price without having the opportunity to try them on first, might be the key factor, which can be hard if your local bike shops don't carry the larger sizes. Fit
The size 14 Elevate shorts fit Erin perfectly, while Heather noted that the size 12 were true to size and comfortable despite being a bit lower rise than she normally likes. While there is no yoga band on these shorts, the sizing comes in a wider range than the standard small, medium, large and the BOA system allows one to dial in the fit as needed. The shorts have an ideal inseam length for most riders and while they get narrower towards the knee, they still fit over a variety of knee guards. Heather was also happy that they didn't require adjustment up or down during her rides.Material
Pearl Izumi describes the Elevate fabric to be a 4-way stretch Cordura. The Cordura makes the shorts feel a bit less stretchy than a traditional 4-way stretch fabric, but adds durability. The shorts also feature triangle eyelet ventilation for cooling off on extra hot days. Style
The Elevate are a very stylish looking form fitting short. Erin was surprised they fit her plus size frame given the tailored cut, but not only did they fit, they looked great and felt great when pedaling. She raved that they were one of her favorite pairs, despite the high price tag. Heather was happy there was no gap at the knee and thought they looked good despite not loving the greyish colour of her test pair.
Details of the Pearl Izumi Elevate Short on Erin (size 14).
Details of the Pearl Izumi Elevate Short on Heather (size 12).
WOMEN'S SUMMIT LONG SLEEVE TOP • MSRP: $70.00 USD
Excellent tailored fit for plus size shapes+
Material is slightly stretchy and seems durable so far
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested L)
• Colors: Sunny Lime/Navy Radian, Arctic Dusk/Phantom Lucent, Phantom/Fiery CRL Frequency
|The jersey material was buttery and very soft. Overall the fit was pretty good for my measurements and the design was attractive. If you like a looser fitting jersey I would consider sizing up.—EC|
Pearl Izumi Women's Long Sleeve Summit Top in Phantom/Fiery CRL Frequency.
Wild Rye THE FREEL BIKE SHORTS • MSRP: $119.00 USD
• Sizes: US 0 - 18 (tested 12, 14)
• Colors: Swirling Dots (tested), Mauve Bees, Emerald Sloths, Grey Vicuna
Wild Rye (and Shredly) are at the forefront of developing mountain bike specific riding apparel for the plus size community. They offer the largest range in sizing of any brand you can find on a shelf in a bike shop, and are leading the pack by offering products to fit a wider variety of shapes and sizes. Erin was a big fan of the fit and patterns of the Wild Rye shorts, while Heather felt the sizing was a little off for her body shape. The only negative feedback from Erin was that she would really like to see them showcase some plus sized riders on their social media channels.Fit
Heather tested the Freel shorts in size 12, while Erin tested the 14. The size 14 Freel short fit Erin amazingly in the hips butt and waist. She indicated she has a hard time finding shorts that fit her beltline, but for her, this short was hands down perfection. She had no issues with the shorts riding up or slipping down on any of her test rides and the length was perfect, hitting right at the knee (mid kneecap). Heather however found the Freel shorts a tad too big for her in the waist which was a bummer since there's no adjustability other than wearing a belt. Other than that issue, Heather liked the length which cam just above her knee and fit her hips and butt comfortably loose. She also noted that the small split on the outside cuff is great to allow for better fit over knee guards.Material
The fabric Wild Rye uses in these shorts is a super stretchy and thick durable 4-way material which makes for an optimal fit on a curvy frame. If you are a true plus size 14, 16 or 18... be prepared to be stoked! Style
When Wild Rye first launched, not everyone was a fan of their loud and unique prints, but times are changing and I think its fair to say that we have all adjusted and readily find their prints appealing. Their newer stuff is super popular in the West, and a lot of women find the fun patterns on the shorts stylish and flattering.
Details of Wild Rye Freel shorts on Erin.
Details of Wild Rye Freel shorts on Heather.
SANDIA WOMEN'S CYCLING & ADVENTURE SHIRT • MSRP: $95.00 USD
Excellent tailored fit for plus sized bodies+
Durable and stretchy material
No built-in waist adjustability
• Sizes: 0 - 14
• Colors: Charcoal, Pacific Blue
|The Sandia Shirt is a super high end, well made, extremely flattering athletic long sleeve shirt with cycling pockets on the back—genius! I wore it running and cycling on a warmer day and did not overheat. I imagine the real performance will come out in winter though.—EC|
Wild Rye Sandia Jersey.
EnduraWOMEN'S HUMVEE ELEVATE SHORT • MSRP: $94.99 USD
• Sizes: XS - XL
• Colors: Pacific Blue, Black
These shorts fit Erin very well in the waist, hip and butt thanks to a stretchy fabric and a unique elasticated yoga waistband that extends from the back partway around the hips to a zip fly closure, making for a comfortable and snug fit around the waist. On length...these shorts are on the very short side of the spectrum hitting about 3" above Erin's knee in a static standing position which resulted in a lot of involuntary tugging.Material
The Hummvee Lite shorts use a 4-way nylon fabric that is lightweight and comfortable. Erin noted that these are a very comfortable option for XL riders. Style
Compared to other shorts on the market, and the rest of Endura's offerings, these are a very basic riding short. The have minimal design features and could definitely use more inseam length. While the Hummvee Lite could use a facelift, they are still a comfortable option for someone looking for a simple "short" riding short.
Details of the Endura Women's Hummvee Lite Short.
WOMEN'S MT500 MARBLE L/S JERSEY LTD • MSRP: $52.49 USD
Yoga band waistband extremely comfortable
Inseam length is way too short
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested L)
• Colors: White (tested), Cocoa
|The MT500 L/S jersey was amazing and extremely flattering. They definitely put a lot of effort into the design of this limited edition jersey. Being full figured and heavy chested, I think a lot about what I wear on the top. White tends to make my chest look even bigger than it already is so I usually avoid white at all cost but, I must say I was impressed with how the graphic presented an optical illusion minimizing my shoulders and chest area. I will be wearing it through the fall season!—EC|
Endura Women's MT500 Marble L/S Jersey LTD.
Race FaceWOMEN'S TRAVERSE SHORT • MSRP: $103.99 USD
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested XL)
• Colors: Black (tested), Concrete, Bordeaux
While originally assigned to Erin, the XL Race Face shorts were too small for her so Heather ended up testing the shorts while Erin kept the jersey. It's important to note that the Race Face XL (i.e. the largest size offered) is closer to a size US 12 than 14, similar to a couple of the other brands we included in this review. Fit
These shorts run on the smaller side. Heather tested these shorts in XL and the fit was great in all areas. The shorts have a strong elastic waistband that comes up high and holds in place exceptionally well. With the elastic waistband, there is less bulk in the form of buttons, zippers and snaps, which is nice for larger waisted riders. Material
The material was both stretchy and sturdy, and the shorts seemed to be designed to hold up to the normal wear and tear of PNW riding. Style
The Traverse shorts are a very stylish looking short. The grey with black accents looks good on just about anyone and the tailored cut with a small split on the leg cuff seemed to work well on Heather's frame.
Details of the Race Face Traverse Short on Heather.
WOMEN'S TRAVERSE SS JERSEY • MSRP: $55.99 USD
Elastic waistband reduces bulk+
Lightweight and durable material
Sizing runs small on these shorts
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested L)
• Colors: Black, Forest, Bordeaux (tested)
|The size large Traverse SS jersey has a flattering pattern (similar to Lululemon's staple pattern) and fit me great. When you are plus sized, wearing short sleeves is usually a no no, but this jersey got it right. The sleeve length is between a ¾ sleeve cut and a true short sleeve, hitting right above the elbow, nicely eliminating everything I dislike about short sleeves. I am super happy with this jersey and will definitely be riding in it a lot.—EC|
Details of the Race Face Traverse SS Jersey on Erin.
FOXWOMEN'S RANGER SHORT• MSRP: $89.95 USD
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested XL)
• Colors: Black, Khaki, PTR, Dark Green, Purple (tested)
The Ranger is a baggier style riding short. The XL is the largest size Fox offers and fit Erin fairly well in the waist and hips. While she is only 5'2", the inseam seemed perfect, hitting right above her knee and fitting easily over a variety of knee guards. She noted that while the waist and hips were a spot on fit standing, the tailored cut did cause the shorts to ride up a tad bit when pedaling due to the more tailored cut around my upper thighs. Material
The fabric was a comfortable lightweight and durable 4-way stretch material. Style
Fox likes to keep things simple, functional and affordable. The Rangers are no exception, and are available in a large variety of solid colors which offer a classic look. The only issue Erin noted with these is that the closure on the front is only a single button snap which concerned her—but the snap defied expectations and stayed securely fastened through all her testing.
Details of the Ranger shorts and Ranger Drirelease SS jersey.
WOMEN'S RANGER DRIRELEASE SS JERSEY• MSRP: $45.95 USD
Simple classic look+
Baggy non-tailored fit
Single snap button closure can be risky for plus sized riders
• Sizes: S - XL (tested L)
• Colors: Purple (tested)
|I tested the Ranger Drirelease SS jersey in size large. While the jersey fit great, it was a bit of a fail for me in terms of style: it looked a little too much like a T-shirt, and despite the color blocks on the backside of the jersey, I prefer a bit more flare.—EC|
ShredlyThe MTB CURVY SHORT• MSRP: $105.00 USD
• Sizes: US 2 - 24
• Colors: Multiple options
Shredly is absolutely killing it in the plus size world because they are pushing body inclusion not only in their sizes (they go up to US 24), but also throughout their media campaigns. Its key to note that Erin tested the MTB Curvy short in size 12, while she would typically be a size 14 in their regular line, you may need to consider sizing down on the curvy specific line.Fit
Aside from sizing down with this line, the size 12 Curvy short was another perfect fit on Erin. The shorts have a yoga band waistband crafted from 3" of spandex material which creates the perfect contouring hug around the waist without being too loose or overly tight. The shorts are available with a short or long inseam option, which is nice for taller riders or those who like a shorter, more XC riding cut. Material
The shorts use a durable 4-way stretch lightweight fabric that is made from 100% recycled materials. Style
Shredly is a bit of the wild child when it comes to their designs, but a lot of women find them flattering, and for those who prefer something less bold, they also offer a nice variety of solid colors.
Details of the Shredly MTB Curvy short on Erin.
Absolute perfection for plus sized riders+
Props on using larger riders in their social media campaigns
Size down in the Curvy line
Troy Lee DesignsWOMEN'S LILIUM SHORT MSRP: $99.00 USD (w/out liner)
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested XL)
• Colors: Black, Charcoal, Emerald, Golden, Smoked Petal (tested)
We would have liked to test the TLD Luxe shorts for this review, but there was no XL pair available for our testers at the time of the request. The elastic waistband is a popular design for the plus sized crowd, so hopefully we have an opportunity to include it at a future date. Fit
The XL Lilium shorts are designed as a relaxed fit short and while they were a tad bit big in the waist on "summer" Heather, they were the correct size per the size chart (she indicated that they will probably fit perfect as winter settles in). The shorts inseam was on par with what one would want in a trail riding short, with no thigh gap between pads and the bottom cuff. The Velcro adjusters did help tighten things up on the exterior of the waistband as needed.Material
The material is high quality, stretchy (4-way) and lightweight. The shorts have small, laser-cut ventilation holes on the inside of the thighs, which add a nice bit of air flow on hotter days. Style
TLD has done a great job over the last couple years of designing comfortable and stylish riding shorts for women. The Lilium are no exception and the smoked pedal color seemed to be a popular option for 2020. The shorts have ample pockets for snacks or a phone and are available for purchase with or without a liner. Heather tested the shorts with the liner, and while she indicated it was fairly comfortable, she is picky when it comes to longer rides and would lean towards purchasing these shorts without the liner.
Details of the TLD Lilium Short on Heather.
WOMEN'S LILIUM LS JERSEY• MSRP: $85.00 USD
True to size+
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested L)
• Colors: Black, Charcoal, Emerald, Black/White (tested)
|While I am usually not a fan of long sleeved jerseys, the Lilium was pretty sweet exception. It was stylish and fit great, not too tight across the chest and shoulders and loose enough in the arms to fit a pair of low profile elbow guards.—HV|
Troy Lee Designs Women's Lilium LS Jersey on Heather.
POCESSENTIAL MTB WOMEN'S SHORTS • MSRP: $100.00 USD
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested XL)
• Colors: Uranium Black, Calcite Blue (tested)
The Essential MTB shorts offered a great fit on Heather. The POC XL short seemed to correlate with a size 12, maybe a skinny 14 per the testers' feedback. The adjustable Velcro on the exterior allowed for some (minimal) waist adjustment and the inseam length was the best of the group—falling to the middle of Heather's knee and and providing excellent coverage over knee guards. The cut of the shorts allowed for minimal adjustment during test rides.Material
These shorts are a slightly heavier material than some of the other options, but the nylon fabric is stretchy and durable. Style
Heather noted that these were her favorite shorts. She is taller than average and the added inseam length was a hit. The shorts feature two zipped hand pockets, a DWR coating for winter riding, and a zipper that extends up past the buttons for a super secure closure.
Details of the POC Essential MTB Women's shorts on Heather.
Longer inseam for excellent coverage+
Stretchy yet durable high quality material
Sizing only goes up to approx. a US 12 (XL)
ZoicNAVAEH CAMO SHORTS • MSRP: $80.00 USD (w/out liner)
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested XL)
• Colors: Digi Camo, Grey Camo, Green Camo (tested)
Originally we had requested a size large in the Navaeh shorts based on the size chart, but we had to send them back and exchange for an XL. Fit
The Navaeh shorts offered a comfortably loose fit on Heather. They included waist adjusters for tightening things up as needed along with an average inseam length, and leg opening wide enough to fit over knee guards.Material
The shorts are stretchy and lightweight, and appear to be best suited for summer riding conditions. Heather had some minor concerns about long term durability due to the thinner feeling short material, but felt they were ideal for most the dry season.Style
While the Green Camo might not be for everyone, the color is unique and the purple zippers add a nice accent color. The pockets are on the smaller side, but still usable for holding a small snack or keys. For the price, the shorts seem like a pretty good stylish option for someone in the size 12-14 range looking for a lightweight comfortable riding short.
Details of the Zoic Navaeh Camo shorts on Heather.
JERRA PRINT JERSEY• MSRP: $56.25 USD
Stylish with a nice mix of colors and accents
Size up for a more comfortable fit
• Sizes: XS - XL (tested L)
• Colors: Fuchsia Stripe (tested)
Heather noted that Jerra Print jersey was true to size with an excellent extended 3/4 sleeve length. The material offered a soft and stretchy ride feel and Zoic gets bonus points style and for offering it in a wide variety of colors and designs.
Zoic Jerra Print jersey
ALTERNATIVESMachines for Freedom
• High-performance cycling apparel for women (road-style focus)
• Size chart extends up to XXXL (39.5 - 42.5" waist/48 - 51" hips)
• Cycling clothing for women
• Size chart extends up to 3XL (42 - 44" waist/52 - 54" hips)
• shebeest.comJules Threads
• Road Cycling clothing for women
• Size chart extends up to 3XL (38 - 41" waist/47 - 50" hips)
• julesthreads.comFat Lad At The Back
• Cycling clothing for women offering plus size options
• Size chart extends up to XL (43 - 46" waist/55" hips)
A note on the comments section
Don't body shame anyone. Every body type deserves to have functional, stylish bike gear. In short, be kind. We'll be suspending accounts that can't handle this request.
Our new community guidelines aren't quite ready for prime time. So in in the meantime this is the tl;dr: don’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted. Don’t deadname or misgender trans people. Don’t mischaracterize or discuss in bad faith. Do be constructive and welcoming. Do try to see things from others’ perspective.
We value freedom of speech in society, and we will always remain a place that encourages unvarnished, critical discussion, but Pinkbike is not a government and we will moderate this community as necessary.
If the title didn’t say “plus sized” the people it is looking to serve might not stop and read it as they might assume, and rightfully so, that it would not be relevant to them.
Do you think all the people getting into MTB that might be discouraged with the clothes they have tried on that don’t fit their body size are searching in google for “gear that fits regular people”? No they are likely typing “plus size” into the search bar because they are trying to find cloths that are bigger then the ones that didn’t fit them well at the bike shop. And that is how this article will reach a lot of people looking for it, which is the point right? If you don’t “Label” the article no one outside of the pink bike community will ever find it.
Honestly, you really missed the point in your rush to be offended
@nkrohan Nikki - great article and perfect title. People that will benefit from the article will find it and the men’s article when they search google and will find both are great
As Thirty3 says, companies should just make bigger sizes so people with a different physique aren't forced to go home and search online for a term that is pretty degrading, especially when there is no reason for them not to be included in a regular kit article.
It's called equality, not segregation.
I don’t even know how to respond to your equality vs segregation comment. Who on earth is suggesting segregation vs equality. All clothes have sizes, is that a form of segregation in your eyes?
IMO You tried to call out the author in your comment and I expressed your comment was off base in my opinion. We can agree to disagree and I will return your hero cape.
And, a commonly repeated comment... Get some more tester diversity. The Enduro/trail shootout and the similar tests are great, but when both riders are 25% lighter than you and within na few pounds of each other... Loses some of its luster. I've never met a bike part that was too stiff, aside from a big moto bar, and my suspension tuning and impressions will always be colored by the 40 pounds I've got on the Mike's. Bigger riders even more so, and I have to wander what the 5ft 105lb women are thinking as they read along, too.
She found "Shredly" shorts made to fit women in big sizes and it has made her very happy. They are very comfortable and fit well. I can't overstate how positive finding them has been. They are expensive but really worth looking into if you are a woman having trouble finding shorts that will work well for you.
I know it sounds like a promo but its not, she literally enjoys riding way more and goes more because she has shorts that fit! I would pay almost anything for that.
We don’t need, let’s say Pearl Izumi, to offer 20 pairs of bike shorts, we need them to offer at least one, in 20 different sizes/fits.
I like color design options, but would happily settle for black, if I could pick the perfect fit.
It's great to have info on the specific aspects of the cut/fit too - XL hourglass vs XL straighter figure are two totally different things and with the price of quality shorts you really want to be sure.
I own (and adore!) a pair of Shredly Curvy shorts and one thing I particularly love is that the yoga waistband never has a hard edge that'd hurt me on the days that I'm a bit more sensitive in the tummy area.
A pink haired fat slob might cancel pinkbike if nothing is done
If so should they be charged more?