I often receive criticism from my buddies for always riding in pants. A habit born out of necessity to protect against the abundance of poison ivy on my home trails, it still gives me a sense of comfort; if I'm on my mountain bike, I'm wearing riding pants. People occasionally ask, “How are you wearing pants in the middle of summer?”. It’s a fair question, but as someone who has spent nearly every summer of their life sweating through a baseball uniform in the muggy Virginia heat, vented riding pants are a luxury. For years, my go-to model has been the Fox Flexair. Equal parts lightweight and breathable, they are more than suitable for the mild temperatures of a Washingtonian summer. Four seasons old, with hundreds of miles pedaled and more than a handful of crashes along the way, my Flexair pants are thoroughly tested. In fact, they have been so durable that I haven't had the need to try any new Fox pants until just recently.
Some of my co-workers and I had the opportunity to test a variety of Fox’s latest pants and chat about their differences. The models we tested ranged from the ultra light and pedal friendly Flexair Pro and Ranger, to the protective, downhill-oriented Defend. While all of these models share the same high quality construction as my previous Fox Flexair pants, they each have features unique to their intended use.
The Defend pants have been a staple on the world cup downhill circuit as the go-to option for Fox athletes. Created for the specific needs of downhill mountain biking, the Defend is designed with durability and protection in mind while still providing the range of motion needed for the dynamic movements of downhill riding. They are a great option for long days in the park or shuttling with friends.
- Adjustable ratcheting waistband
- Material is finished with DWR, which helps to repel moisture
- Laser-cut perforations in the front and rear of the pants to increase airflow
- Stretchy TruMotion® and sweat-wicking TruDri® fabrics keep pants comfortable and dry
- Cordura® knee panels provide protection and enhanced abrasion resistance
- Large, cellphone-friendly zipper pockets
- Retail for $149.95
Ride Feel / Impressions
For being advertised as a gravity pant, the Defend isn’t as restricting when pedaling as I anticipated. The tapered fit, elastic ankle cuffs, and adjustable ratchet waistband are comfortable for long stints in the saddle. While the laser perforations do allow some air flow, the thicker construction keeps them running slightly on the warmer side. While they won’t be my first choice for pedaling on the hottest days of summer, they are a great option for moderate to cooler temperatures. I could see these pants as an ideal option during the shoulder seasons when the temperature is cool and the dirt is at its tackiest.
Large black panels of Cordura provide an additional level of protection as they wrap around the knee and extend part way up the side of the lower thigh. Utilizing TrueMotion and TruDri fabric to provide the ideal combination of pants that are flexible and stays dry for the remainder of a ride. Having now spent a handful of rides in the Defend pants I can say that they are exactly what I would come to expect from a Fox apparel product. Their sizing is consistent with other size 32 pants I have from Fox, and the length is spot on. While I haven't taken a fall in them yet, the Cordura panels seem far more protective than the lighter pants I regularly wear and allow plenty of room for knee pads. These pants are an excellent option for anyone who rides park and shuttle regularly, as well as offering added protection and durability on the occasional pedal.
Fox Flexair Pro
The Flexair lineup is Fox’s lightest weight and most breathable offering when it comes to riding apparel. Their latest Flexair Pro pants feature a tapered fit for increased mobility while minimizing snagging. Combined with Dyneema (the world’s strongest fiber, allegedly) panels for increased abrasion resistance, they are now beginning to blur the lines between trail and downhill riding pants.
- Zipper leg openings keep the ankle tight and allow for easy removal
- Race-ratchet closure provides secure fit and on-the-fly adjustments
- Laser perforations on front panels increase airflow
- Protective Dyneema panels
- Retail price: $199.95
Thoughtfully designed features like the zipper leg opening give these pants an edge up on other tapered pants that can be cumbersome to take on and off. Compared to the older Flexair model that I typically ride in, the new Flexair Pro offers improved ventilation. Its panels are made from Dyneema, a material that is 15x stronger than steel and extremely lightweight. These panels offer similar abrasion resistance and protection to the Cordura ones found on the Defend, while allowing the Flexair Pro to maintain its ultra lightweight construction. When it comes time to retire my older Flexair pants, the Flexair Pro will be high on my list for their versatility and added durability.
Fox Ranger Pant
While filming our review video, I was joking with my coworker Sam that the Fox Ranger is the “blue jean” of the Fox lineup. The Ranger forgoes protective panels and flashy features in favor of a no-fuss design that closely resembles the older Flexair models I have loved for years. Inspired by Fox's top-tier models, these pants are ready for any type of ride while maintaining a more affordable price point.
- Technical stretch fabric is lightweight, durable, and pedal friendly
- Adjustable waist band with snap closure for a custom fit
- Two zippered hand pockets to stash everything you need for a ride
- Retail price: $109.95
The Ranger pants were the most affordable option that we tested. The technical stretch fabric is lightweight and durable, providing comfort for even the longest pedals as well as being a great option for the bike park. While they don’t quite offer the same level of durability as the Defend or Flexair Pro, their material can still withstand the occasional spill. Similar to the other pants we tested, the Ranger exceeded the comfortability test. Sam even went as far as to compare them to sweatpants, but wouldn’t admit if he slept in them the night before filming our review video.
Having not tried an updated pair of Fox pants in years, I was extremely pleased to find that they have only improved since I purchased the few pairs I still wear to this day. Deciding between the Defend, Flexair Pro, and Ranger will ultimately come down to individual riding styles and personal preference. The Defend will best suit a rider who prioritizes time in the bike park and shuttling, while the Ranger will be best for the avid pedaler. The Flexair Pro is a blend of the two, offering the protection of a Defend with the lighter feel of a Ranger. Across the range, all three models share the same Fox DNA that make them an excellent option for many seasons of riding.