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Editors’ Choice: Race Face Indy Shorts

The best normal shorts you can buy

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The Race Face Indy Shorts are not fundamentally unique in any way. They use 4-way stretch material, zippered pockets, and a snap-closure waist flanked on each hip by external velcro adjustment straps. If you’ve seen one of these shorts, you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong. The Indy Shorts are like Race Face’s own take on a rock-music standard. Every cover band who performs Basket Case by Green Day is technically performing the same song, but they’re putting their own spin on it.

That’s in contrast to, for example, the 100% Celium shorts I wrote about last month, which are in my dresser drawer next to the Race Face Indys. Those shorts are pretty unique, but they’re not always the right choice on a given day. The Indys are what I’d call a middle-weight short. Not silky, stretchy leisurewear, but not chunky, gravity-focused Carhartts. They offer a little more durable feel, a little more wind protection and a little more length than the ultra-light shorts I’ll choose for all-day rides in deep summer. The Indy shorts strike a balance between comfort and durability that is rare, even though they didn’t exactly break the mold to achieve it.

There’s a broad and substantially reinforced waist with a zippered pocket across the lower lumbar. That pocket is a feature popping up more and more lately because you can slide a phone or a wallet in there without feeling it every pedal stroke. It’s a smart way to carry flat-profile essentials if you’re not wearing a pack or you just don’t want to put them in it. That pocket is part of a waistband that widens out across the back but is still relatively broad across the front and sides. 

The sides are where the Velcro adjustment straps sit, an approach to dialing in the tension on the waist that is so often done so poorly. These are done well. Mainly, the straps themselves have pretty much no elasticity. Because, despite what nearly every other brand out there seems to think, they don’t need to be elastic. As long as there is the slightest bit of stretch in the overall material, a properly sized waist doesn’t need to be a giant rubber band around your hips. It just needs to fit your hips, and that’s the approach Race Face took. Thank you.

The two main zippered pockets are positioned low and forward on the thighs. I will avoid using any front pocket on any short to carry items for an extended period of time, but at least the Indy shorts position them on flatter parts of the legs that aren’t changing shape as I pedal. That also means that, when I’m not using them, the zippers and the extra material of the pockets themselves have as minimal an impact as possible on the shorts’ mobility and ventilation.

The Indys’ overall shape is more form-fitting than you’d expect from a short this substantial. They never end up in the way when getting in and out of the saddle, but they have just enough room to slide easily over a set of substantial knee pads. 

It all makes the Indy shorts uniquely easy to live with even though, on paper, they’re not that unique.

Photos: Anthony Smith