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Empire Enduro Pant Review

Best Backcountry MTB Pant Yet


Published May 6, 2024

Since our Backcountry-branded Slickrock Bike Pants have received so much positive feedback over the years, we decided to make a more rugged version for the hard-chargers. The super durable Empire Enduro Pant is for riders who lean towards downhill and lift-assisted riding. The enduro focused members of our Herd demand a fully featured pant with durable fabrics that also breathe—so that’s exactly what we made. We put it to the test over an entire season, with Gearhead® Expert Kendall racking up hundreds of miles 
(and a few too many crashes) for this review.

Empire Collection Vs. Slickrock Collection

While there's a decent amount of overlap between these collections, there are also important differences we want you to be aware of so you can make an informed MTB pant decision.


The Empire collection is purpose-built for gravity-fueled riding at the bike park, big enduro days, and shuttling the local jump line. The original member of the Empire collection is our Empire Shorts, which come in at a longer inseam for both men and women to eliminate pad gap. The short’s construction prioritizes durability with burly fabrics, yet still uses perforated panels to enhance ventilation on those hotter days. The Empire short features more pockets than our Slickrock short to make sure you have plenty of space to stash a multi-tool, car keys, or a lift pass without needing to wear a pack. Our intention with the new Empire Enduro Pant is to recreate the durable, functional design of the shorts, but in pant form.


The Slickrock collection, on the other hand, is our dedicated trail riding collection built for riders who earn their descents and prioritize efficiency on the trail. We use a stretchy, lightweight material that breathes insanely well to ensure comfort over long days. The shorts offer a few inseam lengths for both men and women that trend towards the shorter side. These cuts, paired with the 4-way stretch material, provide a truly impressive range of motion. Both the pants and the shorts utilize perforated panels for enhanced ventilation. The pants also feature zippered side vents that really dump heat when you need to. The Slickrock collection offers two zippered hand pockets across the board for your essentials, maintaining a streamlined fit to reduce bulk.

Fabrics & Breathability

Now that we’ve covered our MTB apparel collections, let’s dive into the fabrics in the Empire Enduro Pant. This pant is built with a durability-first mindset, utilizing abrasion-resistant panels on the knees and hips that stand up to tumble after tumble. I took a handful of crashes at the Big Mountain Enduro race in Durango at Purgatory bike park between practice and race runs. I had one in particular where the pants really impressed me; I stuffed my front tire in a hole in a fast section of track, went OTB, and slid head-first for quite a way. The pants didn’t show a single sign of wear!

While the abrasion-resistant panels are heavy duty for unexpected confrontations with rocks and stumps, they’re plenty flexible to keep up with your movements. The main fabric used in the pant is even made with a 4-way stretch material to ensure optimal mobility as you lean into high-speed corners and dance through rock gardens. The main material is also impressively breathable thanks to laser-cut perforations at the back of the knee and inner thigh.

Knee Pad Integration

Our Herd’s favorite feature is without a doubt the side zips for knee pad integration. The crafty zipper extends from the ankle to the knee on the side. This opens up the pant leg to make it super convenient to equip your knee pads and remove them at the end of the ride. My favorite way to take advantage of this feature is to strap my knee pads to my hip pack for better breathability when I know I have a long climb, and then put them back on at the top for the descent.

We can't overstate the convenience this knee pad integration feature offers. Pants without this feature essentially require you to put your knee pads on at home while getting dressed or take your pants off every time you want to remove or put on your knee pads.

Pockets & Vents

The pocket layout on the Empire Enduro Pant is another innovative part of the design. The two zippered hand pockets are generously sized with rubberized tabs on the zippers for easier use with gloves. The side accessory pockets are slightly smaller but still generous, and they actually double as vents. If you don’t have anything in these pockets, you can leave them open and reap the benefits of the mesh pocket backing, which supplies breezy airflow to your legs. This feature is truly a game-changer and helps make these gravity-focused pants versatile enough for big days in the saddle with lots of climbing.

Classic Bike Park Fit

The fit of the Empire Enduro Pant is similar to our Slickrock pant, offering a classic tapered fit for a streamlined look. The elastic cuffs ensure your pants stay out of your chainring, and added space around your knees helps house larger knee pads for downhill riding. The integrated belt is a beefed-up version of the belt on our Slickrock pants, with a burly ratcheting system that delivers plenty of adjustments and stays in place no matter what. The back of the pant features an extra stretchy yoke that helps the pants retain their fit while you’re in riding position. And the inner waist features grippers in the rear that keep the pants from riding up or down on rowdy descents. I’m 6’4” and about 215lb, and the size large fits me perfectly with plenty of room for big knee pads and padded liner shorts, but they still have a streamlined, tapered look.

Choosing Mountain Bike Pants At Backcountry

If you need more information about choosing your next pair of mountain bike pants, be sure to reach out to a Gearhead Expert using our chat feature, or feel free to call at 1-800-409-4502. We also carry a vast selection of mountain bike apparel in our retail stores, find a store near you to try apparel on in person!


Q: Are mountain bike pants worth it?

A: Mountain bike pants offer many advantages specific to riding trails when compared to standard fitness pants. They’re breathable to let you work hard without overheating and they are typically built with durable materials to withstand the occasional tumble. Another important aspect of mountain bike pants is that they typically utilize a tapered fit and often an elastic-bound cuff, which prevents the pants from getting caught in your chainring. This can be terrifying and dangerous if it occurs—riders avoid it at all costs.

Q: How tight should mountain bike pants be?

A: It’s ideal to have enough room in your mountain bike pants to retain full range of motion and fit knee pads, if desired. On the other hand, it’s important that the pant cuffs aren’t too baggy, since you don’t want them to get caught in your bike’s chainring. To find a balance between these two, be sure to reference size charts or reach out to one of our Gearhead® Experts.

Q: What kind of pants do you wear on a mountain bike?

A: Pants that are purpose-built for mountain biking will always be the top choice thanks to their breathable design, durable construction, and bike-specific fit.

Kendall Zylstra has been a member of the Backcountry Herd since 2018. He’s a die-hard mountain biker, fitness enthusiast, and powder skier—you can probably find him somewhere in the Wasatch mountains during his free time.