The North Face Women's Levada Shorts £75 (Size US8- 330g)
North Face's Levada Shorts are designed mainly with mountain bikers in mind, (there's a men's version too), offering a looser fit, more casual alternative to lycra shorts. It is however, that more casual look and fit that also make these an option that recreational cyclists, urban riders, commuters, and bicycle tourers might want to consider as well.
As mountain bike shorts go, the Levada are pretty straightforward, offering good features but without some of the more overt styling of some options. They comprise a standard tough baggy outer and lightweight padded inner liner combo. Outside, lines are clean and uncluttered, with a simple, softly lined, shaped waistband with belt loops, press stud and zip fastening and mesh lined side slanted pockets. The length of the legs isn't too OTT off-road either, finishing just above the knee, and the legs themselves aren't over wide, meaning no excess of fabric to get in the way when pedalling.
One of the features that's a bonus for tourists is a zipped vent on each thigh, allowing for airflow across the legs in hot conditions. There are also two small discrete partially covered mesh vents across the lower back. The fabric of the outer shorts is a tough 4-way stretch nylon/elastane mix, to allow plenty of 'give' across the thighs when pedalling.
The liner shorts that come with the outers are a bit different from many of this type. For starters they have no leg grippers at all, and they are also made of a very lightweight soft touch highly breathable fabric. The pad itself is a relatively simple molded female specific Coolmax pad, with quite light cushioning. The liner shorts secure to the outers at the waist using simple press-stud tabs.
First impressions of the pad had me concerned that it was fairly minimal in cushioning, light and easily compressed. Before putting them on I was also concerned about the lack of leg grippers on the liner shorts. However, I've worn these on some fairly long touring days and found the lack of leg grippers to be something of a bonus (a more relaxed feeling ride) and they didn't contribute to any discomfort from bunching up of the legs or crotch area at all. The pad was fine for a day of reasonable duration as well, although by the end it was definitely compressing slightly, and didn't wick moisture quite as well as some. Tourists will like how quickly the liner short dries when washed, making it easy to wash them out at the end of every day and wear again the next. On the whole, the liner shorts were comfortable and airy, giving a surprising amount of comfort. The outer and inner shorts combined made for an accommodating ride with casual style and decent levels of performance.
An inconvenience of the outer shorts, though, is the waistband. There's some gaping at the back (which is not uncommon for my personal body shape where waist is slightly smaller than standard in relation to thighs) but there's no way of cinching this in other than by wearing a belt, which can be uncomfortable for long days in the saddle. The ideal would have been some sort of adjustment tab, as has appeared in other capris and shorts such as the Bontrager Commuting WSD Knicker, keeping the lines clean but allowing for some customization of fit. Overall, fit is straightforward, with a size US8 being roughly equivalent to a UK12-14.
The main attraction of the Levada is their no-frills casual good looks, the comfort of the padded liner shorts, and their versatility. These shorts will do as well for a bimble down to the shops as they will for a longer day touring or, indeed, for the off-road adventures for which they were designed. If you enjoy lots of different types of riding, and want a pair of shorts in which to do them all (well, most of them) then these might be a pair to consider. For that, they're not bad value at all.
Versatile casual styled shorts with a capable liner. Good for recreational or urban riding and touring, as well as mountain biking.
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Make and model: The North Face Women's Levada Shorts
Size tested: Graphite Grey, Size 8
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Intended for mountain bikers.
Many of the features that make them good for mountain bikers also make them ideal for more relaxed on-road riding. They're quite low-key in style so not too obviously off-road orientated.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Outer short - 88% Nylon/12% Elastane
Shaped brushed lined waistband with belt loops
Press stud and zip fastening.
Two mesh lined side pockets (one with small velcro security pocket)
Cordura toughened side panels.
Zipped mesh lined vent on each thigh.
Inner liner short- 92% Polyester/8% Elastane
Simple Coolmax molded pad
No leg gripper
Well finished and tough. Good quality components and fabrics.
Easy to wear for a number of types of riding, relaxed looks and good levels of comfort.
Bomb-proof MTB friendly outer shorts and fast drying simple inner shorts. A long-lasting combination.
Not bad for tough MTB orientated baggies. Very lightweight liner shorts.
Good levels of comfort for all but the longest rides, when the pad can start to compress.
Versatile and hardwearing enough to warrant the price tag.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed very well both on and off-road.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Simple relaxed style, tough fabric, comfort of liner short
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Waistband lacking adjustment.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes- especially one who also mountain bikes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A mountain bike orientated short that does a good job on road as well. Casual and capable.
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.