Menu

Specialized SWAT Apparel: Reviewed

SWAT Spells Freedom

Words by Morgan Taylor. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
July 3rd, 2014

With five pockets providing enough storage to carry your tube, tools, food, and so on, Specialized’s SWAT bib is at the heart of a collection of accessories that seek to provide alternative and innovative options to carry the necessities of riding. Many of the 2014 Specialized bikes come with top cap chain tools and multi-tools that store on a bottle cage; the SWAT bib gives you the option of going bag-free on your lunch ride or after work quickie.

swat_0169

Specialized has reinvented the three-pocket jersey with the SWAT bib.

SWAT Technology

The SWAT bib is among a small number of bibshorts that offer storage, and boasts a few unique features. The bib has three pockets along the back – much like a traditional road or XC jersey – and one on each leg. The pockets are separated from the bib at the bottom allowing them to hang over the waist of your overshorts.

Unlike a traditional three pocket jersey, the SWAT bib keeps your cargo close to your body, which has its benefits both aesthetically and functionally. With all three pockets packed, a jersey fits overtop and all but hides the cargo. The other advantage to having the pockets on the bib is the cargo is secured more tightly than in a jersey pocket, and doesn’t bounce around as much.

swat_0166

The design keeps cargo close to your body and as a result it doesn’t bounce around.

While the pocket placement and on-bike function is excellent, the back pockets are relatively shallow and aren’t very well suited to holding a pump. This isn’t anything new in the world of trying to ride without a bag, and a pump could be mounted under my bottle cage, but given that I switch between bikes on a regular basis I tend to take my favourite pump from bike to bike. When wearing the SWAT bibs I’ve switched to carrying a CO2 cartridge instead. A small loop of velcro above one of the side pockets would solve this issue.

swat_0170

Your jersey covers the pockets which keeps things looking sleek.

There is another price to be paid for the freedom of riding without a bag. When I arrive home with a sweaty back (yes, the shorts do still hold moisture despite the lack of bag on top), I take off my shorts and hang them up inside out to dry. With a bag, or fanny pack, your tools stay packed and ready for your next ride. With a cargo short, you have to unpack and repack every time.

There is also an assumption that these shorts will only be used as an undershort with baggies over top. Thus, the entire bib is constructed of a lightweight mesh intended to breathe better than a road short. Of course, this means you’ll want to avoid parading the parking lot in them at your local trailhead.

swat_0177

The leg pockets are good for your phone or multi-tool, which will naturally make its way to the back of the pocket where you won’t even notice it.

The Mountain Chamois

I was a bibshort convert long before I began riding mountain bikes, and have come to be fairly discerning when it comes to both fit and function of a riding short. Time and time again, I’m disappointed with the chamois that comes with mountain bike shorts. Unfortunately, the SWAT bib falls into that category.

While the chamois is on the upper end of what you can find in the “liner shorts” category, it’s decidedly middle of the road and below my standard for an all day riding short. Specialized does make nice chamois for their road shorts – I have two pairs of RBX shorts, they’re great – and I’d love to see this quality brought into the mountain bike world.

Lastly, I have to knock neon yellow as a chamois colour choice. It might look good in the store but it’s not flattering in the long term, if you know what I mean.

swat_0161

Even a photobombing dog will look at you funny when you’re wearing bibs without a shirt.

Atlas XC Pro Shorts

SWAT bibs come standard in Specialized’s new Atlas XC Pro short, part of their “Trail” line of apparel. The name is confusing but make no mistake: this is a lightweight short with a great cut for any type of riding, less baggy than most options and still durable. While the SWAT bib doesn’t always get the call, the Atlas shorts have become my everyday riding short.

The Atlas shorts have two relatively thin pockets that hold a phone or energy bar comfortably. They also have loops to attach the shorts to the bibs, which makes the Atlas XC Pro and SWAT bib a nicely integrated system.

swat_0181

Specialized’s 2014 Trail lineup is definitely worth a look.

Conclusion

I must admit that my own standards for riding shorts are likely more discerning than the average rider. Many people still ride without padded shorts at all (!) and still others are content with the atrocious liners that come with many mountain bike shorts. The SWAT bib comes with a reasonable chamois, but it is not a high end one – and, the price reflects that.

The SWAT bib runs for $88 USD by itself or $150 with the Atlas XC Pro short. The short and bib combo is actually a really good value. On the whole I really like the idea of an undershort with storage, and hope to see more options in the near future.

  • Andy Eunson

    Agreed on the chamois. Not terrible but I have better ones. I love them for all types of rides on my bike with the bottle cage. I tried them with a small bottle in the centre pocket too. Works quite well although your not going to grap that bottle for drinking as you ride off road much. I use a large frame bottle till empty and stop and refill it with the small pocket bottle. I am not a fan of thigh pockets though. Maybe for soft cargo but it is only a matter of time before I slide out and give myself a cargo shaped bruise or break that phone. I couldn’t agree more on how pathetic most liner shorts are. I refuse to buy them. I only buy outer shorts without.

  • http://nsmb.com Pete Roggeman

    The discerning taint strikes again! But I have to agree – the fit of the bibs is great but that is not a high-tech shammy. And the outer shorts are fantastic IMO, too.

  • Mike MacKinnon

    if they offered a version without the chamois i think it would open the market even more .
    i myself ride without a chamois so a product with one does not grab my attention unless i can remove and discard it . ,

    a cool idea i think would be adapting SWAT pockets too the shorts and running suspenders with the shorts so those who don,t like the feel and restriction of lycra and the likes can enjoy similar benefits

    • Dan

      They do the similar idea in a vest that might be good for those who don’t want a chamois.

    • Andy Eunson

      Couldn’t do shorts because the pockets are above the waist band for the over shorts. Specialized do have swat non bib shorts but they only have thigh pockets. Another option when it’s not warm out is to simply wear a light road jersey under your loose fit jersey.

  • rob c

    I agree their MTB shorts have terrible chamois liners

    I have a good number of their road bib shorts (I do a lot of road riding) including the 2014 RBX and Pro and they nailed the chamois 100%. Their MTB shorts on the other hand….leave a lot to be desired

    I’ve given up wearing their padded MTB shorts and just wear my RBX road with the Specialized nylon MTB over shorts on top, and a loose cut road jersey with 3 pockets that lets me fit whatever I want like pump, tube, tool, cell and keys/money in the zip section

  • tashi

    Word around the campfire is that next years version will be wearable on it’s own. Also, Giro does a bib with pockets that looks, at least from pics online, to be decent on it’s own.

    Hopefully they can put a decent chamois in there, because without a good butt pad no number of fancy pockets will make em worth while.

    • Morgan Taylor

      That’s the Giro New Road short, which I’m also testing right now. The chamois is much better but the pockets aren’t quite as useful. The bibs have a hole to dangle your dingle out, which is super rad.

      • tashi

        Excellent, looking forward to the review. I hope they make change the trim on the dingle dangle hole to black on the knicker bibs- the white just makes it look like you’re running around in your tighties.