Added a product review for Specialized SWAT Pro Bib Shorts 5/18/2016 1:28 PM
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Tested: Specialized SWAT Pro Bib Shorts

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

Review by AJ Barlas

Back in 2014, Specialized released a product that caused a little bit of a stir in the mountain bike world. The release of the first SWAT bib seemed to unintentionally pit those that don’t have an issue with wearing a pack up against those that dislike packs. Those that choose not to wear a pack were generally excited to have a way of stowing some spares and food, while pack lovers just didn’t see the point.

Now, two years later, Specialized and a number of other brands have released more apparel capable of holding the essentials. It seems that there is a demand for this among riders, but how do you improve on what is typically a pretty straightforward item? After all, at the basic level they’re just a bib short with some pockets. We’ve been riding in the new Specialized SWAT Pro Bib to find out.

SWAT Pro Bib Liner Highlights

  • VaporRize moisture transfer knit fabrics
  • Eight SWAT integrated pockets, patent-pending construction
  • Fold-over leg cuff
  • Body Geometry Pro Mountain Chamois
  • 10-inch inseam (size Medium)
  • Colors: Black, Black/Red, Black/Hyper
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • MSRP: $150 USD

Initial Impressions

Our initial thoughts were a bit conflicted. The construction of the new bib was on point - top shelf, even. Despite the moisture wicking claims of the VaporRize transfer knit fabrics, however, with temperatures rising we were concerned with its ability to breath compared to that of its predecessor.The material seems a bit thicker in general, with fewer holes to allow air in and out.

The pockets appeared very similar to the original upon first inspection, with the addition of a single zippered pocket on the back right side. An additional two stash points on the shoulder straps brings the total pockets to eight (compared to five on the original), and the side pockets are slightly wider on this version. The chamois has been updated and appeared to be more padded than the original, and enclosures to stow the pant loops in are a nice finishing touch.

Aside from these relatively minor updates, the SWAT Pro Bib doesn't appear to be much different than the first version. When it comes down to it, though, there are really only a couple of things the SWAT Pro Bib needs to do to make us happy: hold the essentials securely and be comfortable enough to wear on reasonable length rides.

On The Trail

After putting the bibs on and heading out for a ride, the changes to the chamois were immediately apparent. The new version provides a little more padding without feeling like a larger pad. This was one of the only negatives we heard against the original SWAT bib, so for those that felt the old one was not as comfortable as it could have been, give the new version a look.

The second thing that we noticed on the trail was that the position of the pockets had changed a little. We initially thought the pockets had been moved up the back, but upon closer inspection they had actually been made deeper. This made it trickier to both access the contents and to get things in there to begin with. We never lost anything while riding, though we hadn't with the old version either so long as items were inserted properly.

The taller pockets did seem to hold longer items like a water bottle a little closer to the body when bent over the bars. This resulted in less of a hump and we didn’t find our jerseys getting blown up and uncovering the stowed items with the new bib - something that would happen occasionally with the original version.

Our concerns over breathability were warranted, and we found that when temperatures rose above 25°C (77°F) the bib began to get uncomfortably warm. On similar days we typically make do with the original, predominantly mesh version, though when temperatures rise above 30°C (86°F) it's back to regular short liners for us.

We still preferred to reach for the SWAT bib rather than a pack on long rides, however, and it's still considerably cooler and more comfortable than having a clammy back after 10 minutes. We also prefer not to have something swinging about our backs when riding. This comes down to personal preference, though, and we're all about systems that enable us to ride comfortably.

The usefulness of the additional three pockets the SWAT Pro has over its earlier incarnation are debatable. The zippered pocket on the back is something that we never really used due to difficulty accessing it, though it could be good for items you don't want to lose no matter what. In addition, the two little slider stash pockets on the shoulder straps are really only useful for small, soft items, like a pack of Shot Blocks.

The updated design of the back straps kept contents stable, and we don’t feel it added to the additional warmth felt in the SWAT Pro. For anyone that has stretched out their old SWAT bib, this should also result in the back remaining in good shape for longer given the additional reinforcement in the design.

Things That Could Be Improved

We really like the new SWAT Pro Bib, but would love to see the same updates while keeping the VaporRize moisture transfer mesh from the original so that we could wear it in a wider range of temperatures. One could argue that the extra pockets are unnecessary, but they’re there for those that want them and go unnoticed for those that don't.

The price of the new bib has also increased fairly substantially ($150 vs $90). Generally speaking, chamois that have increased comfort cost a considerable amount more, and the Body Geometry Pro Mountain Chamois definitely does a better job of this. Whether or not that is a worthwhile cost is up to each rider, but know that these are more pleasant to sit in for several hours than the original.

Long Term Durability

The construction of the SWAT Pro bib is great. After several months of ripping them on and off, throwing them through the wash, and yanking at the pockets, all the threads and seams remain fully intact, the bib has kept its shape, and the chamois hasn't packed out.

What's The Bottom Line?

Specialized's SWAT undergarment line may not be for everyone, but those looking to carry spares, food, or other items without a pack should be pleased with additional options to choose from. Updates to the SWAT Pro bib over the original are minor, so it's difficult to justify the $60 price difference unless a higher quality chamois is something really worthwhile to you. Then again, these are very comfortable, well made bibs that can do more than just cushion a rider's sensitive parts, and when you consider that many bibs can cost this much or more without the storage component, then it may be a no-brainer where to put your money.

For more details, visit www.specialized.com.


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas - Age: 35 // Years Riding MTB: 15+ // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

"Smooth and fluid." Hailing from Squamish, BC, AJ's preferred terrain is chunky, twisty trail with natural features. He's picky with equipment and has built a strong understanding of what works well and why by riding a large number of different parts and bikes. Observant, mechanically inclined, and always looking to learn more through new experiences and products.

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This ^ Especially the heating of an awl or similar, sharp pointed object to set the valve hole.

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Sweet as. Wasn't sure if it had a mobile app. May just switch over. Thanks @dirty booger!

Added reply in a thread MTB Ban Implemented Based on Strava Speeds 5/5/2016 2:56 PM

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Added a comment about feature An E-Bike in Moab - Riding the Specialized Turbo Levo 4/5/2016 9:34 PM
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Thanks for your comment, DrewB, and the notes on Moab as well. To be honest, I thought we had prepared well for our ride, but indeed had not. Some notes regarding our experience, however: There were no shuttles the day we set out, and we asked multiple bike shops the day before when we arrived in the early afternoon. The early ride start was actually a suggestion of the staff at the time at Redback Bikes. We were merely going on the local's advice.

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Oh yah, and you should try Slickrock on an e-bike

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Liked a comment on the item An E-Bike in Moab - Riding the Specialized Turbo Levo 4/5/2016 9:27 PM

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