Specialized Mountain Bib Liner with SWAT

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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Specialized Mountain Bib Liner with SWAT
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Tested: Specialized Bib Liner with SWAT

Rating: Vital Review

Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony

One of the best aspects of mountain biking is creativity. It can be found in how a rider will approach a section of trail, how a builder will interpret and utilize the terrain they are crafting in, all the way down to how an individual will dress. Some choose to wear what they feel comfortable in, while others will wear what they think they are supposed to (and then there's the #sh*tmtberswear).

When Specialized released their SWAT range of gear there was a definite split in the armchair critics, but a surprisingly large number of riders were actually excited about the prospect of being able to carry extra water, food, or spares without having to don a pack. Yes, there were those who cried, "why not just ride with a pack?", and the rest that

Review by A.J. Barlas // Photography Jon Anthony

One of the best aspects of mountain biking is creativity. It can be found in how a rider will approach a section of trail, how a builder will interpret and utilize the terrain they are crafting in, all the way down to how an individual will dress. Some choose to wear what they feel comfortable in, while others will wear what they think they are supposed to (and then there's the #sh*tmtberswear).

When Specialized released their SWAT range of gear there was a definite split in the armchair critics, but a surprisingly large number of riders were actually excited about the prospect of being able to carry extra water, food, or spares without having to don a pack. Yes, there were those who cried, "why not just ride with a pack?", and the rest that piped "why not just wear a jersey with the pockets on the outside?", and both are valid arguments if that's what you prefer, but thanks to brands like Specialized riders have more options to choose from.

We first lay eyes on SWAT apparel when riding with a friend in Santa Cruz late last year and could not wait to try the system out. With the ability to carry extra items without the dreaded "sweaty pack-back" or squeezing into lycra, it seemed like a no brainer. After riding in the bib version of the under layer for upwards of 8 weeks now, we've formed some thoughts around this 'new' system.

Specialized Mountain Bib with SWAT Highlights

  • VaporRize Moisture Transfer Mesh Fabrics
  • Fold-Over Leg Cuff
  • Body Geometry Mountain Chamois
  • 10" Inseam - Size Medium
  • Five SWAT Integrated Pockets
  • Patent-Pending Construction
  • Sizing: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • MSRP $88

Initial Impressions

The SWAT bib in this review came with the Atlas Trail Short (review to come) and we were impressed with each once we got them out of the packaging. The bib is made of a material that felt very light and at a glance seemed like it would breathe remarkably well, even on hotter days. Once on it was comfortable, with no odd catch points or areas that stood out as potential problem spots for chafing.

The chamois is very comfortable without feeling like wearing a big baby diaper. The folded over leg cuff was also a great addition and something other bibs we've recently worn did not have - a welcome feature. The bib tested was a medium and although the sizing chart on the Specialized website indicates a large or xl for this testers height, the waist on the medium is ideal (#ectomorphdilemmas). Despite this sizing oddity, the bib fits perfectly with no discomfort experienced (unlike other bibs in the closet), even after multiple 5hr rides in the garment.

On The Trail

The first couple of rides were done with a large (24oz) water bottle in the middle back pocket of the bib - something that was coincidentally forced upon us, due to a new bike and no water cage. For the first few minutes of the initial outing the bulge of the bottle was noticeable, but once warmed up and on the move it was no longer noticed unless focusing on it. The true test was whether it would stay in place and to our surprise, it did. The bottle and any other gear that is placed in the SWAT bib pockets, whether on the front of the legs or on the back, is held in place so well you can eventually forget it's there, until you need to grab for it.

A swinging load is common with backpacks, no matter how well they fit. With the SWAT bib, even when stuffing the various pockets full, we noticed that the cargo you carry does not move around. Generally we have been utilizing the pockets on the thighs for small bars, or shot block type fuels, while the back pockets have been utilized for everything from a water bottle to a well wrapped burrito. Car keys are another item that can be placed securely in the thigh pockets, but be aware that falling on a key can do some pretty good damage to the leg beneath it. If it's a risk you're willing to take, or need to, the SWAT bib provides a secure and capable way of doing so.

When it comes to accessing the gear in the pockets, we noticed this was best done when stopped. Fishing around for things while in strange and somewhat awkward positions with your arms doesn't go over too well while moving. It's not that it can't be done, it's just quicker to stop, or to grab your stuff when you're on a break. As a result this bib is not the best choice for XC racers, unless you utilize the pockets for some nice-to-haves rather than things you will be wanting to access regularly during the event.

The bib breathes really well, even on the hot days. The last ride these were tested in involved 35ºC heat, no breeze and a good number of hours in the saddle. We'd be lying to say there was no sweat and that we wouldn't have been a little cooler had we not been wearing a bib, but the fact of the matter is it was cooler than the more common full blown lycra bib and had we worn a pack, well, ol' sweat back would have ruled over the ride. Without a doubt, the SWAT bib was more comfortable in these conditions than donning a pack.

Long Term Durability

There have been no issues with the SWAT bib tested. No loose threads, no stretching out of shape, and it even holds back the pheromones keeping the bib from getting too scented and your riding buddies from getting to know you a little too well. Once washed the bib looks as good as the day we received it and it is every bit as comfortable on the trail.

Things That Could Be Improved

It would be nice if it was easier to access the back pockets while moving on the bike, though this would likely result in less secure storage. We did notice that when wearing slightly baggier tops, the air whisping by as you descend picks up the back of the jersey and leaves you showing off your underwear. Other than those two minor niggles, Specialized have done a great job of bringing an alternative to the riding pack for riders looking to carry supplies while out on longer rides.

What's The Bottom Line?

Specialized aren't the only brand producing an undergarment to store extra gear in, but they've certainly produced a quality option for anyone interested. Whine all you want about riders not dressing how you would, we're up for giving almost anything a try and if someone has a different idea of what works for them, go for it - it's likely they aren't the only ones. This is the case with the SWAT gear and we're happy that it's available. Not all riders want or like to carry a pack, and wearing tight lycra isn't for everyone either. The SWAT bib is a great piece of apparel for anyone looking to carry some extras on their person without being overly concerned with what the norm has dictated up until now. If you're open to change and looking for a different way to carry some gear, dislike packs or lycra, we highly recommend you take a look at the SWAT range.

For more visit www.specialized.com


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

Specifications

Product Specialized Mountain Bib Liner with SWAT
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail
Rider Unisex
Shorts Type Bibs
Material VaporRize Moisture Transfer Mesh Fabrics, Fold-Over Leg Cuff, Body Geometry Mountain Chamois, 10" Inseam - Size Medium
Pockets Five SWAT Integrated Pockets, Patent-Pending Construction
Vents
Size S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colors Black
Miscellaneous
Price $88
More Info

Specialized Website

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