Riding in uncomfortable bibs is about as fun as spending recess hanging from a bathroom stall by your tighty whities. Meanwhile, a good set of bibs might wind up the unsung hero of your laundry pile because of how little attention they draw to themselves. That’s what makes Specialized’s SWAT Pro Bibs exceptional–not just that they allow you to carry stuff, but that they do so with less fuss than the vast majority of the competition.
“SWAT” is Specialized’s answer to the eternal question of “where am I going to put all my stuff?” An acronym for “Storage, Water, Air, Tools,” SWAT items include, among other things, a bottle cage with an integrated multi-tool, frames with downtube storage compartments and a top cap-integrated chain tool. In the case of these bibs, SWAT manifests in the form of eight pockets.
Details: Specialized SWAT Pro Bibs
– VaporRize™ moisture transfer knit fabrics
– Fold-over leg cuff without silicone gripper
– Body Geometry Pro Mountain Chamois
– 10-inch inseam (size medium)
– MSRP: $150
Over the past few years, I’ve become less and less fond of riding with a pack, and these bibs allow me to ditch the bag on most one- to three-hour trail rides. A spare tube, small pump, tire lever, multitool, packable jacket, and, if necessary, a water bottle, all fit comfortably into the large compartment out back, which is divided into three pockets. That main storage compartment is very well anchored: Even with all those items loaded up, there’s no bouncing going on. Plus, there’s a zippered moisture–resistant phone sleeve. Each thigh has an open pocket, and there are also small pockets on the shoulder straps, though I can’t say I’ve found a use for them.
There are a few minor issues worth mentioning: The loaded back pockets tend to push shorts downwards, but the two buttoned loops on either side of the waist alleviate this issue when they’re attached to the shorts. I also wish the phone pocket was a touch larger: it’s tough to get my iPhone 5s in and out with a case on.
Breathability is probably the main concession Specialized had to make. I’d guess that in order to keep the bibs from stretching and shifting, and to keep the load stabilized, the designers had to use heavier, more elastic materials. It’s a worthy compromise in my opinion: The SWAT Pro Bibs fade into the background like a good pair of bibs should, and offer a whole new level of functionality that I’d argue can improve your ride quality. I’d probably wear these bibs even without all the pockets, but it’s the integrated storage that tempts me to reach for them–even when there are cleaner options hanging in my closet.