Photos: van swae
The 'Big S' is one of the industry's most polarizing companies, but love Specialized or hate 'em, it's tough to argue against the product. Nearly everything that the Morgan Hill marketing machine rolls out is top-notch.
Specialized was one of the first brands to sell women's road cycling bibs that fit great without any awkwardly placed straps, and I have been wearing them for several years under baggies, so I was pretty excited when the SWAT (storage, water, air, tools) bib launched earlier this year. Its strategically placed pockets are designed to hold everything you need on a ride–food, air, water and tools–eliminating the need for a heavy pack. I was less excited, however, when I found out that bibs are only made for men. For women, Specialized is selling the liner, which has two SWAT pockets, one on either side of the liner placed at the lower thigh. It's a cool idea, but not one that I found to be all that effective. You can slide a nutrition bar in there or a phone, but anything bigger like a tube or a water bottle is too bulky to fit baggies over, thus defeating the purpose of SWAT. The bibs, on the other hand, have three huge rear pockets that sit across the lower back, which is much more practical for pack-free riding. I could only ride these shorts and liner without a pack when I paired them with a jersey with two or three large rear pockets. The matching Andorra Comp jersey has one small zippered pocket on the right side, which doesn’t fit much more than your keys or a multi-tool.
But, that's my only gripe about this women's all-mountain kit, and perhaps Specialized will offer the mountain bib to women next year. Pretty please? The $65 liner is otherwise comfortable and breathable thanks to its lightweight mesh fabric and cushy Body Geometry chamois. The liner loops into the Andorra Pro Short quickly and easily and the snaps stay put while you're on the bike. The stretchy band of fabric across the lower back helps the shorts move as you change positions, but the side waist adjustable tabs thankfully doesn’t budge. The VapoRize moisture transfer fabric moves freely as you pedal and I never felt weighted down. Specialized opted for a two-button closure system, which is a small touch, but an important one. Many shorts with a single button come unsnapped when you crouch forward into a more aggressive riding position, but you won’t find that problem with the Andorra. Two large mesh-lined zippered front pockets, a small zippered pocket on the rear waist and a pouch big enough for an energy gel or a multi-tool on the rear left leg provide some extra storage to go along with the SWAT pockets on the liner.
The inseam (11.5 inches on a size medium) is long enough to cover kneepads, avoiding the dreaded gaper gap, but despite the longer length and 'all-mountain' style, the cut is actually fairly flattering. The fit is snug through the hips and the shorts don’t droop shapelessly like you’ve resorted to borrowing your boyfriend's gear.
At up to $135 a pop, you want these things to be durable and they are, so far anyway. In almost a year of riding, they've held up impeccably to crashes, washes and everything in between.