Specialized is a company that's constantly thinking up new ways of enabling riders to enjoy the sport. The SWAT concept, which stands for Storage, Water, Air, Tools is about freeing your body and bike from extra clutter.
Basic tools and storage spaces are integrated into the giant firm's mountain bikes, such as the SWAT door found on the new carbon Rhyme, Camber and Stumpjumper bikes. Additionally, the SWAT clothing is designed so you can hit the trails without a pack.
We tested the Women’s Mountain Liner shorts and vest. These are essentially meshy, pocket-filled undergarments designed for wearing under whatever trail threads take your fancy.
Sadly these products aren't currently available in the UK. The SWAT women's mountain liner shorts will be available in the UK from Spring 2016, and Specialized has said that the vest may also become available, depending on how the range is received globally.
Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner vest
The vest ($60 / AU$90) is new for 2016. It’s made of a light, breathable mesh, called VaporRise and has three deep storage pockets at the back, one of which includes extra elastic to secure your pump. It comes with a basic black crop top, which attaches to the shoulders of the vest with two small clips.
Sports bras are a personal thing. We talked to female riders with different chest sizes, all of whom preferred their own bra to the more basic one included here. We like the idea of including a compression crop top in principle, but practically speaking it makes sense to sell the vest separately for a few dollars less.
On the bike, the snug, secure fit of the vest meant it stayed securely in place even when the pockets were at maximum capacity. In this way, the product best suits a rider who likes the aesthetic of a trail jersey or T-shirt, but seeks extra options for carrying their gear. The downside is that, despite trying the vest under several different trail tops, the top would always slide above the vest at the back. This left the mesh, and contents of the pockets, exposed and looking a little odd.
The vest was better suited to shorter rides than longer ones. While the pockets are deeper and more secure than most jerseys, we still preferred a pack if we wanted to carry more than the basics. Accessing the pockets was easier with two hands than one, meaning you’ll tend to reach for your food during natural breaks in the ride rather than when pedalling.
While we can’t fault the fit or construction of this garment, the funny side of ditching your traditional cycling jersey to ride with two layers instead of one never escaped us.
Specialized Women’s Mountain Liner Shorts
The Mountain Liner shorts ($65 / AU$80) are the same design and construction as the mesh undershorts that come with some of Specialized’s women’s baggies, except that they have two roomy pockets on the outer thighs. Again, the VaporRise mesh is soft, light and breathable, making these a desirable option for summer trail riding.
The relaxed fit meant we found our small sized test shorts quite loose, so consider going down a size. That said, the chamois remained quite comfortable and the soft material meant these shorts never chaffed or moved around uncomfortably on the trails.
While brands such as iRule and Polaris have made knicks with pockets in the past, the SWAT pockets are much larger and deeper. There’s enough room for a whole box of muesli bars or several gels.
The trade-off for such generous pockets is that we had to hitch our baggies up mighty high if we stopped for a feed. If you want to access food on the fly, we found the pockets in a pair of well-designed outer shorts to be a simpler option.
The excellent construction, smart materials and innovative thinking evident in the Mountain Liner range is what we’ve come to expect from this company. The cost is justified and they’re a useful item for some rides rather than every outing.
While we preferred the more discreet properties of the shorts, there are riders who will like the options either product provides, for the way they look and feel on the bike.
Others may still prefer the extra storage and spinal protection provided by a hydration pack. In this way, smaller storage pockets that can be accessed with less fuss might better complement the limited accessibility of a pack on the fly, and still be suited to the demands of shorter length rides.
Both the vest and the shorts will certainly do their intended job well. But the question remains: is this a job that really needs doing? If you feel they will allow you more freedom for the way you ride, you’ll be glad to have them as an option.