Forget the Pack - The Story Behind Specialized SWAT Apparel

A sweaty back, a flopping pack and the annoyance of feeling hindered by weight swinging from their shoulders drove Specialized product developers to create a new form of MTB apparel.



The developers at Specialized were on their regular trail rides and naturally tried to find ways to avoid using a pack. They were cramming bottles into riding short and blowing out buttons. They were hand-sewing makeshift pockets into jerseys and doing anything they could to carry the gear necessary for a typical ride without a bag on their back. Ultimately they came together to move past the DIY stage and get a proper solution figured out for themselves and the masses. SWAT apparel, Storage Water Air Tools, was born.



Learn more about Specialized SWAT apparel like the bib and short liner pieces which serve double duty for comfort and temperature control as well as storage for items like water bottles, energy bars or cellphones. Credit: Lear Miller for Vital MTB

C50_suckerduck sspomer 2/19/2014 10:15 AM

40 comments newest first

i like the idea. Most rides all i need is 1 bottle of water, some snacks and a tube/pump. I also already wear a bib when i trail ride so getting rid of the pack on shorter/medium trail rides is a good thing. $88.00 for the bibs isn't a bad deal either.
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jawalto
Nicholast
I commend Specialized for thinking outside the fannypack. Nothing wrong with a fannypack, though...
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jawalto
Nicholast
watch specialized sue all police swat teams next.
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Some clarification about details of the product for those who might be curious

-The back pockets are different from a standard road/XC jersey because of the stretchy, compressive fabric they are made of, which will keep cargo from bouncing out.
-The thinking behind the pockets is to allow a rider to run a bottle on the bike (most bikes only have option for single cage these days) and one in the pockets to extend the range of a ride, not to replace the bottle/cage on the bike.
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Nicholast
wydopen
jawalto
gerrycreighton
I feel this a great idea. I saw early versions of the swat shorts and thought.. "why did I not think of that" I hate with a passion riding with a pack and this is a great happy medium.
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Nicholast
jawalto
If you're wearing a road helmet, why not wear a road jersey? Road jerseys have pockets.
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vsense
Reading through the comments, it seems a major concern in impaling yourself with the pouch contents when you crash. Personally, I have rarely crashed onto my back. The more my skills have improved the less frequently I do. I don't think I've ended up on my back in more than three years. Is my experience an anomaly or is the concern about impaling yourself over exaggerated? I ask because I think there are more real concerns about getting impaled than the contents of the pack (e.g. handlebars).
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jawalto
I've rolled across my back many times when I've crashed. In fact, I'd say 1/2 the time the surface of my back touches the ground at some point during a crash.
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bikeboardorblade
Nicholast: Your post makes me even think you even ride a bike. How arrogant to think you can crash just the way you like. When people crash it's unpredictable. Go watch some videos on youtube of bike crashes and tell me you can't fine one single person who hasn't landed on their back or rolled on their back.

Also, being impaled? HAHA do you even know what that word means? No one is worried about being "stabbed" in the back. Ok, do us ALL a favor buy one of these wear it with some tools and a filled up water bottle. Do a backflip and land on your back and tell me it didn't hurt and left no damage to your back. (If you're truly that dumb to do this then I take no responsibility)

Sure XC riders have been doing this for a long time as well as road bikers...it still doesn't make it a good idea. This idea is nothing new.
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bikeboardorblade
Hey man, why the personal attacks? My statement and question were simple: in my experience, don't end up on my back very often in crashes. Is my experience typical or exceptional?
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LordTom
syngltrkmnd
To put it bluntly, you can't go around telling people who are worried about being injured by a product because you "rarely" crashed on your back. That's like telling everyone "Don't worry about bears in the woods when camping I've never seen one so it's not an issue"

We have a right to be concerned and to question any product that we think can be more harmful then good. Riding fast and crashing are two things when mixed equals uncertain results. It would be nice to carry less and be free of any backpack I agree I just don't agree with this solution much.

Also, my apologies for the harsh reply earlier.
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bikeboardorblade
They make a little cut down water bottle that's not a water bottle that fits in a regular bottle cage for storage purposes.
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Colin McCarthy
Fahzure
This video doesn't tell me much. They make shorts with a little pocket you can put some energy gels in. They also make a hip pack that appears to require wearing an extra top layer. That's about all I got out of it.
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sounds like you got the gist of it. don't think there's much else to get. did you expect to learn about the chamois pad? haha.

i think this stuff has its place. some packless riders may love it.
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jawalto
mrpowerjd
"All you need" 2 litres of fluid, tools, tubes, an emergency coat, spare gloves, first aid kit, maybe some snacks ... squeeze that in a shirt pocket without letting it affect your ride..... Second thoughts, I`ll put somewhere safe that it wont pierce my skin should I fall off. Yet another dumb idea from Morgan hill*
I dont live in a place with 365 days of sunshine, I live in the real world!
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Specialized inventing things that already exists

Look at that hidratation pack:
http://www.wiggle.es/rinonera-salomon-xt-twin-oi12/

And about the shorts, I think it have to be uncomfortable. It could be a better solution a short with pockets, if you need
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kimbers
Brock
Specialized now goes for patent on "jersey with pockets" then goes after every road company that has been making jerseys with 3 pockets on the back since the dawn of time...? Nice work.
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kimbers
xchinvanderlinden
mp
Brock
Jase
vsense
No, thank you. I will ride witch pack. I hate to have something compresing around my legs or back. There is spine protection in my pack and I don't even want to think what happens if you fall from bike with water bottle and tools etc like this. Kill it before it lays eggs.
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#6
Jase
I just wear a road/xc jersey with pockets, if I don't want to wear a pack. Seems like too much of a hassle to access gear on the fly if it's underneath a shirt. I've been putting snacks/gu/gells under my liner shorts on the leg for years during XC races, so the leg pocket makes sense but seems a little gratuitous, and I have so many cycling shorts, there's no way I could wear that swat gear on every mountain ride, I ride too much.
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Jase
I'm sure there are going to be some SWAT horror stories. I'm picturing multi-tools into in spine. woof.
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been there done that just wearing a xc jersey riding downieville. went otb on to my back with co 2's and a multitool in the pockets..my back is screwed up from that stuff getting rammed into my spine.. pretty much water bottle and food is the only thing ill put in a jersey pocket now...
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My "XC jersey" does just fine for me. I keep my phone and keys in the pockets on every ride (along with my tool, pump, etc). Never lost either one, even on the steepest or roughest trails I've ridden. I guess I'm just not shredding hard enough to be flinging the contents of my pockets everywhere... that, or Specialized product developers are wearing some poor-fitting jerseys? Seems like this isn't so much a new product as an overly complicated way to do what a jersey already does, probably because so many trail riders seem to be terrified of lycra.
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Apparently I'm a minority here. I am excited to see a product like this. I avoid riding with a pack whenever possible; they raise your COG, retain sweat, bounce around, and, in my case, never fit my Jolly Green Giant torso. If the ride is under an hour and a half, I won't wear one. Since most of my rides fall into that category, I've learned to improvise; my bikes must be able to fit a bottle inside the frame and I strap a tube, CO2, and multi-tool to the toptube-downtube junction. That generally works well, but the tool is difficult to access quickly and there is no room for snacks or a wind layer. I've often considered wearing a trail running fanny pack for lunch rides and evening spins. What's that you say? Lame? Sorry, but function trumps form for me. If being comfortable and agile on the bike means looking like a fool to others, well, I guess that's how I will look to them. It wasn't too long ago that you looked like a fool wearing goggles on a trail bike, but they have their place and purpose and are here to stay.
I see that it has it's merits on a ride up to 1.5-2 hours provided you are well hydrated before you start. I don't think this is designed to be a solution for longer (3+ hours) rides as one would get fairly dehydrated and also potentially need more nutrition than a gel pack or shot-blok style food can provide. In all honesty, screw looking goofy, we ride mountain bikes! We wear goofy clothes to begin with. I can't tell you how often I'll just go full roadie on a 1.5 hour ride because I know that all I really need is what I can carry in my back pockets, it's actually more often than even I'd like to admit. And I also can't tell you how often I come home from a ride with lots of stuff in my pack that goes unused, especially water.

I'm not going to say that this new gear is the be-all solution. But it's certainly a step forward for those that value efficiency and a less-is-more mentality if the ride deems it so.
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Nicholast
bturman
mrpowerjd
Tools / Water / Air / Tubes would have been a more interesting acronym.

This is nothing more than trying to create a solution to a problem that hardly exists. Bottles on bikes and packs on backs have been real and valid options, and in the pack's case, a very versatile option.
So a spare tube, chain popper, and mini tool set inside a small seat pouch and on your back snacks and a water bottle. Sounds cool. Only problem is:

1 water bottle isn't enough for me. Especially on longer hotter rides. The other problem is crashing and landing on your back. I would imagine landing on that plastic bottle won't help much during a crash.

CamelBak, Dakine, Opsrey and others do just fine. Also if you crash they add a nice cushion for your back.
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bikeboardorblade
shutter2ride
giant11
kimbers
Dave_Camp
if you don't show us the 27.5 prototype, imma send my personal SWAT team to make you do it. Say hello to my lil friend
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Chris Chapman
My guess is we'll be seeing them soon - http://www.bicycleretailer.com/new-products/2014/02/20/specialized-goes-650b-tires
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Ugh. This looks terrible. If you wanna carry a bottle why not get get a bottle cage. Or I dunno just wear a better fitting hydro pack. I never notice mine when I am riding. Also, why is this called "Forget the Pack". Aren't they really saying forget the pack you already have and come buy our weird under garment pack thing instead? Finally if you wanna tuck your bottle (who still uses water bottles anyway?) into your shirt how about you just use an xc jersey. Lord know you don't care about the way you look if your on the trail tucking water bottles in to your shorts.
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Nic Cotton
Lucent
Brock
I will not ride with a backpack..

If I hydrate properly the day before one bottle is good for me up to about 30miles/5k ft of climbing...I throw a bar or two in one shorts pocket, phone in the other and have a pump on the downtube...When I wasn't in as good of shape I would down a bottle in 10miles..

I have had to cut a ride short before when I mismanaged my water so this would be nice to have when going on huge rides..For me I would rather have a clamp on mount so I could attach a second bottle cage.. http://problemsolversbike.com/products/clamp_on_water_bottle_cage Something like that if you could mount to underside of downtube..
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I've been riding in the Giro New Road line recently which utilizes a similar bib short pocket system and its actually been amazing for ditching the camel back for rides. However I totally agree that throwing a water bottle in there makes you look like a total goon. I use it for snacks, tools and tubes on shorter rides when only a water bottle in my cage is necessary but I can't imagine it feels good to have the weight of an additional water bottle tugging down at the shoulders of your bib shorts, at that point I would just throw the pack on. Also these pockets SUCK for electronics, being that they are attached to your base layer your phone and stuff will get saturated in sweat. Valiant effort by Specialized but nothing original or ground breaking about it.
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