On long rides, or ones with harsher conditions, striking the balance between packing light and being prepared is always a challenge. Whether I’m on a short mountain bike ride or a multi-day tour I don’t want to be weighed down with a bunch of unnecessary gear, but at the same time the thought of being unprepared for a broken chain, sliced tire, or some other mechanical is not exactly appealing. The designers at Specialized have quietly been designing some neat solutions to this challenge. Their goal is largely centered around use on a mountain bike but much of what they have come up with lends itself quite well to touring as well.
I want to carry the bare minimum of gear needed for any ride, but I also want things organized in such a way that whatever I may need to deal with delays along the journey should also be the things most accessible in a hurry. A camp stove can be deep inside a bag but a flat repair kit and a multi-tool need to be easy to access. I think about things in terms of having a problem in the rain. How can I solve the problem without getting anything wet that needs to stay dry?
Specialized calls their line of gear for this purpose “SWAT.” or Storage Water Air Tools. I have been using some of products in the SWAT line for a couple months now with great success.
The EMT cage mounted multi-tool and stem top cap chain tool work nicely towards this end. The multi-tool is stored neatly in its own housing that is bolted onto the bottom of a ZEE side load cage, (also a nice bit of engineering for smaller frames or using a frame bag) while the chain tool is actually tucked away inside the steerer tube of my fork. Both can be quickly accessed preventing me from having to fumble around inside a bag. The tool itself has all the basic needs for roadside adjustments and the chain tool even has a place to stash an extra quick link. Pretty smart. These two little tools can be acquired separately or as part of a full kit. The full kit includes a storage box that also fastens to the base of a water bottle cage, housing a full flat repair kit in it.
In addition to clever tools, Specialized has also developed some very useful apparel for the SWAT line. In particular I have been using the Mountain Liner Bib Short quite a bit this year. On many of my rides I opt for more casual, baggy shorts and a t-shirt rather than a jersey and bib “kit.” This usually means minimal or no pockets on my shirt and I don’t like anything loose in my baggy shorts.
The SWAT bibs are essentially a normal looking pair of bib shorts constructed out of a much lighter weight fabric. The fabric is more like that of a summer weight base layer than lycra and is noticeably cooler when worn under baggy shorts, compared to a normal weight lycra short. A very comfortable chamois is in there to keep my butt happy as well. That in itself is a nice thing and would make these worth having in my opinion, but there is more to it. Sewn into strategic positions are 5 pockets perfect for stowing stuff for the ride. I can keep things like my I.D. and debit card super handy for a store stop as well as whatever other small essentials the ride calls for. Pretty brilliant actually.