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Team Tested: Specialized Atlas XC Pro Short, with SWAT Bib

Specialized made a big jump into the mountain bike apparel world this year with a full and complete line of well thought out and designed clothing. Here at Enduro Mountainbike Magazine, a number of us have been riding the gear since early April. Read on to find out what we think.

Specialized Atlas XC Pro short. Light, breathable, and moves well. Photo: Liam Doran.

Specialized Atlas XC Pro short. Light, breathable, and moves well. Photo: Liam Doran.

Athletes play a large role in the development of each piece of Specialized mountain apparel. The Specialized in-house mountain bike team ride almost every day, and pound on this gear during development and testing, but also pro riders like Matt Hunter, Kyle Norbraten, and the Coastal Crew, help the designs get ride-tested to ensure function, style, and durability are ready for you to get out there and work it.

I find myself reaching for the Specialized Atlas XC Pro baggie shorts again and again. Why?

Here are just a few reasons.

  • Fit- Is fantastic. Baggy, but not overly so. You won’t feel like you’re impersonating an underage rapper while wearing these. They’re roomy, but not so much that they continually catch the saddle or drag on the rear tire when you’re perched way off the back. On the other hand, it is somewhat of a “slim” fit. Not body hugging by any means. I’m 5’11” and 145 lbs and I LOVE they way they fit, but it’s definitely a tailored cut. Might not be for everyone. In the Specialized line, the Enduro, then Demo, shorts, become progressively more roomy. And for comparison, if you’ve ridden the Troy Lee Designs Ace XC short, the Atlas short is not quite as snug fitting as those.
  • Material- Specialized has created their own proprietary fabric called VaporRize, it’s found in their entire line of mountain bike clothing, and it’s basically a type of four way stretch fabric. It’s lightweight and moves extremely well. Combined with the cut of the short, the shorts move with you in a way that works really well for cycling. It feels nice next to skin, not having that annoying, synthetic feel. It actually has a certain softness to it. It’s been developed with fibers and construction designed to move moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable while riding. It works.
  • Breathability- They have it. Nice venting in a usually warm, dark area (inner thighs) will keep things cool. Again, the material of the short is really lightweight.
  • Pedaling- Nothing catching or grabbing. And none of that annoying “swishing” from extra material between the thighs, rubbing against itself.
  • Waist velcro straps- Dial in your waist fit and leave it alone. I think there is a time and place for an actual belt. Most of those times are not when I’m riding my bike. I prefer a system like this. In addition, very lightweight.
  • Bib Short- This is central to the whole SWAT system. Pockets in the right places hold gels, food, spare tubes, water bottle, phones, tire levers, keys, and anything else that can’t be lost. They fit nice and snugly, but comfortably. Breathes very well. The pockets out back hold important objects tightly, so there’s very little bouncing around. The chamois has lots of design work put into it, and you can tell. Hours into any riding day, moisture has been properly moved away from sensitive skin, and you feel great. The lower leg gripper is an awesome, not hair pulling grabby, compressive, fit.
Editor Robin Schmitt wearing the Specialized Atlas short while riding Demo Forest, Santa Cruz, CA.

Editor Robin Schmitt wearing the Specialized Atlas short while riding Demo Forest, Santa Cruz, CA.

Durability: They’re so lightweight that it does cause me some concern. The material sheds branches and other vegetation that might cause the shorts to become worn very well, but I have not taken any sort of tumble in these shorts. Will they hold up? The welded seams are a love/hate relationship for me. I love them because it enables designers to really place fabric is such a way that it makes for great movability, and stitching creates holes for water to leak through and loosen over time. I hate them because I’ve seen a lot of welded/taped seams fall apart over time. Maybe Specialized has done their homework and moved the process forward and created something next level. Time will tell.

Tester #2: And in case you wanted another opinion, here’s one from all around bike junkie, creator of the well written and very cool website Mud and Cowbells, Gregory Keller.

“They exist! Finally a MTB short/bib combo that makes sense! This is the Specialized Bicycles Atlas XC Pro short and bib. It’s a ‘baggie’ but has this stretchy material that doesn’t sag and get caught in the seat, fits higher up the crotch and doesn’t make that annoying swish…swoosh…swish…swoosh with each pedal stroke and…drumroll…a REAL set of 3 cargo pockets that actually fits things! You can barely see it under a baggie jersey and now for 2hr rides I do not have to wear a huge camel back and/or velcro tubes and CO2 to my bike. It all stays snug in my back. KUDOS SPECIALIZED! The mythical white rhino baggie short DOES EXIST!”

Waist velcro strap does it's job perfectly. Photo: Doran.

Waist velcro strap does it’s job perfectly. Photo: Doran.

SWAT bib holds cargo, dropping over the waist of the short. Photo: Doran.

SWAT bib holds cargo, dropping over the waist of the short. Photo: Doran.

Atlas XC Pro short, paired with SWAT bib. Photo: Doran.

Atlas XC Pro short, paired with SWAT bib. Photo: Doran.

The Specialized SWAT bib shorts can be used in many ways. Why not pack a lunch? Micro ginger beer and a ham sandwich?

The Specialized SWAT bib shorts can be used in many ways. Why not pack a lunch? Micro ginger beer and a ham sandwich?

Lots of cool color combos being offered from Specialized for 2014 apparel. Lightweight, breathable, and comfy. It's all good.

Lots of cool color combos being offered from Specialized for 2014 apparel. Lightweight, breathable, and comfy. It’s all good.

Pricing:The Atlas XC come in at three different price levels. The Atlas Sport at $75, the Comp, at $105, and the Pro (with included bib) for $150. Same material at all levels, but more refined fit, and included bib, as you go up in price.

Bottom line: These shorts fit me great, are super lightweight, they breathe well, they don’t bunch up in the wrong spots, and dry quickly. Aside from my concerns about durability, Specialized has done a great job on these. Personally, I happen to like the color combos available also. Seems to fit my style. For everyday riding, when you want a baggy short, this is an awesome choice. If you’re going to the bike park, and riding lifts all day, look into the Enduro or Demo short.

Words: Daniel Dunn Photos: Liam Doran, Daniel Dunn

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