Eric Schuda (engineer at Specialized) went to observe the Leadville 100 Race and was horrified. He saw the finest mountain bikes rigged with duct tape and zip ties. Riders taped water bottles, tools, tubes and food to their frames to carry the necessary accessories for the grueling race. Racers who preferred not to wear hydration packs were forced to stuff their jersey pockets and jerry rig their bikes to accommodate transporting the necessary items.
So, Eric went back to Morgan Hill and worked with the team to develop solutions for these type of rider needs. What they came up with is SWAT, an integrated system of transporting food and tools on the bike. The key directives were trouble-free integration, stealth and light weight.
Mtbr got a chance to use some of the SWAT accessories riding the new 2014 Specialized Epic in Durango. While we prefer riding with hydration packs, we can certainly appreciate the freedom of riding without a pack during races, on hot cross-country rides or liberating singlespeed rides.
We think the star of this show is the multi-tool hidden above the rear shock of the Epic and other bikes. It is truly invisible and out of the way. It is held in place by a spring-loaded plastic mount. Pull it in the right direction and it will slide out with ease. What is revealed is the smallest, most usable wrenches we've ever seen. This tool was designed specifically for this purpose so it is quite narrow and short. The two rows of allen and screwdriver keys are laid on top of each other to save space. And the innovative feature of this tool is they were able to fit an 8mm Allen key in there. Since a normal 8mm key takes a lot of space, they cut off both sides of the Allen key and just left two corners to torque the bolt. We tried it and it indeed does work. The downside, of course, is this tool is small and doesn't have a lot of leverage. One really has to to open both rows of keys to make this tool bigger to increase leverage.
The revelation of this system is that one always needs a multi-tool, and this SWAT version will always be with the bike. It's easy to access and really convenient. And let's face it, there's always situations when you need a tool but it's not worth digging through your pack or bothering your buddies. Whatever is convenient and easy to access will get used more and that holds true for the SWAT multi-tool.
The Top Cap Chain Tool
Now this is a novel idea - turn the stem top cap into a chain tool. All top caps have an open space beneath them that is unused and the top cap is really there just to help with installation of the stem. So Specialized utilized this cap and the space underneath it to house a chain tool. The promise is that it is clearly out of the way and can be used on any bike whether it's mountain, road, cross or even fat bikes.
We took the Top Cap Chain Tool to the test during one of our test rides and pulled it out and used it. The Allen bolt needs to be backed a long way, then it can be used to drive the pin of a broken chain out. There is a lever arm that swivels up to give the chain room in the cradle. The arm stabilizes the tool and helps apply torque when needed. Voila, pin is out and a SRAM powerlink stored in the tool can be used to put the chain back together.
We used it and it works, but it's not all a bed of roses. First weakness is that this is a pin removal tool but there's no way to push a pin back in as there's just not enough room in the tool. So the correct size SRAM powerlinks have to be used to put the chain back together. So there's no option of just shortening the chain by just pushing a pin back.
Also, there's the potential upside of just installing this tool in the bike you happen to be using but the tool requires a very deep recess under the top cap. Most star nuts on steer tubes are not driven that deep so this will not fit on bikes with star nuts at normal levels.
But we've all been there, deep in the woods with a broken chain or a stranded buddy. In such a case, this tool would be a ride saver.
Another key products in this line-up is a storage box mounted underneath the down tube water bottle mount. This box is built to house a 29er tube, C02 Inflation system and tire lever in a secure, rattle-free fashion. If you are confident about your tubeless setup, we found this box convenient for carrying an assortment of trail food as well.
From the manufacturer
An acronym for Storage, Water, Air and Tools, SWAT technology incorporates bikes, riders, and equipment by putting all necessities in a clean, sleek, and aerodynamic location that's precisely where you want them.
The MTB XC Kit
A fully integrated emergency repair kit to solve any minor mechanical repair, while also eliminating the need to wear a hydration pack. The Kit includes a frame-mounted storage box which contains a 29" inner tube, Co2 head, and tire lever with room for other essentials, plus two Zee Cage II water bottle cages, a Top Cap Chain Tool, and the EMT Cage Mount Tool.
Developed as the perfect synergy of storage and freedom of movement, apparel with SWAT integration is worn underneath the jersey and short to keep cargo against the body, eliminating the need to use a pack on most rides. The SWAT system provides patented storage for food, water, air, and tools in bib pockets.
Would you duct tape spare tools on the hood of your sports car, or tire levers on the gas tank of your motorcycle? Of course not, so why are riders slapping these items on their high-end mountain and road bikes? Until now, there wasn't an integrated and convenient solution to carrying necessities during a triathlon, road race, or trail ride where a hydration pack isn't required. Tools can be mounted in a slot on the bottom of the toptube on the Epic and via the bottle cage on the SJ HT. SWAT prepped Specialized bikes (2014 Epic and Stumpjumper HT).
Integrated storage options, such as the Fuelcell, Fuelselage, and Tripod, offer aerodynamic ways to carry food, air, tools, and spare tube on the Shiv.