Specialized RBX ADV – Where Distance is more than just Mileage
In early March, the opportunity crossed my path to test and review the Specialized RBX Adventure (RBX ADV) apparel. The timing was perfect as I was deep into planning a western MN gravel adventure with distances ranging from 60-130 miles of gravel roads, small-town experiences, and some delightful scenic vistas. A couple of weeks later a box arrived from Specialized and, while in one breath I celebrated with excitement the anticipation of ‘new kit day’, the next breath escaped me in disbelief as the reality of the COVID19 pandemic also arrived at my door. It was if all at once, I was forced to work from home, “social distancing” became more than new nomenclature and group rides as we knew them were canceled. So, I shifted gears, grabbed the new kit, and snuck out the back door to ride.
The kit included the RBX Adventure Jersey, Over-short, and Bib Shorts with SWAT™. The first thing I will say is: WASH BEFORE WEARING, especially with the Bib Shorts. I received the same sizing in all three pieces as I own in other Specialized jerseys and bibs but, when I attempted to try on the Bib Short straight out of the box, I couldn’t pull it on 100% because it was so tight. The jersey was fine as it was and the Over-shorts were pretty stiff at first touch but both fit true to size. Pulling the tags off the bibs to toss it in the wash felt like a gamble, but it turned out to be the magic touch needed to rinse all worry away.
With the calendar empty, I took advantage of every nice day I could and put them to the test from the road to the gravel, railroad tracks to single track, and some urban exploration in between. The RBX Adventure Jersey was one item that I was actually hesitant to review after discovering that it was made of Merino Wool. I have very sensitive skin and have sadly scratched myself out of every other wool jersey, sweater, and neck gator I have ever tried. I took this for a spin around the neighborhood so I could quickly return home if my skin screamed in agony but, to my surprise, it never happened! The drirelease® Merino Wool is blended with Polyester and Spandex and is buttery soft to the touch. Aside from pulling moisture away from the body well as both a base layer or on it’s own, the fit is spot on. It lies close to the body so not to be too baggy on long rides, but also forgiving enough to hang out in on the trail side and (I would imagine) a favorite pizza stop once patios open back up. Top if off with two rear zipper pockets that open with ease while securing your valuables and an SPF 30+ rating for a pale Midwesterner, and you’ve got a winner! There was nothing I didn’t like about this jersey.
The RBX ADV Over-short’s simplicity was the most winning quality of this piece. It wore like a casual short I could easily hang out or run errands in after a ride, but the technical features made it shine on the trail. The material softened in the wash a bit while it is still the most rugged material I own in an over-short, but I celebrated it after every tree I hip-checked in the single track and for how well it held up to the debris I landed in time and time again practicing wheelies. The two rear pockets with the bonded seams are amazing, too, creating zero irritations during a long day in the saddle. And the hidden zipper pocket inside the front right pocket is just what you need to safely stow extra essentials. Hidden reflectivity on the inside of the leg hem just proves this team is thinking of everything.
Finally, the RBX Adventure Bib Short w/SWAT™. Specialized’s SWAT™ technology is designed to minimize the hassle of extra packs and storage while out on your ride. They describe it simply as “Say goodbye to unsightly packing hacks and hello to putting everything you need, right where you want it.” In this case, right where I wanted it was snug against my body. Pockets along the sides of the leg held anything from food to a phone without shifting no matter the terrain, and were elevated by reflective striping. There were three hanging SWAT™ pockets on the bib straps as well, including one zipper pocket that kept my ID and cash from getting too wet while I sweated on the ride.
After washing, the bib short was more pliable but still very snug to pull on. The straps are tighter than any other bib short I own, but that lack of stretch is only an issue while standing due to the design. Once in a nice tucked position on my saddle, the fit is perfect. The Nylon/Elastane blend of the short actually seems to relax a little more as the body warms it, making it contour to your body as you ride. The true contouring to the body was the gender-specific “triple-density-foam Performance Body Geometry 3D Contour Chamois”. It stayed in place on every ride, never bunched, and provided the most comfortable ride of any chamois I have ever worn.
As a woman who is often outnumbered by my male counterparts on group rides, one big consideration on long adventures is the ever essential “Nature Break”. Hands down, my second favorite feature of this bib short (second only to the amazing chamois), is the “Drop Tail construction” that allows for easy nature breaks trail side without having to remove any additional clothing! Gone are the days of sneaking off into the woods, shedding my jersey, arm warmers, etc. just to pull down my bibs and pray not to pee on the straps. Even though the straps seems tight, they give way gracefully allowing the rider to relieve the bladder with ease.
The Specialized product site for the Bib Short says “Exploration is all about getting farther off the beaten path.” When I first received this gear, I had no idea how truly well these pieces would fit that vision. They have made it into the rotation on every third day for the last five or six weeks… sometimes more often depending on how dirty the Over-shorts got on the last ride or how often I’ve been able to run the washing machine. At this rate, I don’t know if it’s the kit or the laundry room that will wear out first! In all seriousness, these three pieces, whether together or mixed and matched with others, have turned out to be the perfect Social Distancing Kit.
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