Photos c. Specialized

The lack of fat bike specific (or winter mountain biking, really) clothing certainly hasn’t prevented riders from going out to explore the frozen wonderland for years. For most, some combination of winter cycling pieces combined with perhaps a dash of home brew and improvisation has surely had great results across the board. But if you were given the chance to design a complete fat bike clothing system from the ground up, what would it look like?

Probably a lot like the new range from 686 x Specialized. As riders push themselves harder and deeper into sub zero temperatures, technical clothing can take on a whole new level of importance. At one point you’re trying to dump heat as quickly as possible which can immediately be followed by standing still in the snow trying to fix a mechanical and fight off frostbite. That’s when adaptable clothing with some unique winter cycling features really shines…



Created as a complete system, the 686 x Specialized collection includes matching 3L Tech bibs and jacket as well as a Tech Insulator. The insulator shown above is a twist on the standard bubble coat with a Specialized SWAT touch. Filled with 100g Primaloft insulation, the woven fabric has a DWR treatment for water repellency which should be enough to keep you dry in snowy conditions. In addition to a number of other features, the Insulator has a zippered opening on the rear that allows you to access the SWAT storage on the bibs. Maybe the biggest bargain of the group, the Tech Insulator sells for $250 in both men’s and women’s.

Features (from Specialized):

  • Woven fabric with DWR treatment repels water, leaving you dry and comfortable without having to sacrifice breathability.
  • 100g Primaloft insulation is ultra-lightweight, highly breathable, and quite efficient at trapping air to keep you warm and insulated from the elements.
  • Adjustable hood and hem provide added warmth and weather protection for your head, as well as minimizing the possibility of wind entering the Insulator.
  • Underarm stretch panels provide flexibility in the construction, allowing a full range of movement when you’re all zipped-up.
  • Lycra wrist gaiters interface perfectly with gloves, which prevents any drafts or cold air from seeping in at the sleeve openings.
  • Internal mesh storage pocket safely and securely houses your ride essentials or nutrition.
  • 3M reflective trims increase your visibility to other trail users or motorists in low-light conditions.
  • One chest zip pocket and two front zip pockets house your large and small ride essentials.
  • Fold-out spray skirt allows you to block unwanted moisture at the hands of wheel-spray when you need to, and hides it away when you don’t.
  • Rear SWAT pocket access permits you to access your jersey or bib pockets easily with gloves on.
  • Relaxed Fit is comfortable and loose against the body, allowing for ample layering underneath.



On days when it’s really nasty, the 3L Tech jacket can be worn over the Insulator for protection from the elements that’s better than an igloo. A three layer shell with infiDRY 20, the fully taped jacket is what will really keep you dry from rain, sleet, melting snow, etc. Along with dual SWAT access on the rear, the jacket may just save your life if you happen to need the RECCO Avalanche Rescue technology which is a special reflector that is built into the jacket which will respond to rescuers with a RECCO radar device.

Features (from Specialized):

  • Three-layer woven shell fabric with infiDRY 20 (20,000mm water-resistance / 20,000gm2 breathability) is light and airy, keeping you protected from the elements without sacrificing comfort or breathability.
  • Fully taped waterproof seams and water-resistant exposed zippers protect common points of water infiltration, keeping you dry and protected as you ride.
  • Air-Flo™ upper arm vents are designed for singlehanded use, giving you the ability to dump heat on-the-fly with ease.
  • Mesh vented pocket provides ample storage for your ride essentials or nutrition.
  • Internal audio pocket safely secures your electronics away from the elements, making it simple and safe to listen to your tunes while you’re out on the trail.
  • Adjustable powder skirt with Lycra stretch panel prevents any snow from creeping up or down your back, whether it’s from wheel-spray, hiking through powder, or the inevitable bail.
  • Adjustable Lycra sleeve gussets interface perfectly with gloves, so you won’t experience any unwanted drafts at the sleeve openings.
  • Equipped with RECCO Advanced Avalanche Rescue Technology.
  • 3M reflective cuff tabs and trims increase your visibility to other riders or motorists in low-light conditions.
  • Adjustable hood with rain visor keeps water from seeping into the neck opening, as well as keeping your head nice and dry.
  • Adjustable hem with fold-out spray skirt prevents moisture buildup from entering the jacket.
  • Double-sided SWAT access and vent zipper on the back make accessing jersey or bib pockets a breeze when you have gloves on.
  • Relaxed Fit is comfortable and loose against the body, allowing for ample layering underneath.

Specialized 686-X-3L-TECH-BIB_NVY-HZ-RKTREDSpecialized 686-X-3L-TECH-BIB-WMN_NVY-HZ-BRT-TEAL

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are the 3L Tech bibs. Personally, I find clothing for the lower half of the body to have the most room for improvement in the fat bike world. Pretty much the only bottoms made for winter cycling are tights, but in order to be warm enough you start feeling like you’re pedaling in a wet suit. A number of riders resort to using ski pants, but the loose legs tend to get caught in the chain and the fit isn’t exactly cycling oriented.64214-160_APP_686-X-3L-TECH-BIB_NVY-HZ-RKTRED_BACK_L

Enter the 3L Tech bibs. a relaxed fit bib tight with plenty of SWAT storage that when used with the other pieces is easily accessed even with gloves.

Features (from Specialized):

  • Three-layer woven shell fabric with infiDRY 20 (20,000mm water-resistance / 20,000gm2 breathability) is light and airy, keeping you protected from the elements without sacrificing comfort or breathability.
  • Fully taped waterproof seams and water-resistant exposed zippers protect common points of water infiltration, keeping you dry and protected as you ride.
  • Leg gaiter with Lycra® stretch panel and bootlace hook creates a tight seal at the leg opening, which ensures that no snow or water will seep up the leg as you ride.
  • Ghetto Slit leg gusset with invisible zipper closure creates a full range of movement for your pedal stroke, while also bolstering the strength of the construction.
  • Rear SWAT pocket intuitively and securely houses your ride essentials.
  • Elastic suspenders allow you to dial-in the fit of the bibs, and they’re soft against the skin in order to reduce the risk of chafing or abrasion.
  • Vented thigh pockets add extra ventilation to prevent heat buildup under hard efforts.
  • Relaxed Fit is comfortable and loose against the body, allowing for ample layering underneath.

Combined with the 3L Tech jacket is the kit expensive? Abso-lutely. Do we still want it? Does the Pope ride a fat bike in the woods? Of course he does (we think). Ok, we know that $450 for bibs and $500 for a jacket is crazy talk, but in the context of high end ski or snowboard clothing, the prices are shockingly normal. Realistically, if you’re going out for 1-2 hour rides at your local park you don’t need any of this. But if you’re doing bigger rides in the back country or you’re simply looking for the best, this is probably the place to start.

Specialized _FAT_COMP_686-NVY-HZ-RKTRED


Since you just dumped all your money on the 686 x Specialized collection, Specialized picked some middle of the road fatties to give the 686 treatment. Found only on the Fatboy Comp and the Hellga Expert, the 686 x Specialized bike collection will only be available through select dealers.


  1. Those bibs are awesome! Here’s to hoping they work with traditional skinny tired bikes as well? Also, is there any type of cynch system around the cuff of the bibs besides the zipper?

  2. I’m all for more clothing options but if you go with waterproofing you sacrifice breathability, and you don’t need waterproofing when it’s too cold for water to exist in a liquid state.

  3. $500 for a jacket and $450 for 3l bibs is definitely a reasonable deal, considering how long these will probably last. Remember the RAIN project that 686 did with Cadence a few years back those jackets were $400.00 and pants were in the high $200.00’s. I’ve had mine going on 4 years and use it the majority of the time for daily commuting, and not a single thing wrong with it in that time. I can’t wait to actually check these out in person.

  4. That outfit looks awesome, if you are planning on going ice fishing that is, or perhaps if your most technical biking maneuver involves manipulating the kick stand up and down at various local establishments.

  5. I like it and if you are doing huge rides in the back country it looks good. One huge improvement on both jacket and pants are pit zips and leg zips. If you live anywhere with real elevation, you crank out the heat climbing, only to freeze on your way down… Why the bike industry hasn’t figured this out is fascinating to me.


  6. Yes! All jackets need more back zips! And those bibs look great. I hope the legs are pretty skinny at the bottom though… chainring avoidance is the only reason I still wear lycra in the winter.

  7. @Volsung As a rider with 10 years and 10,000 miles of snowy fatbike riding experience who lives in Northern Minnesota I can think of many instances when you can have snow melt even when the temperature is well below freezing. Your own body heat can melt snow that has settled on your clothing. On a sunny day, snow on a dark surface in direct sunlight can melt at 15F degrees or above. You can have a 3 foot base of snow and the day time temps rise above freezing. So you can be out riding, but when that temp rises things get very, very moist. Here along Lake Superior we can get heavy fog even at temps in the 20’s (below freezing). And anybody that’s ridden in heavy fog can attest to the fact you might as well be riding in the rain. Because you get just as wet. Waterproofness and the ability to block wind are two of the most important factors for winter wear.

  8. Pit zips r a bikers best friend from a year round commuter in Pacific northwest no need to spend that much when many companies make way cheaper and better clothes that have Velcro or clasps around ankles and many pit an leg zippers. None of us should be fooled into thinking they have mastered keeping the sweat and rain on the outside

  9. If I still lived in calgary I’d be really interested in those bibs, and a fat/fatter bike for winter riding and commuting. They look like you could throw them on over work/casual clothes and head out just fine.

  10. We use to train back when we had winters in itchy wool sweaters stuffed with news papers. Hands would get so cold I had to nudge my down tube shifters with me knees. Now that I’m a whole lot older and just a little bit richer I’d might think a nice pair of slacks and jacket like these will keep me a bit toastier on my ride to the country club for an expensive beer and a hot ham and cheese sandwhich. I think I’ve earned it!

  11. Way too much money for what can be bought on ebay for 1/100 of the price.

    Roast on the uphill and freeze on the downhill. And that’s only if you have pit, front, back and all pockets with mesh zipps. Is that too much to ask for a 500.00 jacket? I have seen them for 12.00

  12. @ascarlarkinyar

    You need to substantiate that troll-like post with some data. Otherwise, you’re just working your argument backwards from your $9,000 per year salary to justify your cheapness.

  13. This stuff is a joke. If you want to spend that much on outerwear, do it from a reputable clothing brand. I did a cabin trip this past weekend at -10F with 30-40 mph winds in my Arcteryx bibs and shell and was comfy the entire weekend.

    Don’t get winter clothing from a brand designing it in Southern California.

  14. @booyah “Don’t get winter clothing from a brand designing it in Southern California.”

    686 has been developing winter apparel for more than 20 years, and even if their from SoCal, they do extensive R&D all over the Rockies. I would definitely call them a reputable brand.

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