X-Bionic want to make you sweat, sweat till you can't sweat no more. They reckon the goal, much like in the song, is to allow you to push it some more. The Trick Biking Shirt is chock-full of technological innovations designed to help you perform at your peak. It looks and feels pretty unusual, being woven in various intricate patterns, each of which is designed to perform a specific function.
UK readers might not be that familiar with X-Bionic, but the Swiss/Italian brand is well-established in Continental Europe and further afield. This year they have their eye on a move into the UK market with a particular focus on select bricks and mortar retailers. The company was founded by 'world champion innovator and designer in chief' Professor Bodo W. Lambertz and X-Bionic gear is developed in Switzerland and made in their own factory in the north of Italy.
They're rather fond of a patent or two at X-Bionic, not to mention a trademark, and The Trick® is a technology developed to improve the body's ability to regulate its temperature when exercising. In short, it consists of a zone of thicker woven material which insulates the zone along the spine. Warming this zone can apparently fool the whole body into starting to produce sweat earlier than it would otherwise. The evaporation of this sweat then helps you maintain an optimal temperature, whereas otherwise you only sweat once you're already starting to overheat.
That's the claim anyway, and The Trick features in this jersey as well as the matching shorts and gilet that we've also been testing. So does it work? Well yes, I think it does, to an extent.
Modern cycling gear (or at least the marketing that accompanies it) tends to treat sweat as an evil, something you want to avoid and that needs to be transported away from the skin as quickly as possible. X-Bionic's Big Idea is that sweat is actually an essential part of the body's systems and that by stimulating it and moving it around you can use it as a tool to help keep you running at the right temperature.
The Trick is just one of the technologies used here, though, so let's take a look at some of the others. Front and back of the chest you've got the impressive-sounding 3D-BionicSphere® system, another complex woven arrangement of fibres designed to promote the cooling of the skin in key areas without the body sensing it. No, I'm not sure quite how that works either.
Here's what X-Bionic have to say about it: "The air is tempered inside the ducts, working like a sluice. Hot, moist air is disposed of using the dynamics of body warmth and then replaced with new fresh air. No draughts, but perfect ventilation."
SweatTraps® (yes, they really have registered all of these names) are the areas under the armpits, with yet another type of weave, this time designed to catch the sweat before too much builds up The sweat is then transported away from your armpits by (wait for it) the Evaporation Surface Expander™.
X-Bionic list other technologies present on this jersey, including 'Pockets' and 'ReflectorStripes', but really the interesting parts are those concerned with the management of sweat. To test them out, I used this jersey on a humid club run in Shanghai when the temperature was in the 30s. The large size was a good, close fit on me, and there was no unwelcome flapping. The fabric doesn't sit as smoothly as jerseys where aerodynamics are the primary focus, particularly in the key area around the neck, but it's very stretchy and so should work for a variety of body shapes.
I didn't end up dripping in sweat; X-Bionic say the idea is that an imperceptibly thin film is enough for The Trick to work. What I noticed on this and every other hot ride in this jersey was that I needed to drink more fluids than I expected, suggesting I was indeed producing more sweat. So the concept of fooling your body into sweating earlier appears to work.
X-Bionic say their tests show that keeping your body cooler like this allows you to perform better. I didn't really have the means to measure any such marginal gains, so I can neither prove nor disprove the claims, but it sounds plausible, even if the gains are likely to be small.
If you're heading out for a hot day in the mountains, you've really got to buy in to these claims to pick this out of your kit drawer. The fabric is 50 per cent heavier than that used in lightweight climbers' jerseys like those from Castelli and Rapha, and lacks the same hyper-breathability. Performance-enhancing or not, I'd pick the airy comfort of a thin, open-mesh material over the knitted fabric used here; I think it just feels nicer, and if you've got a long day in the saddle, that counts for something.
All that techy knitting makes for quite an unusual-looking jersey, too, especially to the rear. If you're not a fan of orange, it's also available in royal blue, black or white. The matching bib shorts (review coming soon) are also a fairly garish mix of black and orange.
It also makes for a very Velcro-phobic jersey – I found even fingernails tended to snag the threads on the inside. You'll want to keep your gloves well away from it.
At the rear are the standard three pockets, with the central one slightly larger than those either side. They hold the usual stuff I want to take with me on a ride, though the inherent stretch in the fabric means they can sag a bit if you load them too heavily. There's a strip of what looks like 3M Scotchlite reflective material sewn underneath the central pocket which I like – a discreet but effective aid to night-time visibility. The zip at the front is a full-length YKK affair with a custom X-Bionic pull.
So in summary, The Trick Biking Shirt does seem to result in increased production of sweat, which is managed such that it doesn't leave you a soggy mess. The most obvious consequence of this is that you need to drink more, but – if X-Bionic are to be believed – it can also help you ride further and faster. You'll pay handsomely for the privilege; £140 is top dollar for a summer jersey, although that only puts it mid-range for X-Bionic – the prices of their Lamborghini collaboration frankly defy belief.
Whether the enhanced production and distribution of sweat is really the primary thing you'll be looking for in your new jersey is a question I can't answer for you. Personally, I'd rank comfort, styling and aerodynamics higher in a performance jersey, and for this sort of money there are some pretty compelling alternatives that excel in those areas.
Manages your sweat like no other jersey, but is that really the main thing you look for in a jersey?
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Make and model: X-BIONIC The Trick Biking Shirt
Size tested: Orange Sunshine/Black, Men, Size L
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
X-Bionic say: "This stops cold the risk of overheating: X-BIONIC® THE TRICK® Bike Shirt. Cycle longer and faster without overheating: The Trick® by X-BIONIC® makes that possible. Along the length of the spine in the X-BIONIC® THE TRICK® Bike Shirt is an insulating pad. It simulates the body overheating and allows early sweat production to kick in. Thanks to preventive cooling, extreme temperature spikes and energy-sapping overheating is avoided."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
X-Bionic go on at tedious length about this. Here are the basics:
86% Polyamide (Inner Shell)
Very intricate construction, unlike any other jersey I've used. The Trick Biking Shirt is knitted from manmade yarn with a huge variety of different constructions, each apparently designed to fulfil a particular role at that position on your body. There are loose threads of an inch or so on the inside, though, which are rather prone to getting caught.
Fit is good – the material is stretchy and cut to sit close to the skin. X-Bionic's extravagant claims for how this will improve your performance are hard to evaluate but I was certainly aware that I needed to hydrate more often in this than in other kit.
The fine knitted construction means it is the sworn enemy of Velcro, and on the inside in particular it's rather susceptible to threads getting pulled. This hasn't caused any significant damage to the test jersey, though, but is a concern for longer term life. Otherwise, no particular issues.
An average weight for a short sleeve jersey; no match for lightweight climbers' jerseys.
Clever technology or not, I didn't find the woven material felt as pleasant against the skin as equivalently-priced jerseys made from more 'conventional' fabric.
This really depends on whether you buy into the concepts. X-Bionic would have you believe that this will make you faster than other jerseys, and for some, that makes it good value when compared with high-end conventional jerseys without this benefit. If not, then it's a lot of money for a jersey.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It fits well and I noticed that I had to drink more water to stay hydrated, from which I'd infer that the claims about it making you sweat earlier are broadly justifiable. I wasn't able to measure an improvement in performance but that doesn't mean it's not there to some extent.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's always interesting to see new ideas and novel approaches to cycle clothing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I felt a high-end Lycra jersey would be cooler and more comfortable on a hot day.
Did you enjoy using the product? Meh
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe if they were looking for marginal gains
Use this box to explain your score
The claims X-Bionic make for this very expensive jersey aren't total bull – I could discern the fact that it made me sweat earlier and more than I would otherwise. But that isn't necessarily what I want from my jersey. I'd rather have one that's cooler, lighter, more aerodynamic and has that lovely slinky feel of high-end bike gear.
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.