X-Bionic's Spherewind Biking Vest is a very nicely-detailed gilet with high-quality materials positioned intelligently to give good protection from the elements. Styling is perhaps not as classy as some, but the performance is good. If you believe X-Bionic's grand claims, the woven section on the back gives performance benefits. It's awfully expensive, though, which I suspect might reduce its appeal for a lot of folk.
You might have seen our recent reviews for X-Bionic's The Trick range of gear. The bib shorts and jersey both feature some extra insulation along the spine, which is designed to promote sweat production before you overheat, helping your muscles operate as efficiently as possible. It's an interesting idea and one that X-Bionic says will definitely make you perform faster. In our tests, we established that it made you sweat more, but it was rather harder to establish definitive performance benefits without lab equipment.
Now the summer is coming to an end, you might want to take advantage of the clever thermo-regulating technology while also having more protection from the elements. If so, this matching gilet could be the answer. And it's orange, too, fitting this season's on-trend colours perfectly.
It's got the woven section down the back, like the rest of the range, and it's otherwise mostly made of windproof and water-resistant panels to keep your torso dry. A gilet is a really useful thing to have for spring and autumnal riding, as keeping your chest warm and dry helps you to stay comfortable in a much wider range of conditions than you would with only a jersey.
This is an expensive gilet, though – comfortably the most expensive we've ever reviewed. That won't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with X-Bionic – the company focuses heavily on developing unique technology to improve sports performance, and all of its gear is high end. The good news is that it's well made and an effective barrier against the elements.
The insulating panel on the rear doesn't offer any protection against water and nor do the black panels either side of it, so if you're riding on wet roads without mudguards then you'll start to get a wet back. But this isn't that uncommon – lots of gilets have non-waterproof rear panels to help prevent overheating.
X-Bionic's name for that panel is the 3D Bionic Sphere system, oh yes. Its job is to assist your body's heat regulation and allow sweat to be wicked away from the skin, while still offering more insulative properties than a simple Lycra panel for when it gets cold. Obviously the comfort of your torso is going to be dependent on the other layers that you're wearing, so it's hard to assess the specific effect of this panel, but I didn't have cause to complain when wearing it.
Let's look at the rest. The majority of the front and the lower back panel are made from a hybrid material that combines a fine woven fabric, to give strength and a little stretch, with a laminate for water resistance. It's pretty effective, offering good protection from rain and wind and being plenty tough enough to cope with being rolled up and stuffed in a jersey pocket or chucked in the washing machine. The lower back panel is a good idea, helping to protect the area most likely to get sprayed by your rear wheel in the wet.
There's a quality YKK zip down the front with a storm flap behind to keep the draughts out and a protective garage at the top to stop it irritating your throat. The zip pull is chunky and easy to find when you're riding hard. Small details, but the sort of think you need to get right at this price. The large X-Bionic logo on the back is reflective, as is a fabric strip a little higher up – more welcome details. The tail is dropped by a few inches for a more cycling-specific cut.
Inside the neck is a soft woven fabric which is really comfortable against the skin. There are no pockets, instead well-positioned openings at the side allow access to the contents of your jersey pockets. I was initially sceptical of this, thinking it would be fiddly to have to reach through to grab a gel or your phone, but it was actually quite untroublesome and I liked the way that it kept pocket contents mostly out of the weather's reach. The openings are very well designed so they don't let draughts in when you're not reaching through.
In terms of sizing, I had a large which was really a bit big for me. That's Big Dave in the pictures, and as you can see it's not really tight on him. Per the size guide I'd be a medium, but for going fast I might be inclined to size down to a small. And if orange isn't your bag, you can have a lime-yellow or black and white.
Very well made with high quality materials and patented thermo-regulation tech. Just a smidge pricey, though
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road.cc test report
Make and model: X-Bionic Spherewind Biking Vest
Size tested: Mens, Large
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 says: "Light, windproof and with performance-enhancing temperature regulation. The jacket is light and simple, embodying protection and comfort with an unembellished design. The 3D-BionicSphere® System on the back guarantees optimal temperature regulation on the jacket's interior. This makes the jacket not only highly functional, but also indispensable for tough training."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Highly elastic material on the back ensures a superb fit and optimum freedom of movement.
The diffuser design on the inside of the collar with longitudinally arranged ducts lets moist, warm air out of the jacket and supports climate control.
3D-BionicSphere® System on the back
Guarantees effective ventilation so moisture is quickly wicked and transported away. No sweat means insulating air pockets in the wavelike structure protect against cold.
For good visibility and improved safety in night-time traffic.
Covered Zipper Garage
Reduces irritation from chafing.
Very nicely put together from a range of fabrics. Good neat stitching, good quality zip and sensibly positioned reflectives.
Does a good job of keeping wind and most of the rain out of the important areas. The woven spine insulation panel is present and correct, as in the other X-Bionic gear we've reviewed. Does it make you faster? Who knows.
Nice touches like the soft neck lining and zip guard elevate this above less comfortable gilets.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It worked well; it's comfortable and protects you reasonably from the elements as a good gilet should. I liked the hidden openings to your jersey pockets.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Decent protection, good levels of comfort and well-designed access to jersey pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I don't think the styling is as classy as you'd expect, and the price is a bit silly.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
There are quality materials and well-thought-out detailing here. Whether the addition of the patented thermo-regulation technology is enough to justify the price is debatable though. I've scored it on performance but the fact is I'd never pay this much for a gilet.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
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.